Monday, August 31, 2009

Ramadaan: Just You and Allah

So we're finally in the month of Ramadaan--- fasting and inshallah gaining the blessing of this month. However, we might feel that we're not truly taking advantage of the time that is given to us. We really haven't really committed that much time and energy perhaps into ibadah (worship) and/or dhikr (remembrance), perhaps we're not feeling the "Ramadaan spirit."

Personally for me, I try to read more Quran and understand the meaning by complementing it with an English translation after I read. However, sometimes this isn't enough for me. I feel the need to do more dhikr, ibadah, etc. What's sad though is that alot of us aren't doing enough and/or taking advantage of this time for introspection and spiritual improvement. In a hadith it says:

Narrated AbuHurayrah Allah's Messenger said, "Many a one who fasts obtains nothing from his fasting but thirst, and many a one who prays during the night obtains nothing from his night prayers but wakefulness." Hadith - Al-Tirmidhi #1989, [Darimi transmitted it.]

What's scary is sometimes we find ourselves just doing the fasting rites mechanically and without much thought or effort. We go to taraweeh prayers perhaps (complain how long it is ) and pray the five daily prayers without much thought (for some---rushed and incomplete). We find that we become lax and/or mechanical and lose focus during Ramadaan and end up forgetting why we're doing what we're doing.Sometimes we get caught up with the social aspect of Ramadaan and focus on the food preparation and iftaars (go overboard when we break our fasts and forget the reason we've fasted). What we should ponder upon is how during this time it's just us and Allah. We can't blame any shaytaan, jinn or other human being for our thoughts,actions, etc---it's all you, just you and Allah.

This is your time to get closer to Allah. The gates of Jannah are open and the gates of hell are closed. Thus Allah is calling us to Jannah. If you haven't changed for the better during Ramadaan and are continually going down the opposite direction, then in essence you're knocking on the doors of hell. There are two options: you can answer Allah's invitation to Jannah and getting closer to Him or you can continue to disobey and go further down the wrong direction, the choice is yours---it's just you and Allah.

`Arfajah said "We were with `Utbah ibn Farqad while he was discussing Ramadan. A companion of the Prophet entered upon the scene. When `Utbah saw him, he became shy and stopped talking. The man [the companion] spoke about Ramadan, saying "I heard the Messenger of Allah say during Ramadan: "The gates of Hell are closed, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the devils are in chains. An angel calls out : 'O you who intend to do good deeds, have glad tidings. O you who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadan is completed. (Hadith - Ahmad and an-Nasa'i)

And alot of times our fasts feel incomplete. That may be due to our lack of change for the better. In a hadith it's related that:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever does not leave off false speech and false conduct, Allah has no need of his leaving off food and drink."

[Sahih Bukhari]

Thus, some of us do not change during Ramadaan or for some it's a temporary Ramadaan change. There is the phenomenon of "Ramadaan Muslims" i.e. those who treat taraweeh prayer as fard, temporarily stop bad deeds during Ramadaan and only come to the masjid during Ramadaan. If we're to truly benefit from this Ramadaan, we should definitely make sure these deeds we're doing during Ramadaan are sincere, lasting and are deeds we can continue throughout the year. We can tell our spiritual progress if we check our spiritual standing by comparing it to last Ramadaan---are we the same or have we improved spiritually? Have we made progress?

This is a time to come closer to Allah and gain taqwa (God-consciousness):

O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqûn (the pious - see V.2:2). (2:183)

If we don't gain this from Ramadaan the quality of our ibadah should be examined more closely. We are fasting for the sake of Allah only:

On the authority of Abu Harayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (peace be upon him), who said: Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says:

Fasting is Mine and it I who give reward for it. [A man] gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for my sake. Fasting is like a shield, and he who fasts has two joys: a joy whin he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The change in the breath of the mouth of him who fasts is better in Allah's estimation than the smell of musk.

It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim, Malik, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah).

