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Ramadan: The Month of Fasting and Spirituality

Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam. It is observed by Muslims during the month of Ramadan, a season of intense worship. How can Muslims make the best use of those precious moments? What should they do and not do while fasting? And what are the benefits that can be gained out of this blessed month?

Watch this video to know the answers and more…

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A Blessed Month of a Special Nature

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are the declaration of one’s belief in God’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (peace be upon him), regular attendance to prayer, payment of zakah (i.e. obligatory charity), and the pilgrimage.

If we examine these five pillars, taking into account the fact that Islam aims at improving the quality of human life at both the individual and social levels, we find that the first of these five pillars is concerned with beliefs which influence man’s conduct. The second, i.e. prayer, provides a constant reminder of man’s bond with God. Zakah, the third pillar, is a social obligation which reduces the gap between the rich and the poor, while the fifth, i.e. the pilgrimage, has a universal aspect that unites the Muslim community throughout the world.

Fasting in Ramadan, which is the fourth of these pillars, has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship. Although in a Muslim country it is extremely difficult for anyone to defy public feelings by showing that one is not fasting, there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating God’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary.

The fact is that fasting cannot be used by a hypocrite in order to persuade others of one’s devotion to God. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan. On the other hand, a person fasting voluntarily at any other time should not tell others of the fact. If he does, he detracts from his reward for his voluntary worship. In fact, people will find his declaration to be fasting very strange and will feel that there is something wrong behind it.

This explains why the reward God gives for proper fasting is so generous. In a sacred, or Qudsi hadith, the Prophet quotes God as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I reward it accordingly.” This is a mark of special generosity, since God gives for every good action a reward equivalent to at least ten times its values. Sometimes He multiplies this reward to seven hundred times the value of the action concerned, and even more. We are also told by the Prophet that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.

It may be noted that we have qualified fasting that earns such great reward as being ‘proper’. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. Perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of one’s feelings and emotions. The Prophet said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting! I am fasting!’” (Al-Bukhari)

This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is, in essence, an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in physical desire. This is indeed the purpose of fasting. It helps man to attain a standard of sublimity, which is very rare in the practical world. In other words, this standard is actually achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.

Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich nearer to the poor.

Indeed we are encouraged to be more charitable in Ramadan in order to follow the Prophet’s lead who was described by his companions as “the most generous of all people.” Yet he achieved in Ramadan an even higher degree of generosity. His companions say of him that he was in Ramadan “more generous and charitable than unrestrained wind.”

Fasting has also a universal or communal aspect. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, they feel their unity and equality. Their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins voluntarily in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. The unity of Muslims is far from superficial; it is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn God’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature. He learns to give generously for a good cause.

The month of Ramadan is aptly described as a “festive season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, but people are more attentive to their prayers in Ramadan than they are in the rest of the year. They are also more generous and charitable. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel in Ramadan much happier because they feel themselves to be closer to God. Therefore, they love this month, which is one of endless benefits and blessings.

Indeed, nothing describes our great month better than the words of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as he addresses his companions and all generations of Muslims on the eve of Ramadan, saying: “A great and blessed month is approaching. One of its nights is better than a thousand months. God has made fasting in it obligatory and worship in its nights voluntary.

He who fulfils one religious obligation in it receives the reward of 70 such obligations fulfilled in other times. It is the month of perseverance and endurance, which can be rewarded only be admission into heaven. It is the month of comforting in which the means of a believer are improved. He who gives food to another to break his fast is forgiven his sins; thus he saves his neck from hell. He is also given a similar reward to that given to the fasting person without detracting anything from the other’s reward…

God gives this reward even to a person who offers another a piece of a date, a drink of water or milk… the beginning of this month is compassion, its middle is forgiveness and its end witnesses people’s release from the fire of hell.”

_________________________

Taken with slight modifications from: www.arabnews.com.

Adil Salahi teaches Islamic Studies at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education, Leicester, England. After working for the BBC Arabic Service for several years, he worked for the Arabic daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. He continues to publish a column, “Islam in Perspective”, in its sister publication, Arab News, an English daily published in Saudi Arabia.


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Fast of Ramadan: A Way of Life

Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam. But why do we fast during Ramadan?

A number of sheikhs and da`iyahs speak in this documentary about the virtues and rewards of fasting during the month of Ramadan and how this duty positively impacts the way Muslims lead their lives and gives them doses of spirituality.

 

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The Secret of Fasting in Ramadan

Fasting is not purely intended for deprivation of food and drink and lawful sexual relations.

In fact, fasting serves other purposes as well, such as uplifting the spirit of a fasting believer and giving him or her self-restraint and control over vain desires.

To know more about the secrets of fasting, watch this lecture by Sheikh Yasir Birjas…

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Fasting From One’s Desires

Muslims all over the world wait eagerly for the yearly coming of Ramadan during which they fast, recite the Qur’an, and perform qiyam (Night Vigil Prayer). Fasting is by no means an easy obligation to carry out.

Fasting from Vain Desires

Yet, harder still is to fast from one’s vain desires and bad habits. In this lecture, Sheikh Bilal Assad sheds light on the latter type of fasting…

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Approaching Ramadan

As we eagerly anticipate the beginning of the Blessed Month of Ramadan, we pray that this blessed month is a time of spiritual renewal for all of you, a time when you are able to fully benefit from the many Divine Gifts that have been offered to the worshiper during this most special season.

