Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan Daily: Arrogance

Why are you talking about arrogance in Ramadan? What does Ramadan have to do with arrogance?

We know what a terrible thing arrogance is, a Muslim shouldn’t be arrogant, and the true believer cannot be arrogant. So, what do we need to remind ourselves of during the Blessed Month of Ramadan?

Here’s a new episode of Ramadan Daily that tackles the topic of arrogance…


Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan and Breaking the Two Desires

To the unacquainted, fasting for a month every year may seem like an odd and painful thing to do in the name of religion. Is there a rationale behind fasting Ramadan? What are the benefits?

The Rationale of Islamic Law

Most scholars agree that the Islamic law is based on a rationale which we can understand because there is a wisdom and reason behind legal rulings. Scholars also agree that every single legal ruling of Shari`ah (Islamic law) either brings some kind of benefit (maslahah) or wards off some kind of harm (mafsadah). In Madkhal ila Maqasid Ash-Shari`ah by Dr. Ahmad Ar-Raysuni, he explains how Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) advised Muslims to listen intently whenever they hear Allah (Exalted be He) calling “O You who believe,” as He is either directing them to a benefit or warning them of a harm.

Muslim scholars recognized this underlying rationale and thus summed up the goal of Islamic Shari`ah in one condensed sentence: ‘The attainment of benefit and prevention of harm’.

Some of them reduced it even further: ‘The attainment of benefit’.

Ibn Al-Qayyim points to this fact: “The Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are full of rationale for legal rulings.” He further affirms, “These rationales are to be found in over a thousand places (in the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah) expressed through various means.” (Madkhal ila Maqasid Ash-Shari`ah)

Definitions of Maslahah and Mafsadah

What is exactly meant by maslahah and mafsadah? Imam Ar-Razi in Al-Mahsul succinctly defined maslahah as nothing but pleasure or that which leads to it, and mafsadah as pain or that which leads to it.

Imam `Izz Ad-Deen ibn Abd As-Salam in Al-Qawa`id Al-Kubra further defines maslahah as

1- Pleasure and its causes and

2- Happiness and its causes.

He defines mafsadah as

1- Pain and its causes and

2- Sadness and its causes.

Pleasure and its opposite, pain, allude to physical realities, whilst happiness and sadness allude to emotional or psychological realities. He further divided each of the above categories into those related to this life and those related to the hereafter.

The Rationale of Fasting in Ramadan

So what has this to do with Ramadan?

Fasting in Ramadan is also an Islamic legal command and therefore it has associated benefits, and aims at preventing some harm. One of the purposes of fasting in Ramadan according to the Qur’an is to gain taqwah (piousness) by training the nafs (self) in self-control.

Imam Al-Ghazali called it ‘breaking the two desires’:

1- The desire for food and drink and

2- The desire for sexual relations

Although these desires are not actually intended to be broken literally or eliminated completely, as they are inextricable parts of human nature and we depend on these basic appetites for survival. However, they can be tamed, regulated and controlled so that one can escape from being a slave to these two desires, and protect oneself from both temporal and eternal harm, i.e. pain and sadness, whilst striving to acquire both temporal and eternal benefit, i.e. pleasure and happiness.

Amazingly, that is what the root word of taqwah literally means: to protect and save oneself from harm. The word to save/protect (waqa) is used in the Qur’anic verse: “Save yourselves and your families from the hellfire…” (At-Tahrim 66:6)

The fact that a whole month is dedicated to taming and controlling these two desires indicates to us their significance to the spiritual well-being of man. These two desires are the most pleasurable and at the same time potentially the most destructive. They appear to offer the greatest immediate pleasure or happiness, but they can also lead to greatest pain and sadness, both temporally and in the hereafter.

This is illustrated in the following hadith:

“Paradise is surrounded by difficulties and the fire is surrounded by pleasures.”

