July 20th, 2012
A Season of Sincerity and Forgiveness
Praise be to Allah SWT who has blessed us with another month of Ramadan, the season of increased sincerity and forgiveness. Allah SWT has granted humans with two distinctive beings: the angelic and the animalistic. Human soul represents the angelic being in us while the body represents the animalistic powers in us. The act of balancing the two aspects of our existence and giving upper hand to the spiritual dimension is the essence of Islamic religion. Throughout the year we tend to feed the body usually at the expense of our spiritual and moral needs. We indulge too much into eating, drinking and all kinds of physical pleasures. Consequently the animalistic being in us gets spoiled, becomes rebellious and tend to control our daily routines and actions. The month of Ramadan brings the change. It requires us to voluntarily forego during the day food and other bodily necessities to curtail and discipline our animalistic being. This act of disciplining the body and subduing carnal desires lets the angelic being in us take the driving seat. That is where we are able to say "No" to many of our bad habits and sinful routines. That is what the Prophet SAW stated in one of his authentic Ahadith. In a metaphorical sense he SAW has explained that Satan runs like blood in humans. Therefore narrowing Satan's passages with hunger helps Muslims avoid satanic impulses. That is also the reason that the doors of Jannah are wide open and the doors of Jahannam are closed during this season of obedience.
The properly nourished and strengthened soul connects us with Allah SWT. We feel His presence in our lives and feel Haya from committing sins in His presence. This sense of closeness to Allah SWT is the essence of Taqwa which in turn is the goal of fasting, as the Qura'n states. We do not eat or drink during the day in spite of many available opportunities just because He SWT has commanded so. This enhances our sincerity by eliminating possibilities of Riyaa or show off. That is why Allah SWT states in a Hadith Qudsi that "Every act of man is for him except fasting. Fasting is solely for me and I am the only One Who would reward such an act (of sincerity).
Fasting brings inward as well as outward reformation. It inculcates in us a sense of sympathy toward the less fortunate members of our community and makes us appreciate God given bounties. It harnesses the sense of Muslim unity and Islamic universalism. The month of Ramadan is the season of patience, sympathy, charity, almsgiving, prayers, simplicity and brotherhood. This is the season of forgiveness. The Prophet SAW said that whosoever fasts the month of Ramadan with proper faith and hope, all his/her past sins are forgiven.
May Allah SWT make it a very blessed month for all of us. Ameen.
June 15th, 2012
Israa and Mi'raaj: The Message of Hope
Israa means nightly journey and Mi'raaj literally means a ladder and is metaphorically used to denote ascension or lifting something up. The miraculous night journey of the Prophet (SAW) is authenticated by the Qur'an, Sunnah and historical traditions. Muslim scholars have differed over the exact date and nature of this significant event in the Prophetic life. Some have argued that it was a spiritual rather than a physical journey while the majority has maintained that it was both a spiritual as well as a bodily journey. Both groups have their supporting arguments from the Sunnah. Arguments of the group which maintains that the Prophet (SAW) ascended to heaven physically are undoubtedly far stronger than the other opinion. Allah SWT has used the word "'abdihi" in the Qur'an while referring to this journey. It means that He SWT took His servant to the heavens and the servant is comprised of both body and soul. The Prophet (SAW) was many times honored with spiritual ascension in a dream mode but with a bodily ascension only once in his lifetime. That is why some scholars are confused about the exact date of the event. Otherwise there is a kind of consensus among jurists that the bodily ascension took place between 12 to 16 months before Prophetic Hijrah to Madinah. This places it in the month of Rajab. The majority of the Muslim jurists prefer the 27th day of Rajab for this significant event of bodily Israa and Mi'raaj.
