The A to Z of the holy month of Ramadan

Updated 17 June 2015

The A to Z of the holy month of Ramadan

We are blessed to benefit from yet another holy month in our lifetime. Ramadan is here and we all are spiritually charged and excited to receive unlimited bounties. It is the time of the year when we try to please Allah and are rewarded with the limitless mercies of Allah. If you haven’t felt the thrill yet, then read on. Listed below are the A to Z of Ramadan, the benefits, wisdoms and lessons one learns from the fasting bonanza.

As-Siyam or fasting means to “abstain from something.” In Ramadan, one should abstain from food, drink, marital relations and other actions that displease Allah, from dawn to dusk with the explicit intention of doing so for the sake of the Almighty.

The blessings and benefits of Ramadan fasting are too many to be listed. Some of these include: The blessed Holy Qur’an was revealed in this month, the doors of the heaven are opened, while the doors of the hell are closed and the devils are chained.

The benefits of charity to the poor and needy are tremendous. Ibn ‘Abaas said, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most charitable among the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Jibreel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan till the end of the month.” (Bukhari). The Prophet said, “He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will receive the same reward as him, without nothing being reduced from the fasting person’s reward.” (Tirmidhi)

Ramadan is a great time to make dua (supplication). A dua list will ensure that you will not miss out on any important dua that you want to make to Allah during this holy month. The Messenger of Allah said: “The dua of the fasting person will not be refused.” (Reported by Bayhaqi)

With the sighting of the moon at the end of the month comes the Eid Al-Fitr. It’s like the cherry on top of the cake as it’s a celebratory time that includes buying new clothes, parties, rides for kids and exchanging gifts with family members and friends.

Ramadan is the best time to forgive and be forgiven. The Prophet said, “Every son of Adam sins and the best of the sinners are those who repent.” (Ibn Maajah) Allah provides many opportunities to repent to Him and seek His forgiveness.

The Prophet said, “Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then Allah has no need that he should leave his food and drink.” (Bukhari) We must pay attention to the purification of our manners. Backbiting and slandering is forbidden and it is like eating the flesh of one’s dead brother. Therefore stay away from Gheebah to realize the true spirit of fasting.

Fasting overhauls the body during the holy month. It speeds up the metabolism and improves brain function, because it boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It encourages Muslims to take care of their health and to build strong bodies. The Prophet said, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone.” (Muslim)

It means seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah. The Prophet would perform I’tikaf for 10 days every Ramadan. In the year that he died, he performed it for 20 days.

It is one of the ultimate goals of all Muslims. Ramadan is essentially a shield from the hell-fire. The Prophet is reported to have said about Ramadan, “An angel calls out: ‘O you who intend to do good deeds, have glad tidings. O you who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadan is completed. (Ahmad and Nasa’i)

Kibr is when a person feels a sense of superiority and behaves high-handedly with others. The Prophet said: “Never can the person who possesses a speck of pride inside his heart enter Paradise.” One should refrain from pride and self-glorification in Ramadan to please Allah. The act of fasting itself helps us to attain humility and get rid of arrogance.

Laylatul Qadr
The Night of Qadr is greater than 1,000 months of continuous worship; that’s over 83 years. Many will be freed from the hell-fire and granted Jannah on this night. Believers should therefore increase their ibadah, especially during its last third part when Allah descends to the lowest heavens asking for those who seek His forgiveness.

Using the miswaak is Sunnah when fasting and otherwise. However, a fasting person must be careful not to swallow anything.

One should be extremely mindful of his intention of fasting and do it only for Allah. The Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise.” (Ahmad, 5/391) The intention of fasting must be made before Fajr and during every night of Ramadan. It need not be spoken.

Obligatory deeds
The reward of an obligatory deed in Ramadan is multiplied by 70 while a non-obligatory action commands the reward of a fardh (obligatory action) in this blessed month. This is a once-in-a-year opportunity to upgrade our rewards collection, thereby improving ourselves.

Allah legislated fasting for gaining Taqwa (piety), “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa.” (2:183) Taqwa in this case means to make a shield between oneself and Allah’s anger and hellfire. The purpose is met when at the end of the fasting day we are able to fear Allah SWT more and as a result are able to protect ourselves from the hellfire.

Qiyam Al-Layl
Numerous Qur’anic verses and prophetic narrations mention the excellence of the night prayer and the merit of those who perform it regularly. Abu Huraira said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say, “The one who does Qiyam in Ramadan with faith and sincerity, all his/her sins will be forgiven.”

There is in Paradise a door called Rayyan. It is for the fasting Muslims. Only those who fasted the month of Ramadan will be able to enjoy the bliss of Paradise inside that area.

Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal taken before the time of Fajr. The Messenger of Allah encouraged us to take suhoor by saying, “Have suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing (barakah).” (Reported by Bukhaari).

Special prayers after Isha during Ramadan are called Taraweeh. It is strongly recommended that both men and women attend the prayer in congregation as Taraweeh is a means for forgiveness of the sins. Abu Huraira said: Allah’s Messenger said, “He who prays during the night in Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past (minor) sins forgiven.”
The one who does Umrah in Ramadan will attain a reward equal in amount to that of Haj.

Many young Muslims are clueless about what they should do in Ramadan. It is therefore important to have a vision, not only for the month of Ramadan but after that as well. Goals should be set and a routine that will help you achieve those goals should be followed. Be it feeding 10 people, volunteering for charity work or reading the Holy Qur’an, list it on paper and start doing it.

By purifying oneself for prayer, a person expiates all of his sins and his prayer is considered an extra reward for him, which in turn is multiplied several times for it being Ramadan. A believer must try to do ablution to remain pure as much as he can in the blessed month. If a person makes wudu’ well, all his sins between two salats (between the salat he will perform and the subsequent one) will be forgiven.) — Bukhaari

X-ray your life
Ramadan is a good time to introspect whether or not your life is being led according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is an exercise in improving the self and setting goals for the present and the future. This month should also make us reflect on the endless bounties that God has bestowed on us and thank Him profusely for the same. It is also time for Tawbah (repentance with a pledge not to repeat) for the past sins.

The number of orphans worldwide has reached an all-time high.
Muslims should follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad himself who said holding his index and middle fingers together upright, “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him will be in paradise like this.” They should come together to care for, provide for, and support orphans who cannot otherwise help themselves in the holy month of Ramadan.

Zakat Al-Fitr
The Prophet enjoined Zakat Al-Fitr so that those who observed fasting are purified of their bad deeds and thus, are able to perfect their fasting, and so that the poor and the needy are able to arrange for their basic necessities of food and clothing. It should be distributed before the Eid prayer.

The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

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.