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Monday, September 19, 2016

Organized Spirituality: lessons from Abraham post-Eid

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah 9/16/16 at Toledo Masjid. The opening Hamd has been omitted, as has much of the Quranic and hadeeth quotes in Arabic.]


Building, not destroying

During the 'Eid ul Ad-haa, which just passed, our speakers usually focus on the willingness of Abraham [Ibrahim, 'alayhis salaam] to sacrifice his son because he saw that as being God's command. Indeed, the entire holiday centers around that premise.

However, there is yet another aspect we should ponder upon.

"And when Abraham raised the foundations of the House, and Ishmael as well [they prayed]: Our Lord, accept from us, surely, You are the All-Hearing, All-Knowing." [Q 2:127].

Abraham and his son [Ismaa'il, 'alayhis salaam] are associated here with building, and not destroying! They built [or re-built] the Ka'bah. That place is described as Baytul 'Ateeq or the ancient house, Baytun Naas which means the house for all people, and the Qur'an describes it as "a blessing and a guidance for all nations" [Q 3:96].


So Abraham and his son built something, and building something takes planning, thinking, mapping out appropriate strategies,

For a home, we have to plan our finances, and all of this takes time, patience. This is what Abraham [upon whom be peace] and his son did! This 'house' outlived them.

At every moment, thousands and often millions are circling the Ka'bah, reciting the Talbiyah, calling upon Allah, often in the very words used by Abraham himself "Our Lord, accept from us, Surely, You are the All-Hearing, All-Knowing."Rabbana Taqqabbal Minna, Innaka Antas Samee'ul 'Aleem.

So being organized and strategic in our religious priorities, indeed within all aspects of our lives, is arguably the most important lesson for us to take.

Going for job interview requires having prepared a resume', appropriate clothes and language.

So what about prayer [Du'aa]? When you make du'aa, you should think about who and what to make du'aa for.Ahadeeth. Take lessons from Soorah al Faatihah and from the other obligatory aspects of the Salaah as to what or who we should pray for. When we offer salaah, particularly alone, think about the meanings of what is to be recited.
Take some lessons from the supplications present in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

What can we do or how can we benefit in our lives from what we are to recite in prayer, and how can we build upon that to create something wonderful and lasting as Abraham did?

The Ka'bah and Abraham's station

About the Ka'bah, Allah says "In it are clear signs and Abraham's station." [Q 3:96]. This teaches us that the Ka'bah is a blessed symbol and is itself a testimony to Abraham's position [Maqaam Ibrahim] with Allah. It is a symbol or a goal we can work to, and the important term here is "work". Work wisely, work sincerely, for Allah, not for ego or fame or wealth. To go against the philosophy of Abraham is actually to show foolishness [Q 3:109]. May Allah accept from us.


The Ka'bah as Qiblah and at Hajj

The great symbol called the Ka'bah becomes the focus during Hajj. In addition to this, it is the Qiblah, the direction we are to face during worship.

Allah says to the Prophet: " We [Allah] see you [O Muhammad] turning your face to the sky,,," [Q 2:144].

Before the revelation of the above statement, it is said that the Qiblah faced by the Muslims was that which was associated with the Prophets of old, i.e. Jerusalem. Here, we are told the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] was facing the sky. The exact meaning of this is a debated point among the Mufassiroon.

Let us consider this as a possible meaning: after years of persecution in Makkah itself [the enemy capital] - The Prophet is now in stable Madinah, and he sees the need to become better focused, to be oriented correctly and to be organized spiritually.
God answers that concern by directing him not towards the sky, but rather to that symbol constructed by the great Patriarch, Abraham. 

So the Ka'bah is our Qiblah because it focuses us. It's very existence encourages us to build, to build or to fortify our hearts, to fill our minds with useful information, to build in this world, to add, not to destroy!

The Prophet Muhammad [upon whom be peace and blessings] said that if you see the world ending around you while your planting a tree, continue to plant that tree!

