Categories
New Muslims Reflections

With Every Shahadah a New Life Is Born

 

Last week my husband alerted me to a halaqah (study circle) for sisters at our local masjid (i.e., the one across the street). I’ve since been recommended to this particular halaqah by a few other sisters in the area, so I’m getting the impression it’s supposed to be pretty good. I’ve been twice now-last Friday and this one-and don’t think I’ve really gotten the chance to see what others see.

The first week, the instructor wasn’t there as she’d recently been visiting with family overseas. This week’s halaqah involved a little bit of catching up, and then it was planned to be short due to some activity at the Redmond Masjid-I can’t seem to figure out what it was though. But it was further cut short by a new sister wanting to take Shahadah (Testimony of Faith).

That actually took 15-20 minutes, even though the sister had studied Islam plenty before choosing to make this decision, I guess it is the protocol here to run through a crash course in `aqeedah (Islamic creed) for anyone who wants to take Shahadah, so the remainder of the halaqah was spent reviewing the articles of faith and pillars of Islam.

In Raleigh, we would basically quickly articulate the primary tenets of faith and practice if the convert was new to the masjid, but not nearly so extensively as I heard tonight. So I begin to wonder how other masjid react when someone wishes to say Shahadah?

But more than the `aqeedah crash course, a new Shahadah is always a reminder of guidance in our lives, a reminder that Allah guides whom He chooses. Maybe if we busy ourselves with da`wah we start to think we have a hand in people finding Islam, but so often people just show up at the masjid, ready to take Shahadah (this happens a lot in Ramadan.)

The guidance truly is from Allah, and He leads people to Islam. While we should definitely try to be as active in da`wah as we can (as it’s from the Sunnah and has the promise of a beautiful reward), it’s plain that we only ignite, and we cannot guide.

Watching someone say their Shahadah also brings to mind the overwhelming feeling of truly embracing Islam. From a hadith qudsi (Divine Hadith) we know that Allah comes closer to us as we come closer to Him, and it’s been my experience that certain acts of worship, performed with sincerity, nourish the soul beyond the imagination.

For me, saying Shahadah was the first such experience I had being overcome with faith in this way, and I’ve seen that experience reflected on the face (and in the tears) of many others when they also embrace Islam. Do you wonder why so often converts cry at their Shahadah?

At the very least, their sins have been forgiven. Even if they don’t know it, all their bad deeds are now written as good, and the effect of that beautiful purification-as we are being purified of our sins by Allah-is not merely academic. It can be felt in the heart, and so it’s extremely emotional.

Tonight, getting to see that, just reminded me of what I should be striving for.

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Source: ibnatalhidayah.blogspot.com.

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

The Last Testimony of God

Testimony of Faith

The Qur’an and the life-example of Muhammad are the only reliable sources available to mankind to learn God’s Will in its totality.

One may wonder how, in the dark ages 1400 years ago in a benighted region of the earth like Arabia, an illiterate Arab trader and herdsman came to possess such light, such knowledge, such power, such capabilities and such finely developed moral virtues?

One may say that there is nothing peculiar about his Message, that it is the product of his own mind.

If this is so, then he should have proclaimed himself God. And if he had done so at that time, the peoples of the earth who did not hesitate in calling Krishna and Buddha gods and Jesus the Son of God, and who could without compunction worship such forces of nature as fire, water and air – would have readily acknowledged him as such.

But he argued just the opposite. For he proclaimed: I am a human being like yourselves. I have not brought anything to you of my own accord. It has all been revealed to me by God.

Whatever I possess belongs to Him. This message, the like of which the whole of humanity is unable to produce, is the message of God. It is not the product of my own mind. Every word of it has been sent down by Him and all glory to Him Whose Message it is.

All the wonderful achievements which stand to my credit in your eyes, all the laws which I have given, all the principles which I have enunciated and taught none of them is from me. I find myself incompetent to produce such things out of my sheer personal ability and capabilities. I look to Divine Guidance in all matters. Whatever He wills I do, what He directs I proclaim.

Hearken! What a wonderful and inspiring example of honesty, integrity, truth and honour those sentiments are! Liars and hypocrites often try to take all the credit for the deeds of others, even when they can easily be found out. But this great man does not claim any of these achievements for himself even when no-one could contradict him as there was no way of establishing the source of his inspiration.

What more proof of perfect honesty of purpose, uprightness of character and sublimity of soul can there be! Who else can be more truthful than he who received such unique gifts through a secret channel and still pointed out their source? All these factors lead to the irresistible conclusion that such a man was the true Messenger of God.

His Life and Teachings

Such was our Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). He was a prodigy of extraordinary merits, a paragon of virtue and goodness, a symbol of truth, a great apostle of God and His Messenger to the entire world.

His life and thought, his truthfulness and straightforwardness, his piety and goodness, his character and morals, his ideology and achievements – all stand as unimpeachable proof of his prophethood.

Any human being who studies his life and teachings without bias will testify that he was the true Prophet of God and the Qur’an- the Book he gave to mankind – the true Book of God. No serious seeker after truth can come to any other conclusion.

It must also be clearly understood that now, through Muhammad alone can we know the straight path of Islam. The Qur’an and the life-example of Muhammad are the only reliable sources that are available to mankind to learn God’s Will in its totality.

Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of God for the whole of mankind and the long chain of prophets has come to an end with him. He was the last of the prophets and all the instructions which it was God’s Will to impart to mankind through direct revelation were sent by Him through Muhammad (peace be upon him) and are enshrined in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

Anyone who seeks to become a sincere Muslim must have faith in God’s last Prophet, accept his teachings and follow the way he has pointed out to man. This is the road to success and salvation.

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The article is an excerpt from the book “Towards Understanding Islam” by Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi.

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New Muslims Society

Punctuality: The Norm of Muslim

punctuality is respectful of people's time

Punctuality is respectful of people’s time

 

You might think that because the day of a Muslim is built around prayers which need to be performed at specific times, that Muslims would be fairly punctual people as a rule.

But this seems not to be the case, even though I’ve heard several scholars remind listeners of the importance of being on time. I remember Sheikh Yaser Birjas indicating to students at a seminar that they should arrive for class like a muezzin arrives for prayer. (He has to arrive early enough to be ready to call as soon as the time for prayer comes in.) This suggests that Muslims should be acutely aware of time as part of their preparation for prayer, or class, or anything else.

After becoming Muslim, though, I started hearing plenty of jokes about a tendency of Muslims towards tardiness. Although, the observation relates mostly to religious and social functions as late arrivals to work or school often result in disciplinary action. I find American society generally to be less tolerant of tardiness than Muslims (so kudos to the Muslims for being so forgiving) but this can result in some confusion for the American Muslim community.

I heard the story of a convert who made the observation, on his first visit to Jumu`ah (Friday) Prayer, that when he arrived- at the indicated time- only a few people were present, but during the sermon people continued arriving until the hall was filled by the time of the prayer. Yet I don’t think this experience is rare.

Similarly, I’ve noticed that when attending Islamic lectures and classes, most respected teachers endeavor to begin and end on time. While helping to organize a 4-week da`wah training program a few years ago, I learned an important lesson regarding punctuality.

The class was supposed to begin early on a Saturday morning, and though a few people showed up early, there were crowds coming through the door even after the ‘start’ time. I wanted to wait for the students to settle in, and that was a mistake. The imam of the masjid (mosque) told me that even if some people were still arriving, I should still start on time, and end on time.

To start with, punctuality is respectful of people’s time; if they showed up on time, they shouldn’t have to wait for the program to begin. Moreover, ending on time allows people to leave for other engagements they may have planned, instead of detaining them longer than they expected. And also, if an event fails to start on time, what incentive is there to arrive on time?

Since my own lesson on punctuality, I’ve made a point of observing when speakers (scholars, imams, community leaders, teachers, etc.) deliberately start on time- or as best they are able, when faced with logistical delays- and end on time.

I understand it to be a part of the etiquette of being a speaker; of being a teacher, or an imam, and have found that the more knowledgeable, respected, and elder teachers usually strive for punctuality, even when students are late. For that reason, I don’t accept that tardiness is religiously appropriate behavior since it’s not from the etiquette which I have witnessed from religious scholars.

I’ve even seen some scholars who seem to be as strict about punctuality as my high school band director. For us, it was an enforced rule. Students late to rehearsal would have to perform push-ups or run laps. Arriving late for a trip would mean getting left behind; nobody would wait. And if our rehearsals ran over schedule, even by as little as five minutes, the director would shorten the next day’s rehearsal by the same amount. Breaks came regularly, and if they were delayed, then they were extended also. (Noting that breaks were usually barely 3-5 minutes, enough time to sit and drink water.)

When I’m in a class or a lecture where the speaker goes on- beyond an hour, sometimes beyond two, I find myself becoming irritated and even resentful towards the speaker, while my concentration plummets, especially when scheduled breaks have been neglected by the speaker.

How is a student supposed to feel after arriving on time and waiting over an hour or more for an instructor, who then proceeds to lecture for an hour or two without giving students a break? I think the only way a student can feel, in that situation, is that the instructor lacks respect for his time, leading the student to not respect the instructor.

So I’ll emphasize again why tardiness is not something seen in the most erudite of scholars, and why I don’t believe that it is religiously appropriate. And I maintain that view despite the prevalent disregard for time in some Muslim cultures.

Unfortunately, punctuality can even be an inconvenience in a culture with more lenient and flexible schedule. My husband stresses the importance of arriving promptly to dinner parties, that is, he wants to arrive at the time indicated on the invitation. However, I find myself stalling our departure in order to avoid inconveniencing the hostess. Since most guests tend to arrive 30 minutes or more late, she might not be fully prepared for guests if we arrive ’on time’, and she might struggle trying to make conversation with me while still cooking and cleaning, leaving me in an awkward position while he goes off to another room with the host.

On the other hand, an American crowd might be expected to arrive 5-10 minutes before the scheduled time. That’s why there can be some confusion.

Of course, punctuality should be the norm for all events, but I’m not sure what it would take for people to accept that on a wide scale. It’s not easy to enforce it with other people, but the least we can do is enforce it on ourselves and make punctuality a fixed attribute for which we are known.

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Source: ibnatalhidayah.blogspot.com.

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Categories
New Muslims Reflections

What It’s Like To Be A Muslim College Student Today

Muslim College Students

Muslim students are trying to accomplish the exact same goal as every other college student: to find their space on campus and make it to graduation.

