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- Friday, 29 July 2011 13:41
- Abdullah Rahim
Last Updated on Friday, 11 November 2011 12:11
Practical Tips for the Month of Ramadan
- Tuesday, 02 August 2011 14:27
- Abdullah Rahim
For some, it is the month of reading more Qur’an and more prayers and supplications plus the above.
For a few, it is the month of gaining a sustaining and higher level Taqwa plus the above to help with purification of soul (Tazkiyah).
According to the Qur’an, only the latter group are aiming for what is really the aim of fasting in the month of Ramadan (2:183).
Here is a collection of some practical tips that might help us in getting closer to the latter group (a presentation that discusses the relationship between fasting in the month of Ramadan and Taqwa and also covers some of the following practical tips can be downloaded from here: The Long Journey from 'not eating' to 'Fasting'
Having a plan:
We are living in a very busy world where we can easily find ourselves engaged all day and quite tired during the night. In this busy life, the month of Ramadan passes very fast and before we know it we will reach the day of Eid. It is very wise to have some plans to determine and decide what special things we want to and we can do during this month and that how best we can accommodate them in our busy life schedule.
It does not matter if you cannot fast:
Many people might not be strong enough or healthy enough to fast especially if they are living where the summer daytime is extremely long. There are also those who might need to be in travel during all or part of the month of Ramadan. Sometimes people think that if they do not fast, then the month of Ramadan is not for them and they cannot get any benefit from it. This is wrong. One who has a genuine excuse for not fasting can still benefit from the month of Ramadan. The majority of the points that are given in this article are equally related to those who cannot fast. In fact, having more energy than those who fast, they may even do better in adopting some of these points!
Cleaning any anger and hatred towards others from our heart:
To attempt to increase our Taqwa for the sake of Tazkiya while holding a grudge and anger in our heart against a fellow human being is like trying to fill up a broken bottle with water. We need to do what it takes to erase any anger and hatred towards others from our heart.
Deciding what increasing Taqwa means for us and setting it as an aim for our month of Ramadan:
This tip is deliberately underlined to indicate its importance and the fact that it is the core requirement for those who want to attain more Taqwa in the month of Ramadan. If we want to truly aim for the real objective of the month of Ramadan, then we need to carefully study our soul (Muhasiba) in an attempt to recognise its weaknesses. This can be anything: becoming angry easily, offending others, getting offended very easy, being lazy in our prayers, becoming worried very easy, having a bad behaviour with others, not minding about the rights of others, eating a lot, sleeping a lot, wasting too much time, etc... No one can tell us better than ourselves what these weaknesses are. We will then decide that in this month of Ramadan we want to eliminate or improve (not all but) one, two, or only a few of these weaknesses. If we manage to use the opportunity of the month of Ramadan to take the selected weakness(es) out of our system for good, then by the grace of God we have managed to meet the real aim of the month of Ramadan.
This point is really the backbone of the idea behind this article. It, therefore, deserves some elaboration. There are a few points that can help with the above:
- Starting the month with repenting (Tawbah): Since we want to get rid of some bad habits and practices in this month it makes perfect sense to start the month and in fact enter the month after offering a repenting prayer. This simply means to perform two Rak’ah prayers and then to ask God to forgive us for that or those habit(s) or practice(s) that we are now determined to purge out of our system during the month of Ramadan and for good.
- Praying to be successful in our repentance: Obviously, we have general requests in our prayers plus specific requests for others and ourselves. However besides these, we also need to specifically ask the Almighty to help us with our decision and determination to get rid of that/those selected weakness(es), as discussed above. Even when we read the Qur’an, while generally learning and benefiting from it, we will see if we can get any inspiration or guidance from the Qur’an with regard to this challenge that we have decided to face.
- Controlling and monitoring: In order to be successful in our determination to remove one or more of our weaknesses, we need to closely and carefully review our performance every day to see whether we are doing well, whether we need to adjust a few things to assist with our aim and whether we need to correct and rectify any shortcomings in our progress towards the aim.
- Fasting not just in eating: The best way of thinking about how to get rid of some of the weaknesses of our soul is to consider ‘avoiding them’ as part of our fasting. Fasting from food and drink means refraining from eating and drinking during only a limited time of a day in the month of Ramadan. Fasting from what we have selected to correct in ourselves in the month of Ramadan does not have any limits and will become part of our personality by the end of the month of Ramadan, so it will never end.
Doing proper Tahajjud:
We know that the prophet (pbuh) has advised us that if we cannot do the Tahajjud during its real time, then we can do it after the Ishaa prayer. We also know that during the month of Ramadan, traditionally many Muslims take this offer and do their Tahajjud prayer after Ishaa in congregation (Jama’ah) and that is what gradually was called Taraweeh. Point number five is that let us do proper Tahajjud at least during the month of Ramadan. That is, reading it individually after midnight and preferably in its best time i.e. the portion of the night that is closer to the time of dawn (Suhoor). During our Tahajjud, if we like, and if we have not memorised much of the Qur’an, we can hold the book in our hands and read from it. We can determine how many verses or pages to read in every Rak’ah before doing the last three ones. We do not need to aim to finish the Qur’an by the end of the month and we can be flexible and sometimes read only short Sura of the Qur’an if we are too tired or need to wake up early the day after. Note that this does not suggest that participating in Taraweeh prayer is wrong.
Praying for others:
It is better if we always start our prayers to God by glorifying Him and counting His blessings in our life, then asking general and specific goodness and help for all and then for those close to us in particular our parents, kin and friends and only then for ourselves.
