Fallibility and Mercy
This month of Ramadan was brought to us to come to Allah with our sins, repenting to him, admitting our sins, and He forgives us.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said in a number of authentic narrations, “Whoever fasts this month of Ramadan with faith in Allah and hope in Allah’s forgiveness, his previous sins will be forgiven”. (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet also said in the hadith (narration of the Prophet’s words or actions): “Whoever stands and prays in these nights of Ramadan with faith and hope in Allah, Allah (Exalted is He) will forgive them.” (Al-Bukhari)
We take one important lesson quickly from this month, the lesson that we are not asked to be utopian. This is the danger as I alluded to earlier, coming out of a colonial-religious understanding where a massive inferiority complex was ingrained in us, which we still have, we cannot deal with the drama in our community.
Instead of dealing with the problems of our communities, we push them under the rug. For example, I have had parents that come to me with their kids and they say, ‘Brother Suhaib, please don’t put this in the newsletter on Friday’. What do you think I’d put it in the newsletter?
We’re hyper-paranoid of people finding out that we make mistakes because we think that those mistakes mean that Islam is mistaken, and this is a massive error. We are not secure enough to deal with our own drama. We are not secure enough to battle with our own demons because we’re scared, because of an inferiority complex, and because our understanding of religion has been changed to utopianism.
But Allah says, “Wa la yadurallaha shay’a” (nothing can hurt Allah). And the hadith of the Prophet: “If the first of you and the last of you and the most righteous of you stood and asked Allah and He gave, you would not take anything from Him and if the worst of you also would not harm Allah in any way”. (Al-Bukhari)
Because of that, the month of Ramadan is openly calling us to repent to Allah, to re-establish our relationship with Allah, to seek His mercy, but for what? Because we have not made any mistakes or because we have made mistakes? Because we have made mistakes. But when we bring this utopian understanding into the community, we push the Muslims away.
As one person said to me, ‘When I come to the mosque, it is like I’m coming to the court of Judge Judy to be judged by the people and to be declared as evil’. But in the time of the Prophet, the word iman (faith) came from the meaning security and trust; that there is a trust with Allah, amantu billah (I believe in Allah).
Therefore, Allah used this word, not `aqidah (Islamic creed), not tawheed (doctrine of Oneness of God), but iman. Iman in Allah that this security with Allah is as the Prophet mentioned in his definition to believe in Allah, His angels, and His books to the end.
To have secured means I can come to you with my mistakes and I trust that you will forgive me if I seek your forgiveness. That is why Allah says in the Qur’an that if you come back to Him,
You will find Allah the Forgiving, the Merciful. (An-Nisaa’ 4:64)
In our communities now, we are starting at a micro level. Our people are coming to this community and seeking Allah’s mercy. Our people who have made mistakes are coming back, the divorcees fill our community, the drunkards fill our community. Of course there should be some haya’ (modesty), but again, if we’re not careful, we’ll adopt a self-righteous set of constructs that will push the masses of the community away from us, especially the young people.
I notice this because every time someone comes and asks me a question, you know what the first thing they say to me is? ‘I’m sorry’. Why are you sorry? ‘I’m sorry I need to ask…’ Why would you be sorry? Have some self-confidence, brother. ‘I’m sorry brother . . .’ What are you sorry for, man? I got the same drama that you got akhi (brother). ‘I’m sorry…’ No, you’re not sorry, you are human!
One thing we take from the month of Ramadan is that Ramadan is a means of forgiveness. For what? For mistakes. So the Muslim community is going to make mistakes, as Allah says:
Be upright and seek Allah’s forgiveness”. (Fussilat 41:6)
This use of the letter ‘waw’ means that at the same time that you’re upright, seek Allah’s forgiveness.
Because of the insecurity in our Muslim community, we find Muslims in clubs. People say, ‘I can’t believe a Muslim would do something like that’. Why not? I’m not saying go to the club but why not? They are human beings! ‘I can’t believe she lied about me. She wears hijab, that’s why I don’t wear hijab’. Why not? She’s a human being!