“If you’ve never met a Muslim,” says Fatmah Berikaa, “you’re only getting the images that you see in the media.”

Berikaa, a freshman at Boston College, is one of several Muslim college students. The Huffington Post spoke to in recent weeks. Every day, in colleges across the country, young Muslims like Berikaa are confronting the stereotypes that endure about Islam.

They asked students to tell their stories about being practicing Muslims, in the hopes of dispelling some of the misconceptions about the religion, wanted to hear students speak for themselves about the role that faith plays in their lives. Each of these stories is presented as the student or students told it. The series features personal essays, transcribed conversations and a video blog.

Healthy Diverse

This is simply a collection of compelling stories -it’s not representative of all Muslim students in the U.S., nor is it meant to be. Students practice their faith in countless ways, and the Muslim population, in college as everywhere else, is incredibly diverse.

Some students spoke about the discrimination they face on a daily basis. One student, in journalism school, told of always being expected to write the news stories about the Middle East. Another spoke of the fear and shock that galvanized their school’s Muslim community after the killing of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this past February.

Still others talked about how they practice their religion on campus. We heard about student communities, prayer rooms and an Islamic fraternity.

The Need for Community-based Support

While all the stories were different, two common themes emerged. One was the importance of having a community. Many students told us that while they have friends who practice other religions, they find a particular kind of comfort in being among fellow Muslim students. They spoke about how the togetherness helps them to maintain their cultural identity and not feel isolated by their religion.

The other theme was the need for communication. Students often took a forgiving stance in the face of discrimination, saying that if someone doesn’t personally know any Muslims and associates Islam with terrorism because of what they see in the media, how are they to know any better?

The students we spoke with all showed a deep desire to spread knowledge about their faith. They urged non-Muslims to ask them about the religion, and they urged their fellow Muslims to be open in explaining it. They spoke about fostering tolerance and peace through awareness.

In addition to these individual stories, we asked students what they want non-Muslims to know about their student life.

“I want people to understand that we are just human beings,” Berikaa said. The stories we heard contained pieces any student could relate to -choosing schools for financial aid and the perfect distance from family, adjusting to coed dorms, dealing with final exam timing conflicts.

Overall, Muslim students are trying to accomplish the exact same goal as every other college student: to find their space on campus and make it to graduation.

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Source: The Huffington Post

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Categories
New Muslims Reflections

What Muslim College Students Want Non-Muslims to Know

By Alexandra Svokos

We asked Muslim students across the country what they’d like non-Muslims to know about their student life. These are their responses.

This Is What Muslim College Students Want Non-Muslims To Know…

Lana Idris

Junior at Harvard University; from Texas; studying human evolutionary biology

“I think if I wanted non-Muslims to know anything about my student life, it’s that although we have struggles that are particular to following our faith, such as finding time to pray in between classes, we are for the most part going through the same phase in life as any other college student is. We are trying to come into our own personalities, find out who we are and where we fit into our communities.

“The one thing that may differ is that at times it feels like we’re trying to carve a space into communities that seem to fundamentally misunderstand us and reject us on face value because we are Muslim. So I’d say it’s the same struggles, just nuanced differently depending on our context.”

Masud Rahman

Sophomore at the University of California, San Diego; from California; studying mathematics-computer science

“I would like non-Muslims to know that we have the same struggles as you.

“If any non-Muslim has any fears or concerns regarding Muslims on campus or Islam in general, please just contact your local Muslim Student Association and just talk to a Muslim for a bit.

“The tensions with our families, other friends of various faiths and desires are all the same. We just choose to live by a faith and way of life that provides spirituals guidance and community at our universities.”

Tesneem Alkiek

Senior at the University of Michigan; from Michigan; studying Islamic studies with a minor in early Christianity, religion

“My entire student life – classes, social activities, studying, you name it – revolves around my five daily prayers. Before I even register for classes, I’m making sure that three-hour evening lab won’t interfere with my sunset prayer. All it takes is five minutes five times a day, but those few minutes force me to think about where I’ll be throughout the entire day and if I’ll be able to excuse myself to follow a command of God.

“It’s my secret in maintaining self-discipline and organizing my time well.”

Fatima Chowdhury

Junior at the University of Michigan; from New York; studying international studies and Middle East and North Africa studies

“What people need to realize is that Muslims are just people.

Being Muslim isn’t an overwhelming thing that’s different from being human or being a student or being a person or being an American. First and foremost we’re all people, and we should all be treated like people: with respect and dignity.”

Fatmah Berikaa

Freshman at Boston College; from Massachusetts; studying secondary education and English

“If you’ve never met a Muslim, you’re only getting the images that you see in the media. And – at the moment – that’s not how we are. That’s not compatible with what Islam stands for.

“I want people to understand that we are just human beings. When tragedies happen – because I feel like Islam is not discussed unless it’s in the context of some tragedy – we’re just as affected as the next guy.

“We’re just as hurt, we’re scared, we’re just as angry. We’re going through the same emotions they are. To cut us off, or say “You can’t feel that, because it’s your people who did that – that makes no sense.”

“I want people to see me as a real person. I don’t want my personality and my religion to be exclusive. I’ve had people go, “You’re so nice, I almost don’t see your headscarf!” I understand that they’re trying to be nice, and I get that. But at the same time, I want you to know that I’m nice and I want you to see my headscarf, because those are both parts of me. I don’t want people to think that I should sacrifice part of myself for another part of myself. These two things can coexist.”