But the “difficulties” surrounding Paradise only appear as harmful (mafsada) in the sense that they incur hardship and pain; however they ultimately lead to a greater benefit (maslahah). Whereas the “pleasures” surrounding the fire are beneficial (maslahah) in the sense that they are enjoyable and desired; however, ultimately they lead to a much greater pain and harm (mafsadah).

One of the major challenges of living in Western societies is the relentless all pervasive appeal made to these two desires. Food and drink is everywhere, in limitless varieties and consumed in fatal quantities. We are literally eating ourselves to death, and in the process starving other parts of the world. Healthy sexual desires are aggressively being targeted and distorted by internet porn, films, fashion and media advertising that is available everywhere to everyone.

Most people on a daily basis are in pursuit of fulfilling these two basic desires either through permitted means (halal), or through illegal means (haram). Islamic law distinguishes for us which is beneficial and which is harmful.

Fasting and its Rewards

Fasting is the ultimate training in strengthening our ability to control our most powerful desires. The ability to control and regulate these desires and the nafs is the essence of the test of life, in which Allah wants us to attain servitude to Him Alone, as opposed to servitude to these desires. Fasting trains us not only to keep within the permitted means, but it teaches us that even moderation within the initially halal means can lead to our harm and destruction.

Fasting is one of the greatest acts of worship, and one of the most highly rewarded acts because it addresses the very thing that will determine our eternal success or failure: self-control in accordance to Islamic law. The promise of high reward, or pleasure and happiness, motivates all sane human beings to strive for its attainment.

The month of Ramadan, amongst many other immense blessings, grants us the best opportunity to strive for attaining the self-control that will lead to eternal pleasure and felicity. Allah (Exalted be He), guarantees paradise as a reward for the one who resists his/her desires.

But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from (unlawful) inclination, then indeed, Paradise will be (his) refuge. (An-Nazi`at 79:40-41)

How Merciful is Allah who not only rewards us when we control our nafs, but He also rewards us immensely whilst we are learning how to control our nafs in fasting.

May Allah grant us all the ability to earn His pleasure and not waste this magnificent opportunity! As Ibn Rajab said, “For every month that passes, you may hope to find a substitute; but alas, for the month of Ramadan, from where do you hope to replace it?”




Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan Daily: Patience

Patience is a virtue of the Muslim, and Ramadan is the very time to test one’s patience endurance and tolerance. Fasting requires a great deal of patience.

So, how can we keep our patience during Ramadan, and make use of the Holy Month to develop this trait?


Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan Daily: Get Closer to the Qur’an

How can we build and strengthen our relationship with the Qur’an during Ramadan?

How can we get closer to the Book of God, why?


Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan Daily: I`tikaf

The Holy Month of Ramadan is fast coming to an end as we are approaching the last ten days of Ramadan and Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power), a night which is better than a thousand months of worship.

Thus, are you ready for such blessings? Have you worked for it? Have you prepared yourself for it? How? What should we be doing during such blessed days?


Fasting New Muslims

Don’t Let Your Tongue Spoil Your Ramadan

There are things that could possibly spoil our fasting, ruin our Ramadan from the very beginning. One’s tongue is one of these things that could spoil our fasting.

The Prophet (peace be upon them) spoke about some of that and how we could pay attention to its fatal effects.

But, how could we avoid that; take control on on such things?

Take Control on the Tongue

In the video below Sheikh Omar Suleiman talks about one of the things that could stand between us and the blessed month and getting its blessings and how to avoid that in order to reap the benefits of the blessed month.



Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan: A Time to Know Your Inner Self

What’s happening to our inner self in Ramadan? How does Ramadan curb its cravings and desires? From what are we fasting? How does Ramadan liberate man from what holds them back or down?

The body is ordered to fast from what it needs

Let the nafs know that there is a truer aspect of yourself.