Those who have failed to take advantage of the months of Rajab and Sha`ban to prepare for the blessed month of Ramadan should be especially careful to take full advantage of the latter month. Reflect on the poet’s words:

Harken! O you who was not content to sin throughout Rajab.

His rebellion against his Lord had to continue the duration of Sha`ban.

The month of fasting has now come to shade and shelter you,

Do not transform it also into a month of sinning.

Recite the Qur’an and glorify (God), with diligent assertion.

Indeed! It is a month for glorification and the Qur’an.

Deny your bodily appetites, seeking your soul’s salvation.

Eventually, the earth will consume the body.

How many deceased people have you known who fasted?

Amongst your family, neighbors, and brothers.

Death has erased them, leaving you behind.

Get serious (about your religion), for the living are quite close to the dead!

You take delight in the `Eid outfits being cut out now for the festival.

But soon they will be your burial shrouds.

How long will the person be happy with his worldly home?

Knowing that his ultimate home is the grave.(1)

We pray that this month is a means for our spiritual ascension. When our spirits are ascendant, and our carnal lusts retreat, we will be able to engage in the type of fast described by one of our righteous forebears when he advised:

Fast your entire lifetime. Make death your `Eid! Life itself is a fast for the righteous. Their fast is from all forbidden lusts. When death comes to them their fast has ended. At that time they find the new moon of `Eid.(2)

We encourage all of the believers to try to adhere to all of the Sunans of Ramadan. Even though the days are still relatively short and cool, everyone should attempt to take the pre-dawn meal (Sahur), no matter how small, and hasten to break the fast, once the sunset has been confirmed. The purpose of the month is to grow in obedience to the Lawgiver. This is facilitated by scrupulously adhering to all of the rulings related to the fast.

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those who preceded you; that perhaps you will be mindful of God. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

We encourage everyone to be especially generous during this blessed month. Our beloved Prophet, was normally exceedingly generous. In Ramadan, he was even more benevolent.

Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) relates: “The Prophet, was the most generous of people. He was even more generous in Ramadan when Gabriel would meet him and review the Qur’an with him. Gabriel would come to him every night of Ramadan to review the Qur’an. During these times, the Messenger of Allah, was more generous than the freely blowing wind.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

We encourage everyone to read through the Qur’an at least once. Those who can read the Arabic script should do so in Arabic, even if they do not fully understand what they are reading. They should also try to read through the English translation. Those who are unable to read Arabic, should try to read through the entire English translation.

Ramadan is, among other things, a celebration of the Qur’an. We should join the celebration by reading the Book of God much during this blessed month. Our Imams, Abu Hanifa, Malik, al-Shafi`i, and others (may God have mercy on them all) would cease teaching Hadith and Jurisprudence during Ramadan and devote themselves exclusively to the Qur’an.

God says, concerning His Majestic Book:

The Month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, [containing] clear proofs of guidance, and the criterion of distinguishing right from wrong. (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

We encourage everyone to refrain from all of the ruinations of the tongue during Ramadan. In his seminal work, “Quickening the Religious Sciences,” Imam al-Ghazali mentions them as the following:

Speaking in matters that do not concern one;

Excessive speech;

Speaking about sinful matters;

Disputation and contestation;

Argumentation;

Excessively embellished speech;

Lewd, insulting, or crude speech;

Invoking the Curse of God on someone;

Singing indecent songs, or relating immoral poetry;

Excessive joking;

Sarcasm and ridicule;

Revealing secrets;

False promises;

Lying and false oaths;

Backbiting and slander;

Instigating tense relations between people;

Being two-faced;

Praising someone who is either undeserving, or unable to remain humble when praised;

Speaking about involved subjects and ideas one lacks the necessary knowledge or eloquence to adequately convey;

Ordinary folk speaking in subjects that are the domain of specialists.

May God spare us from these ruinations both during and after Ramadan.

The Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon Him) said: “Whoever fails to leave off ruinous speech, and acting on it [during Ramadan], God does not need him to leave off eating and drinking.” (Al-Bukahri)

We encourage everyone to avoid all arguments, disputes, and unnecessary worldly entanglements during this blessed month. This is a time for deep devotion and dedication to Allah.

We encourage everyone to work to restore any severed relations or kinship ties they may be experiencing. This is a time when the gentle breezes of Divine Facilitation are blowing. Any good we endeavor during this blessed month will come to bear its proper fruits.

We encourage everyone to eat simply during this month. One should try to make a vow to give up unnecessary, and generally unhealthy fare during this blessed month. Pizza, ice cream, fast food, pastries, and soda should all go. We should make our solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in other lands real, and not something confined to speeches and pamphlets.

If one is in the habit of watching television, or listening to commercial music, one should also try to give these things up for Ramadan. They are things that divert us from the remembrance of God in any case. During this special month when every letter we recite from the Majestic Qur’an is tremendously rewarded, we should busy ourselves with recitation, and drop frivolous pastimes.

