Not prepared for Ramadan? The door is open anyway

Muslim woman prays at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, in Ramadan 2009

Muslim woman prays at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, in Ramadan 2009

By Maryam Amir

If you cannot fast this Ramadan, if you cannot go to the masjid for tarawih, if you’ve been so overwhelmed that the month has crept up and you don’t feel like you’re at all prepared, remember:

Ramadan is the month of mercy anyway. Ramadan is the month of forgiveness anyway. Ramadan is the month of acceptance and rewards and prayers answered anyway.

Instead of feeling guilty and angry over your inability to fast and spend this month in the masjid or your lack of preparation, find creative ways to reconnect with your Creator. Your taking care of your health, your taking care of others, your duaa, your Quran, your dhikr, your charity, your doing the laundry and going to work and taking care of the kids and supporting your parents and studying for exams- all of them, all of them, are acts of worship magnified in this month by your intention.

If you feel the door has shut for you and the month hasn’t even begun, remember, “Allah will not close a door to His servant out of wisdom, except that He opens two doors for him out of mercy.” Ibn al-Qayyim

Allahuma, we are not ready, our hearts are hard and our vices many, but You are All Forgiving, All Loving and All Answering and all is easy for You – so make us successful anyway! Bring us close to You anyway! Be pleased with us, forgive us, answer us and enter us and every one of our loved ones into the highest Paradise without reckoning anyway! ameen!

Ramadan is Half of Sabr (Patience & Endurance)

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Does the suffering of the Muslim Ummah leave you feeling depressed and constantly angry? Read this transcript of a talk by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. It’s long, but take the time to read it, as it’s really quite profound:

“One of the things about the current crises in the Muslim world, is that it’s very disheartening for people. A lot of people feel really, really.. I get calls from people lately and they’re.. A lot of depression in our community. I mean, really, like.. A lot of people feel very, very down. And the thing about.. what you’re doing when you succumb to those feelings and those emotions—and the Prophet (sws), you know, he had periods where he was down—undeniably, you know, he was a human being. So, that’s part of being a human being; you don’t have to be up all the time. But, to succumb to that. To allow the conditions of this planet to enter you into a grief state, you’re just adding yourself to a long list of Iblees’s victims. That’s all you’re doing. He has a long list of victims. And what he wants to do is just depress everybody, to thrust depression into your hearts.

So, you know, we really have to resist that temptation. Because it’s actually, it’s somewhat of a self-indulgent one. No matter how hard whatever we’re going through—and each one of us, we all know our troubles. Because Ibn Abbas said, ‘the nature of this dunya is that it is dar al balaa.’ That is the baseline nature of the world; it is a place of tribulation. That’s what it is.

And the Prophet (sws) said—he calls Ramadan ‘shahr as-sabr’, and he said, ‘Ramadan nifs as-sabr’—‘Ramadan is half of sabr.’ And the ulema said, Rajab Hanbali said, the reason Ramadan is half of sabr is because sabr is in three parts; being patient with obedience, patience in restraining yourself from disobedience, and being patient with the decrees of God that are difficult, that are painful. And he said that Ramadan has all three. Because you’re restraining from doing things that are haram, you’re patient with being obedient, through your fasting. And then, there are difficulties that go just with depriving yourself of food, and water, and these things. It’s a qadar —qadar of Allah. So it’s accepting the qadar of Allah.

So, that’s the nature of the dunya. It’s dar al balaa. So people know what they’re going through, but.. Ibn Abbas said in every tribulation are three blessings, hidden; the first one is that it could be worse. If you lost a hand, you could have lost both hands. If you lost an eye, you could have lost both eyes. If you went blind, you could have gotten dementia. There’s always something that could have been worse, that’s the first. The second is that it’s in your dunya and not in your deen. So even if you lost money, it’s just money. If you lost anything, if it’s dunya, it’s not important. And the last one, is that you’re still in this abode; it’s not in the next one. Because that’s where the real tribulation is.

So whatever difficulties you’re having, there are people in this ummah right now having much worse.”

—Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Let Ramadan Do Its Work

My daughter Salma sitting in our garage

My daughter Salma sitting in our somewhat cluttered garage.