Giving a bit more than normal as charity during this month can have a tremendous effect on us.
More attention to the quality of our prayers:
We need to use the month of Ramadan to give special attention to the quality of our daily prayers. The key effect of the prayer is manifestation of one of the sentences that we read repeatedly during every prayer, that is, “Only you we worship and only you we seek help from”. Some of the points in this article on the following website can help here: How to Improve Our Daily Prayers.
Reading the Qur’an while pondering upon the meanings (Tadabbur):
Reading the Qur’an without pondering over its meanings is still helpful but is nowhere near the way that we are supposed to read the Qur’an. There is no need and no obligation to read the Qur’an in haste aiming to finish it in the month of Ramadan. Reading the Qur’an should be in the form of dialogue, in that, we read the message of the Almighty and then we reflect on it with our ‘mind’ and ‘heart’ and where appropriate our ‘tongue’ (like praying for heaven when we read its description, seeking God’s mercy when we read the description of hell, thanking God when we read about His blessings, etc...)
Talking to God:
Every prayer and every narrated supplication is talking to the Almighty. While these are very rewarding, we should also develop the ability and the habit of talking to God on our own initiative as well. We should be able to talk with Him in private and to say whatever we would like to say to our Lord and Creator. We do not need to worry about what to say and how to say as He is the most merciful and kind and He loves us more than a parent loves his/her child. We do not need to think of a special way of doing this, we can simply open our heart and talk. We might find it difficult at the start but once we get used to it we will be able to enjoy it and see the benefit. Nothing replaces the happy and peaceful feeling of a servant of God who is shedding tears of joy while talking with his Lord where no one else can see him.
Ponder over God’s names:
There is a reason that God’s attributes are mentioned in the Qur’an. Pondering over these attributes and thinking about them and their effect on us have a great influence on our soul. Calling God and praying to Him by these names (like, for instance Baseer – All Seeing, Aleem – All Knowing, Hakeem – Wise, …) can help a lot in putting us on the right spiritual direction.
Reminding oneself about death and making it a well-established fact in our heart:
It is easy to ‘know’ that we will die someday and as Muslims, it is also easy to ‘know’ that there will be a hereafter (Akhira). What is difficult is to establish the concept in our heart in a way that it positively affects our relationship with our Lord, with others and with ourselves. If we remind ourselves as appropriate about death and Akhira and its implications, this might help with establishing the concept in our heart. The aim is not to be sad or disappointed, but to be motivated enough to prepare for what will certainly happen, which will also help us to have a happier life in this world.
Do not go to extremes at the time of Iftaar:
The point of fasting is not to postpone the amount of the food that we were supposed to eat only to have it all in one go during Iftaar (and perhaps adding even more to make it more pleasant!). Iftaar is for us to break our fast so that we do not fall in hardship. There is absolutely no problem with enjoying the food and having what we like to have. However, we need to make sure that we do not go to extremes. After all, how can we have a good pondering over the Qur’an and a good Tahajjud after the midnight and all the other things we want to do for our spirituality if we have filled our stomach with so much food that we can hardly move or stay awake?
Take care of the tongue!
We did discuss getting rid of bad habits and practices in point 4 above. The tongue of human being however, is such a naughty phenomenon that it deserves a special tip of its own. We will find that during the month of Ramadan, controlling our tongue will become very relevant in attaining Taqwa. We, of course need to talk with our family, colleagues and those around us, however, especially during the month of Ramadan, there is no harm if we also experience periods of silence to keep ourselves immune from the potential problems that our tongue might bring us. We are specially advised not to get involved in arguments in this month.
Don’t miss opportunities to help others or to be kind to them:
We sometimes use fasting as an excuse to lay back. We should not allow this to take away opportunities where we may be able to help a fellow human being or where we can gain many rewards just by being kind.
Understanding Islam better:
During the month of Ramadan there can be times that we like to spend for the cause of fasting yet we are not in the mood of offering more prayers, etc... In other words, we might need a break from our ritual worship while still longing to do something related to religion. In this case, a good break will be to learn more about Islam from its original sources and from those who have learned it from its original sources. Having a correct understanding of Islam will help us with being better Muslims.
Thinking about ourselves:
The previous point described one way of having break from our ritual worship while we still like to do something related to religion. Another thing we can and we should do is for each of us to think about him/herself. This means reviewing one’s life so far, thinking about the person that one has become, the strength of one’s belief, one’s priorities, the way one wants to spend the rest of the life. Overall, this means reflecting on one’s life so far to see where one is heading and whether any adjustments or redirection is needed.
The idea of I’tikaaf is to distance ourselves from the busy day-to-day life and to devote some special time to improve our relationship with our Lord by means of worship, reading the Qur’an and thinking about God and us. The preferred way of doing this is to stay a few days during the last ten days of the month of Ramadan in a mosque. However, if this is not possible for us, we can at least choose to stay for a shorter period in a mosque. Even staying between two prayers can be considered as I’tikaaf. It is important to note that we do I’tikaaf to have some private and quality time with our Lord and not to spend it chitchatting with people.
Seeking Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Destiny):
There is a reason why we have not been informed about the exact date of Laylatul Qadr by a divine source. If the point were to simply hit the correct night like hitting a target, then we would have been told exactly when that night was supposed to occur. Instead, we have been advised to ‘seek’ it during the odd nights of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan. Maybe the point is to prepare our heart and make it so powerful that we would get benefit we are seeking any way, even if we do not know which night is the night of Qadr and even if we unintentionally miss it.