Married couples should encourage each other to engage in spiritual pursuits during this month, i.e. reciting the Qur’an, attending Tarawih, etc. Those in the habit of hosting extravagant dinners in Ramadan should try to avoid doing so, especially if they involve burdening cooks with long hours in the kitchen at a time when everyone should be increasing acts of worship. Usually, the womenfolk are disadvantageously affected in this regard. While it is certainly virtuous to provide the wherewithal for the believers to break their fast, dates, water, and simple, easily prepared dishes suffice.

Everyone should endeavor to pray the Tarawih Prayers. This is practice that should not be left without an excuse. The Prophet mentioned “Whosoever stands for prayer during the nights of Ramadan will have his/her prior sins expiated.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The prayer is the symbol of our devotional life. Ramadan is a great time to rediscover the power of the prayer, and to renew our commitment to our Lord through the prayer.

These are some of the things we wanted to convey to you. Hopefully, they will prove of benefit. Please take this message in the spirit with which we have conveyed it, as sincere advice. Again, we wish you a very successful Ramadan and would like to thank all of you for past, present, and future support.

 

References:

(1) Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Lata’if al-Ma`arif  (The Subtleties of Knowledge), Damascus: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1997/1416, p. 282.

(2) Ibn Rajab, p. 278.

___________________

Source: Suhaibwebb.com.

 

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Shawwal & the First Festive Moments of `Eid

Shawwal is the first of the three months named as ‘Ashhur Al-Hajj’ (i.e. the months of Hajj). Although the major acts of Hajj are normally performed in the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, yet the whole period starting from the first of Shawwal up to the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah is held to be the period of Hajj because some acts of Hajj can be performed any time during this period.

`Eid Prayer

After paying the Sadaqat Al-Fitr, Muslims are required to proceed to an open place where they can offer the `Eid Prayer collectively.

For example, the Tawaf Al-Qudum ((Tawaf of arrival, for Hajj), followed by the Sa`i of Hajj (walking between Safa and Marwah) cannot be performed before Shawwal, while it can be performed any day after the beginning of Shawwal.

Similarly, an `Umrah performed before Shawwal cannot be treated as the `Umrah of Tamattu`, while the `Umrah performed in Shawwal can be affiliated to the Hajj, making it a Hajj of Tamattu`. Moreover, ihram of Hajj should not be started before Shawwal, because it makruh (disliked). For these reasons these three months have been named as the ‘months of Hajj’ and the month of Shawwal has the distinction of being the first of these.

`Eid Al-Fitr

The second meritorious aspect of Shawwal is that it has been chosen by Allah Almighty for the celebration of `Eid Al-Fitr, one of the only two annual festivals recognized by the Shari`ah. This happy day is designed by the Shari`ah as a sign of gratefulness by the Muslims on the accomplishment of Ramadan, and as an immediate reward by Allah for those who spent the month of Ramadan in fasting and performing other forms of `ibadah (worship).

Instead of commemorating an event from the past, the Shari`ah has prescribed the first of Shawwal as an annual festival for the Muslims at an occasion when they themselves accomplish a great `ibadah. This approach reminds the Muslims that they should not rely only on the accomplishments of their ancestors, rather, they should themselves perform meritorious acts to please their Creator.

In prescribing the ways to celebrate the happy day, Islam has adopted another unique approach. The festivals of other religions or nations normally comprise of some acts of rejoicing and enjoyment. The whole happy day is normally spent in dancing, singing and playing.

In contrast, Islam has prescribed a simple yet graceful way to observe the happy day. First of all, it is mandatory on all the well-off Muslims to start their day by paying Sadaqat Al-Fitr (obligatory charity at the conclusion of Ramadan) to the poor of their society, so that they, too, may enjoy the day along with others, and may not be worried for earning their livelihood at least on that day of happiness.

After paying the Sadaqat Al-Fitr, the Muslims are required to proceed to an open place where they can offer the `Eid Prayer collectively. In this way, they are supposed to present themselves before their Creator and offer two rak`ahs of this special type of Salah, which makes them receive blessings from Allah and start their celebration by these divine blessings.

After the Salah also, they are supposed to rejoice the day in a responsible manner, without violating the limits prescribed for them and never indulging in the acts prohibited by Allah.

Keeping this point in view, we will now discuss specific rules prescribed for observing the day of `Eid Al-Fitr.

The Night Preceding `Eid Al-Fitr

It had been the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he would not sleep in the night preceding the day of `Eid Al-Fitr. This night has been named in a hadith as the Night of Reward (lailat al-Ja’izah).

Almighty bestows his rewards on those who have spent the month of Ramadan abiding by the dictates of Shari`ah, and all their prayers in this night are accepted. Therefore, it is desirable to perform nafl prayers in this night. The Prophet is reported to have said:

“Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two `Eids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die.” (Ibn Majah)

To benefit from this opportunity, one should perform as much worship in this night as he can, and should pray for all his needs and desires.

Before Going to `Eid Prayer

The following acts are prescribed as Sunnah at the beginning of the day of ‘Eid Al-Fitr before proceeding to the `Eid Prayer:

1- To wake up early in the morning.

2- To clean one’s teeth with a miswak or a brush.

3- To take a bath.

4- To put on one’s best available clothes.

5- To wear perfume.

6- To eat a sweet food, preferably dates, before the `Eid Prayer.

