Thursday, June 19, 2014

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
Reasons to Fast
Al Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 183
"O you who Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop consciousness of God."
“What is fasting?” “How does the fasting of Muslims in Ramadan differ from the fasting of other faiths?” “Why should one ‘torture’ one’s body in the first place?” “What do you really gain from fasting in the end?" These are a few questions that a number of non-Muslim friends and colleagues often ask us, usually out of fascination with this spiritually-uplifting practice of Islamic faith, and at times out of pity and sympathy for us, thinking, why should anyone suffer from hunger and thirst like Muslims? I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us shared the same negative perception of fasting.

It is important to note that fasting in Arabic is called “Sawm”, which literally means ‘to be at rest’. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the “house” of Islam is built. During this month, every able-bodied Muslim is required to fast everyday from dawn until dusk
7 Reasons To Fast
  1. Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint, self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic fast, as opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination.
  2. Fasting indoctrinates us in patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs.

  3. It cultivates in us the principle of sincere love because when we observe fasting we do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.
  4. Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases our awareness of God. It strengthens our willpower as we learn to rise above our lower desires. The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions. Hunger is one the most powerful urges that we experience. Thus, when a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above their carnal passions.
  5. With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions also comes a greater focus. In the month of Ramadan, many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to music, and some other leisure activities, which spares them more time and energy to be spent on more productive activities such as academics, intense study of Islam, voluntary prayers, social and humanitarian causes, and a quality time with the family, to name a few. It is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in life.
  6. It makes us realize the reality of life and death. Fasting makes us realize how dependant our lives are on things that we often take for granted, such as food and water. It makes us think about our dependence on God and God’s mercy and justice. Moreover, it reminds us of the life after death, which itself has a great impact on our character and our worldview.
  7. Ramadan is a blessed month for a special reason: it is actually the month in which God first revealed His final message and guidance for mankind to our beloved Prophet Muhammad. This message has been perfectly preserved both orally and textually in the form of a Book, called the Quran (The Reading/Recital). Therefore, Muslims try to do an intense study of the Quran in this month especially, and evaluate their lives according to the standards and guidance contained in it.
In a nutshell, even though the real purpose of the dynamic institution of fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behavior, and to develop sympathy for the less fortunate, it is a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of change in various spheres of our lives including social and economic, intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical, private and public, personal and common, inner and outer –  all in one!
Compiled From:
"The Fasting of Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action, and Change!" - Taha Ghayyur & Taha Ghaznavi

Understanding the Prophet's Life (peace be upon him)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) hated to let his Companions nurture a pointless feeling of guilt. He kept telling them that they must never stop conversing with the One, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful, who welcomes everyone in His grace and benevolence and who loves the sincerity of hearts that regret their misdeeds and return to Him. This is the profound meaning of at-tawbah, offered to everyone: sincerely returning to God after a slip, a mistake, a sin. God loves that sincere return to Him and He forgives and purifies. The Prophet himself exemplified that in many circumstances. On one occasion a Bedouin came and urinated in the mosque; the Companions rushed on him and wanted to beat him up. The Prophet stopped them and said, "Leave him alone, and just throw a bucketful of water on his urine. God has only sent you to make obligations easy, and not to make them difficult." [Bukhari]
Compiled From:
"In The Footsteps of The Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, p.  113