Fasting (sawm) carries a two-fold meaning; two seemingly opposing definitions combined into a single word. Sawm, as described in the Qur’an and the hadith, simultaneously fulfills both of these definitions. The primary meaning is to hold back, to refrain from and to abstain. The further meaning is to rise beyond and to move past former limits.

The month of Ramadan is a time in which we hold our bodily compulsions and instincts under strict control, together with our thoughts and mental states, our moods and desires. We submit ourselves and our accustomed patterns of life to a higher template, one that fosters a regimen of self-restraint within the body and mind and correspondingly seeks an intensification of the life of the spirit.

The body is ordered to fast from what it needs, from what is normally allowed to it, from what it desires, from what it craves, from what it may seek on a whim, and from what it habitually seeks; from all that leads to an intensification of the activities of the nafs (oneself).

Struggling with the Self

During the interval of daylight, halal (the allowed) becomes haram (forbidden) and whatever nourishes the physical body turns into haram. As for the nafs, it undertakes a psychic fast from anger, backbiting, gossip, harshness towards others and from reaching in any manner through any of the senses towards that which is disallowed. All those inclinations that strengthen the self, that allow it to inject itself with vigor and attachment into the flux of worldly life, are proscribed and denied expression.

The nafs continuously asserts itself through its ties with the body and according to a complex and ever-shifting world of attraction and desire, knowledge and ignorance that endlessly churns within it. Through its movements and motions, it seeks what it needs and wants, and can become, depending on circumstances, complacent or cavalier, disdainful or self-assured, arrogant or fearful, callous or ambitious, lethargic or craving, endlessly acting and reacting within the confines of its limited knowledge.

What it does not know it is ignorant of, and what it does not know is infinitely vaster in extent than what it knows. So, its knowledge is forever outweighed by its ignorance and its pursuits and actions are indicators of which of these (knowledge or ignorance) it acts upon.

The nafs is in continuous restless motion, but it is a motion that circumambulates around a center of manifold physical and chemical interactions that give rise to needs, wants, pleasures, habits, moods, impulsions, compulsions and desires.

The complex system of body and mind are in an incessant state of movement (that ceases only with death), switching continually from one mode to the other, pouring forth a torrent of thoughts and internal impulses that turn the mind’s focus endlessly from one locus to another. There is perpetual movement and motion but within tightly constrained boundaries -pivoting around the locus of the nafs and what it seeks.

And so the Qur’anic command is issued:

…fast until the night…. (Al-Baqarah 2:187)

Fast from what the nafs needs and desires. Let the nafs know that there is a truer aspect of yourself, a center capable of overseeing and stabilizing all the intersecting mental systems of the mind and all the material, chemical, habitual and hormonal systems of the body. Proclaim to it that there is a guardian and ruler over the self and over the physical form with which it is integrally co-mingled.

Let it know that the form and the stirrings of need and desire within the nafs have to submit to this guardian in seeking their satisfaction. The wants, needs, and desires that spring from the material form must submit to the governance and tutelage of a higher form -to the spiritual form indicated by the hadith that states: “God created Adam in His own form….” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

This is not the material form driven by chemical interactions but the spiritual substance which is the subtle, essential form of a human being; one that is masked by the ceaseless activity of an unconstrained nafs (an-nafs al-ammara).

The material form and its impulses (manifested through the nafs) are reigned in during fasting. All the things that give strength, vigor and life to the body and inner self are terminated, the attachment is reduced, denuded and weakened.

We cease to consume and are no longer able to enjoy what feeds our physical form and with that cessation we begin to unhook the clamps that bind us to the most basic goods of this world. We undo the shackles that tie us through our physicality to the world. By penetrating to the very root of our attachment, to the most fundamental layer, to the very seat of our creaturely connection to the world, food, water, sex (the three cardinal symbols of life), we overturn their dominion and arrive at a position where we, for a time, subdue them.