7- To recite the following Takbir in the low voice while going to the `Eid Prayer:

Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar La Ilaha Ila Allah Wa Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Wa Lillahi Alhamd” (Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest. There is no god but Allah; Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, and all praise is due to Allah)

Sadaqat Al-Fitr

Sadaqat Al-Fitr is an obligation for every Muslim, male or female, who owns 613.35 grams of silver or its equivalent, either in the form of money, ornaments, stock-in-trade, or in the form of some goods or commodities beyond one’s normal needs. Every person who owns such an amount has to pay Sadaqat Al-Fitr, not only on behalf of himself but also on behalf of his minor children.

The prescribed amount of Sadaqat Al-Fitr is 1.75 Kilograms of wheat or its value in money. This amount is prescribed for paying Sadaqat Al-Fitr for one person only. If a person has some minor children, the same amount has to be paid on behalf of each one of them separately. The following points must be remembered concerning the payment of Sadaqat Al-Fitr.

1-Sadaqat Al-Fitr is obligated on each adult male or female separately, and the relevant adult person himself is responsible to pay it. The husband is not required to pay Sadaqat Al-Fitr on behalf of his wife nor is the wife supposed to pay it on behalf of her husband. Similarly, a father is not bound to pay Sadaqat Al-Fitr on behalf of his adult children or vice-versa.

However, if the head of the family, by his own free will, wishes to pay Sadaqat Al-Fitr for each one of the members of his family, he should seek their authorization for that purpose. In this case the Sadaqat Al-Fitr paid by him will be valid on their behalf. If he did not pay the Sadaqat Al-Fitr on behalf of any of the members of his family, he will not be responsible for it. Rather, it is the duty of every adult member of the family to discharge his own obligation or to request the head of the family to pay it on his or her behalf.

2- It is a Sunnah that the Sadaqat Al-Fitr is paid before performing the `Eid Prayer. It can also be paid before the `Eid day, but it is not advisable to delay it up to the performance of `Eid Prayer. However, if a person has failed to pay on its proper time, he should pay it as soon as possible, whereby the obligation will stand discharged.

3- Sadaqat Al-Fitr is not necessary on behalf of a child who was born after the break of dawn in the `Eid day, nor is it necessary to pay Sadaqat Al-Fitr on behalf of a person who dies before the dawn of the `Eid day.

4- Sadaqat Al-Fitr should be paid only to a person who is entitled to receive Zakah.

The ‘Eid Prayer

The second obligation on ‘Eid day is to perform the ‘Eid prayer. Some rules in this respect are mentioned hereunder:

1- The `Eid Prayer is wajib (obligatory) on every male Muslim.

2- The `Eid Prayer can be performed any time between the ishraq and zawal (after sunrise and before zenith of the sun).

3- It is preferable that the `Eid Prayer is performed at an open field and not in a mosque. However, if, it is difficult for any reason to perform it in an open field, it can also be performed in a big mosque.

4- It is not advisable to hold the `Eid Prayer in every mosque, rather it is preferable that the people from several small mosques get together to either perform it in an open field or, in its absence, in a big mosque which can accommodate a large number of people.

5- No nafl (supererogatory) Salah can be performed before the `Eid Prayer, neither in one’s home, nor at the place of `Eid Prayer. Similarly, nafl prayer cannot be performed after the `Eid Prayer at the same place. However, it can be performed after one comes back to his home.

6- The `Eid Prayer has neither Adhan (call to Prayer) nor Iqamah  (second call to Prayer).

How to Perform `Eid Prayer

The `Eid Prayer has two rak`ahs to perform in the normal way, with the only addition of six takbirs, three of them in the beginning of the first rak`ah, and three of them just before ruku` in the second rak`ah. The detailed way of performing the `Eid Prayer is as follows:

The Imam will begin the prayer without Adhan or Iqamah. He will begin the prayer by reciting Takbir of Tahrimah (Allahu Akbar). You should raise your hands up to the ears, and reciting the Takbir, you give a little pause during which you should recite thana’ (praising God: Subhanak Allahumma…….)· After the completion of thana’ the Imam will recite Takbir (Allahu Akbar) three times, and after reciting each Takbir (Allahu Akbar) in a low voice, you should bring your hands down and leave them earthwards. But, after the third Takbir, you should set them at the level of your navel as you do in the normal prayer.

After these three Takbirs the Imam will recite the Holy Qur’an, which you should listen quietly. The rest of the rak`ah will be performed in the normal way.

After rising for the second rak`ah, the Imam will begin the recitations from the Qur’an during which you should remain calm and quiet. When the Imam finishes his recitation, he will recite three Takbirs once again, but this time it will be before bowing down for ruku’. At each Takbir you should raise your hands up to the ears, and after saying Allahu Akbar bring them down and leave them earthwards. After these three Takbirs have been called and completed, the Imam will say another Takbir for bowing down into the ruku` position. At this Takbir you need not raise your hands. You just bow down for your ruku` saying, Allahu Akbar. The rest of the Salah will be performed in its usual way.

Khutbah: The Address of `Eid Al-Fitr

In this Salah, khutbah is a sunnah and is delivered after the Salah, unlike the Salah of Jumu`ah (Friday Prayer) where it is fard (obligatory) and is delivered before the Salah. However, listening to the khutbah of `Eid Salah is wajib or necessary and must be heard in perfect peace and silence.