Aisha Subhan

Second year at UC San Diego; from Arizona; studying political science/international relations

“As a student, I dream and aspire like many of my peers do. Each day is an opportunity for me to learn something new, make someone laugh, or clear up misconceptions.

“My student life is purposeful and I am really grateful that I have one.”

Faran Saeed

Higher education graduate student at Louisiana State University

These photographs really show my view of my experience as a Muslim student:

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Source: The Huffington Post

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New Muslims Prayer

Prayer: The Healthy Structure of Your Life

By Amy Klooz

prayer

Prayer gives you a spiritual retreat at key points during the day, to help you break up the day and to refresh you.

My Lord! Make me one who establishes regular prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring, O our Lord! And accept my prayer.

O Our Lord! Cover (us) with Your forgiveness: me, my parents, and (all) believers, on the day that the reckoning will be established! (Ibrahim 14:40, 41)

One of the first du`aa’s (supplications) I learned to make in my salah was one from the Qur’an, a du`aa’ of Prophet Ibrahim. In it, Ibrahim asks Allah to make him someone who establishes prayer- although the translation I learned inserted the word “regular”, i.e., “establishes regular prayer”. This du`aa’ reminds me, at the end of every salah, the important of salah, of establishing it and praying it regularly.

On just about every prayer timetable I’ve seen, part of an ayah (Qur’anic verse) is listed somewhere on the page. One translation of the part of the ayah is “Verily, the prayer is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:103) The idea is to remind whoever reads that prayer table about the importance of praying regularly at the appropriate times.

Now a person can view the idea of regular prayer as either a burden, or a blessing. I have a hunch most non-Muslims, and plenty of Muslims, probably see it as a burden. And undoubtedly Satan would rather us see it as a burden, so he can easily distract us from it, urge us to procrastinate it, and eventually even convince us to abandon it altogether. May Allah protect the believers from his whispers.

There are benefits in having the prayers spread throughout the day. It gives you a spiritual retreat at key points during the day, to help you break up the day and to refresh you. And the times of the salah are intricately connected with ideal daily behavior.

We learn the prayer times from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who learned them from the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) over two days.

According to Ibn `Abbas, the Angel Jibreel visited the Prophet Muhammad at the beginning of the each of the prayer times on the first day to lead him in prayer, and on the second day led him in prayer at the end of the prayer times, except for Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer. The times have been further specified by `Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn Al-`Aas, based on the sun and sky, and scholars have differed slightly in their opinions as to the exact timing.

What’s clear however is that the prayers are based on the timing of the sun, indicating that our days should follow a similar schedule. It also keeps us Muslims aware of the motion of the sun throughout the day, as it crosses the sky, and throughout the year as the time it takes to traverse the sky changes. In this way the timings of prayers keeps you alert, and it keeps you from forming a lazy habit or tradition when it comes to the prayer–your schedule will have to be flexible somewhat throughout the year. The beginning and end times for each prayer vary between some schools of thought, though not drastically so and not without evidence.

The first prayer of a waking day is Fajr, and there is unanimous agreement regarding its start and end times. It begins at the time of the ‘second dawn’ or ‘true dawn’. While the sun is at one particular angle below the horizon, there will appear the ‘first dawn’ known as the “’false dawn’, when the light spreads vertically. That is not the start of Fajr time, which actually comes later, when the sun is high enough for the dawn light to spread laterally across the horizon. It ends when the sun rises. This means that our day should begin before the sun comes up. There’s also a special blessing in the Fajr time before the sun rises. While our minds and bodies are refreshed, it can be a very productive time of day before the worries and business of the day start to clog our minds.

The start time of Zhuhr (Noon) Prayer is also unanimously agreed upon- that it is when the sun declines from its zenith. Geographically, unless a person is at the equator he will have a small amount of shadow, even when the sun is at its zenith, but the zenith is when the shadow has reached its minimum size.

There are two opinions about the end time of Zhuhr, though they all agree that Zhuhr ends at the time when asr begins. The first opinion, the Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali opinion, is that Zhuhr ends when the length of an object’s shadow is equal to its height (plus the ‘extra shadow’ just mentioned.) The second opinion, the Hanafi opinion, is that dhuhr ends when the length of an object’s shadow is twice its height (plus the “extra shadow.”) This is based on a hadith that dhuhr is to be delayed on hot days until the day begins to cool off.

The start time of `Asr (Afternoon) is agreed by all to be the end time of Zhuhr, and the same differences just mentioned apply. There is also agreement as to the end time of `Asr, that it be when the sun has completely set. Scholars also agree that it is better to pray `Asr earlier (than later) as long as it is in the specified time. Hanafi scholars prefer it to be delayed as long as the sun hasn’t started to change color.

By unanimous agreement, Maghrib (Sunset) time begins when the sun has set, though there are basically three opinions regarding its end time. The first is the Maliki and new Shafi’i opinion, that basically the time for Maghrib ends once enough time has passed to actually make wudu’, adhan, iqamah, and pray five rak`as (3 for obligatory, 2 for sunnah (voluntary). In other words, Maghrib needs to be prayed right away with no ‘extended time’. The Hanbali and old Shafi`i opinion is that Maghrib needs to be prayed by the time the red twilight has faded, while the Hanafi opinion is that it may be prayed until the white twilight has faded. But they all pretty much agree that it’s best to pray Maghrib at the beginning of its time.

