Say no to Haj selfie!

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Updated 03 October 2014
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Say no to Haj selfie!

They can be seen video recording themselves walking around the Kaaba, kissing the black stone, perched close to the mount of Safa or Marwa, or standing near the green dome of the Prophet’s mosque.
Selfie fever has taken pilgrims and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques by storm in recent days, much to the chagrin of scholars and other pilgrims who condemn such ‘touristy behavior’.
“In Madinah, I noticed a family facing the sun, raising their hands as if they were making dua. I couldn’t figure out what exactly they were doing. But then I noticed a person in front of them taking their picture,” said Zahra Mohammad, 27, an Islamic Studies teacher in Riyadh.
“I have seen pilgrims in Masjid Al-Haram taking selfies with the Kaaba in the background and this selfie is then posted on Facebook making it a social media event and ruining their act of ibadah by ‘humble-bragging’,” she added.
The urge to document their every move at the holy mosques of Makkah and Madinah, and to share these precious moments with friends and families on social media has resulted in more pilgrims using their phones in the holy mosques than they once used to.
Many believe such behavior can be a deterrent to achieving humility and tranquility while performing acts of worship, especially during the once-in-a-lifetime journey of Haj.
Jeddah-based scholar Sheikh Assim Al-Hakeem said: “Photography without a legitimate reason is an issue of dispute among scholars. However, despite this difference of opinion, there shouldn’t be any dispute when it comes to the real meaning of Haj and the essence behind it. It is based on sincerity and following the sunnah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) when he went for Haj, he said: O Allah, I ask of you a pilgrimage that contains no boasting or showing of. Taking such selfies and videos defy the wish of our Prophet.”
Famous scholar Sheikh Abdul Razzaq Al-Badr warned against taking photos during Haj, saying: “When the Prophet (peace be upon him) reached the Miqaat he would say: ‘0 Allah make this a Haj without riya (showing off) and without trying to be heard of.’ This supplication is said at the Miqaat. And after making this supplication it is followed by action and striving against the soul. But now at the Miqaat many of the people are taking pictures as mementos. They take pictures on Tawaf, and Arafat, and while throwing at the Jamarat.”
“It is as though the only purpose of this trip is to take pictures and not worship. And when they return home they say: ‘Come look at me, this is me on Arafat, this is me in Muzdalifah! And we have seen some of the people when they are ready to take the picture they raise their hands in the appearance of humility, fear, and tranquility. And then after the picture is snapped they drop their hands, he said.
The Oscar selfie taken this year at the biggest Hollywood awards event became the most famous and talked about selfie in the world.
However, as has been witnessed in the past few days, it seems visitors to the two holy mosques do not want to be left behind in following trends of the world, even if they contradict the nature of their worship.
The sudden boom in selfies and photo shoots in the holy mosques premises can also be partly blamed on the increased sale and use of smartphones.
Until a few years ago, camera phones were prohibited from being taken inside the holy mosques, although some pilgrims managed to sneak them in.
However, authorities seem to have relaxed these rules as it is not uncommon to see pilgrims posing by the Kaaba and clicking away happily, although guards at the mosque entrances are reported to have prohibited people carrying professional cameras from entering.
“I was trying to pray Jumma in Masjid Al-Haram but a few people kept coming in front of me to film the Khutba (sermon) with their cameras. What happens to one’s khushoo (serenity in prayer) in such a situation is anyone’s guess,” said Ahmad, a Jeddah-based expat performing Haj this year.
“The number of people I’ve seen with cameras inside the Haram probably amounts to thousands during Umrah last year, and given so many people have camera phones, it’s an endemic not easy to stop,” he added.
He suggests that individual Haj tour operators must inform their group members against excessive camera use so as not to distract themselves and others from the main purpose of accomplishing Haj Mabroor.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.