It is a sunnah that the Imam begins the first Khutbah by reciting Takbirs (Allahu Akbar) nine times and the second Khutbah with reciting it seven times.

Note: The way of `Eid Prayer described above is according to the Hanafi school of Muslim jurists. Some other jurists, like Imam Ash-Shafi`i, have some other ways to perform it. They recite Takbir twelve times before beginning the recitations from the Holy Qur’an in both rak`ah. This way is also permissible. If the Imam, being of the Shafi`i school, follows this way, you can also follow him. Both ways are based on the practice of the Prophet.

Six Fasts in the Month of Shawwal

It is commendable to keep six fasts in the month of Shawwal. The Prophet has said:

“Whoever completes fasts of Ramadan then adds to them the fast of six days in the month of Shawwal, it will carry the thawab (reward) of fasting for the whole year.” (Muslim)

This hadith had described the great thawab of six fasts of this month. Therefore, the Muslims should take this opportunity of acquiring such an enormous reward from Allah. It is more preferable to start these fasts from the 2nd of Shawwal and keep fasting up to the 7th of it. However, if, they are kept in other days, it is hoped that the requirement of the above hadith may also be fulfilled.

_________________________

Source: albalagh.net-By Mufti Taqi Usmani

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New Muslims Filling Post-Ramadan Emptiness

Ramadan is over. The excitement of `Eid is over. You are a revert Muslim and maybe it was your first `Eid. There were times when you were not sure you were going to make it and even times when you were not sure of anything much at all. It was 30 days of extreme physical and mental tests, long nights of prayer and lonely hours (at least in my case) of a dry throat.

Ramadan

Remind yourself why you felt blessed during Ramadan and why you did it in the first place.

Now on completion you will never forget those 30 days; every year from now on will mean something more than you ever could have imagined. They will forever be embedded in your heart and mind as a testimony to your resolve and unshaking belief in the Shahadah, which you know beyond a doubt that you now firmly believe in.

And then in that joy comes the ‘crash’ – the sense of emptiness, of abyss. You climbed so high to achieve the long fasts and Tarawih of Ramadan and now everywhere you look is down. At the top, the climb seems nowhere near as bad as the descent. And if you are feeling like that, trust me I was the same in 2012 in China, knowing I would go back to Spain, which isn’t the most Muslim-friendly place. This thought then filled my heart with a little bit of dread and then the desperation set in.

What do I do now? What does Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) want from me? What do I do at iftar (not fasting)? How do I maintain that sense of community?

With the end of Ramadan, it was like my ‘Muslimness’ was draining away and no sense of scrambling would get it back. That sense of knowing Allah when refusing a cup of tea until the final bowel of Maghrib (sunset) because you’re a Muslim, or the near militant avoidance of the use of bad language or the refusal to listen to non-Muslim worship during Ramadan was gone. Even the wearing of the prayer hat (all Muslims in China wear it as part of their identity), at least not until next year.

And in that desperation, I did the only thing I could do. I turned to Allah (Exalted be He) once more. Not because I was a ‘good Muslim’ but because I didn’t know what else to do. I could not ask my family and within a short time the Muslims I had come to know in China were literally going to be on the other side of the world.

At this moment I knelt in my long prayer clothing with my hood up on my pink prayer mat and opened my ears wide. What did Allah need to say to me? It was my first Ramadan and it was all over. How could I fill the emptiness? The answers did not come all at once. One did but the others come later, some even during my second Ramadan.

First thing to remember is that you are not chasing a spiritual high but you are running after Allah, the One true God.

Any Muslim looking to emulate a spiritual high will be highly disappointed and will only be drunk in it. The ‘high’ is the blessing one gets for seeking Allah. The minute you stop seeking Him is the minute the food spoils and makes you sick. The blessing fades and turns abruptly into a nightmare because as writer Yasmin Mogahed says:

“You can only run in one direction. So you are either running to God, or you are running to something else…”

So with that in mind, how does one stay in the blessing of Ramadan?

1- Remind yourself why you felt blessed during Ramadan and why you did it in the first place. In my case I did not do it because it was a pillar of Islam, but I did it to feel closer to Allah and to understand my path better. So I read the Qur’an more comprehensively, prayed more frequently, actively bought Islamic books on family life and marriage (seeing as it is the other half of the deen) to read in Ramadan and after it.

In other words I surrounded myself with things that would allow me to have a better relationship with Allah and the Ummah. In doing so, I received Allah’s blessing and actively felt blessed. If I had to give one piece of advice this post-Ramadan I would say: write down or talk to a brother or sister about your blessings and how you wish to walk in them in the coming year. This means, at least it did in my case, a brainstorming session (or two or three) with your best friends or family.

2- Reflect on Allah’s greatness every time you say “Allahu Akbar” and what He inspired you to achieve. I am not one to write things down but rather a person who ‘meditates’ on such things. Doing my quiet times on the bus (which were not actually quiet, given how crowded a place China is), I made it part of my worship.

In this worship, I processed what had happened to me doing Ramadan and was happening to me now, after `Eid. I asked friends of mine what they thought of ‘my Ramadan’, which was a rather revealing though a not too comfortable experience that told me a lot about myself and my relationship with Islam (my good and bad attitudes).