The lessons of Israa and Mi'raaj are more important than the exact date or nature of it. The message of hope, success and triumph is among the most important lessons of Israa and Mi'raaj. This event happened at a time when the Prophet (SAW) was at the lowest point of his historical life. He had preached in Makkah for about 11 years without much success. In the last year of his stay in Makkah he had experienced some trying events such as the death of his patron uncle Abu Talib without him accepting Islam and, soon after that, the death of Khadija, the supportive wife of the Prophet (SAW), and then the stoning at Ta'if. It seemed as if the Prophet (SAW) had lost all possible earthly sources of protection and support. There was nobody left in the entire city of Makkah who could willingly lend him a helping hand to enter the city of his birth. He was despised, chastised and physically persecuted by his own relatives. Through the experience of Israa and Mi'raaj Allah SWT gave him special consolation, hope and strength and he returned from the heavens with renewed hope for safety, protection and success. This divine hope was essential for him to get over the past anxieties and failures and embark upon the new phase of migration to a different city, building a new community, a new state and a new Ummah in the city of Madinah.
The Muslims of the 21st century need to reflect upon these lessons rather than debating the exact date and nature of Israa and Mi'raaj. This event should renew our faith and trust in Allah SWT, give us a renewed hope of His Loving Mercy and Protection. The sense of hopelessness quite visible among the Muslims of Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and other places will dissipate if Muslims reflect on the event of Israa and Mi'raaj. Allah SWT always brings ease after hardship.
June 8th, 2012
Rajab: The Prelude to the Month of Ramadan
Today is 11th of Rajab, the seven month of Islamic lunar calendar. Rajab is one of the four most sacred months in which all kinds of fighting are prohibited. The Prophet (SAW) used to make the following Dua' after sighting the Moon of Rajab. "O Allah, make the months of Rajab and Sha'ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadan (i.e. prolong our life up to Ramadan, so that we may benefit from its merits and blessings)." He would use the month of Rajab as a prelude to the month of blessed Ramadan.
Unfortunately, some Muslims have introduced some specific rituals and acts of devotion in the month of Rajab and claim that these invented rituals are prescribed by the Sunnah and authenticated by the Qur'an. For instance, celebration of the Nightly Journey on the 27th of Rajab (Lailatul Mi'raj), the special prayer called the Salat of "Ragha'ib", sacrifice in the month of Rajab and special Umrah during this month. None of these acts are authenticated by the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) or by the Qur'an itself. The Qur'an does talk about the Nightly Journey but neither the Qur'an nor the Ahadith specify any day, month or the year for this miraculous journey. Although 27th of Rajab is commonly accepted as the date of Isra and Mi'raaj, there is no consensus among Muslim scholarship about it. Therefore, specifying this day for fasting and its night for special Qiyam (prayers) is not a Sunnah. The act of fasting and the Qiyam is always rewarding but there is no special reward connected with this day or this night.
The Prophet (SAW) used to focus more upon the Ibadah in general throughout the months of Rajab and Sha'abaan. Attaining Taqwa is the goal of fasting as the Qur'an states in Surah al-Baqarah verse 183. In the same Surah it is explained that the prelude to Taqwa is Ibadah in general. The Qur'an advises humanity to worship Allah SWT so that they can attain piety 2:21. Therefore the prescribed acts of worship such as prayers, fasting, recitation of the Qur'an and other acts of goodness such as forgiveness, charity, mercy and love are the acts which were emphasized upon by the Prophet (SAW) during the month of Rajab and Sha'abaan.
Ibadah is defined as the sincere act of humility and servitude done solely for the pleasure of Allah SWT. Therefore whatever pleases Allah SWT whether acts or statements, public or private will all be categorized as acts of Ibadah. We should take this month of Rajab as a prelude to the marathon of Ramadan al Mubarak and prepare ourselves mentally and physically so that we can truly benefit from the blessings of Ramadan. Regular and additional prayers, focused recitation and memorization of the Qur'an and supplementary acts of fasting and charity are the best preparations for Ramadan. Additionally, making up for the missed days of previous Ramadan/Ramadans before the start of this Ramadan is a must for those who are healthy enough to do so. Nobody knows when the call will come and one will have to go back to Allah SWT. Therefore, we should make up for the missed days and pay off our debts, seek forgiveness and focus upon repentance and Tawbah rather than making ourselves busy with celebrations or ritual not authenticated by the Sunnah.