If we have started doing good deeds during Ramadaan, we should make intention to continue these acts of worship throughout the year inshallah. The best deeds are those that are small, but done consistently. So we should start of small and eventually with these small deeds improve ourselves spiritually. These small deeds polish the heart and eventually over time heal it of the distractions in our life that keep us away from Allah and His remembrance. We should make dua to Allah as our duas are most likely to be accepted during our fast and during the month of Ramadaan:

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said; Three supplications will not be rejected (by Allah (SWT)), the supplication of the parent for his child, the supplication of the one who is fasting, and the supplication of the traveler.

[al-Bayhaqi, at-Tirmidhi - Sahih]

On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: Allah the Almighty said:

O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.

It was related by at-Tirmidhi (also by Ahmad ibn Hanbal). Its chain of authorities is sound.

So answer Allah's invitation to Jannah, because this is some one on one time with Allah you won't find anytime else. Let this be the time you truly change for the better, forgive those who've hurt you in the past, improve yourself spiritually and in every other way. Start making dua to Allah more frequently and know that Allah's listening because during Ramadaan---it's just you and Allah.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

thinkin fast like Ramadan

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

" The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) addressed his companions on the last day of Sha`ban, saying, 'Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer's sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast, shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Fire of Hell, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all.' " [Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah]

Assalaam Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu

There’s always something special about Ramadan that I can’t quite put my finger on; a certain distinctness about it that really isn’t felt at any other time of the year. And I’m really not being politically correct here. In years past, I couldn’t wait until Ramadan ended, but over time, I’ve grown to feel an emptiness and a longing whenever the blessed month ended each year. I never feel that calmness and serenity at any other time of the year. When else have you gotten the same feeling at some other time of the year that you experience during Iftaar and Taraweeh prayers? So it’s gotta be SOMETHING.

Is it the shayateen being enchained?

You definitely experience something change once Ramadan begins. In my opinion, the significance is two-fold: 1) less temptation from their whisperings, 2) you realize your own shortcomings, and now have the opportunity to better yourself without their obstruction. A couple of points we really need to take advantage of.

Is it Lailatul Qadr?

If you do the math, 1000 months come out to roughly 83 years.1000/12 = 83.3(repeating). So the night of Lailat’ul-Qadr is better than 83 years (roughly) without a similar night. Factor in the fact that the current average life span is somewhere in the 60s-70’s and you start to see the value of this blessed night. Now I’ve heard that even 1000 months is just to indicate a lengthy period of time, but regardless, a single night being more important and special than 83 YEARS is pretty significant. It’s almost like an entire lifetime within a span of hours. I remember Br. Suleiman Jalloh doing the math with us in class, and then dropping another gem on us…Just like any other night, if you catch Isha and then Fajr in congregation, it’s as if you prayed the entire night….now imagine that on a night worth more than 1000 months…subhanAllah

Is it b/c this is the month in which the revelation of Scripture took place?And I’m not talking about just The Glorious Qur’an, but other scriptures as well. I just learned today, the Torah, the Zaboor, the Injeel were all revealed or started to be revealed during this month…I kid you not.

Is it because through fasting one attains Taqwa?

Is it because one gains a better understanding of what those less fortunate than us experience through fasting?

Is it the patience that one can gain by fasting?

Is it the inclination towards worship and dhikr while fasting, and restraining from haram, and/or the makrooh and halal while fasting?

What about the special status of fasting? As the reward, is with The Most Merciful.

What about the special gate of Ar-Rayyan through which those who fasted will enter Paradise?

…starting to get the picture about fasting?

By restraining ourselves from our appetites for food, water, marital relations, etc., one leans more towards his/her relationship with their Lord. The beautiful thing about fasting is unlike giving to charity or performing your prayers, other people do not know if you’re fasting or not. There’s less of a possibility for showing off. Controlling our carnal instincts allows us focus more on our spiritual state (even though what we’re abstaining from, may be Halal). So then the question I have to ask myself, and so do you: if we can abstain from the Halal, shouldn’t we make more of a concerted effort to abstain from the Haraam throughout the year? I am not a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination. I do not consider myself a role model. Many times, the same things I prohibit others from doing, I may fall into committing myself. But that shouldn’t stop me or anyone else who may feel similarly, from trying to better themselves inshAllah.

