How prayer benefits a believer’s soul

How prayer benefits a believer’s soul
Updated 31 July 2014

How prayer benefits a believer’s soul

How prayer benefits a believer’s soul

Hundreds of thousands of people are born every day. They all start a new life with a magnificent creation of eyes, hands, ears, hearts, brains and all their other organs. Allah causes a person to grow in the mother’s womb from a tiny cell; nerves and veins soon cover the entire body. The heart starts beating, the liver and kidneys gradually form. The bones form in a most glorious manner. Allah expects just one thing from the person created with such great care through a combination of hundreds of thousands of details over the course of nine months: Sincerity.
Sincerity is a powerful key that opens all doors. People are only valuable in the sight of Allah when they are sincere and pure, when their hearts burn with love of Him alone. The totally sincere believer lives for Allah and breathes his last breath for Him. The brief life of this world is simply a transit point for him. He never forgets for a moment that his true home is in the hereafter, and he is never distracted for a moment by this world.
“Say: ‘My salat and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds’,” (Qur’an, 6:162)
The heart of a sincere servant is always with Allah. Allah comes to his mind as soon as he rises in the morning, and all the blessings during the course of the day are by Allah’s leave alone. A believer knows that he is always in need of Allah’s mercy, and he shows this by giving thanks.
Prayer is a fine observance by which believers can express their gratitude while avoiding showiness. It is very important for a Muslim to prostrate himself before Allah five times a day in the full knowledge of his helplessness before Him, in the most punctilious manner because by fulfilling his religious observances, constantly remembering Allah and obeying the Qur’an, a believer can show that he never forgets our Lord. In prostrating himself and bowing, he praises Allah in the finest words.
“Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Prayer precludes indecency and wrongdoing. And remembrance of Allah is greater still. Allah knows what you do.” (Qur’an, 45)
“This is a Book We have sent down and blessed, confirming what came before it, so that you can warn the Mother of Cities and the people around it. Those who have faith in the Hereafter believe in it and safeguard their prayer.” (Qur’an, 6:92)
As with all his observances, a devout believer shows his deep love of Allah in prayer. He rises for the morning prayer with great enthusiasm. During the day, he stops what he is doing and prays again with great zeal. Prayer is a fine observance that the human soul is created to love. In the same way that a believer enjoys a fine view, looking at a beautiful face or hearing loving compliments, so he feels the same delight in discharging his religious obligations. Prayer leads to self-confidence. It produces a deep and unshakeable bond between him and Allah. Five times a day, the believers bow to their best friend and confidant. This is a powerful and special friendship that never abandons the believer. Our Lord is alongside him in good days and in bad, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in want. The believer turns to his Lord, his friend and creator, with great enthusiasm and passion, and prostrates himself before Him. Praising Him with His finest names bestows an ineffable beauty and peace on the soul.
It is this kind of powerful sincerity that becomes the believer. There are people who say they believe but who regard praying as a burden, who rise unwillingly to pray and who neglect it or put it off yet when it comes to their own interests, these people leap out of bed first thing in the morning and would climb the highest mountains if necessary; when it comes to their own interests, they never forget, neglect or postpone anything. Yet despite all these things they neglect, Allah witnesses their insincerity at every moment. He sees what they do, even if they do not realize it. He knows what is in their hearts, and distinguishes between the sincere and insincere in the finest manner in the hereafter.
“The hypocrites think they deceive Allah, but He is deceiving them. When they get up to pray, they get up lazily, showing off to people, and only remembering Allah a very little.” (Qur’an, 4:142)
One must pray with the same joy and zeal as our Prophet (peace be upon him). Allah adorns the life of Muslims with prayer. This simple observance allows them to earn endless merit. Our Lord certainly does not need our worship; the whole universe already prostrates itself to Him and remembers Him with the finest names but we need to give thanks to our Lord and show him our deep love and respect.
There are also people in the End Times who say they believe but turn their backs on prayer. They deprive themselves of the beauty that prayer bestows on the soul of the believer, of the honor of bearing the mark of prostration on their foreheads. However, there are also believers in the End Times who pray with passion and zeal and who ignore all condemnation. They never cease to pray, no matter what. Prayer is an essential part of their lives; they live for prayer and they discharge that obligation with the utmost sincerity until their last breaths, in the hope of being among those who will enjoy Allah’s approval in the Hereafter.
When asked why they are there, the first thing the residents of hell will say is, “Because we did not pray.” Believers must not therefore fall into this trap of the satan; they must see the potential terrible consequences of ignoring this duty. They must devoutly show their gratitude to Allah and love of Him by praying five times a day. Even if there is no one else around them who prays, and even if no one sees them do it, they must make not the slightest concession on prostrating themselves. They must seek shelter in the infinite and matchless forgiveness and love of Allah.
“Everything in the heavens and everything in the earth belongs to Allah. He forgives whoever He wills and punishes whoever He wills. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 3:129)

The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.