Do not commit Haram:
The most important precondition of all that is mentioned in this article is to not going even near what is made Haram for us. There is no place for Taqwa if Haram is still in the play.
Encourage the family:
It will help and create a helpful environment if we encourage our family members to join in the plan of attaining Taqwa in the month of Ramadan. As appropriate, we may choose what things to do together and what to do individually. Each (doing things together or individually) have their own benefits.
Being aware of showing off:
We need to be very careful not to show off in doing any of our acts of worship. For instance, if we find that a prayer feels more enjoyable when we are doing it in front of others then that means we are really enjoying the show off element of it rather than the prayer. If we do something, which is apparently for God, but in reality, it is to show off, whether fully or partially, we are only using the name of God as an excuse to serve our own ego.
Aiming to have a real Eid:
We will and we should Insha’Allah celebrate Eid because that is when Muslims (who are healthy enough to do so) have managed to follow their Lord’s instruction to fast during the month of Ramadan. However, on a personal level, Eid is complete when we manage to meet the objective of this month, that is, to be able to jump on a higher level of Taqwa. By the end of the month if we were successful in eliminating those weaknesses we selected to work on (as in point 4) and if we have managed to throw them out of our system for good then we will have a very good reason (on a personal level) to celebrate the Eid.
May the Lord help us to value the month of Ramadan the way it deserves and to follow the path of His best servants during this month.
It is narrated from the Prophet (pbuh):
مَنْ لَمْ يَدَعْ قَوْلَ الزُّورِ وَالعَمَلَ بِهِ، فَلَيْسَ لِلَّهِ حَاجَةٌ فِي أَنْ يَدَعَ طَعَامَهُ وَشَرَابَهُThe one who does not leave false (bad) talk and deed (in the month of Ramadan), (should know that) God does not need him to leave his food and drink.” -Bukhari, 1903
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 August 2011 14:28
Understanding the Verse of ‘Beating Women’ in the Qur’an
- Wednesday, 31 August 2011 00:58
- Abdullah Rahim
الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلىَ النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلىَ بَعْضٍ وَ بِمَا أَنفَقُواْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ فَالصَّلِحَتُ قَنِتَاتٌ حَفِظَتٌ لِّلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ وَ الَّاتىِ تخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَ اهْجُرُوهُنَّ فىِ الْمَضَاجِعِ وَ اضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلَا تَبْغُواْ عَلَيهْنَّ سَبِيلاً إِنَّ اللَّهَ كاَنَ عَلِيًّا كَبِيرًا
“Men are the guardians of women, because God has given advantage to some people over another, and because they spend from their wealth. Consequently, pious women are obedient [to their husbands] and keep their secrets for God also keeps secrets. And as for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them [first] and [next] refuse to share their beds and [even then if they do not listen] beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Indeed, God is Exalted and Mighty.” - Al Nisa' 4:34
The above is one of the verses of the Qur’an that many Muslim scholars normally need to explain, clarify and justify in length for their Muslim and non-Muslim audience. At the face of it the verse seems to simply advise men to beat their wives if they do not obey them. It is very normal that in our era this can easily become a controversial issue.
When I was explaining this verse for a group of Muslims a while ago, a very respected lady who herself was a very devoted Muslim asked me how this verse could be best explained for others, especially for non-Muslims who were coming from a totally different background. I found this to be a very valid and relevant question and thought I should write something in response to it. This article is my attempt in answering that question.
I would like to make it clear from the outset that the aim of this article is not at all to defend or justify the verse. The only aim of this article is to explain it so that the reader understands the verse and its implications more thoroughly.
Another point to clarify at the start is that this article is focusing on the part of the verse that instructs about beating disobedient wives (underlined in translation). The earlier parts of the verse will be discussed, where related, only to explain the latter part of the verse but will not be elaborated in detail as they are not the subject of this article.
There are two extreme approaches in explaining and justifying the verse of beating wife in the Qur’an:
a. To say that this is God’s directive and therefore it does not need to be an issue to discuss. We therefore only need to obey it.
While it is a fact that for a Muslim, God’s directives in the Qur’an are to be obeyed with no hesitation, I think it is the right of us as human beings to demand explanation and clarification about any verse of the Qur’an and in fact, the Qur’an itself has advised us to think and ponder over its meanings. Avoiding such demands and questions can only result in ignorance or arrogance, both of which will ultimately be destructive to Muslims and their faith.
b. The other approach is to eliminate the question by trying to argue that the word that is traditionally translated as “beat them” in this verse really has a different meaning.
I have not found any reliable basis for the above argument. I think it is very clear from the way Arab uses the word that the verse is indeed referring to ‘beating women’ and not anything else.
After the above introduction, I would now like to proceed with the main body of this article that is explaining the verse of ‘beating women’ and its implications. In order to be as brief and as clear as possible, I am going to do this in a series of short bullet points.
Understanding the verse:
1. Before any attempt to understand the verse on beating the wife it is very important to first understand the logic behind it. In the Abrahamic religions (not just Islam) family unit is considered as a social unit that like any other social unit needs leadership and this leadership for the reasons that are described in the verse[i] is given to men. It is beyond this article to explain this further but this perspective needs to be appreciated if we want to understand the verse correctly. Verse 34:4 starts by referring to this fact and is based on this foundation.