Cool Tips!
Ramadan Family Time
“Ramadan is family time,” one Muslim mother said recently in discussion about plans for the upcoming blessed month. She described how her busy household was usually scattered in different places throughout the year, with school and extracurricular activities taking precedence. But in Ramadan, everyone gathered to at least eat Iftar together.
While this may be true for some families, it is not for all. For many, there are scheduling conflicts. But hours on the job can be readjusted, classes can be rescheduled, and other activities can take a back seat.
If even this is not possible, you can still make time, as impossible as that may seem. If you and your family can commit to a daily Ramadan ritual of 20 minutes or less, it will go far in strengthening not just personal faith, but family bonds as well. Here are some ideas that offer ways to do that.
1. Family bedtime story
Set the timer to 10 minutes. Everyone gather in the same room in their pajamas. Take turns sharing or reading short Islamic stories. Suggestions for Islamic include "Treasury of Islamic Tales," "Companions of the Prophet," "Stories from Islamic History," among others. If the story is long, read only 10 minutes of it. Continue the following day. Be, and encourage all readers to be, as dramatic as possible in his or her presentation to retain audience interest.
2. Pray one prayer together at home
Most prayers easily take 20 minutes or less, in fact 10 minutes or less if you are praying only the required Rakat. Choose which prayer can be offered together and encourage all to participate.
3. Eat Suhur or Iftar together
Some of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "We eat but are not satisfied." He said, "Perhaps you eat separately." The Companions replied yes. The Prophet then said, "Eat together and mention the Name of Allah over your food. It will be blessed for you” (Abu Dawud).
Eating together is about so much more than food, as this Hadith makes clear. It is about satisfaction not just of our physical appetites, but our spiritual and emotional need for companionship as well. And who better to build that companionship with than our families?
4. 10-minute Ramadan craft
Arts and crafts can be fun and therapeutic. But you don’t need hours in front of an easel to enjoy them. Google “fast and easy crafts” to come up with some great ideas that you can adopt and adapt for Ramadan. Make sure older kids in the house also participate. Also, have all of the materials and preparations done beforehand so the actual craft work really does take 10 minutes or less.
5. Daily dua ritual
This can be done right after the family has prayed together, or if that is not possible, at any other point in the day that everyone is in the same place, be it the home or the car. Begin by praising Allah, and then the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. After this, each person takes turns making one Dua. It could be for better health for a family member, a pet, or a gift wish for Eid. Make sure to set a timer and to remind participants to keep their duas short and meaningful so that everyone gets a chance to share.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
Repelling Evil
Al-Rad (Thunder) Chapter 13: Verse 22 (partial)
"... And those who repel evil with good"
What is meant here is that in their daily dealings with others, the believers reply to the evil done by others to them by doing what is good. The verse, however, stresses the result, rather than the action leading to it. When an evil action is returned with something good, this has a dampening effect on the evil tendency in others, encouraging them to do good instead, and helping them to resist Satan's promptings. Eventually, it repels the evil action and prevents it. Hence, the verse emphasizes this result and gives it prominence by way of encouraging people to reply to an evil action with a good one.
Moreover, there is a subtle reference here to returning evil with good only when this helps to prevent, rather than encourage evil. When evil is uncompromising, it must be overpowered. To return it with good action only emboldens it, making it more intransigent.
Besides, the prevention of evil by means of good is feasible mostly in relations between equals. When the dispute is over faith, it is normally the case that arrogant aggressors and spreaders of corruption can only be dealt with by strong, decisive action. Quranic directives then should be considered and implemented on the basis of a rational and objective study of every situation to determine the best course under the circumstances.
Compiled From:
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 10, pp.186, 187

Understanding the Prophet's Life (peace be upon him)
Trustworthiness is a cornerstone of belief. According to God's Messenger (peace be upon him), breaching a trust is a sign of the end of time: "When a trust is breached, expect the end of time." When his Companions asked how a trust would be breached, he answered: "If a job or post is assigned to the unqualified, expect the end of time." [Bukhari]
Assigning qualified people to jobs or posts is a social trust and plays a significant role in public administration and social order. Its abuse causes social disorder. Trustworthiness is so essential an aspect of belief that God's Messenger once declared: "One who is not trustworthy is not a believer." [Ibn Hanbal] and described a believer as one whom the people trust with their blood and property. [Tirmidhi]
Compiled From:
"The Messenger of God: Muhammad" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 73, 74

