Living The Quran Reasons to Fast Al Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 183
you who Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was
prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop consciousness
“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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
"The Fasting of Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action, and Change!" - Taha Ghayyur & Taha Ghaznavi
Understanding the Prophet's Life Guilt
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]
“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
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
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.
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]
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.
Living The Quran Tayyib 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.
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
Living The Quran To Serve Ya Sin (Ya Sin) Chapter 36: Verses 60, 61
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."
Understanding the Prophet's Life 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
Blindspot! 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
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.