Preparations for the big day

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Updated 26 August 2016

Preparations for the big day

IN this life people are usually aware of two kinds of journeys; those made to earn a livelihood and those undertaken for pleasure and sightseeing. The Haj however is unique from these journeys, since it is made solely for the purpose of pleasing Allah, the Exalted. For over 1,400 years, Muslim from around the world, men and women had been traveling to the Holy city of Makkah.
Haj is a trip of lifetime; it is only required once from a Muslim and it is only the first one that counts as the fulfillment of the obligation.
All other performances of Haj are voluntary and cannot replace the compulsory Haj. Therefore, it is imperative that it is performed sincerely and correctly for the first time.
Though Haj can be quite a journey, a little preparation and planning will, Insha’Allah make your journey much easier. This planning should not be limited to the logistics, but should also include spiritual, financial, physical and mental preparations. Following are a few points to help you prepare for your Haj:
1. Purify your creed (Aqeedah) from all aspects of Shirk, major or minor. No deed is acceptable to Allah however noble it is, without such purification: “If you associate (with Allah), your deeds will be ruined and verily you will be among the losers.” (Qur’an, 39: 65)
2. Devote your Haj purely and sincerely for Allah. This is a spiritual preparation; the acceptance and reward of your Haj largely depends on your intention and piety.
3. Acquire thorough knowledge about the rites of Haj and Umrah from start to finish, because knowledge differentiates right from wrong. Haj education can be sought through various means, reading books which explain in detail the subject, computer programs which precisely demonstrate the rituals of Haj using the multimedia format, attending regular Haj classes offered by Islamic centers, etc.
4. Use Halal means to support your journey. “Allah is pure and He does not accept but pure only.” (Saheeh Muslim) Take everything what you will require (do not depend on others or ask them to fulfill your needs). Make sure you have enough money to suffice yourself during the journey and secure the needs of your family members whom you may leave behind.
Nowadays, people try their best to take along all things of comfort for Haj. They take all kinds of precautions but the best precaution is piety, fear of Allah and righteousness. Allah says: “Take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is At-Taqwa (piety). So fear Me, O men of understanding!” (Qur’an, 2:197)
5. At the end of this verse, Allah orders us to be righteous and fear Him, this is for two major reasons, one because the Haji need piety before going to Haj. He should remind himself to fear Allah because he will face many difficulties and hardships, which he should accept and endure, in order to please His Lord. The second reason is that Haj itself is a means to achieve Taqwa, the Haji increases in faith by obeying Allah and his Messenger (peace be upon him) all throughout his Haj.
6. The intense exertion coupled with harsh desert climate of Makkah can take serious toll on your body. Therefore, be sure to carry along vaccines and drugs. Avoid all unnecessary hardships and take adequate precautions to avoid problems.
7. The journey of Haj involves a great deal of physical activities and thus you must be fully prepared to face this physical challenge. The experts recommend that people who intend to perform Haj must initiate a walking routine one or two months prior to the journey. This will increase physical stamina and help the Haji to keep up with the long walks and long standings. Indeed, Haj involves a lot of labor and struggle but the reward for this great act is also great in amount.
8. Also from the preparations of Haj is the mental preparations. Know that the Haji (pilgrim) is bound to experience intense heat, pushing, standing in long lines, uncomfortable lodging, etc. due to the large crowd of people trying to accommodate in a particularly small area.
9. Relieve yourself from any injustice, which you may have inflicted upon others. Fulfill any obligation, which you owe to other before the journey. Prepare a Waseeyah (will) before you depart and make peace with those with whom you have a dispute, pay your debts, and advise your family not to be extravagant, Allah says: “… and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance…” (Qur’an, 7:31)
10. Accompany the knowledgeable and righteous Muslims and stay away from the innovators. Keep away from all prohibited acts, men should not shave their beard for the Haj and it is prohibited for them to wear gold.
11. Safeguard your tongue from all vain talk, backbiting, arguing and complaining. This is against the morals of Islam in general and especially against the rules of Haj. Such talks and actions will make one’s Haj incomplete and reduce the reward. Haj is a long journey and one is likely to behave immorally, therefore guard and control yourself from any misconduct: “So during Haj there should not be obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling.” (Qur’an, 2:197) Remember, Shaytan is at his best to cause mischief!
Courtesy: ahya.org


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.