So let us be intelligent in our lives, and intelligent in our Islam. Let us be like Abraham, willing to  obey Allah even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Qur'an: serious business for believers and a challenge to those who reject [part two] Q 11:13-20

[ Note: The following is a continuation of some reflections on the eleventh chapter of the Qur'an, beginning here from verse 13 and ending with 20. For part one see http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2016/09/quran-serious-business-for-believers.html]

[Q 11:13] As previously noted, the nature of the Qur'an is so sublime that none can match it or overtake it. There have been attempts ever since the Quranic revelation came to answer its challenges but all have failed to gain any traction. Indeed, the Quranic revelation is the foundation upon which Arabic language sciences formed and flourished. One Arabic Christian poet write:

" I drank from the Nile [river] water, the Shaykh of rivers, it is comparable to tasting the water of Paradise [Maa al Kawthar], a river blessed since ancient times that is [still] sweet, however, it is not comparable to the water of my country." [Eliya Abu al Maadi] [Ft.#1]

The language and style of the poet's composition is clearly Quranic, but also it's motifs. Al Kawthar is a chapter title of the Qur'an, and the traditions say that it is the name of a pond in Paradise, that Prophet Muhammad himself offers such drink from it, that those who drink it will never be thirsty again.[ft.2]

In any case, here- as elsewhere- the Qur'an confidently proclaims that if the opponents can produce something like it [in order to prove that Qur'an is not from Allah], go ahead and try.

In recent years there has been a couple of attempts to answer the Quranic challenge by missionaries. They published a particular book, in Arabic, however they have attempted to market it in the Non Arabic speaking Muslim world.

Why have they done that? Because there is obviously a language gap which they try to take advantage of. However even then, the work, called Al Kitaab al Furqaan, is rightly and widely seen as a foolish production which takes some Islamic  sentences , mixes it up with insulting insinuations and awkwardly composed arguments.[ft.3]

The Qur'an, sent to an illiterate society, memorized and recited daily by millions, stands the tests of time.

[14-15] They have challenged the Qur'an because they seek worldly benefit. In another ayah, we read of such people when Allah says "Do you make your wealth by lying about it?" [Q 56:79]. Their challenge will take them no where.

[16] Except, of course, Hell.

[17] Qur'an is serious business. It is not a game. It is a guidance for those with Taqwaaa, and to play with it is to invite trouble.

[18-20] Those who play with the Qur'an and with the Divine message are not the average Joe-Blow walking down the street. Rather, they are the powers that be, forces that have financial and political interests.

It is important to note that when the Qur'an uses terms such as Kufr, they are synonymous with oppression, the usurpation of the rights of others, with having a destructive mindset.




Conclusion

The historical accounts, the morals, and the emphatic aspects of the Qur'an need to be examined, particularly in today's world. The Quranic discourse needs to be a force of influence, calling us to God and to being able to properly identify what is wholesome and what is it's opposite.

Don't take our word for it. Have a look at it for yourself. Think about what you read, and do so deeply. This Book only benefits those who have a healthy or a sincere mindset. It is for the hard worker, not the intellectually lazy.

[Ft.1] The Arabic text of this quotation is given here.

و شربت ما ء النيل شيخ الانهر فكانني قد ذقت ماء الكوثر نهر .تبارك من قديم العصر عذب ، و ولكن لا كماء بلادي ( ايليا ابو الماضي )



[Ft.2] For more on Soorat al Kawthar, see http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2008/04/al-kauthar-legacy-of-prophet_03.html [Al Kauthar: Legacy of the Prophet].

[3] The Furqaan work was allegedly written by two anonymous writers and 'translated' by Anis Shoroosh. The latter, a Christian of Palestinian extraction, has for many years engaged in polemics with Muslims, the most famous examples being his debates with the late Ahmed Deedat and Dr. Shabbir Ally of Canada. In recent years he has lost credibility in Evangelical circles, least of all due to an arrest for fraud and arson in Florida in 2008.




