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Oct 11, 2007 - islam op-eds    4 Comments

Ramadan Diary 1428 – Quran…the Spring of your heart…

Bismillahir Rahman hirRaheem assalaatus salaam ala habeebuna wa oswatana, rasulullah salalllahu alayhi wa salam, wa ala aalihi, wa sahbahi wa salam. Amma ba’ad.

A trip to Umrah is beautiful spiritual enlightenment and wonder, ease and learning and experiencing new things. A trip to Hajj is spiritual struggle, physical difficulty, hardships, and cleansing, so much so — that when you’re done, you’re born anew. I feel like my Ramadans alternate between these two. This year was of the latter.

This year one of my main goals was to finish the Quran during the month. I’ve read it in English and in Arabic but this time I wanted to read it both in Arabic and with the meaning, all during this month. I wanted to do it at least once in my life while I still could since I’m not working right now and hopefully had the time. And what a struggle it has been. I know some Arabs who read it two or three times throughout the month! I still can’t figure out how they do that. Reading 1 juzz in Arabic and English takes me about 2 hours. And to find these two hours consistently, every day, consecutively throughout Ramadan on top of everything else has sure been a struggle. I’ve read the Quran at midnight, 4am, 7am, 1pm, 6pm, every time, sitting on a stoop, driving to NYC, going apple picking, in an eyeglass place lobby, every weird strange place you can imagine. I personally did not *want* to be reading like that but in order to make sure to complete a juzz a day, it ended up like that.

After reading the whole Quran (I have only 1 juzz left juzz amma the last one for tonight, the last night of Ramadan woo hoo!) I have a few observations.

First now that I know some Arabic and can truly understand the beauty of some Arabic linguistics I’m simply astounded by the beauty and breadth of the Quran. As a document it’s just amazing. It covers almost every topic generally or specifically, and gives us examples and parables and is as deep as poetry yet as simple as something you would explain to a child.

Right in the beginning of the Quran there’s a challenge: “And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed – then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers”

I remember a number of years ago pre 9/11 when a few sites popped up with the name “a surah like it” saying they were meeting the challenge. But then when you clicked on it, their Surah went like this: “In the name of Christ, the giving, compassionate. Thanks and praise be to the Messiah – etc.. etc” Is it creating a Surah like it if you take the Quran and replace God with Christ and Messiah! The other stuff was pretty laughable too. It didn’t quite have the venom of missionary sites today and eventually the sites disappeared after offending a lot of Muslims but I still remember their poor attempts.

I’ll say it here and now even though the Quran does not need any defending. It just can’t be done. The Quran is just amazing from beginning to end. It’s been a document of guidance, of social order, of law, of ethics, of history, of personal solace and spiritual awareness for BILLIONS of people for fourteen CENTURIES. Empires and nations have been created based upon it. Translators spend their entire lifetime just trying to approach a translation of it in their own language. People have taken phrases from it and have decorated everything from Taj Mahals to golden vases with it. I mean come on. And you’re telling me a single human being in the deserts of Arabia in the 6th century wrote this?

It’s just not possible. It’s certainly divine and it was nice to go through this month and when I read something beautiful or amazing or wonderful, clever, educational or reaffirming, in tears or in laughter or pondering something deeply touching, I’d shake my head in wonder at people who think these are words humans could have made up? I mean haven’t they read Rumi? Or Shakespeare? Arguably the best poets in the world? Now that is amazing poetry, but it still doesn’t come close to touching the Quran, not to mention finding the best jurist, or the best historian or the best Arabic grammarian etc.

The second thing that amazed me is that everything the Quran is telling people IS GOOD! The whole Quran is about doing good deeds, feeding the poor, sheltering the orphans, respecting women, helping those in need, standing up to oppressors, doing good in this world, not hoarding wealth, giving to the needy, fasting, controlling one’s base desires, helping travelers, praying to God, relying on Him, being modest, not doing anything evil or mean, not being arrogant or greedy. It’s ALL good things. Good things considered good UNIVERSALLY. Over and over and over again. Every prophet story, every parable, ever sentence and verse is about making us do good and bringing us good. Even in the things the media or Islam haters keep trying to bring up, the Quran is a voice of guidance and moderation and peace. And yet there is so much hate out there for Islam! Why? Look no one said you have to follow the Quran and be a good person, but why hate Islam and Muslims so much? Why are there so many attacks on Islam? From the pope, to our local papers, to blogs, to Danish cartoons, to talk radio-hosts, to “fake apostates-unite” websites, to missionaries? And I *know* it’s not about terrorism or whatever other excuses they give. They don’t even include intellectual or theological arguments anymore, it’s all about Islamophobia, sensationalism, trying to bash Islam with bin-laden or terrorism, stuff that has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

