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.]


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 []. 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].

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