When it comes to `Isha’ (Night), there is unanimous agreement that it begins when the twilight has faded, but there are the same differing opinions about which twilight that means. The Maliki and Shafi`i opinions, for which there is no extended time, also say isha starts after the twilight has faded. When the sun sets, the first twilight is the red twilight, followed by the white twilight, followed by the blue twilight, just as a point of reference. There are two opinions about the end time of `Isha’. The first is the Hanafi opinion, which allows for `Isha’ to be prayed up until the time for fajr arrives. The Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali opinions are that `Isha’ may be prayed until the end of the first half, or first third of the night. This is calculated as the time between the beginning of `Isha’ and the beginning of Fajr, then split into thirds or halves and added to the time `Isha’ begins.

The salah itself is an organizational tool, to help you structure your life. Sometimes people will say that time is money. But no, time is life. Whenever a day passes, part of you goes with it. Following the salah forces you to begin your working day with Fajr time- you shouldn’t go to bed after Fajr Prayer.

You also see that there is time to take a break, for Zhuhr, a good time to eat lunch, and maybe take a nap. `Asr time, when the day starts to draw to a close, is the time to stop working and see to your family. Eat dinner and prepare for bed, these are things to do in the evenings.

Even the prohibited times of prayer reminds us of the appropriate structure for the day, so we don’t turn into monks and try to pray the entire day- there are times that we should spend doing other things as well. But the larger point of regular prayer is to prevent other things, our life in this dunya, from stunting our relationship with Allah.

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Source: ibnatalhidayah.blogspot.com.

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New Muslims Prayer

Prayer: The Natural Human Instinct

prayer

The act of prayer at its highest is much more than abstract reflection.

 

Religion is not satisfied with mere conception; it seeks a more intimate knowledge of and association with the object of its pursuit. The agency through which this association is achieved is the act of worship or prayer ending in spiritual illumination.

The act of worship, however, affects different varieties of consciousness differently. In the case of the prophetic consciousness it is in the main creative, i.e. it tends to create a fresh ethical world wherein the Prophet (peace be upon him), so to speak, applies the pragmatic test to his revelations.

In the case of the mystic consciousness it is in the main cognitive. It is from this cognitive point of view that I will try to discover the meaning of prayer. And this point of view is perfectly justifiable in view of the ultimate motive of prayer. I would draw your attention to the following passage from the great American psychologist, Professor William James:

‘It seems to probable that in spite of all that ‘science’ may do to the contrary, men will continue to pray to the end of time, unless their mental nature changes in a manner which nothing we know should lead us to expect. The impulse to pray is a necessary consequence of the fact that whilst the innermost of the empirical selves of a man is a ‘self’ of the social sort, it yet can find its only adequate ‘Socius’ (its ‘great companion’) in an ideal world.

‘. . . Most men, either continually or occasionally, carry a reference to it in their breast. The humblest outcast on this earth can feel himself to be real and valid by means of this higher recognition. And, on the other hand, for most of us, a world with no such inner refuge when the outer social self failed and dropped from us would be the abyss of horror. I say “for most of us”, because it is probable that individuals differ a good deal in the degree in which they are haunted by this sense of an ideal spectator. It is a much more essential part of the consciousness of some men than of others. Those who have the most of it are possibly the most religious men. But I am sure that even those who say they are altogether without it deceive themselves, and really have it in some degree.’

A Natural Human Inclination

Thus you will see that, psychologically speaking, prayer is instinctive in its origin. The act of prayer as aiming at knowledge resembles reflection. Yet prayer at its highest is much more than abstract reflection.

Like reflection it too is a process of assimilation, but the assimilative process in the case of prayer draws itself closely together and thereby acquires a power unknown to pure thought. In thought the mind observes and follows the working of Reality; in the act of prayer it gives up its career as a seeker of slow-footed universality and rises higher than thought to capture Reality itself with a view to become a conscious participator in its life.

There is nothing mystical about it. Prayer as a means of spiritual illumination is a normal vital act by which the little island of our personality suddenly discovers its situation in a larger whole of life. Do not think I am talking of auto-suggestion. Auto-suggestion has nothing to do with the opening up of the sources of life that lie in the depths of the human ego.

Unlike spiritual illumination which brings fresh power by shaping human personality, it leaves no permanent life-effects behind. Nor am I speaking of some occult and special way of knowledge. All that I mean is to fix your attention on a real human experience which has a history behind it and a future before it. Mysticism has, no doubt, revealed fresh regions of the self by making a special study of this experience. Its literature is illuminating; yet its set phraseology shaped by the thought-forms of a worn-out metaphysics has rather a deadening effect on the modern mind.

Concrete Satisfaction

The quest after a nameless nothing, as disclosed in Neo-Platonic mysticism – be it Christian or Muslim – cannot satisfy the modern mind which, with its habits of concrete thinking, demands a concrete living experience of God. And the history of the race shows that the attitude of the mind embodied in the act of worship is a condition for such an experience.