If you are a revert or even a born Muslim it is actually very worthwhile to ask a non-Muslim person you trust to give their honest opinion as they see things that Muslims may not always notice, given that they are themselves focusing on prayer and fasting themselves! Allah’s greatness can be reflected everywhere (unless it is strictly haram) and in every person (obviously to a varying degree) so don’t make the mistake of only asking the holiest person you meet!

3- Ask Allah what He wants you to do with your new found skills of post-Ramadan (in my case more patience and a greater awareness of poverty and physical hardship). I did a lot of du`aa’ following Ramadan and asked Allah about the things I had read, the people I had meet and the skills I had learned. I also went out and actively did something about it.

Du`aa’ is only the beginning and changes little if you do not act on it. Du`aa’ is participatory; it is not a monologue and involves interaction with Allah and subsequently other people, in order that Allah can show you how to make your pure heartfelt desires a reality. Think Action Plan, in blocks or a series of steps (I prefer not to have a timeframe as I lose motivation.)

4- Remember your brothers and sisters are exactly that and did not just adopt you doing Ramadan. Invest time in building and maintaining halal (permitted by Allah) relationships with them. Frequent halal shops, buying only what you need that day so you have to return the next one. Make time, not excuses, no matter how far the mosque is, (trust me all of mine are far) to get there on a daily basis. Actively look for opportunities to interact or offer your support to someone.

5- Continue to frequently consult the new websites from where you obtained Qur’anic insights to live a highly productive and spiritual Ramadan.

blessing of Ramadan

Keep up any one of the routines you established during Ramadan

6- Keep up any one of the routines you established during Ramadan – continuity is key. If you made it your goal in Ramadan 2012 to pray all five prayers no matter where you were or to pray at the mosque daily in Ramadan 2013, keep up the habit! If you found time during Ramadan to go the gym and work a full-time job, you will still have that time when after Ramadan. It might mean, as it did in my case, that you make it your business to know every mosque in the city or that you book appointments and work schedule (or even leisure activities) around prayer times but believe me, it is worth it. I just think of all the exercise and fat I burn cycling to the masjid and the less time I have to sit wasting time on my computer.

7- Ask Allah what you need to work on after Ramadan which you didn’t have time to perfect during Ramadan. In my first Ramadan the focus was more physical, given the shock my body had. The focus of my second one was consistent masjid attendance. I am sure the next thing I must work on is patience. In this year’s post-Ramadan I will, in sha’ Allah, be looking at what frustrates me and how I can avoid that feeling of frustration. In my case prayer is the number solution and actually my best non-Muslim friend gives me my prayer mat when I am annoyed! Attack what you need to work on from two angles, find out the source or the reason behind the need to change, develop and/or grow and facilitate the solution.

Allah says:

O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. (Al-Baqarah 2:153)

In your post-Ramadan, there will be times where you don’t feel spiritual at all. You might even feel fed-up and irritable, having slipped up and lost your newly created habits, be it gym attendance, masjid attendance, reduction in the number of swear words you allow to pass your lips etc. Pray about it, commit the issue to Allah. Make yourself accountable to a Muslim of the same sex (i.e. not your wife or husband though they should know you are doing it and who with), not to revel in it but to genuinely seek Allah’s Will on the matter. Ask him/her to commit to doing du`aa’ for you too and be patient and steadfast.

Lastly, remember if you forget to take prescribed medicine it normally says on the instruction leaflet, not to take a double dose but rather resume the medicine again as soon as you remember or as soon as you can. This is what I encourage you to do when and if you should slip up. Commit to prayer, be patient with yourself and as soon as you can resume your normal ‘Ramadan’ behavior. For this is now you, not the man or woman before Ramadan but the one after!

So with these tips, prepare yourself to have a different but equally enriching post-Ramadan experience until the next one, in sha’ Allah.

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Source: productivemuslim.com.

This article was written by Kai Ibrahim, a British revert who observed Ramadan on his own in Spain and Poland in 2013, and in Spain and China 2012, in the hope to inspire and encourage reverts and other Muslims to keep up the spirituality post-Ramadan until the next one. He also hopes that the article will encourage Muslim families to adopt a revert Muslim now that Ramadan is over and keep them smiling into the next one!

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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Make the Shift: Instill the Real Habits, Weed out the Guilty

sunrise and sunset

The beginning of a dramatically new habit comes with the burden of overcoming existing mental and physical programming.

Ever attend the talk on maintaining your Ramadan momentum? Seems to be everywhere at the end of Ramadan, but in my experience few, if any, are impacted because Ramadan time is treated as a time of binge worship rather than an occasion for strategic habit development. I believe our speaking capital is better invested in teaching habits of worship that are practically integrated in the life of the typical Muslim.

By doing so, Ramadan stops acting as a time of crash-and-burn binge worship and turns into a framework for building habits that should be at the core of every Muslim’s daily life. The first habit we look to develop is teaching the reader one method that has been successful in developing the ability to wake at 4 am daily – this is how I did it, but it’s not the only way to get the job done.

Real Goals vs. Guilty Goals

At the heart of every Muslim’s life priorities should be an aspiration to place in the highest level of Paradise. You’ll know the strength of that conviction by the conscious strategies you create to get there, and the active steps you take to making those strategies successful. You’ll likely fail many times, but oftentimes the intent and effort is just as important as attaining the goal itself. This is a ‘real goal’.