There is a reason. The closest I can put my finger on it is that it’s fear. Fear that they’ll have to stop what they’re doing and listen to God, fear that they’ll have to change their selfish lifestyles or make decisions that are for the greater good instead of themselves. Just fear of having to do good. There can’t be any other reason because the Quran’s whole message is about doing good.

I really like the people who are honest and just say, ‘I can’t become Muslim cuz I love pork’ or ‘I can’t do all these things like pray 5 times a day or give money’ or ‘I don’t like Islam because it’s all about deeds, I think people should just believe and be saved.’ Now that is honest, that is a valid objection and I like that. Not the usual lies and propaganda that are included in the attacks on Islam, Muslims and the Quran these days.

Third, the thing that struck me about the Quran is that while it is unequal in it’s beautiful dialog, ethics, principles, stories, ideas, etc. there is just no way an Angel could have come and dropped this on us and we become practicing Muslims of today. There had to be a messenger that receives divine guidance to explain and live all of these principles and practices and put them together for us. AND live in a community of people who lived all this and were examples for us. Without this with just the Quran being handed to us, how would we even begin to know how to pray? What would we do if we forgot a rakat? How do we do Hajj? How do we fast? What do we do if we forget and eat? How do we understand some of these verses? The Quran is unparallel, but we are human. And we needed a Messenger. ‘Quran-only’ pushers are deluded. Seriously deluded. I’ve heard some say “I’ll follow that if you can show me where it is in the Quran.” I often want to ask them if they’ve EVER read the Quran? It’s not a document that is going to detail every person’s strict daily actions and tell them in October 2007 this is how you are going to this exact action. To say we don’t need the Sunnah is like saying the Quran is not divine, because they’re asking for it to be the Sunnah. What a paradox!

Anyway I learned a lot from reading the Quran this month even though I found it hard time-wise. I recommend every Muslim to do this at least once in their life. Make intention inshaAllah for next Ramadan if you can and may Allah reward you all with the best of good.

May Allah make the Quran the Spring of your heart, the light of your breast, the dispeller of your sorrows, the eraser of your anxieties and a departure for your worries. Ameen

Wasalaam alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuhu.

Say: “If all mankind and all invisible beings would come together with a view to producing the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce its like even though they were to exert all their strength in aiding one another!” 17:88

Now this Qur’an could not possibly have been devised by anyone save God: nay indeed, it confirms the truth of whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations] and clearly spells out the revelation [which comes] -let there be no doubt about it-from the Sustainer of all the worlds. 10:37

For, indeed, many facets have We given in this Qur’an to every kind of lesson [designed] for [the benefit of] mankind! 17:89

THUS, step by step, We bestow from on high through this Qur’an all that gives health [to the spirit] and is a grace unto those who believe [in Us], the while it only adds to the ruin of evildoers: 17:82

VERILY, this Qur’an shows the way to all that is most upright, and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tiding that theirs will be a great reward; 17:9

Sep 9, 2007 - islam op-eds    1 Comment

The Guest – Notes from Sh. M’s Ramadan seminar

ramadan

 

The Guest

We can feel someone coming – very close, perhaps only a few days away. The face is becoming clearer and more radiant. It is Ramadan! Allah has given us the opportunity to receive this beautiful guest again. Allah says laqad jaa’akum shahrun mubarakun there has come to you a very blessed month – the fasting of which has become obligatory on you.

Virtues of this month:

  • This is a month of jood (magnanimity), karam (generosity), imaan (faith), taqwa (true God-consciousness), and sabr (patience & forbearance).