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Qur'an: serious business for believers and a challenge to those who reject [ Reflections on Q 11:10-20] [Part one]

I seek refuge with Allah from Satan,The Rejected Enemy. In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate. The Most Merciful.

Introduction

Weekly, I do a presentation  [perhaps a discussion is a better term] on a handful of Quranic verses. Preparing for this occasion is a recurring process, it allows me to make Tadabbur or deep reflections on the Qur'anic text in general. This reflecting process should never be seen as completed or finished, after all, the text is of Divine Origin and will always have new and fresh relevance as time advances.

Below are some thoughts on ten verses from Soorah Huud. We have generally not shared the translation of all the verses because this will encourage the reader to have a look for themselves. We have only shared translation as where deemed necessary. Unless otherwise stated, the translation is that of this writer.


[Q 11:9-10] These two verses can be read in connection with verse 9. God gives provision, even to the Kuffarr. The Kuffar reject theological points such as the hereafter and resurrection day, but they also are extremely ungrateful to Allah. In fact, for the Kaafir, they think nothing comes from God at all.        


















[Q 11:11] Believers have a different attitude: "..Those who persevere [Sabaroo] and have righteous conduct.." the Imaan [faith] of believers has taught them Sabr and Shukr, to be able to persevere and have  gratitude. Thus, the Muslims recite Al-Faatihah daily in their prayers, in which they recite "Praise belongs to Allah, The Caretaker of The Universe." [Q 1:2]. In addition, many other expressions of praise and thanks to God are found throughout the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This is to develop a deep sense of gratitude within us. 



[Q 11:12-13] The charge that Muhammad-Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, simply made up the claim of revelation is addressed here in a powerful way. That accusation is likewise addressed in other places. They would ask the Prophet to "edit", to change around what was given to him. In a sense, they wanted the Qur'an to suffer the same fate as previous scripture [Q 2:79 and 4:46]. It is relevant here to share the statement : "Among the Jews are those who distort words from their places." [Q 4:46].




These objectors wanted the Prophet Muhammad ['alayhis salaatu was salaam] to act like they have acted. Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaa] warned the Prophet that had he indeed done that, he would face severe punishment [Q 69:44-47].




Thus, the Qur'an only contains what God wants it to contain. The words of Muhammad are recorded in secondary sources [the Hadeeth corpus] and are themselves subjected to careful examination, which is why even within traditional modes of interpretation, there still exists much debate as to what is authentically from the mouth of Allah's Messenger.This is something that is not from modern times as sometimes imagined, rather, this is from almost the beginning of Muslim history. This is the science of Hadeeth ['ilm ul hadeeth] which seeks to differentiate as much as possible the authentic from the spurious. In terms of the Qur'an, the opposition is given a challenge to forge Ten chapters or units that are similar or that can outdo the power and the majesty of the Quranic revelation. 
  








The truth of the matter is that nothing can outdo or outmatch the Qur'an, particularly in Arabic . This is something recognized even by Non Muslim Arabic writers and has been throughout the ages.  Moreover, The Qur'an became the basis of the organization and structure of Arabic as a literary and scientific language. Non Muslim writers end up having to imitate not only the Quranic style of delivery but also themes and concepts from the sacred text.


















                                                  

                               
وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الإِنْسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ




وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَاهُ نَعْمَاء بَعْدَ ضَرَّاء مَسَّتْهُ لَيَقُولَنَّ ذَهَبَ السَّيِّئَاتُ عَنِّي إِنَّهُ لَفَرِحٌ فَخُورٌ
 لاَّ الَّذِينَ صَبَرُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ أُوْلَـئِكَ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ
 فَلَعَلَّكَ تَارِكٌ بَعْضَ مَا يُوحَى إِلَيْكَ وَضَآئِقٌ بِهِ صَدْرُكَ أَن يَقُولُواْ لَوْلاَ أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ كَنزٌ أَوْ جَاء مَعَهُ مَلَكٌ إِنَّمَا أَنتَ نَذِيرٌ وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ
 مْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ














Sunday, September 4, 2016

Losing control: an Islamic perspective

[ Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah given 9/216 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam.]

