Greeting the month of Ramadan, in which Qur’an was sent down

Updated 26 June 2014
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Greeting the month of Ramadan, in which Qur’an was sent down

THE Holy Qur’an — which falsehood cannot approach from either in front or behind, which leads people from the darkness to the light, to the path of our Almighty and Omniscient, and much-praised Lord, a blessing, glad tidings and a mercy for all Muslims, an advice and a reminder for those who fear with a trembling heart — was sent down in the month of Ramadan. Allah speaks of this holy month when He revealed the verses to our Prophet (peace be upon him), in the Qur’an: “The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’an was sent down as guidance for mankind, with clear signs containing guidance and discrimination. Any of you who are resident for the month should fast it. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a number of other days. Allah desires ease for you; He does not desire difficulty for you. You should complete the number of days and proclaim Allah’s greatness for the guidance He has given you so that hopefully you will be thankful.” (Surat Al-Baqara, 185)
The month of Ramadan is a fertile month that also contains the Night of Power, “...better than a thousand months” (Surat Al-Qadr, 3). This month has a unique importance, sanctity and beauty in the eyes of Muslims. Throughout this month, all the Muslims of the world obey their obligation to fast “as a single body,” maintain the bounds set by Allah in verses, are aware of their weakness and give thanks to our Lord for His blessings, pray with great sincerity and strive to discipline their lower selves. In a Hadith our Prophet (peace be upon him) says this to believers regarding the month of Ramadan: “How happy are those who spend this month fasting, worshipping and in doing good deeds!”
It is believers’ “purity, sincerity and taqwa” that make fasting acceptable in the Sight of Allah: Believers welcome the month of Ramadan with joy. This is the joy of faith that comes from discharging an obligation they hope will be pleasing to Allah.
Believers devote all their lives and deeds to earning Allah’s approval at every moment. They therefore seek His approval alone in all their religious obligations, such as fasting. In the verse, “Their flesh and blood does not reach Allah but your taqwa does reach Him...” (Surat Al-Haj, 37) Allah reveals that what matters in His Sight is believers’ fear of displeasing Him as they perform acts of worship, their sincere intentions and purity.
With fasting, too, what is most acceptable in the Sight of Allah is to do this with purity and sincerity. This is also a sign of fear of displeasing Allah and a powerful faith. In the verse, “...My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds,” (Surat Al-An’am, 162) Allah notes that believers’ rites are dedicated to Allah alone, and tells them to “...persevere in His worship.” (Surah Maryam, 65). Allah also notes that there are people who simply perform their observances for show and calls on believers to “...make their religion sincerely His.” Therefore, as with all acts of observance, as people fast they must be at one with Allah and seek His approval alone.
There is much goodness and wisdom for believers in the month of Ramadan and in fasting
In the verse, “You who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that hopefully you will have taqwa.”(Surat Al-Baqara, 183), fasting is an obligation imposed on all believers. When Ramadan comes, all believers strive to obey this commandment in the finest way and strive to earn Allah’s approval.
Ramadan is a most auspicious time, a reminder for all mankind that calls them to the true path. All Muslims across the world taste the zeal and delight that come from acting as one in the light of the same aim and worshiping on the same path for the approval of Allah. Ramadan is therefore also a means for believers to increase their brotherhood and solidarity and to exhibit moral virtues in that context.
It is a means whereby believers come to realize their need and weakness in the face of the greatness of our Lord: Allah created man and equipped the world with the finest blessings that he needs. Human beings need the protection of our Lord, His blessings and His showing the true path; these are truths grasped by all believers who appreciate the might and power of our Lord. Yet if people fail to reflect deeply and do not use their minds and consciences properly, they may fall into heedlessness and forget these important truths. Yet by fasting in the month of Ramadan they realize how weak and corrupt their bodies are. They remember how much they need the mercy of Allah. They abandon the evil of the lower self, realize their weakness before Allah and turn to Him and they start giving thanks for the blessings He has bestowed upon them. In this way, they come to appreciate how they can own nothing unless Allah so wishes and how they need the protection of Allah for every blessing.
As with all the commandments revealed by Allah in the Qur’an, there is great goodness and wisdom in fasting. The month of Ramadan is a means whereby believers see and reflect on that goodness and thus grow deeper in faith.
It leads believers to reflect on Allah’s mercy and blessings and to give thanks: One of the wise aspects of fasting is that it leads people to reflect on and grasp our Lord’s mercy and blessings. People encounter numerous blessings bestowed on them by Allah throughout their lives; Allah provides the colorful, aromatic and delicious food they eat from the black soil. The way that delicious and aromatic fruits and vegetables emerge from the earth with no scent or flavor is a miracle all by itself. If Allah so wished He might have created just one food, as bitter or tasteless as the soil that grew it. Yet thanks to Allah’s mercy on His servants, the food He provides is diverse and delicious. Ramadan is a holy month when people who forget these blessings are reminded of their variety as a manifestation of His names of the All-Compassionate and the Most Merciful because in the month of Ramadan people are deprived of these blessings for a short time and they appreciate their value much better as they sit down ready to eat in the evening.
We must regard the month of Ramadan as a “key to gratitude” in the training of the lower self.
Fasting and the blessed month of Ramadan contain much more great wisdom. The most important thing, however, is to be able to continue living by these acquired virtues even after Ramadan. Allah reminds us in the Qur’an that the lower self always commands evil unless He wishes otherwise, so we must never forget the need to behave virtuously and in a manner that meets with His approval.
— The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.


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.