  • Allah will keep his servant away from jahannam (hellfire) for 70 autumns (years). This abd will be kept away from the fire of Hell and the effects of the fire of Hell. This could be 70 years of time or 70 years distance of the speech of light, Allahu Alam.

  • Barakah – The little we do in Ramadan will be multiplied. Allah blesses and makes fruitful our efforts in Ramadan as long as they are sincere. This is a month that is Mubarak (blessed).

  • The gates of jannah (heaven) are open; the gates of hell are closed. It’s easy to do good in Ramadan. Those who want to do good it’ll be easier for them.

  • Similarly, it’s difficult to do evil in Ramadan.

  • Shaitan is removed so what remains is your nafs. You can learn a lot about your nafs. What kind do you have? Baheemi, Sabawi, Malaiki?

  • Every day an angel calls in Ramadan: O Seeker of Goodness, Abshir (glad tidings) O Seeker of Evil, Aksir (break down).

  • Our quloob (hearts) clear more every day and might hear the call of the angels in a way we don’t realize.

  • From Ramadan to Ramadan removes the effects of dhunoob (sins) of the past year as long as we avoided major sins. (I.e. shirk (associating partners w/God), riyaa (showing off), backbiting, ribaa (usury), zinaa (unlawful relations), kathib (lying), disobedience to parents, theft, killing human life unjustly and so on. Many people fast and lie!! And yet lying is one of the worst of sins.

Inner Dimensions of Ramadan:

Rasulullah [saw] said: Verily everything has a haqeeqah (reality, essence, true heart of it). For example, the haqeeqah of imaan is when you find that whatever has befallen you was never meant to miss you, and what has missed you was never meant to befall you. In either case you are at peace, and even pleased.

Ramadan is from the Arabic word ramadha which means ‘sunburn’ and has the concept of burning. Thus Ramadan is the burning of the dhunoob (sins). Fasting washes/burns the dhunoob off our lives and stops it from impacting us. Every dhanb has an effect on our lives whether we are aware of it or not. Another meaning is from the word ramadh which means a soft rain during the fall season in desert environments. It’s not torrential, just a soft kind of rain. This rain resuscitates, reinvigorates, cleanses, and removes the dust, stain, dirt and filth. Ramadan is also one of the instruments of hyperbole in language. This is a month during which there is intense cleansing like the rain cleanses the earth from filth. Ramadan intensely cleanses us from the filth of dhunoob and purifies our quloob (hearts).

Sawm in the Arabic language is to stop doing something, quiescence, serenity and tranquility. They Arabs used to say saamat ar reeh; the wind stopped blowing, and is now tranquil and calm. Similarly if one can say saamat al hail, the horses stopped running. So this brings the concept of stopping and serenity to our fasting. When Maryam said she vowed not to speak she used the word – Sawma – “I have vowed to the Most Loving a fast- I shall not address anyone today”.

These are some of the beautiful inner dimensional meanings of fasting. Being aware of these meanings is helpful and enriching because when u know the value of something you cherish it more. When you don’t know its value you don’t benefit from it. It’s like when a child is given a pearl or a diamond. For the child it’s a stone or piece of glass. They are not mature enough to know the value of what they have. When we are not mature intellectually and spiritually, we do not pay attention and benefit from the beauty of the haqeeqah of things such as sawm.

One of the internal meanings of sawm is to discipline the nafs in resisting the lower nafs. This training of our nafs is called riyadat-un-nafs. The word riyadah is now modern word for sports. Those of old meant riyadah to discipline and tame the self with focus, awareness and knowledge.

We are saying we won’t allow ours nafs or shaytan to drag us like cattle.

Even If a man or woman has collected much in the realms of knowledge, accompanied many aalims, this person shall not acquire the status of a “man” ‘a person who’s attributes are noble’ except through riyadah. This is active, arduous taming and disciplining of the nafs through the processes of tazkiyat an nafs and fasting. Tazkiyah’s four pillars include less eating, less sleeping, less talk, and less intermingling with people.