Opening remarks

All of us want to feel in control. We want to control our time, income flow, even health, and many of us can become obsessive over these things. However, we should ask what happens if and when we that control is removed?

All religions seek to give guidance to their adherents on issues of losing control, particularly at death. These religions have a particular viewpoint on what happens after death and gives inspirational slogans for those experiencing it as well as those loved ones around that person. This situation is not the only time when control is lost. What about experiencing the loss of a job, social standing, marriage, heart disease or cancer, non life threatening, but beyond the control of a person. What does religion say to these matters?

Look at Prophet Muhammad

We have to look at Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, because Allah made him the model whose struggles provide first hand a deep perspective on these things. We have to pay particular attention to what Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaa] told his Prophet when he [i.e. The Prophet] was facing things seemingly beyond his ability to handle.

"Say: I have no power for myself to bring neither harm nor benefit, expect as God wills.." [Q 10:43]. Think of that. Recall when the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] went to Ta'if, the leaders sent a youthful mob to stone him. It is said that the Prophet's shoes were overflowing with blood. The Prophet had no control there. A man can fight maybe one or two persons, yet he would be practically helpless against a mob. Allah tells him to say that he only operates within the limits given to him, and repeatedly in the Qur'an, Allah tells the Prophet to state this in public.

The Prophet was successful

Look at the Prophet. Despite years of all those things, he never became hateful or despondent or bitter. When he overcame the enemy in their capital [Makkah], he issued a general amnesty which extended even to the leadership which had led the charge against him for so many years.

This attitude and thinking are centered within the Divine Reality, the Prophet was blessed to see big picture, and that made him triumphant, even from a worldly perspective.

The whole of the Quranic message is a message of acknowledging limited control


The entirety of the revelation is a reminder that God is in ultimate control, however there are two verses which I would like particularly highlight.

"Whatever We [Allah] cancels of signs, or makes forgotten, We [i..e Allah] replace it something better or [atleast] comparable." [Q 2:106]
مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا  
If God's plan is that we face one loss or another, be it in occupation, marriage, death of loved ones, the Sunnah of Allah is that eventually healing comes with a better situation. Thus, the verse ends "Don't you know that truly Allah is powerful over all.?" [Q 2:106]

This sentiment is strengthened in the next ayah:
أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ نَصِيرٍ
"Don't you know that to Allah belongs the dominion of the Heavens and the Earth, and that other than him you have none to give you protection [Walee] nor any to give you victory [Naseer]?" [Q 2:107]

So don't lose your mind or your balance when things happen, because it is all in the hands of Allah anyways. Have confidence that Allah will take care of you. That does not mean a defeatist mentality.

You do your best to secure your income and and happiness by your own efforts, by your own sweat you seek your own rights. Seek to improve your health by proper diet and exercise. Yet, remember that these things can be taken away, yet Allah says that he replaces them.

In terms of death, it is not an accident. It happens at the right time for all parties concerned. Similarly, the giving or removing of power, wealth, prestige, all occur by the decree of God when it is best for all.

Remember that, and be guided. Or, we should say, remember that, because that is an indicator of proper guidance.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Is being a full-time Muslim easier said than done?

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a  Friday Khutbah given July 22, 2016 at The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo[ICGT] in Perrysburg, Ohio. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]


Introduction



This week I gave a lecture entitled "Towards becoming Full time Muslims" [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V_aAxmp0J0[/url] . As the title suggests, we explored some practical ways to become stronger in our submission to Allah Almighty. One of the reactions to this presentation was, in essence, that it is easier said than done.

Events both here and overseas have influenced me to ponder upon that response. In particular, the political discourse we are seeing in recent days is very concerning. Thus, it is understandable that there would be difficulty to become "full time Muslims".