A beginner's guide to Ramadan

A beginner's guide to Ramadan
El Mesaharty Hussien wakes up residents for their pre-dawn meals during the first day of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Updated 06 June 2016

A beginner's guide to Ramadan

A beginner's guide to Ramadan

Millions of Muslims around the world on Monday marked the start of Ramadan, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. Others will begin fasting a day later, Tuesday, due to a moon-sighting methodology that can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart.
Here are some questions and answers about Islam's holiest month:


WHY DO MUSLIMS FAST?

The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Ramadan is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on one's inner self.
 It's seen as a way to physically and spiritually purify, refraining from habits such as smoking and caffeine. Muslims often donate to charities during the month and feed the hungry. Many spend more time at mosques during Ramadan and use their downtime to recite the Quran.
 London's new Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote in the Guardian that he plans to use Ramadan to "build bridges" and break bread with Muslims and non-Muslims around the city at synagogues, churches and mosques, though he acknowledged that 19-hour-long fasts during the longer summer days in Europe and forgoing coffee will be challenging.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing Haj.


HOW DO MUSLIMS FAST?

Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan. A single sip of water or a puff of a cigarette is enough to invalidate the fast.
However, Muslim scholars say it's not enough to just avoid food and drinks during the day. Ramadan is also an exercise in self-restraint. Muslims are encouraged to avoid gossip and arguments. Sexual intercourse between spouses is also forbidden during the daytime fast.
Just before the fast, Muslims have a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day, the "suhoor." Egyptians eat mashed fava beans called "ful," spiced with cumin and olive oil, while in Lebanon and Syria, popular suhoor food is flatbread with thyme, cheese or yogurt. In Afghanistan, people eat dates and dumplings stuffed with potato and leeks, first steamed, then fried.


HOW DO MUSLIMS BREAK THEIR FAST?

Muslims traditionally break their fast like Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did some 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset. That first sip of water is the most anticipated moment of the day.
After sunset prayers, a large feast known as "iftar" is shared with family and friends. Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. Across the Arab world, apricot juices are an iftar staple. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular. 
Every night of Ramadan, mosques and aid organizations set up tents and tables for the public to have free iftar meals.

CAN MUSLIMS BE EXEMPTED FROM FASTING?

Yes. There are exceptions for children, the elderly, those who are ill, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people traveling, which can include athletes during tournaments.
 Many Muslims, particularly those living in the United States and Europe, are accepting and welcoming of others around them who aren't observing Ramadan. 
However, non-Muslims or adult Muslims who eat in public during the day can be fined or even jailed in some Mideast countries.
In many predominantly Muslim countries like Indonesia, karaoke bars and nightclubs are closed across much of the country for the month. Restaurants there use curtains to conceal customers who eat during the day.
 And in Egypt, the Dar Al-Ifta, which is the main authority in charge of issuing religious edits, on Monday warned against eating in public, saying this is not an act of "personal freedom, but chaos — an assault on Islam."
 In China, minority Uighur Muslims complain of heavy restrictions by the Communist Party, such as bans on fasting by party members, civil servants, teachers and students during Ramadan, as well as generally enforced bans on children attending mosques, women wearing veils and young men growing beards.

WHAT ARE SOME RAMADAN TRADITIONS?

Typically, the start of the month is welcomed with the greeting of "Ramadan kareem!" Another hallmark of Ramadan is nightly prayer at the mosque among Muslims called "taraweeh. "
Egyptians have the tradition of Ramadan lanterns called the "fanoos," often the centerpiece at an iftar table or seen hanging in window shops and from balconies. In the Arabian Gulf countries, wealthy families hold "majlis" where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation.
 Increasingly common are Ramadan tents in five-star hotels that offer lavish and pricey meals from sunset to sunrise. While Ramadan is a boon for retailers in the Middle East and South Asia, critics say the holy month is increasingly becoming commercialized. Scholars have also been disturbed by the proliferation of evening television shows during Ramadan. In Pakistan, live game shows give away gifts promoting their sponsors. In the Arab world, month-long soap operas starring Egypt's top actors, rake in millions of dollars in advertising.