But that doesn’t hurt Islam at all; Islam is Islam and Muslims are Muslims. That’s why the first thing I tell a convert is ‘Don’t judge Islam by Muslims, judge Islam by itself’. And that’s why we have the famous statement by Sheikh Muhammad `Abdu. When he went to Europe he said, ‘I saw Muslims without Islam’, then he said about us, ‘I saw Islam without Muslims’. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging mistakes; the community has to gain this maturity in order to deal with the problems of the community.
If we live under a self-righteous set of constructs, we’re not going to help each other at all. But look at the Prophet’s community: even a drunk can come to the masjid of the Prophet. In Sahih Al-Bukhari, a drunken man comes to the masjid of the Prophet and the Prophet orders him to be punished. After the ta`zir (sentence to a crime) is made upon him, the people start to chastise that man, but the Prophet said, “Don’t help shaytan (the devil) on your brother.”
He trusted the Prophet. Would a drunk come to me? No way. Would he come to one of the sheikhs (scholars, leaders) of the masjid? No way. They would not come because they are fearful of this retribution, fearful of their mother and father displayed in front of the community.
One sister said to me, if the people knew about my mistakes in this community, they would laugh at me and relish my mistakes. This is nifaq (hypocrisy). Allah mentions,
If something bad happens to you, O Muhammad, the munafiqin (hypocrites) are happy with it”. (Aal `Imran 3:120)
So we have to move beyond that self-righteous way of looking at things and get back to that good old-fashioned religion that Grandma use to talk about. Organic religion that understands people who make mistakes; where the community can be the crutches that carry the people through errors and mistakes that they make, not judges and self-righteous kings who think that they know everything. This is a disaster.
The month of Ramadan comes as a means of forgiveness for our sins that Allah knows we’re going to make because He knows us better than we know ourselves. With that in mind, I implore this community to work towards establishing social services in this community. Battered women homes, abused children, drug addiction, sex addiction, and these things.
I’m not insulting Islam, Islam is Islam. We’re human beings. But because we’re insecure with who we are, we’re unable to tackle the difficulties of the community, thereby emphasizing our ability to really serve the prophetic message. Ask the young people here who have troubles. One young person comes to me every time and begs, ‘Please Suhaib, don’t talk about it on the minbar (pulpit).’So why should I talk about you on the minbar?’ ‘Don’t tell anyone, if my parents know, they’ll cut me into pieces.’ ‘Why would they cut you into pieces?’ That self-righteous set of ideas not only fell into the community but fell into the homes, and that’s why kids can’t talk to their parents anymore.
They are scared if they go to their mother and father with some drama then it’s on—celebrity death match, kids are going to get taken out. Instead, we should discipline them and we should teach them and we should guide them. This month of Ramadan was brought to us to come to Allah with our sins, repenting to him, admitting our sins, and He forgives us.
This is an extremely important message that we want to take from this month of Ramadan. Get away from the utopian vision that was a product of modernity and fascism and nationalism. We have self-righteous nationalism in this community where people can come with their problems and ask us for help. Even the women who committed zina (adultery) trusted the Prophet enough to go to him. And she knew the punishment but still she went to the Messenger of Allah and said, ‘I committed zina, O Messenger of Allah’.
What about us? Remember the young man in Sahih Al-Bukhari who comes to the Prophet and says, ‘I kissed a girl’. What about us now? Those people would never come to the community, they would never come to the community because they feel frightened.
As in the Battle of Badr, the month of Ramadan was the time in which Allah granted the believers their biggest victory ever, namely
By Tajuddin B. Shuaib
As in the Battle of Badr, the month of Ramadan was the time in which Allah granted the believers their biggest victory ever. In the eighth year of Hijrah in the Islamic calendar, Allah (Glory be to Him) delivered the sacred city of Mecca to the Muslims, virtually without any resistance or bloodshed. With this victory Allah rescued this great city from the yoke of shirk (polytheism); it became an Islamic city forever, the city in which tawhid replaced shirk and belief replaced disbelief, and Islam and submission to Allah unseated obstinacy and haughtiness. The worship of Allah was finally declared and the idols were smashed.