Benefits of Fasting:

Rasulullah [saw] said: Verily the devil runs in the human being along the passageways of the blood. Whether this is literal or allegorical or both, shaitan (the devil) runs in the very blood of the human being. So shaitan can have access to all of us. After that hadith it is said: Then restrain the passageways of shaitan by hunger and fasting. When shaitan finds the blood full of food then shaitans runs, but if the blood is not carrying enough food for shaitan, then he won’t be in the bloodstream and won’t have access to our hearts and person. So eating excessively strengthens shaitan and the nafs. Eating too much kills the heart.

An Aalim said: If the whispers of shaitan fall and land in the meadows of hunger they shall lose their way and shall invalidate and disappear. In other words, the effects of shaitan will evanesce. When we eat to our fullness it allows the soil, seeds and water for the growth of shaitan within us.

Fasting liberates our hearts from low baseless expedient consumerist desires. Rasulullah [saw] speaks of a hill that we have to cross and fasting helps us cross that hill in a way where we arrive to Allah unburdened. Rasulullah [saw] said: Verily there lies in front of you a steep hill that will not be crossed by those with a heavy burden and therefore I love to lighten my burden for that hill. This can be the hill of Dunya (the world) and if we carry loads of desires we won’t be able to climb or the hill of Akhirah (hereafter) where we have to cross the siraat and the scale.

Three Types of Fasting:

  1. The first type is where we refrain from eating and drinking. Many people do that and just that. A hadith says: If one of you while fasting does not desist from false testimony then God is in no need of his/her refraining from eating and drinking. This means the haqeeqah of fasting is not just withholding from eating and drinking

  1. This second type is ‘sawm ad-dhunoob‘ refraining from committing by our senses that which is sinful and disobedient to Allah or indulging excessively in what is lawful.

  1. The third and highest type is the fasting of the qalb (the heart) from characteristics that are not beloved to Allah. This could be from harboring arrogance, delusion inside or having a strong love and attachment for dunya. This fast is to keep the heart from being attached to or loving other than Allah (khaalis at tawheed). Attachment to parents, spouse or children is normal and a rahmaa (mercy), this is considered a love through Allah. Our Hubb (love) is only for Allah and hubb towards anyone else is hubb thru Allah.

Hadith and Wisdom on Fasting:

Dhunnun al -Misri said: If you seek to remove the harshness of your heart than be consistent in your fasting. Some companions fasted all year except the days of Eid. That helps the heart become soft, gentle and clear and to know and understand Allah and the words of the Rasul better. If we are people that indulge in shahawat (desires) and yet our quloob are stained we will rarely be able to see underlying truths in the words of Allah and Rasulullah or even to see events around us and that happen to us clearly.

When things happen to us that are negative, we rarely connect them to a cause and to our relationship with Allah. Those who are sensitive always make the link. Dhun-nun said: Whenever I ate to satiation, I disobeyed Allah or I had the urge to commit a sin. (At his level what is a sin. It’s not like us. Not like us lying cheating adultery etc. when these people speak of maasiyah it is at a different level and order.)

Abu Taleb al-Makki counseled the mureed (seeker of Allah) to fast 4 days out of 7 at least. He reached this conclusion from a text of rasulullah [saw] that said those who in this dunya who eat to satiation often and eat the most shall be of those who live in hunger for longer periods of time in akhirah. So Abu Taleb draws from this that it’s not an obligation, but that a mumin seeker should spend more time in hunger than satiation. So he recommended fasting more days in a week than not!

Rasulullah [saw] even said the sawm of Dawood was the ‘most beloved to Allah’ alternating fasting one day and breaking the next.

Rasulullah [saw] said: A few bites of food suffice the child of Adam. If one has to eat more then eat 1/3 solid food, 1/3 liquid, and leave 1/3 empty for air. Many of us break all the rules! We begin by eating until we’re full, every meal, every day!

Rasulullah [saw] said fasting is not a hunger to punish the body, but to cleanse the qalb and discipline the body.

One of the ulema said the month of Ramadan, in the midst of the remaining months of the year, is like Yusuf [as] amongst his eleven brothers. On account of Yusuf’s prayer and barakah Allah forgave the sins of his eleven brothers. So he said Ramadan is Yusuf.

May the barakah of this month be for us a means by which Allah forgives our transgressions the remaining 11 months.

May Allah make for us our Ramadan as Yusuf and may he help us internalize these haqaiq of sawm.

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