Ramadan rejuvenates the faithful

Updated 25 June 2015

Ramadan rejuvenates the faithful

We are thankful to Allah Almighty for we are fasting in yet another holy month of Ramadan.
Keeping fast since dawn till evening, sitting with our brothers at overflowing tables during iftar, performing taraweeh prayers in congregation and rising at pre-dawn for sahoor are some of the characteristics of the month.
But Ramadan is more than that. It was the month in which the Holy Qur’an was sent down as a guide to mankind and to distinguish good from evil.
By reflecting on hunger and thirst, we can better understand the plight of the poor and the importance of helping them, and we strive to do good works, acquire taqwa for the hereafter and earn the approval of our Lord. Our lower selves are curbed, our moral values are improved and Ramadan, the light of our eyes responsible for all these benefits, continues to illuminate our hearts.
With the month of Ramadan that Muslims spend in a festive air, the acts of observance that believers perform throughout this month bestow very much on their souls in spiritual terms. Their sincerity and religious awareness also grow in direct proportion.
In addition, believers who control their lower selves and rein in their desires are careful to avoid such behavior as lying, backbiting, speaking evil, offending others, anger and lack of submission, but instead always seek to exhibit proper moral virtues.
Certainly, one of the finest characteristics of this virtuous month furnished with such goodness and felicity is the reinforcement of the bonds of love and brotherhood among believers.
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) says this about this holy month, when feelings of mutual love, respect and compassion, fortitude and mutual aid come to the fore: “Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which God has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. … It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased.” (narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah)
Another of the countless blessings of Ramadan, in which we receive material and spiritual favors from God, and for which we long with a deep spirituality deriving from the joy of religious observance, prayer, the giving of alms and iftar and sahoor each year, is that we become aware of the blessings we possess.
Someone who opens his eyes to the world so immaculately created by our Lord and who gradually becomes used to the perfection in the functioning of its systems; and who becomes familiar with the marvels all around, may fail to appreciate the blessings bestowed.
This veil of heedlessness is removed from his eyes in the month of Ramadan. He becomes more aware of the blessings ordained for him by God and starts to better comprehend His might and greatness.
When he sees the blessings set out at the iftar table, the many different fruits and vegetables with their delightful aromas and flavors that emerge from the soil, and the different products obtained from animals, his amazement in the fact of the artistry of God grows.
He better understands what a miracle it is that bright yellow melons, red apples or strawberries, whose aroma still cannot be fully replicated by modern technology, should emerge from the odorless soil.
When he sits down to table to break his fast after a period, albeit a short one, of deprivation of these blessings, he better grasps the value of the blessings in front of him.
With the month of Ramadan, he once again remembers that God could have created only a single form of sustenance for us if He so desired, and that it could have been bitter, tasteless and dull in color, much like the soil that produced it, but that because of God’s compassion and love for His servants all foods possess their own incomparable tastes and esthetic appearances.
In this way, his submission and humility in the face of the manifestation of the titles of God as the All-Merciful and Most Merciful also grow.
As we again experience this great joy of the month of Ramadan, a month that increases our powers of reflection and enables us to acquire many spiritual delights and that allows us to enhance our closeness to God and to show, in a determined manner, the love and passion we feel for Him in our hearts, we also remember our brothers in faith who are being oppressed all over the world.
We again remember the innocent peoples of the Middle East rocked by strife and affliction, under siege and bombardment; we remember our brothers subjected to persecution, slaughter and mistreatment and the threat of genocide in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Kashmir, East Turkestan, Pathani, Moro, Crimea and many other parts of the world.
We remember the importance of union and unity if they are to be saved. The images of innocent people wiped out by bombs and machine guns and of the bodies of children laid out in rows never escape our memories.
We think of and pray for them at every iftar meal and once again reaffirm our intentions to do all in our power to speed the coming of Islamic Unity in order that they may be saved.
Our wish is that our Almighty Lord will answer our prayers. As Muslims with a passionate love of God, we fast with the love of God, and break our fasts with the love of God.
May He bestow salvation on our innocent brothers whom we never forget for a moment. May He make the Earth a place where the divisions and disputes of the Islamic world are set aside and all Muslims embrace each other.
May the bloodshed cease as quickly as possible, may the sufferings of the Ummah — and all mankind — come to an end and may peace and security prevail.

n 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

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.