During 6th year of Hijrah, the Messenger of Allah and the Quraysh signed the famous treaty of Hudaybiyah, which included the clause that any tribe that desired to join either party, the Quraysh or Muslims might do so. The Khuza`ah tribesmen decided to join the Messenger of Allah, and Banu Bakar decided to join the Quraysh.
There was bad blood between the two tribes, a pre-Islamic blood grudge. Banu Bakar seized on this opportunity and attacked the Khuza`ah without any provocation, while Quraysh, in violation of the treaty, secretly gave their allies all the help they asked for, men and supplies.
Khuza`ah had no choice but to inform the Messenger, their ally, that Banu Bakar and their allies Quraysh had unilaterally broken the treaty of Hudaybiyah by attacking them. The Messenger promised them, “I will prevent from you what I will prevent from myself.” (Ibn Hisham)
The Quraish realized they had broken the treaty with the Messenger by attacking the Muslims’ allies. Realizing the gravity of the situation, they dispatched Abu Sufyan to Madinah on a mission of fence-mending and to beg for mercy and apologize for their misdeed. Abu Sufyan went to meet the Messenger to apologize, review and extend the treaty. He spoke to the Messenger (peace be upon him) but he was disappointed because he got no response. Abu Sufyan returned to Mecca totally disheartened because he knew the future was bleak. When he arrived in Mecca, the Quraysh gathered around to find out the result of his mission. “Totally unsuccessful,” he told them.
The Messenger, on the other hand, had called his companions to prepare for war. Unlike other battles, where he concealed his destination, this time he told them exactly where they would be heading. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked the tribes around the Islamic state to enlist in the battle. He demanded that the battle plans be kept secret from the enemy until they reached Mecca because he wanted to surprise them.
The news of the Muslims’ movement was so tightly controlled that no Makkan knew of their approach until they were close to Mecca. The Messenger of Allah stopped there and ordered the army to set 10,000 bonfires. `Umar was guiding the Messenger. Because his movement was so unknown, he needed to tell the Quraysh himself that he was at their door-steps. Thus, he sent `Al-`Abbas to inform any person he could find about the Muslims’ arrival, so that they could come to him and seek some kind of peace resolution in order to prevent any bloodshed in the Sacred City.
While Al-`Abbas was on his lookout, he heard Abu Sufyan saying to his comrade, Badeel bin Zurqaa: “I have never seen a fire this big in my life.” Badeel replied this might be the Khuza`ah army. Abu Sufyan said the Khuza`ah was smaller than this. Al-`Abbas recognized his voice and called to him. Abu Sufyan answered and asked, “What do you want, Abal Fadl?” Al-`Abbas replied, “I am the messenger of the Messenger of Allah and his army of believers is heading this way.” Abu Sufyan, shocked and terrified, asked, “What should I do?” Al-`Abbas said, “Ride with me to the Messenger and I will protect you.”
When Abu-Sufyan was in front of him, the Messenger (peace be upon him) demanded: “Woe to you Abu Sufyan. Is it not time for you to know that there is no deity but Allah.” He replied: “By my father and mother, you know that if there were any deity beside Allah it would have helped me. The Messenger continued: “Is it not time for you to know that I am the Messenger of Allah.” Abu Sufyan hesitated for a while, so Al-`Abbas encouraged him: “Woe to you. Announce your Islam.” Abu Sufyan then declared the Shahadah, the declaration of faith.
The Messenger told Al-`Abbas to take Abu Sufyan to the foot of the valley and let him see the Muslim soldiers marching. The army paraded past Abu Sufyan, squadron after squadron. No squadron would pass but Abu Sufyan asked, “Who are those?” While they were watching, a squadron commanded by Sa`ad bin `Ubadah (may Allah be pleased with him) passed. When they were passing, Abu Sufyan overheard Sa`ad saying: “Today is the day of battle, the day of great war, the day when all taboos will be lifted.”