2. Appreciating the above, we can now understand what ‘Nushuz’ in the verse means. ‘Nushuz’ is coming from the root ‘Nashz’ which means an elevated land and its derivatives are used for the meaning of ‘rising up’. The word, like most other words and like in any language, will find its exact meaning when it is interpreted within the context. In the context of the verse under discussion, and considering the last point, the word means uprising and defying authority. Nushuz here means a woman who rejects the God given authority of her husband in being her guardian.
3. What we learn from the above is that Nushuz does not mean having a different opinion. It does not mean disagreeing either. Even occasional disobedience of a wife towards her husband by itself cannot be called Nushuz. Nushuz refers to a much more serious concept, that is, rejecting the authority of the husband (as given by God). Difference of opinion, disagreeing and occasional disobedience are not the same as rejecting the authority altogether.
4. It needs to be understood that the verse has not given a religious instruction. This can easily be appreciated by those who are familiar with the style of the Qur’an and the style of the classic Arabic language. This is a very important point to understand. It is not that husbands are obliged by this verse to beat their wives if the conditions were met. It is not like if a husband decides not to beat his rebellious wife that means he is disobeying God. It is therefore not correct to say that the Qur’an has ‘instructed’ to beat wives.
5. Once the above very important point is appreciated, we can easily appreciate that the verse under question has merely addressed a family issue by giving a solution that was best suited for the socio cultural conditions of the time and the land. This is very much similar to the verse of the Qur’an in the same Sura that advises and permits men to marry up to four women to address the issue of protecting orphans’ rights (4:3)[ii].
6. In the Sura of Nisaa the verses that are addressing the issues related to the husband and the wife are to protect the structure of the family and its sanctity and (in line with this) to bring peace (Islaah) between the couples (as explicitly referred to in the verse 4:35). This means the husband is not supposed to beat his wife to fulfil his anger or to humiliate her. This not only is forbidden, but also works quite contrary to the above purpose, that is protecting the family and bringing peace.
7. Appreciating the above, the husband needs to (and in fact is obliged to) think carefully about the consequences of any reaction he might take in trying to correct his rebellious wife. He should wisely use only those measures that he knows will work. He should avoid those measures that he thinks may make the situation worse, even if these are the measures that are given in verse 4:34.[iii]
8. It needs to be appreciated that the advice of beating is only applicable if the earlier two advises did not work. This means in his attempt to correct his rebellious wife, according to the verse, the husband can only use ‘beating’ if ‘admonishment’ and ‘refusing to share bed’ does not work.
9. The best follower of the Qur’an is the Prophet (pbuh). First, we do not have any narrations that suggest that the Prophet (pbuh) ever beat his wife[iv]. Second, we have a number of narratives reporting that the Prophet (pbuh) limited beating to a hit that is not severe[v] (does not leave mark) and is not on the face. In explaining this Ibn Abbas has given example of a hit that is as light as striking with a toothbrush (that at the time of the Prophet – pbuh – was a very tiny short piece of wood, hardly capable of creating any pain)[vi]. Considering this, the beating is not to punish or to change the attitude of the wife by causing her pain. Rather, it is only a gesture of disapproval and dissatisfaction and reclaiming the right as the head of the family.
10. It needs to be appreciated that the verse is not advising about a permanent attitude by the husband. There can only be two possibilities. One is that the solution of beating wife works in which case, as the verse instructs at the end, the husband should fear God and should refrain from any further actions. The other possibility is that beating does not work, meaning, the wife continues to be totally rebellious to her husband’s authority and the husband’s beating her does not help at all. This is the case of serious difficulty between the couple and can result in their separation. In this case verse 4:35 (the verse after the verse of beating) advises that the help should be sought from relatives of the both sides. Therefore the beating that the verse is referring to is simply a one off measure. No man can use this verse to justify a regular attitude of aggression towards his wife.
11. One of the most important obligations of a Muslim is to follow the agreements. By being a resident of a country or by being allowed to enter a country, the person has entered an agreement to obey the rules of that country. If according to the regulations of the country even a slight beating of the wife (as explained in point 9) counts as domestic violence and is illegal, then the husband should respect this rule and observe it.
12. An objection that is sometimes made is that in verse 4:128 the wife is advised to settle on a compromise with her husband if she fears of the husband’s ‘Nushuz’. The objection is that why in the case of the wife having Nushuz the husband is allowed to beat her but in the case of the husband having Nushuz the wife is advised to have leniency. Justified as it might seem, the objection is based on a totally wrong assumption. The wrong assumption is that the Nushuz in verse 4:34 is of the same level as the Nushuz in verse 4:128. I mentioned in point 2 that it is the context of the verse that determines exactly what Nushuz means. In the context of verse 4:34, Nushuz means the wife rejecting the authority of her husband. This clearly is a threat for the whole family structure. In comparison, in the context of verse 4:128 and the verses before and after it, Nushuz only means the husband not treating his wife justly. No doubt this is a wrong attitude but it is nowhere as drastic as the meaning of Nushuz in verse 4:34. The two different treatments of the two Nushuz in these two verses can easily be understood by appreciating this fundamental difference between the two cases.