In contrast, when one says, “I should change”, but no real effort takes place, either in planning or doing, it’s what I like to call a ‘guilty goal’. Guilty goals are not true goals – they’re simply lip service placeholders in our minds, that allow us to acknowledge the virtue of some action while simultaneously making us feel guilty because, either we don’t really want to do them (lip service), or we don’t see a viable path forward to complete them.

For example, when asked, “Do you want to memorize the Qur’an?” in a lecture, all hands shoot up. Who wouldn’t want to? But were we to ask, “Who has a one-, two-, five-, or ten- year plan to get it done,” the number of raised hands would disappear faster than a palatable dish at an iftar (meal to break the fast).

Daily Habits

They are bridge from ‘guilty’ to ‘real’ goals. I’m often asked about my eating and training strategies because of the shape I maintain, especially since I’m not a fitness professional, but a 9–to-5 software engineer with a wife and three kids. The most important strategy for getting into shape is the same as for waking at 4 a.m. – it’s hardwiring neural pathways in your brain that converts new, frequent actions into lifelong habits.

Once those habits are firmly established, it becomes difficult to leave aside performing those habits. If you’d like to test it out, see how you feel when you don’t brush your teeth in the morning. Beyond avoiding close quarters in conversation and the gross feeling in your mouth, your subconscious mind will continually bang away at the walls of your mind letting you know something is wrong. There is so much negative reinforcement, you can’t help but go back and brush your teeth (at least, I hope so).

What if the pain of leaving a good action was more than the pleasure of leaving it? What if your mind rebelled and compelled you to go back and perform the action? Now you have a good habit established. We’ll discuss how to go about doing this, using the 4 a.m. wake-up as our example.

How to Establish Daily Habits

When you begin any new activity, be it waking at 4 a.m. or turning your health around, you’re both attempting to establish many new habits while breaking away from other established habits. That’s a tall order, and it’s why most people fail to change – it’s too much too soon.

It’s the same reason why almost no one maintains their Ramadan momentum, and why they crash and burn come `Eid day. The following strategy outlines how I bring about change in my daily habits with the 4 a.m. wake-up as the example.

1- What’s in It for Me? (Find Your Motivation)

Before changing your habits, you need one or more compelling reasons to change. In the case of waking at 4 a.m., one habit I wanted to establish was praying at least 2 rak`ahs of Qiyam Al-Layl (Night Vigil Prayer) every night. I chose 4 a.m. because when the winter months hit, I would still be within a half-hour time frame before Fajr, so no matter what time of year I was in, I could perform it.

But this isn’t the only reason I wanted to establish this habit. By waking early, I could also better prepare myself for the day, spend more time on other acts of worship (more dhikr, memorizing Qur’an), more learning (preparing for certifications related to my job), getting more work done (I could get more done in an hour in the morning than during normal office hours), and if my wife woke with me, spend quality time with her while the kids slept, and we would both be bright and fresh during that time.

Sure, there are some days when I oversleep and wake up at 6:30 a.m., and there are days when I wake up and just want to stand in the shower and veg out for more time since I have more time. It’s all fine because I have that time for myself to do just that.

For me, waking at 4 a.m. is the foundation for success in all other areas of life. In particular, during the brief periods of time I consistently performed Qiyam Al-Layl, I found my du`a’s (supplications) often answered with overnight delivery. All-in-all, this habit means a lot to me, and I believe very strongly in the benefit of establishing this habit and maintaining it for life.

a clock, time management

When you begin any new activity, be it waking at 4 a.m. or turning your health around, you’re both attempting to establish many new habits while breaking away from other established habits.

2- Anticipate the Unintended Consequences of the Habit

Changing oneself isn’t simply a matter of deciding you’ll act differently and then doing so. A number of areas of life should be addressed:

Relationships: If I wake and sleep earlier, what effects will that have on my family’s routine? If this causes me to go to the office earlier, how will that affect my team’s established routine? If you see the potential for conflict, you should speak with the affected parties and ensure they understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If they anticipate problems, work out those problems to the satisfaction of both yourself and the other person.

Energy Levels: Your own energy levels will be impacted by this change. On a daily basis, you’ll wake and want to go right back to sleep. If you stay awake, you may find performance deteriorates due to mind fog. I dealt with this by taking an energy drink first thing in the morning upon waking. I’m now at a point where I wake early without an alarm clock and don’t need the energy drink immediately.

Daily Schedule: When my day started and ended later, I spent more time relaxing in the evenings because rest was all I wanted after a long day at work. By flipping my hours around, I was working on all those ‘important’ priorities first thing daily, but I was no longer taking the time to relax and have fun. It was leading to a different type of mental burnout, and I didn’t anticipate that. If there are important activities in your life coming later in the day, make sure to find other times in your schedule to handle them.

3- Persevere through Initial Launch, Occasional Failure

The beginning of a dramatically new habit comes with the burden of overcoming existing mental and physical programming. If the change is too dramatic, then you’ll likely last anywhere between one day and one week before crashing.

To preserve through the initial launch, the change should be a challenge without being overpowering. If you’re already waking at 8am, then you would start at 7am in your first week, not 4 am. Your focus during this time is not Qiyam Al-Layl, studying, working out, or anything else.