Hearing this, Abu Sufyan was alarmed, so when the Messenger passed by him Abu Sufyan told him what Sa`ad had just said. The Messenger said: “Sa`ad lied to you. This is the day in which the Ka`abah will be glorified, the day in which the Ka`abah will be adorned.” Then the Messenger commanded that Sa`ad be relieved of his duty as commander and that his post be given to his son Qais. Had Sa`ad been permitted to proceed, this would have violated the Messenger’s commandment that no blood should be shed in Mecca.
The Messenger proceeded to Mecca, commanding his flags to be concentrated in the area of Al-Hujun. He entered Mecca, a victorious conqueror bowing down his head as a sign of humbleness to Allah (Glory be to Him). He bowed until his head could be seen touching his horse`s neck. Meanwhile, he was reciting:
Verily We have granted thee a manifest victory. (Al-Fat-h, 48: 1)
He repeated it several times.
He put Khalid bin Walid and Az-Zubair bin `Awwam on each side of the Muslim army. The Messenger declared: “Whoever enters into the Masjid he is safe, whoever enters into the house of Abu Sufyan he is safe, whoever enters his own house and closes the door he is safe.” The Messenger entered the Masjid Al-Haram and made circumambulation on his horse. There were about 360 idols around the Ka`abah. He pulled them down with his sword while reciting:
Truth has arrived and falsehood has perished for falsehood is by its nature bound to perish. (Al-Israa‘, 17:81)
Say: `Truth has arrived and falsehood neither creates anything new nor restores anything. (Saba’ 34: 49)
The Messenger entered the Ka`abah and ordered all the pictures to be destroyed. He prayed inside, and afterward he walked round saying Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), in every corner declaring the oneness of Allah (Glory be to Him). When he came out of the Ka`abah, he stood in the door and said: “There is no deity but Allah alone; He has no associates. He has made good His promise and helped His servant. He has put to flight the confederates. Every claim of privilege, of blood or property is abolished by me except the custody of the House of Allah and water for the pilgrims. The unintentional slaying in a quasi-intentional way by club or whip, for him the blood wit is most severe: a hundred camels, forty of them to be pregnant. O Quraysh, Allah has taken from you the haughtiness of paganism and its veneration of ancestors. Man springs from Adam and Adam springs from dust.” Then he recited to them this verse.
O Mankind, We created you from male and female and made you into peoples and tribes that you may know one another: of a truth the most noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most pious. (Al-Hujurat, 49: 13)
He continued: “O Quraysh, what do you think that I am about to do with you?’ They replied “Good. You are a noble, son of a noble brother.” “Well, I would say to you what Prophet Yusuf said to his brothers: `This day let no reproach be cast on you: Allah will forgive you and He is the most Merciful of those who show mercy.’” (Al-Qur’an, 12: 92) He said: “Go your way for you are freed ones.”
On the second day of the campaign the Messenger (peace be upon him) addressed all of Mecca. He said: “Allah made Mecca holy the day He created heavens and earth, and it will be holy until the Day of Resurrection. It is not lawful for anyone who believes in Allah and the last day to shed blood therein, nor to cut down trees therein. It was not lawful to any one before me and it will not be lawful to anyone after me. Indeed, it is not lawful for me except at this time because of Allah’s anger against its people. Now it has regained its former holiness. Let those here now tell those that are not here. If anyone should say, the Messenger killed men in Mecca, say Allah permitted His Messenger to do so but he does not permit you.” The hour that Allah permitted the Messenger was from sunrise to late afternoon on the day of campaign.
The Messenger stayed in Mecca 29 days, while shortening his prayers. He stayed to educate the newly converted Makkans in the basic teachings of Islam, tawhid, to reinforce their iman, and take allegiance from the people.
With this great victory, people entered into the fold of Islam in droves.
Source: Taken from the author’s Ramadan the Fasting Month.
Fasting is an effective remedy for many of these common harmful habits and an opportunity to get rid of their stranglehold over us.