In fact, prayer must be regarded as a necessary complement to the intellectual activity of the observer of ‘nature’. The scientific observation of Nature keeps us in close contact with the behaviour of Reality, and thus sharpens our inner perception for a deeper vision of it. I cannot help quoting here a beautiful passage from the mystic poet Rëmâ in which he describes the mystic quest after ‘reality’.

The Sëfi’s book is not composed of ink and letters: it is not but a heart white as snow. The scholar’s possession is pen-marks. What is the Sëfi’s possession?

The Sëfi stalks the game like a hunter: he sees the musk-deer’s track and follows the footprints. For some while the track of the deer is the proper clue for him, but afterwards it is the musk-gland of the deer that is his guide. To go one stage guided by the scent of the musk-gland is better than a hundred stages of following the track and roaming about.

The truth is that all search for knowledge is essentially a form of prayer. The scientific observer of ‘nature’ is a kind of mystic seeker in the act of prayer. Although at present he follows only the footprints of the musk-deer, and thus modestly limits the method of his quest, his thirst for knowledge is eventually sure to lead him to the point where the scent of the musk-gland is a better guide than the footprints of the deer. This alone will add to his power over ‘nature’ and give him that vision of the total-infinite which philosophy seeks but cannot find.

Vision without power does bring moral elevation but cannot give a lasting culture. Power without vision tends to become destructive and inhuman. Both must combine for the spiritual expansion of humanity.

_________________________

The article is excerpted from the author’s book “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”.

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New Muslims Prayer

How to Wake up before Fajr Prayer Every Day

fair prayer

To wake up for Fajr prayer, having a consistent morning routine can be quite challenging.

One of the challenges that a Muslim faces when trying to wake up for Fajr every day is the constant shifting of the Fajr prayer. Depending on the season you’re in, it constantly shifts either few minutes forward each day or few minutes back each day. Thus, it can be difficult to keep up with a varied Fajr schedule throughout the year.

This varied schedule poses three challenges for a productive Muslim:

1- It’s difficult to “train” your brain to wake up at a certain time each day. When you read productivity books, their advice is to always wake up early around the same time each day, e.g. 5 a.m. This helps train your brain to wake you up early regardless of how late you slept the night before.

However, for a Muslim, this is not realistic, especially with the shifting time for Fajr prayer, which can start as early as 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. or as late as 7 a.m., depending on the season and which part of the world you’re in.

2- It’s difficult to maintain a regular “night” prayer routine. If you want to benefit from the last third of the night and get up and pray, you cannot have a consistent schedule. In some seasons, this will require you to wake up as early as 1am or 2 a.m. and in some seasons, you’ll need to wake up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. Again, it can be difficult for you to stay consistent.

3- You cannot maintain a consistent schedule or morning routine. Since your morning keeps expanding and contracting depending on what time you have to wake up for Fajr prayer, having a consistent morning routine can be quite challenging.

So How Do You Overcome This Challenge?

The solution is in a new routine I’ve developed recently. By Allah’s permission and help, I have been able to consistently wake up 45 minutes before Fajr Adhan, regardless of the season and time of year I’m in.

This has helped me train my brain to wake up in sync with Fajr prayer Adhan, as well as in sync with the seasons. It has also helped me maintain a regular night prayer + witr routine, since I now have a 45-minute window before the Fajr Adhan .

So here’s my solution: This is a 3-step process that has worked for me and I hope and pray that it works with you.

Step 1: Get the Right Alarm

I got myself a desk Fajr clock. The clock has  a unique feature i.e. it has an alarm that goes off in sync with the Fajr Adhan  and you can set it to wake you up at least 10 minutes before Fajr, every day. Therefore, regardless of the time of Fajr Adhan, it’ll go off exactly 10 minutes before Fajr.

Step 2: Develop Your Alarm Habit

Every person has a unique “alarm habit” whether you’re consciously aware of it or not. For some, it’s the classic ‘hit the snooze button and sleep until it’s too late for you to hit the snooze button again’ habit. For others, it’s to simply shut the alarm and sleep for another 20-30 minutes before waking up scared that they’ll miss their morning commute.

I used to have quite a funny alarm habit myself. My alarm clock (the Fajr clock I mentioned above) was placed at the other end of my room. When it went off, I got up, walked across the room, turned it off and then walked straight back to bed for a snooze before my phone’s alarm woke me up. Normally, it worked for me. But, sometimes it didn’t and that bothered me.

Thinking about that routine, I realize it didn’t make sense. “Why am I heading back to my bed after waking up and walking across the room?!”. So I decided to change my routine to change my habit.

I simply changed the direction of my walk after I turned off the alarm. Instead of walking back to bed, I walked straight to the bathroom to get ready for salah. Initially, making that conscious shift of walking to the bathroom instead of the bed was quite challenging because I was trying to overcome an old habit.

However, after a few days, this habit has become ingrained in me. Now, I find it much easier to get up at any time the Adhan clock goes off and walk straight to the bathroom and get ready for salah.

Step 3: Tweak and Re-arrange

When I first changed my alarm habit, I used to have the Fajr alarm set at least 5 minutes before Fajr Adhan. Of course, this gave me no time to pray Tahajjud (late night prayer) or Witr on time. So what I wanted to do was gradually train my mind to wake up earlier and earlier each day. I knew that if I “jerk” my brain to wake up half an hour before the time it’s used to wake up, I might be tempted to go back to my old routine and walk straight into bed for a snooze.