By Wael Abdelgawad |

•*• Ramadan Mubarak! •*• Alhamdulillah for the arrival of this sacred and special month! May Allah bless our brothers and sisters all over the world.

Going into Ramadan, many of us are experiencing hardships of some kind. Some of us are dealing with painful relationship problems, difficulties in our marriages, problems with in-laws, breakups, debt, loneliness, or are struggling with feelings of shame and guilt.

Let’s allow Ramadan to be a soothing balm for our souls. Let it purify us. Let Ramadan remind us of Allah’s immense and infinite favors. Let Ramadan do its inner work on us, and when it’s over let’s not go back to what we were.

If Ramadan allows us to climb ten steps higher on the ladder toward Jannah, then maybe after Ramadan we fall back two or three steps, but not all the way. Be better and stronger than we were. This holy month will teach us, if we let it.

New Habits, Insha’Allah

I told my daughter Salma a few days ago – she just turned six years old – that Ramadan is a time for giving up not only food and water, but also bad habits. I said, “Let’s make a deal. I will try not to lose my temper when you misbehave, and you will work on being less grouchy and more grateful for all your blessings.” To my pleasure, Salma smiled and said, “Okay, that’s  a deal.”

Of course I don’t want this to be a change in Ramadan only. I hope that Ramadan will set me on a new course, enabling me to be a better parent all year long, and will teach my daughter how to be more aware of the ne’mah (blessings and provisions)  in her life.

As for the fast itself, it is hard. Ramadan is in summertime, while much of the world is suffering from heat and drought. When we get to Maghreb, it’s a relief and a joy to break fast, especially with family and friends.

Even better than that is Allah’s reward, which comes when we need it most and least expect it, and is always greater than we can imagine, Insha’Allah.

As the Messenger of Allah (sws) said, “The fasting person experiences two joys: one when he breaks his fast, and one when he meets His Lord” (Muslim).

Give Sadaqah and Make Dua’

Lastly, let’s remember those who are suffering. Afghanistan and Yemen are in the midst of famine. The Horn of Africa is withering from drought. The people of Syria are struggling and dying as we speak. Give sadaqah if you can, through organizations such as Islamic Relief, Islamic Relief UK, and Life for Relief and Development.

And make dua’! Your dua’ matters. The Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, said that there are three whose dua is never rejected by Allah: a fasting person at the time of breaking fast, the just ruler and the one who is oppressed.’ (Ahmad,Tirmidhi)

O Allah, for You do we fast, and for You do we break our fast. All praise is due to You, who fed us, and gave us to drink, and made us Muslims. Purify us during this month, relieve us from our burdens, and forgive us. – Ameen.

What to Say on Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power

Center of the Milky Way galaxy, as seen from Cherry Springs State Park

Center of the Milky Way galaxy, as seen from Cherry Springs State Park, one of the darkest places in the USA.

By Wael Abdelgawad |

The last ten nights of Ramadan are here. This is an amazing, powerful, unique time. These days are the most spiritually charged days of the year, more full of power than a great star or the mighty ocean. And one of these days is Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power, equal to a thousand months. Every prayer is magnified, every good deed is multiplied exponentially.

What to say during Laylat al-Qadr? It is recommended to supplicate a lot during this night.

It is reported from ‘Aisha (ra), that she said: “O Messenger of ALLAH! What if I knew which night Lailatul-Qadr was, then what should I say in it?” The Prophet (PBUH) said.- “Say.-

(Allahumma innaka ‘affuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee.)

“O ALLAH You are The One Who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me.”

[reported by at-Tirmithi]

I also wish to remind everyone that all difficulties pass, all troubles pass. Hard times don’t last, but strong people do! Worry if you must, but do not fear. Allah is with you. He is The Forgiving, The Merciful, The Loving, and the Giver of Peace. Call upon Him, especially during this blessed time.

As one of my readers said, call upon Allah using His beautiful Names…

Ar-Rahman – All Compassionate
Ar-Raheem – Most Merciful
Al-Wadood – All Loving

You have no idea how much your worship at this special time is valued. More than any of us can count. SubhanAllah.

A Gate in Paradise Called Ar-Rayyaan

St. Louis Gateway Arch, seen from the park

By Wael Abdelgawad |

The holy month of Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, purification, worship, charity and forgiveness, all to bring us closer to our Creator.