We can easily reach a conclusion by putting together all the above twelve points as a summary of observations on the verse 4:34:
Men by nature and by their obligation to be financially responsible are the guardians of their wives and heads of the family. The wife may disagree and as it happens, can even occasionally disobey her husband. However if the wife’s disobedience to her husband means rejecting the authority that the husband has been given by the Almighty, then this will be a serious problem as it can easily break the structure and the sanctity of the family. In this case the Qur’an has given (not an instruction but an) advice that could easily fit with the socio cultural norms of the Arab society of the time. According to this advice, the husband is allowed to beat her wife in the above condition, if admonishing her and leaving her bed does not work. The Prophet (pbuh) has advised Muslims that the beating should be light and should not leave a mark. In fact the beating should not be to satisfy the anger, it is merely a gesture of disapproval and dissatisfaction. This is a one off solution that should either result in peace or should be followed by the next major step that is involving closed ones to help.
Since the whole point of this advice is to keep the family intact and to keep peace in the family, the husband should avoid this practice if he knows that it will not work or, worse, it will work contrary to the purpose. Also if the regulations of the country of residence consider even light beating to be forbidden then the husband is not allowed to use this measure.
I would like to stress again that the intention of this article was not to defend the verse of beating wife or to make it appear nice. I do not think that the verse needs any defence. The aim of this article was merely to clarify the meaning of the verse and its logic and conditions. For those who believe in the Qur’an, I hope this article brings some clarification, insights and reassurance. For those who do not believe in the Qur’an and like to criticise the verse, I hope this article prompts them to formulate their criticism based on a correct understanding of the verse.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 January 2012 21:58
- Sunday, 02 October 2011 14:28
- Shehzad Saleem
But when they come, it is not the time to get depressed and feel defeated. It is time for some soul searching.
Feelings of anguish and distress at the loss should soon be replaced with review and re-evaluation of one’s life. Sometimes, damage and loss are a blessing in disguise. They serve to correct and redirect a person. The disarray and unsettlement they cause afford him an opportunity to break away from the ruthless routine of life and re-asses his priorities. When a person is wandering in a desert, everything around him looks so deceptively similar that he may serenely tread on a path which actually leads him away from his destination. It is in these circumstances that sometimes stormy winds and jolts of thunder induce him to re-think his way.
But if he wants to see the silver lining behind that dark cloud, he must adopt a positive attitude when he experiences some loss or deprivation. Nothing other than a relationship of deep trust with the Almighty is needed to engender this positive attitude: He is the haven and sanctuary for all of us; and He, in reality, never wishes ill for His creation. We only need to seek and serve Him:
The Lord is the Refuge for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble
Those who know your name will trust in you
For you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. - Psalms 9:9-10
Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 13:35
The Concepts Behind Fasting
- Saturday, 21 July 2012 09:03
- Moiz Amjad
I would like to have an explanation about what Ramadan exactly is. Inform me of its meaning and its customs.
The Islamic (lunar) calendar, like the solar calendar, is divided into twelve months. Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of this lunar calendar. The significance of this month in Muslim history is that the revelation of the final book of God (according to the Muslim belief) – the Qur’an – was initiated in the month of Ramadan. Though, according to the Qur’an, fasting was also prescribed for the followers of those prophets of God, who came before Mohammad (pbuh), yet God selected Ramadan as the month of fasting for Muslims because of its particular significance with reference to the revelation of the Qur’an .
An explanation of fasting, in my opinion, should entail answers to the following questions:
- What are the rules that a Muslim has to abide by while in a state of fasting?
- What is the reason for which fasting is prescribed in the Divine law? and
- What is the reason for the selection of Ramadan as a month of fasting for Muslims?
As far as the rules relating to fasting are concerned, they are quite simple. A fast is observed from dawn to sunset. A Muslim, while in a state of fasting, has to refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations with his/her spouse. A person who is ill or on a journey, due to which it may be inconvenient for him to fast during the prescribed days of Ramadan, may miss the number of fasts during which he is not feeling well or is on a journey. Later on, when he recovers from his ailment or returns from his journey, he should complete the number of fasts missed during the prescribed month of Ramadan. A person who suffers from a permanent ailment, due to which he is permanently incapacitated from fasting, may as a compensation for each fast missed feed a poor person.
As stated earlier, a fast is observed from dawn to sunset. Thus, all restrictions regarding eating, drinking and sexual relations are observed during the stipulated time from dawn to sunset. In other words, after sunset or before dawn, there is no restriction on any of these activities.
As far as the reason for which fasting has been prescribed in the Divine law, it is clearly mentioned in the Qur’an that it is to inculcate the quality of “Taqwa” in the individuals. “Taqwa” is an Arabic word, which implies the ability and the quality to strictly adhere to God’s laws. The Islamic Shari`ah includes a number of directives, which under varying circumstances may become quite difficult to follow. Fasting, according to the Qur’an is a training period, during which for a limited number of days, Muslims are required to follow a stricter daily schedule than is the case in normal days. During Ramadan, for the purpose of this training of inculcating Taqwa, even things (like eating, drinking and having sexual relations with one’s spouse) that are normally allowed for a Muslim are disallowed/prohibited for a stipulated time. This exercise is expected not only to develop the ability of self-control in the individual – which in turn helps in abiding by the divine directives in normal days – but is also expected to develop the quality of patience and steadfastness in following the divine directives and the ability to face any difficulties that one may have to encounter in following these directives.
This training period, for the purpose of better understanding and appreciation, may be compared to the training period that a newly recruited military cadet is put through during the initial stages of his service. This training period is to develop in the cadet the ability to face the contingent hard times that he may have to go through during his tenure of service. In the same way, a Muslim, is put through a stricter schedule of a training period for one month during a year for the purpose of developing in him the ability and the quality of “Taqwa” (adhering to divine directives) in his normal course of life.