To make this transition smooth, I followed a simple procedure. Each week, I set my alarm to go off 5 minutes earlier than the previous week. This small tweak of the alarm each week allowed me to gradually train my mind to consistently wake up 45 minutes before Fajr each day. This helped me overcome two of the challenges I mentioned earlier:

1- Training my brain to wake up at “same time” each day.

2- Staying consistent with night prayer.

What about the third challenge i.e. maintaining a consistent morning routine? To overcome this challenge, I would review my morning routine every three months. Normally, three months is enough time for Fajr prayer to have moved significantly to require me to tweak my morning routine.

The way I tweak my morning routine is by either adding or removing “optional” morning activities to/from my “core” morning activities to have an optimal morning routine, depending on the season.

What are My Core/Optional Morning Activities?

4-6 rak`ah Tahajjud

2 raka`ah Tahajjud

Witr Prayer

Istighfar (asking Allah’s forgiveness)

Repeat after the Fajr Adhan with the nearby mosque muezzin (one who calls the Adhan)

Fajr sunnah

Fajr Prayer

Remembrance after salah

Morning remembrance

Qur’an recitation

Writing, Brainstorming

Reading

Gym (swimming, weights, running)

7-30 minutes of home exercise

Breakfast

An Advance Tip

I want to go a level deeper with you and give you a really pro tip. This is for the productivity professionals out there.

You can play with the above system so you reduce the variance between your earliest summer wake-up time and earliest winter wake-up time. This way, you don’t go through massive swings during the year. For example, if Fajr gets as early as 3am and as late as 7 a.m. in your area (depending on the season), following my 45-minute routine before Fajr tip, the earliest you’ll wake up in the summer is 2.30 a.m. and the earliest you’ll wake up in the winter is 6.30 a.m. However, that’s a 4 hour swing/variance in one year, which can be quite hard to adapt to.

What if during winter, instead of waking up at 6.30am, you wake up at 4.30am and give yourself a longer period to pray Tahajjud.

This way, the gap between your earliest winter wake-up time and summer wake-up time is 2 hours, which won’t be as difficult to adjust to, In sha Allah.

I hope the above has helped you in some way to develop a powerful wake-up routine that not only allows you to never miss Fajr, but also keep up with the Fajr timings throughout the year and get a chance to keep up with your night prayer each night. Of course, I must mention that waking up early for Fajr and Tahajjud is a blessing from Allah and can only happen by His permission.

Hence whenever applying the above techniques, remember you’re simply taking the means, but your heart and hopes should be connected to Allah in Whose Hands is your ability to wake up. Pray that you wake up early and worship Him and remember: “You Alone we worship and You Alone we ask for help”.

_________________________

Source: Productive Muslim.

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New Muslims Prayer

The Muslim Prayer: Its Rules and Timing

What are the rules of Muslim prayer? How do we shorten the prayer? And when is it applicable? When should we make for the missed prayer? Are there times when it is wrong to pray?

Shortening the Prayer

When a person is travelling with the intention of proceeding forty eight miles or over from his home he should shorten the obligatory prayers of four units to two each.

What are the rules of Muslim prayer?

As a rule, every Muslim, male or female, should offer the prayer in its due time.

The curtailment is applicable to the Noon (Zhuhr) Prayer, the Mid-Afternoon (`Asr) Prayer, and the Evening (`Ishaa’) Prayer. The Early Morning (Fajr) Prayer and the Sunset (Maghrib) Prayers remain unchanged.

This advantage remains effective even after the traveler arrives at his destination, if he does not intend to prolong his stay there for fifteen days or more. Otherwise, he should offer the reducible prayers in their original and complete number of units.

While traveling under these circumstances, he is exempt from all supererogatory prayers (sunnah) except the two sunnah units of the Early Morning (Fajr) and Witr which follows the Evening (`Ishaa’) prayers

There are some minor differences of interpretation between the various schools of law regarding the travel distance and the travel duration.

Times When Muslim Prayer is Forbidden

The Muslim is forbidden to offer either obligatory or supererogatory prayers at:

1- The time when the sun is rising;

2- The time when the sun is at its zenith;

3- The time when the sun is setting;

4- The period of menstruation or confinement due to childbirth

5- The time of impurity, partial or complete

It must be clarified that if a person forgets, oversleeps or misses a prayer, he must perform it immediately when he remembers regardless of the position of the sun.

Making up for Delayed Prayers

1- As a rule, every Muslim, male or female, should offer the prayer in its due time. Failing to do so is a punishable sin unless there is a reasonable excuse for delay.

2- With the exception of women in confinement or menstruation and any who remain insane or unconscious for some time, every Muslim must make up for his or her delayed obligatory prayers.

3- When making up for the delayed prayers one must offer them in their original form, e.g., if they were due shortened they should be offered so and vice-versa.

4- Order between the delayed prayers and between these and the present ones should be maintained, i.e., the first in due-ness is offered first unless the missed prayers are too many to remember their exact dates, or the time available is not sufficient for both missed and present prayers.

In this case, the present prayer comes first and the missed ones may be offered later. At any rate, the Muslim must make certain that his record is clear to the best of his knowledge, and that there are no missed prayers.