This is one of the most important lessons to be learned from this month. If we look at the reality of Muslims today, many of us will say that it is difficult to change this negative reality. The streets are full of evil: newspapers, magazines, television and satellite channels air vice day and night. How can we change the people’s conditions? Most people would say this is difficult and can only be corrected at the hands of a revivalist scholar. Some people hold this notion.
However, there is the best example for us in Ramadan. How?
First: If we look at the Masjids before Ramadan, especially in Fajr prayer, we will find them empty except for a few Muslims. When this month comes, the Masjids are filled with Muslims bowing and prostrating to Allah the Almighty and the condition of people changes for the better.
Second: Changing deeply rooted practices and habits easily. On ordinary days, you may find someone smoking and when you forbid him from it, he comes up with excuses. Nevertheless, when Ramadan comes, he patiently refrains from smoking most of the day and endures going without it. It is the weakness of the soul, passion, domination of Satan and his friends that encourage him to smoke again.
These examples give us hope to change the unfortunate reality to a better one, and that we should not despair of changing people’s conditions or our conditions for the better.
I ask you a question, “When was the last time you read the Qur’an completely?” The answer may be, “Last Ramadan!” When Ramadan comes, how many times do you read the Qur’an completely? Look at your morals before Ramadan and during it. Notice how you are keen to join the first row in congregation in the mosque and so on. Thus, there is a possibility for change for the better and for quitting the bad habits and deeds.
You only need to strive and have a strong will, and Allah promised to help and guide. Allah the Almighty says:
And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good. (Al-`Ankabut 29:69)
Ramadan is indeed an opportunity for change, but who persists in having such a will even in Ramadan?
The fasting person should not do anything that breaks this will after breaking his fast, and thus destroy in the night what he built in the day in terms of the strong will and ability to change.
The Muslim who is not spiritually affected by the words of Allah the Almighty, and whose character and behavior do not change for the better upon performing the pillars of Islam and acts of worship, has not gain any benefit from the obligatory acts of worship – except discharging his obligations. In this case, they would be merely movements that he performs perfunctorily, and he moves on to another thing when they come to an end.
Did Allah the Almighty order us to pray only for the mere movements that Prayer entails, that bring about no effect on our lives? Did Allah ordain Hajj and other acts of worship only for the sake of bodily movements and rituals? Or did He ordain them for greater benefits?
Muslims have not failed in their duties; it is simply that their hearts have hardened after suffering the political and cultural onslaught of their enemies, to the extent that they are no longer affected by the words, deeds and beliefs of the pillars of Islam and the rituals that they perform repeatedly. If they were affected by what they say and do, it would have ignited the flames of protective zeal for the sake of Allah the Almighty in their heart and the desire to support His religion. Regretfully, the acts of worship of Muslims today have become mere images without a soul, mere rituals and movements, having no effect on their behavior.
Therefore, Ramadan is an opportunity for change. Many people are captivated by things they are used to, and whenever they try to give up these things, they stumble. Some of them achieve success in overcoming their bad habits for a certain period of time and then suffer a setback.
Ramadan is a great opportunity for lasting change. Fasting is an effective remedy for many of these common harmful habits and an opportunity to get rid of their stranglehold over us. It reminds man that these habits are not necessary or unavoidable; they are either self-imposed or are imposed by the circumstances of his life, and that one can give them up by determination and resolution.
Source: A Booklet Prepared by Islamweb.com
As the majority of Muslims observe the first day of Ramadan, many countries are set to fast with shorter hours than previous years, as Ramadan falls just before summer months this year.
Annually, Hijri years arrive 11 days earlier in respect to the solar Gregorian Calendar. This yearly shift forces the holy 9th Hijri month of Ramadan to move through the seasons in a 33-year cycle.
Similar to last year and since 2016, the majority of the Muslim World, located in the Northern Hemisphere, will fast Ramadan during spring.
This means that the fasting hours in the North Hemisphere this year will be a few minutes shorter than 2017.
Muslims in some regions of the world, such as Iceland and the Muslims in Sibir will refrain from food and drink for as long as 20+ hours.