As far as the reason for the selection of the month of Ramadan for the purpose of fasting is concerned, the Qur’an itself tells us that the selection is made to celebrate the revelation of the Qur’an . It was during this month of Ramadan that, according to the Muslim faith, God revealed to man his final guidance. Fasting has been prescribed during this month to remind all Muslims of their responsibilities toward this final guidance of God – namely adhering to its directives in letter and spirit. What could have been a more appropriate way of celebrating the anniversary of the revelation of the Qur’an than reminding ourselves of our prime duties toward it – i.e. submitting to its directives with patience, perseverance and steadfastness and to thank God for bestowing upon man His guidance to the path of promised and everlasting salvation.
The True Spirit of Fasting
Is it haraam for one who is fasting in Ramadan to be bad such as swear and start a fight?
Fasting, according to the Qur’an, has been prescribed upon the Muslims as a training program for the elevation of their level of piety and obedience to the Lord of the worlds in their normal daily routines. Thus, during the month of Ramadan, a Muslim is ordained to refrain even from things, which are, generally, lawful for him. During these days, from sunrise to sunset, a Muslim is directed to refrain from drinking even water to quench his thirst, from eating even the lawful food to satisfy his hunger and from having sexual contact even with his/her spouse. During these days, a Muslim adheres to these restrictions, on the fulfillment of his natural requirements and desires, only in obedience to the directives of God. Therefore, even though from a purely juristic point of view, it is only eating, drinking and sexual contact, during the daytime that breaks a fast; yet if we keep the true spirit of fasting in perspective, we can easily derive that all such other things which a Muslim should generally refrain from, should be more strictly and more consciously avoided during these days. It is, in fact, based on this spirit of fasting that the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: “Whoever is not willing to refrain from lying and from doing bad deeds; God does not require from him to refrain from eating and drinking” (as reported by Bukhari). Teaching the same spirit of fasting, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: “Fasting is like a shield against bad deeds. Therefore, [while fasting,] a person should neither involve himself in lewdness nor lose his temper. If someone tries to get him involved in a fight, he should say: ‘I am fasting’ [and, thus, avoid fighting]” (as reported by Bukhari).
Fasting is, in fact, a strenuous training program for Muslims with the target to strengthen their spirit to avoid involving themselves in any actions or deeds, which are not approved by their Lord. This is the true spirit of fasting. With this true spirit of fasting in mind, it is clear that a person should strictly refrain from involving himself in all such deeds, activities and discussions, which are clearly against the likings of our Lord.
Things Related to Ramadan
It has become tradition for Muslims to pray Taraweeh prayers after Isha. After reading some of your articles I have come to realize that the Prophet NEVER prayed Taraweeh, he NEVER prayed Witr prayers and he only prayed Tahajjud prayers. Am I correct in my understanding? If I am, can you please explain how one performs the Tahajjud prayers as did the Prophet? Detail would be much appreciated (such as groups of two rak'ats to a certain number of times etc...).
I was told that the Tahajjud prayers are only to be prayed during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Also, praying Taraweeh on whatever day Lailatul'Qadr lands on is as if you've prayed a 1000 months of prayers (or something to that affect). This relates obviously to the surah in the Qur'an. Is this accurate and what was intended in the verse?
I may be asking too much of you but I would request that if you could inform me of the things that are Fard and Sunnah during Ramadan. There may be many misconceptions and I don't know they are misconceptions so I'm basically asking you to weed out somethings. Ramadan is important to me and I would like to fulfill my obligations and additionally commit voluntary deeds and actions.
I know you have written quite extensively but I believe some of the queries I have posed are not mentioned in those articles.
It is not very accurate to say that the Prophet (pbuh) never offered Witr prayers. A more accurate statement would be that the Prophet (pbuh) is not reported to have offered Witr prayers with the Ishaa prayers. On the contrary, the Prophet (pbuh) offered Witr prayers as a part of the Tahajjud prayers, which he regularly offered throughout his life.
As for the various methods in which the Prophet (pbuh) offered Tahajjud prayers, please refer to one of my earlier response to a related question titled: "How to Offer Witr Prayers?".
I was told that the Tahajjud prayers are only to be prayed during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Also, praying Taraweeh on whatever day Lailatul'Qadr lands on is as if you've prayed a 1000 months of prayers (or something to that affect).The referred idea is completely unfounded and has no basis in the primary sources of Islam. Not only did the Prophet (pbuh) offer Tahajjud prayer during the whole of the month of Ramadan, but also during all the other nights of the year.
As for the special reward of deeds – including offering supererogatory prayers like tahajjud prayers etc. – it is reported in a few narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) and, as you have mentioned, the idea seems to be based on the referred verse of the Qur'an.
I would request that if you could inform me of the things that are Fard and Sunnah during Ramadan.The Fard practices during Ramadan are the same as during other days of the year, except for those obligatory practices, which are specifically related to the practice of fasting. As for the supererogatory practices, there is no limit or specification of these practices. One should try to involve oneself in all kinds of pious deeds, specially those related to God's worship – as in supererogatory prayers and memorizing the supplications taught by the Qur'an and those reported in narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) – understanding God's guidance – as in reciting the Qur'an – or helping other human beings – as in spending out of one's wealth over and above the obligatory Zaka'h. The essence of one's life during the month of Ramadan, specially, and during the other days of the year, generally, should be to live a life that is as much in compliance and coherence with the recommendations of the Shari`ah as possible.