The Taraweeh Prayers

These prayers are special characteristic of the month of Ramadan. They follow the Evening (‘Ishaa’ ) Prayers. They consist of eight to twenty units (Rak’ ahs) offered two by two with short break between each two units. It is much more preferable to say them in a congregational form and before the Witr, which is the last part of the Evening Prayer.

Invalidation of Prayers

Any prayer becomes invalid and nullified by any act of the following:

1- To anticipate the Imam in any act or movement of prayer;

2- To eat or drink during the prayer;

3- To talk or say something out of the prescribed course of prayers;

4- To shift the position away from the direction of qiblah in Mecca; unless it is

impossible to the worshipper to face the qiblah;

5- To do intentionally and unnecessary any noticeable act or movement outside the acts and movements of prayer;

6- To do anything that nullifies the ablution, e.g., discharge of urine, stool, gas, blood, etc.; unless due to a medical condition not in the worshipper’ s control, in this case the worshipper needs to perform ablution only once for every fard (obligatory) prayer, and he should not repeat the ablution to perform the Sunnah prayer relative to that Fard prayer

7- To fail in observing any of the essential acts of prayers, like standing, reciting the Qur’an, ruku’, sujud, etc.; unless for reasons of disability or physical ailment.

8- To uncover the body between the navel and knees during the prayer in the case of males; and in the case of females, to uncover any part of the body, except the face and the hands.

Any prayer which becomes invalidated must be repeated properly.

_________________________

The article is excerpted from the author’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

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New Muslims Prayer

Friday Prayer: Its Rules & Manner

The obligatory (fard) Prayer in Islam includes the five daily prayers and the weekly noon congregational prayer; Friday Prayer. Failure to observe these prayers on time is a serious and punishable sin.

Friday prayer

It is a convention for the Muslims to reassure themselves, confirm their religious bonds and social solidarity.

The Islamic congregation is a positive answer to the acutest problems of humanity rising from racial discrimination, social castes and human prejudices.

In the congregational service of Islam, there is no king or subject, rich or poor, white or colored, first or second class, back or front benches, reserved or public pews. All worshippers stand and act shoulder to shoulder in the most disciplinary manner regardless of any worldly considerations.

The Friday Prayer (Salatu Al-Jumu`ah)

This weekly convention of Friday Congregation is compulsory upon every Muslim who is required to observe the other prayers and has no reasonable excuses to abstain.

It falls on Friday of every week and is especially important because:

1- It is the occasion earmarked by God for the Muslims to express their collective devotion.

2- It is an appointment to review our spiritual accounts of the week gone by and get ready for the following week just as people do in any other business.

3- It is a convention for the Muslims to reassure themselves and confirm their religious bonds and social solidarity on moral and spiritual foundations.

4- It shows how the Muslims give preference to the call of God over and above any other concern

Muslim of the Daylight Saving time zones seem to run into some difficulties and confusion over the proper time for the Friday Congregational Prayer (Jumu`ah). The problem can be solved easily by setting the prayer time between 1:15 to 2.30 p.m. throughout year.

In this way there will be no need to change the time from winter to summer. We strongly recommend this to our brethren so that they may work it into their weekly schedules as a permanent arrangement.

The Highlights of the Friday Prayer

This prayer of Friday is marked by these features:

1- Its time falls in the same time as that of the noon prayer (Zhuhr Prayer), and it replaces the very same prayer.

2- It must be said in a congregation led by an Imam, no single person can offer it by himself.

3- If any person misses it, he cannot make up for it; Instead, he has to offer the noon prayer, the original prayer which this service normally replaces

4- All kinds of normal work are allowed on Friday as on any other week day. For Muslims there is no Sabbath. They can carry on with their usual duties and activities provided they come to the congregational service in time. After the service is over, they may resume their mundane activities.

5- This Friday prayer must be performed in a mosque, if there is one available. Otherwise, it may be said at any gathering place e.g. homes, farms, parks. etc.

6- When the time for prayer comes, the adhan is said, the Imam stands up, facing the audience and delivers his sermon (khutbah) which is an essential part of the service.

Muslims are recommended to offer Sunnah prayers before the sermon. As for those who will arrive at the mosque during the sermon they should offer the two brief units of the Sunnah prayer “Tahiyatu Al-Masjid” (Mosque greetings) and then sit down to listen.

While the Imam is talking nobody should talk, everyone present should take a sitting position and listen to the sermon quietly to the end

7- The sermon (khutbah) consists of two parts each beginning with words of praise of God and prayers of blessing for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In the first part some Qur’anic passage must be recited and explained for the purpose of exhortation and admonition.

At the end of the first part the Imam takes a short rest in the sitting posture, then stands up to deliver the second part of his sermon. General affairs of the Muslims may be stated in either or both parts of the sermon. In the second part, especially, the Imam prays for the general welfare of all Muslims

8- After that, the Iqamah is made and the two obligatory units are offered under the leadership of the Imam who recites Al-Fatihah and the other Qur’anic passage in audible voice. When this is done, the prayer is completed. After that, Sunnah prayers may be offered individually in a low voice.

The Sunnah prayers may be offered at home. Also they may be replaced with some obligatory prayers that one has missed in the past and for which one has to make up.

Any participant in the Friday weekly congregation or `Eid Prayers should do his best to be neat and tidy.

Though there is no compulsory reason for a complete ablution, a bath is strongly recommended as it makes one fresher and more pleasant.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

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