HOW DO MUSLIMS MARK THE END OF RAMADAN?

The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during "Laylat al-Qadr" or "the Night of Destiny." It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the first versus of the Quran. 
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid Al-Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash.
 Muslims attend early morning Eid prayers the day after Ramadan. Families usually spend the day at parks and eating — now during the day.


Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah
Updated 23 September 2015

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah
CHICAGO: A Muslim teenager who became an overnight sensation after a Texas teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb has been withdrawn from his school, local media reported Tuesday. Ahmed Mohamed, 14, won invitations to the White House, Google and Facebook last week amid a surge of public support for the aspiring inventor who was taken away from school in handcuffs. "Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great," Obama tweeted hours after the story broke. Mohamed's father told the Dallas Morning News that all three of the family's children are being withdrawn from the Irving Independent School District. "These kids aren't going to be happy there," Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed told the paper. The sudden attention, while welcome, has been overwhelming for the family and Ahmed hasn't been eating or sleeping well, his father said. "It's torn the family, and makes us very confused," Mohamed said. Plenty of schools have offered to take Ahmed, but his father thinks a bit of a break is in order. The family will be flying to New York on Wednesday after receiving invitations to meet with dignitaries at the United Nations. They are also trying to get visas to take Ahmed on a pilgrimage to Makkah. "I ask Allah to bless this time," Mohamed said. "After that, we'll see." The son of Sudanese immigrants who live in a Dallas suburb, the young robotics fan brought in a home-made clock to impress a new teacher at MacArthur High School. "It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it and I got arrested," he told reporters last week. Local police insisted that Mohammed's ethnicity had nothing to do with the decision to arrest him on suspicion of bringing a hoax bomb to school. No charges were laid after it was determined the teen had no malicious intent. Along with the invitation to astronomy night at the White House next month, Mohamed also got a scholarship to NASA's Space Camp invitations to drive NASA's Opportunity rover, tour MIT and intern at Twitter. He posted a picture of himself visiting "amazing projects and people" at Google's science fair on his Twitter account, @IStandWithAhmed, Monday.

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat
Updated 03 October 2014

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

A large number of pilgrims climb Jabal Al-Rahma in Arafat to pray standing on the mount, following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is the most famous place in Arafat after the Namira Mosque. Located between the seventh and eighth roads east of Arafat, Jabal Al-Rahma is 300 meters long and seven meters high. Some pilgrims wrongly believe that their Haj would not be complete without standing on this mount. During his farewell sermon, the Prophet said: “I stood here and all other places in Arafat are valid for the stand in prayer ritual” during the peak of the pilgrimage.

Human rights
Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission, has called on Muslims to get inspired from the message of Haj as well as from the last sermon of the Prophet (pbuh) that contained important principles for the protection of human rights. “What was mentioned in the last sermon represents the first comprehensive document for human rights,” Al-Aiban said. “We have to follow the Prophet’s instructions in that speech including protection of women, respect for blood and honor and fulfillment of trust.”

Sacrificial meat
The Kingdom’s Sacrificial Meat Utilization Project, which is managed by the Islamic Development Bank, enables pilgrims to perform their sacrifices easily during Haj and make use of the meat of sacrificial animals. Since its inception in 1983, the project has utilized and distributed meat of more than 17 million livestock among the poor in Saudi Arabia and 27 other countries. IDB is offering Adhahi coupons this year for SR490 ($131 or 98 euros), which could be purchased from Saudi Post offices,  Al-Rajhi Bank branches,  Al-Amoudi Foreign Exchange, the Association of Charity Gift for Pilgrims, and the Way for Retail Techniques Company.

Violators fined
The Passport Department has imposed fines worth SR6.6 million on violators during this Haj season. It also detained them for a total of 900 days and impounded 31 vehicles, an official statement said Thursday. On Wednesday alone it took punitive action against 40 Saudis and four expatriates for not carrying Haj permits. “The administrative panel will continue its meetings to make spot decisions on violators of Haj regulations,” it added.