I hope this helps.
 Also included in this booklet in section 'Regarding Taraweeh Prayers
Observing Ramadan in a Muslim and a non-Muslim Country
I am a Christian student taking a class entitled Muslim Faith and Feeling to learn more about your life and faith. I am doing a paper on Ramadan. Since I am from the US, my question is:
- How is it different celebrating Ramadan in a predominately non-Muslim country, like the USA?
- How is it easier in a predominately Muslim country?
- What are the unique difficulties celebrating it in the USA?
- Whatever insights and understandings you can give me would be extremely helpful and appreciated.
Thank you for this site and for your input!
Observing the obligatory fasts of Ramadan, in its essence, is not any different whether the individual is residing in a predominantly Muslim or a non-Muslim country. Obviously, certain differences do arise due to the participation/non-participation of the general collectivity in which the individual is residing. However, these differences only make it more or less convenient in fulfilling the obligation.
For instance, while living in a pre-dominantly Muslim country, it is very unlikely that a person be invited at a social gathering in which edibles are to be served, while in a state of fasting. While such inconveniences may have to be encountered while living in a pre-dominantly non-Muslim society. In the same way, the participation of the collectivity in this form of worship may in a number of other ways, support and prompt the individual in fulfilling his obligation. For instance, in most Muslim countries, the beginning and the closing times for fasts are officially announced, there is generally a restriction on eating and drinking in public places during the fasting time etc. All these factors may, in a way, help the individual in fasting. In short, the difference between fasting in a pre-dominantly Muslim and a non-Muslim country may be explained in terms of a social backing of the worship at a macro level.
However, it should be kept in mind that this difference only effects the convenience for the individual in fulfilling his obligation. It does not in any way effect the nature of the obligation itself. That is, all Muslims, irrespective of their place of residence are obliged to fast during the month of Ramadan.
How Can the Differences regarding Prayer Timing and Ramadan Dates be Resolved?
I live in the United States and every year I observe Ramadan. It drives me insane that as Muslims we cannot agree as to the date of when it begins. I get highly upset that this simple issue has not been overcome yet. If Allah created everything in due measure then it must be that scientifically we can know in the most accurate way when Ramadan begins, without having to see it. My dilemma is this: Who do I follow as to the beginning of Ramadan? Who is best versed at knowing when Ramadan begins?
Even our prayer times differ. Here's an example, say I am looking up prayer times in my area, I get questions such as "is your prayer method: Umm Al-Qura, Muslim World League, Egyptian General Authority of Survey, University Of Islamic Sciences Karachi, ISNA" etc... The other question is "Jurist Method: Standard or Hanfi..." Another is if we observe day-light savings time... I understand there are different schools but I am a Muslim and that's it. I don't belong to any of the major schools of thought and I don't even want to be distinguished as Sunni or otherwise. I am a Muslim because Allah has asked/told us not to divide. So who do I follow? The Saudis, the Egyptians, etc... Who? When is the accurate prayer time? When does Ramadan begin and end (especially in the U.S.)? It is in the nature of mankind to disagree with one another but I just want the truth, it is the only thing that makes me closer to my Creator.
Any help in my decision making would be of great value, especially for prayer times and Ramadan.
Jazak Allah Khair
As a principle, a Muslim, in his individual capacity, may ascribe to and follow the opinion of any of the schools of thoughts, which he considers to be more understandable and in keeping with the spirit of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In this sphere, no one has a right to force the individual to an opinion, which he – the individual – is himself not comfortable with. However, in contrast to matters relating to the individuals, which may be decided by each individual in question, matters relating to the collectivity of the Muslims may not be as simple to deal with. It is because of this reason that the Qur’an has recommended the principle of deciding such matters on the basis of consultation between the Muslims or their representatives.
In view of the recommended principle of the Qur’an, all decisions relating to the collectivity of the Muslims – whether it is the timings of the congregational prayers, the beginning or the end of Ramadan or any other matter – should be taken on the basis of consultation. This really implies that in case of a difference of opinion among the Muslims, the opinion ascribed to by the majority of the Muslims should be accepted and implemented.
As an application of the foregoing principle, in the Muslim countries, it would indeed be recommended that the timings for the congregational prayers should be decided by the respective governments of these countries, through consultation between the representatives of the Muslims of these countries, within the allowable range of time for each prayer specified by the Prophet (pbuh). In case of a difference of opinion, the opinion of the majority of the representatives should prevail and be implemented. The same principle would apply in deciding about Ramadan.
In non-Muslim countries, it would be advisable for Muslims living in those countries to form informal consultative forums to facilitate decision-making in religious matters relating to these Muslim collectivities. These forums may be formed at various levels. For instance, to decide about the timings of congregational prayers and to look after the upkeep and administration of the mosques, a more localized forum may be formed, while to decide about the more universal issues, like the beginning of Ramadan, it would be advisable to form a council at a state or a national level. Common Muslims should be encouraged to adhere to the decisions of these forums.
As for using technological means of predetermining the dates of Ramadan, there would be no harm in doing so, provided such a determination can be made on a reliable basis.
I hope this helps.
On the Verses on Fasting - First Question
Hi, could you send me the translation for the verses 186 to 188 of the second Surah. Also explain the meaning of these verses. It seems that initially it was not permitted, in the month of Ramadan, for the men to sleep with their wives even in the nighttime; later on the prohibition was removed. Is that right?