Yet, as mentioned in the Qudsi hadith: on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who said: “Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: “Fasting is Mine and it is I Who give reward for it. [A man] gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for My sake.”
For the few Muslim nations lying in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Indonesia and Tanzania, and for Muslims living in countries like New Zealand and Argentina, currently experiencing autumn, fasting hours will be as short as nine to ten hours.
The slight difference of daylight hours and minutes, which occurred in the slippage of 11 days between the Hijri lunar year and the Gregorian solar year, didn’t result in a drastic change to the average fasting hours recorded for the delineations of latitude of 2017.
References to daylight and night hours are in accordance to the geographical measurement of latitudes which merely represent physical locations on Earth.
A latitude is defined as “the angular distance north or south from the earth’s equator, measured through 90 degrees.”
Together with longitudes, imaginary vertical grid lines circling the earth, they allow pinpoint precision of geographical locations.
The length of daytime on any date, and therefore the length of fasting hours, is the result of visible sunlight, as may be apparent at any given coordinates on Earth.
Unlike gaseous celestial bodies, the Earth is a rocky planet; thus, time passes similarly with the same pace in all its locations, depending on the latitude.
But, it’s the angle of the sun in relation to the Earth’s horizon at any given location which determines the length of daylight hours.
Praying at the extreme north and south latitudes, as covered by Islamic ruling, has some leniency allowed due to the apparent number of sunlight hours.
The last ten nights of Ramadan are very special
The last ten nights of Ramadan are very special. The first of these nights occurs on the eve of the 21st day of Ramadan. In other words, it is the night that commences after the completion of 20 days of fasting.
Sometimes, there are only nine nights, whenever the month of Ramadan lasts for only 29 days. Nevertheless, they are still traditionally referred to as “The Last Ten Nights”.
The last ten nights of Ramadan are very special. These are the nights that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would spend in constant worship. Among these nights is Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power) – a night more blessed than a thousand months.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to single these nights out for worship and the performance of good deeds. He would exert himself in worship during these ten nights more than any other nights of the year.
Aisha tells us: “During the last ten nights of Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would tighten his waist belt and spend the night in worship. He would also wake up his family.” (Al Bukhari)
Aisha also says: “I had never known Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) to read the entire Quran in a single night, or to spend the whole night in prayer up until the morning, or to spend a whole month in fasting – except in Ramadan.” (An Nasai’ & Ibn Majah)
When we say that Prophet Muhammad spent the whole night in worship, we should qualify it. This is because he would spend some time eating dinner, partaking of his pre-dawn meal, and other similar activities. However, he would spend most of the night in worship.
Waking Up the Family
Aisha informs us that the Prophet used to wake up his family during the last ten nights of Ramadan. Indeed, he used to wake up his wives for prayer throughout the year, but that was so that they could pray for a small fraction of the night.
We know this, because Umm Salamah, the Prophet’s wife, relates that the Prophet woke her up one night and said:
“Glory be to Allah! How many trials have been sent down during this night and how many treasures have been disclosed! Go and wake the denizens of the bedchambers (his wives) up (for prayers)? A well-dressed (self) in this world may be naked in the Hereafter.” (Al-Bukhari)
During the last ten nights of Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad would wake up his wives to pray for a much longer portion of the night than during the rest of the year.
Exerting Oneself in Worship
Aisha tells us: “The Prophet would exert himself in worship during the last ten nights more than at any other time of the year.” (Muslim)
The great jurist, Al-Shafi’i, declares: “It is Sunnah for one to exert greater efforts in worship during the last ten nights of Ramadan.”
When Aisha tells us that Prophet Muhammad would “tighten his waist belt”, she is speaking figuratively. The phrase means to set about to devote oneself fully and wholeheartedly to the task at hand.
Seeking out Laylat al-Qadr
One of the greatest distinctions of these ten special nights is that one of them is Laylat al-Qadr. This is the greatest night of the year – better than a thousand months. This means that a Muslim can earn more rewards on the Night of Power than he would if – excluding this special night – he were to worship his Lord for eighty-four years straight. This is one of the immense favors that God has bestowed upon the Muslim community.