The goal is simple: wake up and stay up. If you want to take a long shower, walk around the neighborhood, or veg out on Facebook, go for it. If you woke at 7 a.m. and stayed up all day, congratulations, you succeeded.

The last point cannot be overstated enough. The goal is simply waking and staying up, no more. Even if you sleep late, it doesn’t matter – your goal is consistently waking up at the same time and staying up. The next week, you’ll move to 6 a.m., the week after 5 a.m., and the week after that, you can push to 4 a.m. If one hour increments are too much for you, wake earlier in half-hour increments. If even that becomes too much, aim for 15 minute increments.

Once you’ve established the habit, you’ll find that your wake up time may fluctuate. Sometimes I wake at 3 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep, and other times I wake at 4:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. This range is acceptable for me, based on my own goals. If I were to wake up at 6am and beyond, I would consider that ‘oversleeping’.

In this case, I consciously attempt to discern what may have caused the problem (in one instance, I worked out late in the evening and then slept late), and make sure to focus myself on not repeating the mistake, or if I repeat the mistake, setting up other means of waking (like my alarm). The key is that occasional failure is ok (and expected), just determine that a failure doesn’t mean the end of the habit, it’s just a part of our human imperfection, and strive again to maintain better consistency.

Another point to keep in mind, sometimes I intentionally ‘fail’, meaning, I realize I’ve awakened too many early mornings in a row while sleeping an average of 5 hours. When this occurs, I allow myself a recovery day (usually on a Saturday or Sunday) to knock out until 9 a.m. (that’s just my time, others may have their own).

Exceptions

I know many of you are excited to get started and running on this, but there are some exceptions such as if you’re:

Pregnant or within 2 years of delivering a baby: Your schedule and hormones are far too upside down. Focus on a healthy delivery, and don’t try to force a sleep schedule with a new baby. In fact, set your expectations and don’t guilt yourself over not being able to achieve more during this time unless you have an awesome spouse who will help out and give you your own time.

You work the graveyard shift; you probably hit Qiyam every night, but really, the point is that you don’t wake up simply to get up and get ready for work. Use the techniques outlined above to wake up 2 hours earlier to get other types of work done.

People with medical sleep disorders: Seek the help of a competent professional. Let them know what you want to do and see how they can help you get it done.

Wrap Up

Becoming a consistent early-morning person isn’t about being a super duper tajweed (rules of Qur’anic recitation) master sheikh floating on a magic carpet. It’s all about focusing on the goal, keeping it simple, making conscious, gradual improvements, and moving forward until you hit the target.

Don’t worry about the days you fail, just keep trying until you get to enjoy the sweetness of front loading your day with all the most important things in your life. The gradual success that comes from it will snowball into this amazing feeling of accomplishment and happiness that honestly can’t be put into words.

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Source: muslimmatters

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Muslims & Non-Muslim Feasts

Is a Muslim allowed to participate in non-Muslims feasts? On what conditions can a Muslim join non-Muslims during holiday seasons?

Non-Muslim Feasts

In determining the non-Muslim celebrations that can be attended by Muslims, several main criteria should serve as guidelines so as not to contradict the teachings of Islam. The criteria are as follows:

1- The event is not accompanied by ceremonies that are against the Islamic faith (aqidah).Feasts

The meaning of “against the Islamic faith (`aqidah)” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will lead to tarnishing the faith (`aqidah) of Muslims.

For example:

– to include religious symbols such as the cross, installing lights, candles, Christmas tree and so forth;

– to sing religious songs;

– to put any religious markings on the forehead, or other markings onto parts of the body;

– to deliver speech or gestures in the form of a praise to the non-Muslim religion;

– to bow or conduct acts of honour to the religious ceremony of non-Muslims.

2- The event is not accompanied by acts against the Islamic law.

The meaning of “against the Islamic law” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will contradict the Islamic teachings practiced by the Muslim community.

For example:

– Wearing red costumes like Santa Claus or other garments that reflect religion;

– Serving intoxicating food or beverages and the likes;

– Having sounds or ornaments like church bells, Christmas tree, temple or breaking of coconuts;

– Having ceremonies with elements of gaming, worship, cult, superstitions and the likes.

3- The event is not accompanied by “acts that contradict with moral and cultural development of Muslim society” in this country.

The meaning of “acts that contradict with moral and cultural development of Muslim society” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will contradict the values and norms of the Muslim society of this country which adheres to the Islamic teachings based on Ahlu-S Sunnah Wal-Jamaah or the majority of Muslim scholars.

For example:

– Mixing freely without any limit or manners;

– Wearing conspicuous clothing;

– Singing songs that contain lyrics of obscenity and worship;

– Organizing programs such as beauty pageants, cock fighting and such.

4- The event is not accompanied by acts that can “stir the sensitivity of Muslim community”.

The meaning of “stir the sensitivity of Muslim community” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will offend the feelings of Muslims about their beliefs and practices.

For Example:

– Speeches or songs in the form of non-Muslim religious propaganda;

– Speeches that insult the Muslims;

– Speeches that insult Islam;

– Presentations with the aim to ridicule the religious belief of Muslims.

The organizers and the public are asked to get the views of religious authorities before organizing or attending celebrations of non-Muslims.

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Source: islam.gov.my

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