We deny creaturely externals, we let the creaturely demands and impulses remain unanswered; over the course of the days of fasting we let them subside and wane. We let them grow silent so we have a chance to hear what we otherwise would not hear, to perceive what we otherwise could not perceive. We subdue our physical form and when its clamoring grows silent we perhaps become aware of a spiritual form that resides subtly within us.

The vigil of denial and regulation of the physical form and the nafs is maintained until the spirit and mind’s ascendancy becomes clear:

Fast until the night…. (Al-Baqarah 2:187)

The night approaches and the day’s fast ends with the former hierarchy reversed that what was first (physically  and psychically generated needs, wants, and desires) comes last and what was last comes first, and with this new ordering of spirit and body in place, the fast is completed.

Seize the Opportunity

Over the course of the month of Ramadan, as the days merge into the nights, this drama of reversal is repeated and intensified till the person’s fasting (the person who undertakes the fast with complete sincerity and profound intensity) approaches a state of spiritual readiness.

Until in the watch (the vigil) of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan, there arrives the possibility of a profound inner remaking, an unfolding of the potential to witness the Laylat Al-Qadr.

And what can convey to you what Laylat Al-Qadr is? That night is better than a thousand months…. (Al-Qadr 97:2, 3)

During the day we break ourselves down, we fast from what sustains our existence; we submit our clay form to be unmade, to be kneaded and worked over; we remove ourselves from our material subsistence and turn to prayer and spiritual subsistence from Allah and we prepare ourselves to be reshaped.

The onset of the darkness of night is representative of pure potential waiting to emerge into existence; waiting for the command and decree which will give it form.

The angels and the Spirit (ruh) descend in it, by the command of their Lord with every decree…. (Al-Qadr 97:4)

We turn ourselves into malleable clay awaiting the shaping command of that night, anticipating the profound and weighty descents that accompany Laylat Al-Qadr.

(That night is) peace till the breaking of the dawn. (Al-Qadr 97:5)

So, sawm (fasting) fulfills its meanings; to hold back from and to abstain -pertain to the restraint engendered through the fast, to rise beyond -pertains to the results that Allah bestows upon those who seek the fast with sincerity and knowledge.

So, the fast is at once a holding back and a lifting up. The body and it’s appetites are held back and through this holding back an elusive and subtle but profound awakening begins. We are provided the means by which we alter our reality and shape what we ourselves are.

By holding back the nafs from its activity and sustenance, moments of stillness and silence are obtained; moments in which self-perception sharpens and deepens, spirit awakens and the (spiritual) form with which Allah created man begins to unfold itself.

And in yourselves; what, do you not see? (Adh-Dhariyat 51:21)




Fasting New Muslims

Instagramadan 5: Are You & Allah Close Friends?

Are you & Allah close friends? Reflect for a moment on what makes you and your closest friends closer than other people. Often times you’ll realize it’s the amount and quality of time you spend with each other.

If we measured the amount and quality of time we spend with Allah, what would that tell us about how close we are to Him?

Today’s episode covers three areas of improvement with our relationship with Allah.

Are You & Allah Close Friends?


Fasting New Muslims

Instagramadan 6: The Reward of the Fasting Person

Anyone here get hungry or thirsty? Headaches? Tired, maybe? How about irritable? It’s so profound that we are so committed to doing something (fasting) that reduces us to such a minimal form of ourselves.

One of the reasons why Fasting is so difficult at times, is because the reward is so great. Everything else that we do has a numerical attachment to it regarding it’s value in good deeds – except fasting.

Listen to what Allah says about the reward of the fasting person.

The Reward of the Fasting Person


Fasting New Muslims

Instagramadan 8: Our Relationship with Allah & with Others

One of the laws of spirituality is that our relationship with Allah is impacted by our relationship with others. When we hold grudges against others, it inhibits our relationship with Allah.

The goal of this Ramadan is to get closer to Allah – this cannot happen while we hold grudges against others.

Make it a point to forgive others this Ramadan, and be sure to ask those around you for their forgiveness as well.

Our Relationship with Others