Enemy's Narratives
There is much talk of the need for dialogue as a way of improving international relations. But will it be an aggressive dialogue that seeks to humiliate, manipulate, or defeat? Are we prepared to "make place for the other," or are we determined simply to impose our own will? An essential part of this dialogue must be the effort to listen. We have to make a more serious effort to hear one another's narratives. All too often, when the enemy starts to tell his story, the other side interrupts, shouts him down, objects, and denounces it as false and inaccurate. But a story often reflects the inner meaning of an event rather than factual, historical accuracy. As any psychoanalyst knows, stories of pain, betrayal, and atrocity give expression to the emotional dimension of an episode, which is just as important to the speaker as what actually happened. We need to listen to the undercurrent of pain in our enemy's story. And we should be aware as well that our version of the same event is also likely to be a reflection upon our own situation and suffering rather than a dispassionate and wholly factual account. We have to learn to look carefully and deeply into our own hearts and thus learn to see the sorrow of our enemy.
Compiled From:
"Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" - Karen Armstrong, pp.187, 188

Monday, June 9, 2014

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
Al-Maida (The Table Spread) Chapter 5: Verse 88 (partial)
"Eat of what God has provided you as a lawful (halal) and good (tayyib)."
Tayyib is an adjective, the most basic semantic function of which is to denote any quality that strikes the sense - the sense of taste and odour, in particular - as very delightful, pleasant, and sweet. As would be expected, it is most frequently used to qualify food, water, perfume, and the like.
It is noteworthy that in the case of food, which, as everybody knows, constitutes an important item among those things that tend to be surrounded by all sorts of taboos, the Quran brings in the specific idea of 'sanctification', by associating tayyib with halal which means 'lawful' in the sense of 'free from all taboo'. So in this particular sense tayyib becomes almost a synonym of halal.
Compiled From:
"Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran" - Toshihiko Izutsu, p. 235

Understanding the Prophet's Life (peace be upon him)
In his daily life, though he was preoccupied by attacks, treachery, and his enemies' thirst for revenge, Muhammad (peace be upon him) remained mindful of the small details of life and of the expectations of those around him, constantly allying rigor and the generosity of fraternity and forgiveness.
His Companions and his wives saw him pray for hours during the night, away from the others, alone with the whispered prayers and invocations that nurtured his dialogue with the One. Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), his wife, was impressed and surprised: "Don't you take on too much [worship] while God has already forgiven all your past and future sins?" The Prophet answered: "How could I but be a thankful servant?" [Bukhari, Muslim] He did not demand of his Companions the worship, fasting, and meditations that he exacted of himself. On the contrary, he required that they ease their burden and avoid excess. He once exclaimed, repeating it three times: "Woe to those who exaggerate [who are too strict]!" [Muslim] And on another occasion, he said: "Moderation, moderation! For only with moderation will you succeed." [Bukhari]
Compiled From:
"In The Footsteps of The Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, pp.  111, 112

Some Muslims may argue that, since God is the Lawgiver, there should not be a legislative body in an Islamic state. In fact, the legislature specifies and puts in detail the required laws, while the Quran and Sunna present general principles and certain rules. Even in the case of such particular rules in the Quran or the Sunna, different interpretations and jurisprudential views might arise about a certain text on the grounds of its language and its relation to other relevant texts. It is essential that a certain interpretation or jurisprudential view should be adopted by the state as a law, and this has to be decided by the legislature, so that the courts may not be left to different rules that may be applied in the same case according to the views and discretion of different judges—a complaint the well-known writer Ibn al-Muqaffa [d. 142H./759 C.E.] made in his time.
Besides, there is extensive room for what is allowed by sharia "al-mubah," and such an enormous area of allowed matters ought to be organized in a certain way, making any of them mandatory, forbidden, or optional according to the changing circumstances in different times and places. Public interest has its consideration in introducing new laws, which were not specified in the Quran and Sunna, but which are needed in a certain time or place, and which do not contradict any other specific rule in the divine sources, but can be supported by the general goals and principles of sharia. Many laws are required in a modern state in various areas such as traffic, irrigation, construction, roads, transportation, industry, business, currency, importing and exporting, public health, education, and so on, and they must only be provided according to the consideration of public interest or in the light of the general goals and principles of sharia, as there are no specific texts in the Quran and Sunna that directly deal with every emerging need in every time and place.
Compiled From:
"Islam in a Modern State: Democracy and the Concept of Shura" - Fathi Osman

