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.

Gospels lead us to the Qur’an

Updated 23 September 2016

Gospels lead us to the Qur’an

Brandon Yusuf Toropov gives a vivid account of his personal quest to study the most authentic verses of the Bible — the Q verses — and his coming into the fold of Islam. Thhis is the concluding part of his story.

I WAS interested in the research being done that indicated that the oldest strata of the Gospels reflected an extremely early oral source known as Q (the Q source: Q from German, Quelle, meaning ‘source,’ is a hypothetical written collection of Jesus’s sayings) and that each of the individual sayings of Jesus (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him) needed to be evaluated on its own merits, and not as part of the narrative material that surrounded it. This is because that narrative material was added many years later.

Wresting with the doctrine of the Trinity: The more I looked at these sayings, the more impossible it became for me to reconcile the notion of the Trinity with that which seemed most authentic to me in the Gospels. I found myself face-to-face with some very difficult questions. Where in the Gospels did Jesus use the word “Trinity”? If Jesus was God, as the doctrine of the Trinity claims, why did he worship God? And, if Jesus was God, why in the world would he say something like the following? “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark, 10:18) Did he somehow forget that he himself was God when he said this?

The Holy Qur’an: In November of 2002, I began to read a translation of the Qur’an. I had never read an English translation of the entire text of the Qur’an before. I had only read summaries of the Qur’an written by non-Muslims. (And very misleading summaries at that.)
Words do not adequately describe the extraordinary effect that this book had on me. Suffice to say that the very same magnetism that had drawn me to the Gospels at the age of 11 was present in a new and deeply imperative form. This book was telling me, just as I could tell Jesus had been telling me, about matters of ultimate concern. The Qur’an was offering authoritative guidance and compelling responses to the questions I had been asking for years about the Gospels.
“It is not (possible) for any human being to whom God has given the Book and wisdom and prophethood to say to the people: ‘Be my worshippers rather than God’s.’ On the contrary, (he would say): ‘Be devoted worshippers of your Lord, because you are teaching the Book and you are studying it.’ Nor would he order you to take angels and prophets for lords. Would he order you to disbelieve after you have submitted to God’s will?” (Qur’an, 3:79-80)
The Qur’an drew me to its message because it so powerfully confirmed the sayings of Jesus that I felt in my heart had to be authentic. Below, you will find just a few examples of the parallels that made my heart pliant to the worship of God. Each Gospel verse comes from the reconstructed text known as Q, a text that today’s scholars believe represents the earliest surviving strata of the teachings of the Messiah. Note how close this material is to the Qur’anic message.

On monotheism: In Q, Jesus endorses a rigorous monotheism. “Get thee behind me, Satan: For it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’” (Luke, 4:8) Compare: “Children of Adam, did We not command you not to worship Satan? He was your sworn enemy. Did We not command you to worship Me and tell you that this is the straight path?” (Qur’an, 36:60-61)

On Aqaba: Q identifies a right path that is often difficult, a path that unbelievers will choose not to follow. “Enter ye in through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there are who go in there. Narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew, 7:13-14) Compare: “The worldly life is made to seem attractive to the disbelievers who scoff at the faithful, but the pious, in the life Hereafter, will have a position far above them…” (Qur’an, 2:212)

On Taqwa: Q warns us to fear only the judgment of God. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear Him, which after He hath killed, hath the power to cast into Hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him!” (Luke, 12:4-5) Compare: “To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God’s retribution is severe. Should you then have fear of anyone other than God?” (Qur’an, 16:52)

Earthly life: In Q, Jesus warns humanity plainly that earthly advantages and pleasures should not be the goal of our lives: “Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation. Woe unto you who are full! You shall be hungry. Woe unto you who laugh now! You shall weep and mourn.” (Luke, 6:24) Compare: “The desire to have increase of worldly gains has preoccupied you so much (that you have neglected the obligation of remembering God) – until you come to your graves! You shall know. You shall certainly know (about the consequences of your deeds.) You will certainly have the knowledge of your deeds beyond all doubt. You will be shown hell, and you will see it with your own eyes. Then, on that day, you shall be questioned about the bounties (of God).” (Qur’an, 102:1-8)

Crucifixion: We are left then with an amazing early Gospel, a Gospel that (non-Muslim) scholars believe is historically closest to Jesus, a Gospel that has the following characteristics: Agreement with the Qur’an’s uncompromising message of God’s Oneness; agreement with the Qur’an’s message of an afterlife of salvation or hellfire ... based on our earthly deeds; agreement with the Qur’an’s warning not to be misled by dunya, the attractions and pleasures of worldly life. A complete absence of any reference to Christ’s death on the cross, resurrection, or sacrifice for humanity! This is the Gospel that today’s most advanced non-Muslim scholars have identified for us ... and this Gospel is pointing us, if only we will listen to it, in precisely the same direction as the Qur’an! I became a Muslim on March 20, 2003. It became obvious to me that I had to share this message with as many thoughtful Christians as I could.