What about the constant recitation of the Qur’an?

Or what about standing for prayers throughout the night?

Did I mention that Allah SWT multiplies and increases His rewards during Ramadan?

Is it the possibility of having our sins wiped away?

Is it because the doors of Heaven are opened and the doors of Hell are closed?

…I hope I don’t have to keep going.

I don’t want to get into a lecture about doing this and doing that during Ramadan. That should be left to a more qualified person. I’m sure there are other aspects of Ramadan I either forgot to mention or don’t know about myself, but I just want us to realize some of these blessings, and make sure that we try to seize the opportunities presented to us inshAllah.

May all of us make the most out of this Ramadan, worshipping and making dhikr to the max, performing good deeds to the max, and growing spiritually to the max. Ameen. And may the Most Gracious shower His Blessings on us, forgive our sins, and keep us on The Straight Path. Ameen. May He save us from ourselves, from His Punishment, from the fire of Hell, and may He bless us to be amongst those who enter Jannat-al-Firdaus through His never ending Mercy. Ameen.

"Fasting is a shield with which a servant protects himself from the Fire." - The Prophet (pbuh)[Ahmad, Saheeh]
If you have seen or heard any goodness in this message, that goodness comes from The Strong, The Firm, and you should be thankful to Him for that. If you see any weakness or shortcomings in this message, it is from my own weakness and shortcomings, and I ask The All-Powerful and the people to forgive me for that. Ameen.

Assalaam Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

His Bounty is Infinite

From: "A Thematic Commentary on the Quran" - Muhammad al-Ghazali

Ibn Kathir reported that an influential man from Syria used to visit Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph, in Madinah regularly; then, one day, having been away for longer than usual Umar enquired after him and was told that the man had taken to drinking heavily. Umar wrote him a letter saying:

For your sake, I praise God, there is no God but He. He forgives sins and accepts repentance; His punishment is severe and His bounty is infinite. There is no God but He, and all shall return to Him.

He then turned to those around him and asked them to pray that God might accept the man's repentance. When the letter arrived, the man kept repeating the words: "He forgives sins and accepts repentance; His punishment is severe." He was heard saying: "I am being warned of God's punishment and promised His forgiveness," until he broke down sobbing, and from that day he abstained from drinking for good. When the news reached Umar, he said: "This is what you should do when someone commits a misdemeanour.

"Advise him, reassure him gently, never let him lose his self-confidence, pray to God for his sake, and do not help Satan to mislead him."

Today there are professed Muslims who have all but given up on God's mercy, and whose sole preoccupation seems to be to castigate and belittle others.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

the simple life...

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. "You may have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow, " he mused, "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In response to a quote...

"love isn't real, its just a fantasy"---500 days of summer

A friend quoted this movie...which i have not seen...but i liked the quote..
I used to wonder if love was real in like...8th grade.
i don't mean ooh lala lovey dovey - love at first sight junk...i mean every kind of love - love of your family, friends, wealth, health...anything that can be loved.

i came to this conclusion - love is only real when it's love for Allah (God,) all other loves are really just infatuations...

an infatuation for anything...a lust.
i.e. anything that is not loved for the sake of Allah is a vain attempt at love....just an infatuation...a false hope...a lust or a desire from the nafs/ego that we need to learn to suppress.
when you love for anything other than Allah you can trust that you will be disappointed by that thing - it can never make you truly happy
when your ultimate goal for happiness is Allah, then it doesn't matter what happens to you. you are happy with any outcome because you know Allah is the best of Planners and that being upset with something that has happened to you, is ultimately being upset with the will of Allah.

What wisdom is there in being upset with the one most deserving of your love? At the very least - what wisdom is there in being upset with the one who decides your eternity?

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for it is all good, and this does not apply to anyone except the believer. If something good happens to him, he gives thanks for it and that is good for him, and if something bad happens to him he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” Narrated by Muslim, 2999.