Monday, June 2, 2014

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
To Serve
Ya Sin (Ya Sin) Chapter 36: Verses 60, 61
"Children of Adam, did I not command you not to serve Satan? He is to you an open enemy. And serve Me alone, this is the Straight Way."
While explaining this verse in his al-Tafsir al-Kabir, Imam Razi points out that "do not serve Satan" means "do not obey Satan". It is not only forbidden to prostrate before him; it is equally forbidden to obey him. Hence, obedience to someone amounts to serving him. After making this point, Imam Razi asks: "If ibadah means obedience, then what is meant by the command 'to obey Allah, and His Messenger and those in authority among you'?" Does it mean that we are required to serve and worship the Messenger and those in authority among us? Imam Razi responds to this by saying that obedience to the Messenger and to those in authority among the Muslims amounts to serving and obeying God only if the order to obey is in accord with God's command. Obedience to them, however, will be reckoned as serving and worshipping them [rather than God] when people obey them in matters where obeying them has no sanction.
Imam Razi adds: "The angels prostrated before Adam at God's command, [and since it was in compliance with God's command], this was an act of worshipping none other than God. Imam Razi continues: "If someone were to come to you and ask you to carry out a command, consider whether this command conforms to God's command or not. If it does not conform to God's command, then his companion is Satan. In such a case, if one obeys him one is guilty of worshipping that person and his Satan. Likewise, if a person's self prompts him to do something he should consider whether God's Law permits that act or not. If that act is not permitted, then his self itself is Satan or Satan's companion. In case he follows the prompting of his own self, one is guilty of worshipping one's self."
Compiled From:
"Towards Understanding the Quran" - Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, vol. IX, pp. 268, 269

Understanding the Prophet's Life (peace be upon him)
Allah's Help
"Allah is helping the servant as long as the servant is helping his brother." [Muslim]
If Allah is helping a person, is there anyone or anything that can repel Allah's help? Is there any greater help than the help that can come from Allah? How can one achieve that magnificent help? It is by turning to his brethren and helping them. As he helps his brothers, Allah will help him.
This hadith gives a picture of what the ideal Islamic society should be like. It is a society in which its members help and assist one another. The different members of society should be working together and helping one another for everything that is good and righteous. They should help each other fulfill their needs and they should assist each other to make life easier for all.
Compiled From:
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo, pp. 1325, 1326
Rights and Obligations
The word haqq is often said to convey a basic meaning regardless of definitions. Haqq (right) in the Quran occurs in several places and carries a variety of meanings, which include justice, right as opposed to falsehood, a legal claim, an obligation, something that is proven and an assigned portion. The many meanings of haqq in the Quran may sometimes cause ambiguity, and even misunderstanding. For instance the shared meaning of haqq between a right and an obligation has persuaded Western Islamologists to draw the unwarranted conclusion that Islam recognizes only obligations but no right inhering in the individual. This is tantamount to turning a blind eye to the affirmative stance of the Quran and Sunnah on the rights of the individual, including his right to life, right to justice, right to equality, right of ownership, right to sustenance and support within the family, parental rights, right of inheritance and so forth.
Islam's commitment to justice and its advocacy of human dignity could not be sustained without the recognition of rights. However, Islam's perspective on rights and liberties is somewhat different from that of constitutional law and democracy and their underlying Western postulates. Islam, like other world religions, is primarily concerned with human relations. In ordinary life, people do not live primarily in terms of rights against others but in terms of mutual relationships involving love, compassion, self-preservation and self-sacrifice in pursuit of happiness and peace for themselves and their loved ones. The religious traditions teach people, with good reason, that such things are not a matter of course nor are they always a question of rights. This would partially explain why most religions tend to emphasize moral virtue, obligation, love and sacrifice even more than the individual's rights and claims.
Compiled From:
"Shariah Law - An Introduction" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 201, 202