As far as your question regarding the Ramadan Ayah (verse) is concerned, I shall try to explain the issue very briefly.
As I understand it, the first part of the revelation regarding fasting in Ramadan, was from Al-Baqarah 2: 183 to 184. A simple translation of these verses follows:
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may learn to live according to the commands of Allah. (183) A few numbered days. However, if anyone of you is ill or on a journey then the prescribed number should then be completed in other days. And for those who can bear it, feeding of an indigent, shall be a ransom. And he that gives more (than this) of his own freewill, it is better for him. And that you fast (and thus complete the number) is better for you, if only you knew. (184).”Later on, Al-Baqarah 2: 185 - 187 were revealed. In these verses:
- The reason for prescribing Ramadan as the month of fasting was given.
- The allowance of “fidyah” or ransom for any missed fast, (feeding of one indigent) was removed. As it was only a temporary allowance, to train the people, as obligatory fasting was quite a tough proposition. (185)
- Questions asked about maintaining the sanctity of Ramadan were answered. (186-187)
On the Verses on Fasting - Second Question
Here is the translation by NJD (N.J. Dawood) for the verses 186 and 187 of the second Surah:
“If My servants question you about Me, tell them that I am near, I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls to Me; therefore let them answer My call and put their trust in Me, that they may be rightly guided.It is now lawful for you to lie with your wives on the night of the fast; they are a comfort to you as you are to them. God knew that you were deceiving yourselves. He has relented towards you and pardoned you. Therefore you may now lie with them and seek what God has ordained for you. Eat and drink until you can tell a white thread from a black one in the light of the coming dawn. Then resume the fast till nightfall and do not approach them, but stay at your prayers in the mosques.These are the bounds set by God: do not approach them. Thus He makes known His revelations to mankind that they may guard themselves against evil.”What I understand from the above is that do not approach your wives while fasting but stay at your prayers in the mosques. You and the other translation refer to ‘aitikaf’ (which I believe is something like staying at the mosque during night saying your prayers). By the way what is meant by “... what God has ordained for you.”
As far as the text is concerned, you will most definitely see the words “wa antum `aakifuna fil masaajid” (Al-Baqarah 2: 187) in these words, the word “`aakifun” is given to mean the same as “Mu`takif” which in turn has been translated as: “secluded, isolated, withdrawn, solitary, recluse, remaining, staying, abiding” (Al-Mawrid, Arabic to English Dictionary, dar al ilm lilmalayeen)
Now, in the Qur’an , the word “`aakifun” is used as a term just like the word “Sala’h”. It means a “complete temporary seclusion for concentrated praying”.
I think that NJD’s translation over here is not a very accurate one. I would think that the word “`aakifun” (because it is a term) should not be translated at all. It could be something like this: “and do not approach them, when you are in `aitikaaf in mosques” and then this word could have been explained in a footnote; “but stay at your prayers in the mosques” is not a good translation of “wa antum `aakifuna fil masaajid”. I really do not know what should be the correct English Translation for the words which are translated as: “... what God has ordained for you”. The meaning, as I see it, are the outcomes of sexual relations.
Clarification of a Narrative Regarding Ramadan…
The common understanding of Muslims is that when Ramadan begins the devils are chained and the gates of heaven are opened. However, this does not seem to make sense because if the devils are chained then how is it possible to do evil during Ramadan? Is the suggestion then that during Ramadan no human beings are being enticed to do evil, but rather it is from within them? This does not seem to make sense either since one could argue that evil continues to exist with the same vigor during Ramadan as it does outside of it.
Before presenting my comments on the referred concept of the Muslims, it may be clarified that it is based on a narrative ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). According to the reporting of Bukhari, the Prophet (pbuh) is ascribed to have said:
When the month of Ramadan approaches, the doors of heaven are cast open, while the doors of Hell are shut down and the forces of evil are tied in chains.
The correct implication of this narrative, in my opinion, is close to what Ibn Abd al-Burr has mentioned in his commentary on the Mu’atta of Imam Maalik – Al-Tamheed. The narrative, in my opinion, implies that during the days of Ramadan, God protects all those who faithfully and sincerely intend to fast and earn for themselves the mercy, forgiveness and protection of their Lord. This implication of the narrative is coherent with the declaration of the Qur’an that when a person resolves to do good and to follow the path prescribed by his Lord, God helps him in doing good and makes the path of piety easier for him to tread. In Surah
Al-Ankaboot, the Qur’an promises:
Those, who strive in our ways, We shall definitely guide them to Our paths. (29: 69)Then again in Surah Al-Layl, the Qur’an promises:
For him, who gave [in charity], feared God [abiding by His limits] and testified the good [end], We shall, indeed, make the path of bliss easier for him [to tread]. (92: 5 – 7)In keeping with the cited promise of the Qur’an, the Prophet (pbuh), in the referred narrative, is reported to have said that when Ramadan approaches, God opens the doors for heaven and shuts down the doors to hell and enchains all evil forces for all those who have a sincere resolve to piety and to live their lives in a manner which is prescribed by their Lord. In this way, God protects the faithful and the obedient among people from the attacks of evil forces and makes the treading of the path of piety easier for them.
 Even though this rule would hold good under ordinary circumstances, yet because of the general attitude towards piety in the month of Ramadan, it has been specifically mentioned in the narrative under consideration, with special reference to the sacred month of Ramadan.
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 July 2012 09:04