Observing the reports on the attack in the French city of Nice', the attacker, a reported drinker and even consumer of Pork, was said to have been "radicalized". Evidence of this so called radicalization was his weeks worth of beard growth [url] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/18/nice-attack-premeditated-mohamed-lahouaiej-bouhlel-beard-prosecutor[/url].

Politicians have in recent days called for Sharee'ah to be banned [not even knowing the meaning of this term] and its practitioners deported.

So the argument that these forces are making is that the stronger Muslim you become, the more dangerous to society you become.



Islam is not an identity

It is important to remember that Islam is mot an "identity". Rather it is the title or the summary of that guidance which came forth through all the Prophets and Messengers of God. We must remember that almost all of the Prophets experienced character assassination, jealous foes, scapegoating and other pressures, all designed to prevent a fuller manifestation of God's guidance in society.


So know that these pressures are going to be there, just as they were in the lives of the Prophets [upon whom be peace]. Yet, these pressures should only make us better qualified.

Pressure is character building

When you jog, lift weights, or play sports or do some other exercises, you will experience some level of discomfort. You will feel sore during and afterwards, perhaps for quite a bit of time, and look and smell bad. However, it is worth it.

So we look at the Prophets to give us guidance in terms of dealing with those pressures as well as predicting the future.

Ibrahim [The Prophet Abraham 'alayhis salaam] is a good example of this. He doesn't seek to be domineering, he only preaches Tauheed [recognizing that Allah is one and alone in deserving worship] and seeks to make his audience think. He says "Do you not use your minds?" [Afala Ta'qiloon]. His foes respond by saying "Burn him" [Harriquhu].

Opponents of Truth are intellectually bankrupt

The foes of Abraham were intellectually bankrupt. Abraham was a Prophet that embodies logic, wisdom and even research. His foes find this threatening. They cannot respond to his logic, so they respond by gaining up, rabble-rousing, violence.

Look at Allah's Divine Hand at work. "We Decreed: O Fire! Be cool and peaceful for Abraham"[ Q 21:70].

So Abraham as a person went from being a potential victim of lynching to a miraculous saving of his life, which also means that his message was saved. The fire of hate was put out.
The evidence is strengthened by the fact that the three monotheistic religions[Judaism, Christianity and Islam]  see themselves as connected to Abraham. They are all called "The Abrahamic religions" [Al Adyaan Al Ibrahimiyyah].

So don't let outside forces stop you from getting closer to Allah, from being better and more committed Muslims. We pray for Allah's mercy, guidance, forgiveness, and stronger hearts planted with Imaan.

Muslims who work with the wider public have greater responsibilities

Many of us are people who deal with the wider public in some fashion. It is upon such folks a bigger responsibility of being full-time Muslims in a way that is seen by the public.

Firstly, this means that Islamic ethics must be displayed, particularly in financial matters. That also means we cannot be shy as Muslims.

Look at Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam]. There was a lady who used to harass him by dumping trash in places where she knew he would walk. When she fell ill, he took care of her. When he ['alayhis salaatu was salaam] left Makkah for Madinah, he made sure to give back wealth that had been entrusted to him to its rightful owners.

Those of us in public should also be prepared to answer queries at all times. Keep Islamic pamphlets or literature in your offices, suitcase, bag, purse and car. Invite them to the Mosque. Have more open houses and be welcoming and invite the hard questions.

We have to be like Abraham. A mob wanted to burn him, yet Allah gave him immunity from that- and now-thousands of years later, the majority of humans see themselves as connected to him.

Indeed, in the Judeo-Christian tradition his name is known to mean "father of many nations" or "father of all nation", depending on which Bible translation [in English] you read.

 We have to be strong, confident and closer to Allah.

God is not an intellectual point. God is real, and is active in the world of man. Allah be with you all, [Allah Ma'kum Jamee'an].



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Towards becoming Full-time Muslims

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah delivered 7/15/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]


Working Hard

A person experiencing financial difficulties will attempt to address their situation in the best way available. Such a person, upon finding a full-time job, one that comes with certain perks and benefits, will accept that job, feel grateful for that job and will put in extra time and work, using their abilities to solve any problems that are work-related.