Arafat: Merits of the day

Arafat: Merits of the day
Updated 03 October 2014

Arafat: Merits of the day

Arafat: Merits of the day
Allah the Almighty preferred some months to others, some days to others and some nights to others and selected specific times in the year to be seasons of worship and righteous deeds, and in these blessed times the reward for righteous deeds is multiplied and sins are forgiven. One of these blessed times is the Day of Arafat which is the 9th of the month of Dul-Hijjah (the 12th lunar month in the Islamic calendar).
As pilgrims gather in Arafat today for their most important ritual, it is worthwhile to talk about the merits of this blessed day and what we should do on this day to get the great reward from Allah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the days of the month of Dul-Hijjah, which is one of the four sacred months in the Islamic calendar. Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Verily, the number of the months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred.” (Qur’an, 9:36)
The four sacred months in the Islamic calendar are Dul Qada, Dul Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab, and they are the 11th, 12th, 1st and 7th months respectively.
The Day of Arafat is a day in one of the months of Haj as Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Haj (pilgrimage) is (in) the well-known (lunar year) months” (2:197). The months of Haj (pilgrimage) are Shawwal, Dul Qada and Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the well-known days that Allah the Almighty praised in the Noble Qur’an: “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the Name of Allah on appointed days.” (Qur’an, 22:28)
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that those appointed days are the first 10 days of the month of Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the ten days that Allah The Almighty swore by in the Noble Qur’an, Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:” By the ten nights” (Al-Fajr: 2). Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the ten nights mean the first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah, and these 10 days are the best days ever in the whole year as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “No other days, in which righteous deeds are beloved by Allah, are better than these days. The Prophet’s companions asked: “Are they even better than jihad in the cause of Allah?” The Prophet replied: ‘Yes, they are, except a man who takes his properties and goes out for jihad and sacrifices his soul and properties for the sake of Allah.”
The day of Arafat is one of the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah on which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged us to observe fasting, and some of the prophet’s wives narrated that he used to observe fasting during the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to observe fasting on the day of Arafat in particular, and when he was asked about fasting on the day of Arafat, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Fasting on the day of Arafat is an expiation for the sins committed in the previous year and the sins will be committed in the next year.” Yet, for those who are performing Haj, they are not recommended to observe fasting on the Day of Arafat.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to supplicate to Allah on the Day of Arafat as he said: “The best supplication is the supplication on the Day of Arafat.” This of course manifests the great status of the Day of Arafat.
The aforementioned are some of the merits of the day of Arafat. We ask Allah The Almighty to assist us all to avail of the great opportunity of the day of Arafat, forgive our sins and guide us all to his right path.

Courtesy: douralquran.com

Haj exemplifies equality before God

Haj exemplifies equality before God
Updated 03 October 2014

Haj exemplifies equality before God

Haj exemplifies equality before God
Every year, Muslims from all over the world take part in the largest gathering on Earth, the Haj, or pilgrimage to Makkah.
The Haj is a religious obligation that every Muslim must fulfill, if financially and physically able, at least once in his or her lifetime.
During these historic days, white, brown and black people, rich and poor, kings and peasants, men and women, old and young will all stand before God; all brothers and sisters, at the holiest of shrines in the center of the Muslim world, where all will call upon God to accept their good deeds and forgive them. These days represent the zenith of every Muslim’s lifetime.
The Haj resembles the re-enactment of the experiences of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), whose selfless sacrifice has no parallel in the history of humankind.
The Haj symbolizes the lessons taught by the final Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who stood on the plain of Arafat, proclaimed the completion of his mission and announced the proclamation of God: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam, or submission to God, as your religion.” (Qur’an, 5:3)
This great annual convention of faith demonstrates the concept of equality of mankind, the most profound message of Islam, which allows no superiority on the basis of race, gender or social status. The only preference in the eyes of God is piety as stated in the Qur’an: “The best amongst you in the eyes of God is most righteous.”
During the days of the Haj, Muslims dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations and say the same prayers at the same time in the same manner, for the same end. There is no royalty and aristocracy, but humility and devotion. These times confirm the commitment of Muslims, all Muslims, to God. It affirms their readiness to leave the material interest for his sake.
The Haj is a reminder of the Grand Assembly on the Day of Judgment when people will stand equal before God waiting for their final destiny, and as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances, but he scans your hearts and looks into your deeds.”
The Qur’an states these ideals really nicely (Qur’an, 49:13): “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other)). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
While Malcolm X was in Makkah performing his pilgrimage, he wrote to his assistants: “They asked me what about the Haj had impressed me the most... I said, ‘The brotherhood! The people of all races, colors, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved to me the power of the One God.’ All ate as one, and slept as one. Everything about the pilgrimage atmosphere accented the oneness of man under one God.”
This is what the Haj is all about.

Courtesy: islam.about.com