Reliving the traditions of Ramadan

Updated 09 July 2015

Reliving the traditions of Ramadan

Every year the month of Ramadan comes and takes us down the memory lane: Reenergized mosques; ‘mahyas’ (stringing lights between minarets) decorating them with their devotional messages; and sound of the cannon at the time of iftar, an indispensable element of Ramadan of our olden times. No one would indeed break their fast unless the cannon were fired.
Being a guest at a different iftar dinner every night, food exchanging during suhoors, racing to offer the most delicious food to one another were all unforgettable parts of the Ramadans of our childhood. The iftar tables would be adorned with a rich variety of food, snacks, dried fruits, and of course with dates, a must for iftars. And of course, the deserts were incredibly important, the most notable one being ‘gullac.’
People above a certain age can’t help but reminisce about past Ramadans and the warmth they lived as children with love, which is something they cannot find today.
There are places that still try to keep up the tradition, but not too often. This may have to do with changing times. Modern technology, for instance. Many of the things that we now enjoy today as part of our lives didn’t exist then.
But then traditions have their own charm. That said, the holy month continues to invoke in us the same spirit and we can even today experience the same happiness and prosperity. It may be because it never fails to reinforce bonds of brotherhood and love.
Living with the incredible spirit of Ramadan and remembering its meaning every year does never cut us off from the special attachment that we have with the month every year and from reliving its true spirit. This is the time that reflects best the foundations of our religion: Love, brotherhood, respect and kindness.
In Ramadan, almost everyone, even if unconsciously, worked to cease being an ‘I’ and worked to being an ‘us.’ This practice performed together for God has surprising benefits, both spiritually and physically.
The month of Ramadan is a month of blessings, forgiveness, cleansing and blessings. This holy month is also very important to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood between the believers. For this reason, every Ramadan should be seen as an opportunity to reinforce the feelings of solidarity, cooperation and brotherhood as believers embrace each other with love.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that “Those who spend this month fasting, worshipping Allah and doing good deeds, they should rejoice!’ and made it clear that the month of Ramadan is an important means to gain Allah’s approval. For this reason, it is important that Muslims, in line with their capabilities, should compete in doing charity and offering each other the best gifts. So how can that be achieved?
In addition to hosting feasts, they can distribute iftar boxes in mosques’ courtyards, prioritizing the poor first. It is also possible to reduce the prices of foodstuff to increase the buying power of the poor and to ensure that poor families can more easily buy groceries during Ramadan. During Ramadan, it should be ensured that everyone, be they poor or rich, eat together, which will help different people from various backgrounds come together and connect. In this way, any perception of social classes will be effectively ended.
The beautiful approach of Islam to art, music, and entertainment will make sure that this holy month is spent more joyful and more exuberant every moment. People coming together after iftar until suhoor, and having fun at social activities, and enriched with games like Hacivat-Karagoz puppet shows can be listed as examples to this. Mass prayers and gatherings afterwards for pleasant conversations are also extremely important.
Muslims should work with all they have to make sure that the spirituality and helping in Ramadan goes beyond the holy month and continues for the rest of the year and spreads across all of Muslim society. The whole world, and most particularly the Islamic world, is full of downtrodden innocents who have to struggle with hunger, persecution and torment on a daily basis and for this reason, it wouldn’t be a conscientious move to only think about what to eat at iftar and just sit back in slumber and waste time afterwards. Allah, in the Hereafter, will question us about every gift He gives to us. It is our duty to use the gifts without forgetting about this important fact.
We shouldn’t forget that in Syria, in east Turkestan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Chad, Crimea, Kirkuk, and Kashmir, there are brothers and sisters who cannot have iftar, who cannot find food and are suffering due to persecution and oppression. Anyone wishing this oppression to stop should pray to Allah and say, ‘O Lord, end the conflicts between Muslims, end the turmoil in the world, and speed up the union of believers.’ And as a form of physical prayer, they should contribute to every effort and activity toward that direction.
We shouldn’t forget that we are obliged to invite Muslims to brotherhood, remind each other that we are servants of our Lord, invite every human being to love and remind all people that Allah created this world not for hatred, but for love. Allah will help us achieve this beautiful outcome and end the problems and suffering in the world. And those who disbelieved are allies of one another. If you do not do likewise (ally with one another), there will be fitnah on earth and great corruption. (Qur’an, 8:73)

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.