There are so many blessings and benefits to fasting in Ramadan. Some are physical, some are spiritual, and some relate purely to our aakhirah.

Among these blessings is the right to enter through Bab Ar-Rayyaan:

Narrated Sahl (ra) : The Prophet (sws – peace be upon him) said,

“Indeed, there is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Rayaan. On the Day of Resurrection, those who fasted will enter it and none except them will enter. It will be said, ‘Where are those who used to fast?’ They will arise and none except them will enter it. After their entry, the gate will be closed and none will enter it.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 120]

Many Muslims have heard this hadith, but most don’t know the meaning of this name, “Ar-Rayyaan”. In fact I was at the masjid recently for a Ramadan class and I asked the Imam this question and he did not know. So when I got home I looked it up:  the linguistic meaning of Ar-Rayyaan is something that is well-watered, and therefore lush, succulent and beautiful…

Doesn’t it sound lovely? I imagine it surrounded by water, maybe a river, stream, or a waterfall… A tall and shining gate, beautifully decorated, silver or golden… Allah knows best.

I want to walk through that gate, and I want the same for my daughter Salma. At this moment, I want that more than anything else I can imagine… if I achieve that, then I will have succeeded in life.

Fasting is a Key

Why should there be a gateway to Jannah only for those who fast? What is so special about fasting for only month every year, as opposed to praying every day, or making the great effort of Hajj, or giving one’s hard-earned money in charity, or any other important Islamic deed?

Actually we know from various saheeh hadeeth (authentic narrations of the Prophet) that there are many gates to Jannah. Some will reward people who perform specific actions, and according to the Prophet (sws), certain individuals willed be called to all the gates, and may enter from whichever they choose. SubhanAllah. This is a fascinating subject in its own right. However, Bab Ar-Rayyaan has been mentioned quite prominently in the narrations. It is clearly an important and privileged gate.

Why is that?

Fasting is designed to put us into a state of hyper-awareness of Allah. Hasan al-Basri said,

“By Allah, in the last twenty years, I have not said a word or taken something with my hand or refrained to take something with my hand or stepped forth or stepped back, except that I have thought before I have done any action, ‘Does Allah love this action? Is Allah pleased with this action?'”

This is how we should be when fasting. The fast is a highly personal act of worship between the servant and the Creator. It’s an invisible act. When you pray or perform tawaaf, you can be seen by others, so there is always the risk of one’s intention being tainted by the desire to be seen or admired. However, when we are fasting, no one can look at us and know that we are fasting. Even in Ramadan, a person could eat or drink secretly. It is an honor system. That is why Allah said in a hadith qudsi, “Fasting is for Me and I reward it.” (al-Bukhari)

Another truth is that fasting is difficult. It is more arduous than salat, or giving sadaqah. When done properly, fasting can be very hard, especially in summer or in hot climates. For me personally, fasting at the height of summer is the most punishing physical experience I go through, particularly on the days when I have martial arts classes scheduled.

The greatest mistake would be to think that fasting is only about hunger, thirst and abstinence. It seems to me that fasting is a physical experience that opens the doorway to a spiritual state of being. The hardship of fasting is a key that unlocks a tremendous reservoir of strength, and that plunges one into a state of humility, and an extreme awareness of one’s actions before Allah.

That’s ultimately what fasting is about. It is about being conscious of Allah, sacrificing for Him, being humbled before Him, growing closer to Him, and pleasing Him.

Fasting is a key that opens a door. And the door is called Ar-Rayyaan.

May Allah make us among those who enter through Ar-Rayyaan.

Ramadan is over, but we are still Muslims

Sunset over a lake in Canada

“Ramadan is over. Life goes on. But we are still Muslim, and Allah is still our Lord. We still call to Allah even though we’re not surrounded by hundreds every night who are doing the same. We still pray our salat because it’s required of us inside of Ramadan and outside of it. We hold on tight to this passion for seeking Allah’s great pleasure and we will fight for it if we feel it slipping.

We are not Ramadan Muslims, we are Real Muslims, and we act like it.”

– Shezena Mohammed, creator of the “Islamic Inspiration” Facebook page.

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Pieces of a Dream