Every day of the holy month is filled with merit, worthiness

Updated 17 July 2014
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Every day of the holy month is filled with merit, worthiness

The Muslim world is experiencing another Ramadan, a month that rains down goodness on the body and soul. By our Lord’s leave, we are fulfilling this fine observance with patience, thanks and sincerity.
“You who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you — so that hopefully you will have piety — for a specified number of days. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a number of other days. For those who are able to fast (but with hardship), their ransom is to feed the poor. And if someone does good of his own accord, it is better for him. But that you should fast is better for you, if you only knew.” (Qur’an, 2:183-184)
We Muslims know that fasting benefits the body, and research across the world has confirmed this. Through fasting, the body, wearied over the year, has an opportunity to rest and be detoxified.
In periods of fasting, the liver starts to repeat various useful metabolic activities that it either abandons or reduces in normal times. These include the generation of glucose from other substances (gluconeogenesis), degradation of glucose reserves already stored in the liver (glycogenolysis) and accelerating the use of fat stores by breaking them down.
Since the digestive system requires less blood during fasting, more blood can be sent to other parts of the body. This also helps with the removal of cholesterol in the blood vessels.
Since there is a decrease in blood volume during fasting, the heart and the veins feeding it are restored.
These are by no means all the benefits that fasting bestows on the body. The body has both sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomic nervous systems that regulate the functioning of numerous systems. The autonomic nervous system organizes the actions we perform automatically, without thinking, which include the beating of the heart, or the way our eyes are able to see objects close by or far away without loss of clarity. Compromise of the balance between the two systems may result in symptoms such as palpitations and sweating. However, fasting is an effective means of ensuring the equilibrium between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
Another benefit that fasting bestows on the body is that it reduces the risk of immune system disorders. The mucous membrane of the small intestine in particular works like a filter so the body can obtain the proper nutrients and prevents larger proteins, antigens and sometimes even larger structures from entering the body. If this process takes place on a constant basis, these mucosal barriers become compromised and the filtration system then goes wrong.
In the event of autoimmune diseases, the immune system harms the body’s own tissues by functioning in an uncontrolled manner. Since the digestive system can rest during fasting, the filtration system in the gastrointestinal tract renews itself and performs its function easier, thus preventing undesirable foreign bodies from entering the body and unnecessarily stimulating the immune system.
In addition to all these benefits of fasting, it also stimulates useful enzymes in the body. When one fasts, enzyme systems concerned with the breaking down of fats are stimulated, thus becoming able to break fats down more rapidly. This active and stimulated state of enzymes persists for some time even after fasting is over. In short, fasting brings health and ease to the entire body.
In addition to all the benefits of fasting on the body, it also confers countless benefits on the soul. Believers discharge this obligation with great fervor and zeal, solely in order to earn the approval of Allah. Every day of Ramadan is filled with merit. Believers earn merit from the moment they open their eyes in the morning to the moment they close them at night.
Muslims give thanks to their Lord for every blessing in this blessed month and better appreciate the beauty of every one. They better appreciate their need for these blessings, their weakness and their reliance on Allah. Fasting in Ramadan is the key to great and heartfelt gratitude. Tasting hunger allows one to better value a piece of bread and a drop of water. Be they rich or poor, believers feel their need for blessings, value them properly and prostrate themselves in thanks.
“Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Allah. Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy.” (Qur’an, 31:26)
“Mankind! You are the poor in need of Allah whereas Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy.” (Qur’an, 35:15)
Ramadan is a delightful and auspicious month for Muslims to calm the lower self. Muslims restrain their lower selves in this month and train them with faith. They adorn their moral values with the love, respect and self-sacrifice they show to one another. The tables that are laid are places where Allah is remembered and praised. People speak of their longing for the tables and converse of paradise. The entire Muslim world earns merit after merit throughout this month through its remembrance of Allah, acts of worship, thanks and prayers. Believers who intend to restrain their lower selves in the brief life of this world will earn their true abode in the hereafter by earning Allah’s approval. Fasting breaks the dominance of the lower self, and leads it to justice, compassion, equality, love and purity. In this way, the believers train their souls to enter paradise.
“O self at rest and at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleasing and well-pleased! Enter among My servants! Enter My garden.” (Qur’an, 89:27-30)

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.