There is an obvious difference between full-time work and part time work. When we put in part time work, we will only get part time results. When we are serious in our work, we will get fulfilling results.

Allah states "Say: Indeed, my prayers, devotional acts, life and death are all for Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe. He has no partner..." [Q 6:163].

So being a Muslim is a full-time job. That's simply an undeniable reality. In today's world, we often have to differentiate between "full time parents" and "weekend fathers" or "holiday mothers". Absentee parents will come to regret their neglect as time moves forward. The same applies to being a Muslim.

We cannot be Ramadan Muslims or Friday Muslims or Holiday Muslims and then expect to have the same results as experienced by the Prophet  and his early followers. 

If our Islam is anything other than full time, we will always be sad, unstable, bitter and non progressive. The most important criterion for "progress" is of the spiritual/mental/moral type. Too many of us are part-time workers expecting full-time benefits!

Islam for ourselves and families

Too many of us have limited our Islam to easy things such as abstaining from pork and the Salaam greetings. A limited "Islam" of that nature, one that is only occasional and ignoring family, we risk destroying our children's spiritual foundation. We risk becoming a "gray community", one which does not even last a single generation.

Workable strategies for becoming full-time Muslims

There are many methods by which we can become full time Muslims, but any methodology must include these elements.

[1] Examining issues of Halaal and Haraam in your life. Look at everything, from relationships to income, even to entertainment.

[2] Consider one's own physical environment. If you are not offering five daily prayers, obviously that has to start, but what about the areas in which you pray? Is the area in which you offer salaah clean? Are there reminders of Allah in those areas, such as Allah's name or quotations from the Qur'an? "And the places of prayer [Masaajid] are for Allah, so do not call with Allah anyone else." [Q 72:18].

This may sound superficial, but our surroundings have influences over our moods. So consider this with regards to the places of prayer in your own home.

[3] Are your friends believers? Are they healthy [spiritually] or are they toxic? If they are toxic, resentful professional complainers, it would be best to avoid spending much time with them.

[4] If your friends/company are healthy, yet they are non Muslim or nominal Muslims. You should share Islam with them by inviting them to the mosque, by living Islam yourself, by answering their queries.

[5] If your relationship is Haraam [Islamically forbidden], the solution is to either marry or to part company if they are not marriage material.

There is a disproportionate gap in numbers between the genders in our community. We have many single brothers and not enough sisters.We need marriage between Muslims, for Muslim children to be able to form friendships with other Muslims.

All of these are needed things to address in our quest to become full-time Muslims.

This deen is guidance, but if we are unwilling to act upon it, 'guidance' and "Islam" becomes nothing more than phrases on paper, useless slogans.

May Allah protect our Imaan, increase us in our zeal for his cause, and bestow on us forgiveness, mercy and guidance. Ameen!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Keeping the feeling of Ramadan alive

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah given July 8, 2016 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd as well as much of the Arabic textual quotations have been omitted.]

Introduction

Ramadan, the month of fasting, worship and introspection, has left us. It was that month that we are told in the traditions that the demons [Shayateen] are locked away, even though we are forced to admit that their mouths were still active. The month of Ramadan has passed us, and now the Shayateen are out in full force. We are to ask ourselves "how can we  keep the spirit of Ramadan alive"?

Fasting outside of Ramadan


To answer this question, we have to refer to Allah's Messenger [ Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam]. His normative practice was to fast six days of Shawwal, the month which comes after Ramadan [Sittu min shawwal]. Scholars differ as to whether those six days need to be observed consecutively  or by simply picking days out of the month, either way, we have here, from the Prophetic Sunnah, an option. He also used to be consistent in fasting twice a week [Mondays and Thursdays].

Fasting is an obvious way to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive. There are other things as well that help in these regards.


Taraweeh transformed into Tahajjud

In the evenings, we were praying Salaat At-Taraweeeh.  We can keep that alive by praying Salaat At-Tahajjud. The Tahajjud prayers are offered in the same basic format as Taraweeh, a fact that has led a minority of Muslim thinkers to the conclusion that they are in fact the same prayer, albeit with different names, Taraweeh  being simply an encouragement for the masses. Most importantly, Tahajjud is a prayer which is referred to in the Qur'an itself [ Q 17:79, 73:1-6].

Most of us have very tight schedules, so how can we pray Tahajjud when we struggle to offer the five obligatory prayers? My recommendation is to offer the Salaat at Tahajjud once a week, on the night that precedes your day off work.

The goal is Allah

Islam is a faith that has many checks and balances. The overall goal is Allah, but Allah has made us all to carry some responsibilities and the manner in which we carry out those responsibilities is also a form of worship, a means by which we seek to connect to the Almighty. Working to sustain our families and to have communal safety or correcting our wrong ideas or thinking, all of this are characteristics of faith.

Many of us were disturbed this Ramadan by news from all over the Islamic world and even from the events taking place in our society today. Even news from Madinah, the site of the Prophet's tomb itself, was that which caused disturbance in our hearts.  We may have had to be defensive, especially those among us who are well-known to the press and the masses. In addition, we have had to deal with internal political issues.  So it can be reasonably said that most of faced a difficult month. However, by recognizing this, we can atleast be in a better position to deal with it in future Ramadans.

Qur'an reading

Allah says "Indeed, We have sent it as a Pure recitation, so that perhaps you will use your mind." [Q 12:2].  He also says "Do they not deeply consider this Qur'an" [Afala Yatadabbarun ul Qur'aan [Q 4:82].

While it is true that Allah has began sending the Qur'an in Ramadan, we are not to restrict our reading of it simply during the fasting month. We are to make Tadabbur of it, consider its contents deeply and with thought, for our own growth.

Ramadan should have only intensified what we as Muslims are already doing. If we have not been strong in our practice, then we need to change that, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. 

We want to leave Ramadan stronger than when we entered into it. We want to be mature, competent, closer to God. May Allah strengthen our hearts upon this deen.


What does Submission entail?

Islam is not about massaging our egos, nor is it about personality worship. It is about surrendering all to the will of Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaaa]. Believers are to submit to that which has been decreed by God and his Prophet.

That 'submission' entails giving up false ideologies, destructive behavior, Baatil of every type. Look at Bilqees, the queen of Sheba. She is guided, by the efforts of Solomon [Sulaymaan 'alayhis salaam] and she asserts "Indeed, I have done wrong to my own soul, and I have submitted with Solomon to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe." [Q 27:44] .
إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي وَأَسْلَمْتُ مَعَ سُلَيْمَانَ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
'Submission" to God is never negative. When you respond to Allah you become a better person. When  you get better in your submission, you become a better human being.

Submission often comes before understanding

Many people feel that they need to understand all of the wisdom of God before surrendering to him. There are radical feminists today who not only rebel against Hijaab, but  who take drastic measures to counter both Christian and Muslim morality. One such group of misguided young women went to a Russian Church and stripped naked, yelling slogans, during Church services a few years ago [ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-macdougall/pussy-riot-russian-orthodox-church-its-complicated_b_3397674.html]. The same people did a similar move outside a mosque in Tunis, the Tunisian capital .

So such people, even if they have Muslim names, don;t see the value in God's moral system. There is a wisdom and reason[s] behind the commands in the Qur'an regarding dress. Even if we cannot see the wisdom, we still have to submit. After all, you don't tell your children why they can't swim to the deep end of the water or to not play with electricity. They have to obey, even without understanding.

Thus, we should always strive to obey God, even when we don't understand.

What is the wisdom of offering five daily prayers? Why not two, or twenty? Why pray a certain number of Rak'ahs for each Salaah? Just because we don't always know, that doesn't mean we are not to obey. Believers hear and obey Allah.

So let us be believers, who hear and obey Allah [SWT].