Imam Ibrahim Al-Nakha`i says: “Good works performed on this night are better than those performed consistently for a thousand months.”
Abu Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever spends Laylat al-Qadr in prayer, believing in Allah and seeking His reward, will be forgiven all of his past sins.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
“Believing in Allah”, in this hadith, means not only to believe in God, but to believe in the reward that we are promised for observing prayer on this night.
Laylat al-Qadr is on one of the odd nights. Aisha relates that Prophet Muhammad said:
“Seek out Laylat al-Qadr in the odd nights during the last ten nights of Ramadan.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
It is most likely one of the last seven odd nights. Ibn Umar relates that Prophet Muhammad said:
“Look for it in the last ten nights. If one of you falls weak or unable to do so, then he should at least try on the seven remaining nights.” (Muslim)
The most likely candidate for Laylat al-Qadr is the 27th night of Ramadan. This is indicated by the statement of Ubayy ibn Ka`b: “I swear by Allah that I know which night it is. It is the night in which Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) ordered us to observe in prayer. It is the night on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan. Its sign is that the sun will rise in the morning of that day white without exuding any rays.” (Muslim)
A Muslim should seek out this special night by spending the last ten nights of Ramadan engaged in various acts of worship. These include reciting the remembrances of God, reading the Quran, and begging God’s forgiveness.
It is best for us to strive hard on all ten nights for “The way we ‘look for’ Laylat al-Qadr is by engaging in extra worship.”
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Look for it in the last ten nights”, he did not mean that we should literally “look for” signs and indications that distinguish Laylat al-Qadr from other nights. The things that distinguish this night from other nights are part of the Unseen.
Surely We revealed it on a blessed night. Surely We ever wish to warn (against evil) – On this night, every wise matter is made distinct. (Ad-Dukhan 44: 3-4)
He also says:
Laylat al-Qadr is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with every decree. (This night is) peace, until the rising of the dawn. (Al-Qadr 97: 3-5)
These are the ways in which Laylat al-Qadr is special. They are not things that we can see with our eyes. No one after the Prophet can see the angels.
Observing i`tikaf (retreat in the mosque) is of the best things we can do during the last ten nights of Ramadan. Aisha tells us: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to observe a retreat in the mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan until he died. His wives continued to observe this practice after his death.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
The practice of i`tikaf is a strongly recommended act. It is defined as remaining in retreat in the mosque for the express purpose of worship. The purpose of doing so is to devote one’s heart exclusively to God. The person engaging in i`tikaf keeps this intention close to mind and seeks God’s blessings. He should not forget the reason why he is observing this retreat.
A person observing i`tikaf does not leave the mosque except for what is absolutely necessary (like going to the bathroom). While in the mosque, he should busy himself with the remembrance of God. He should make sure to offer the remembrances of the morning and evening and the prescribed remembrances for the five daily prayers. He should perform all of the Sunnah prayers. He should read as much of the Quran as he can.
He should spend less time eating and sleeping as little as possible. He should avoid unnecessary talk. However, he should engage in advising his fellow Muslims and in enjoining them to truth and to patience.
It is encouraged for us to be extra generous during the last ten nights of Ramadan, without being extravagant or ostentatious in our giving. Ibn `Abbas relates that: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all people in doing good, and he was at his most generous during the month of Ramadan. Gabriel used to meet with him every year throughout the month of Ramadan, so the Prophet could recite the Quran to him. Whenever Gabriel met with him, he became more generous than a beneficial breeze.” (Al Bukhari & Muslim)
Al-Nawawi, the Muslim scholar, states:
“Generosity and open-handedness are strongly encouraged in Ramadan, especially during the last ten nights. By doing so, we emulate the example of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as well as of our Pious Predecessors. Also, this month is noble, and good works carried out in this month are more blessed than they are at any other time. Also, during this month, some people are preoccupied with fasting and worship, and this distracts them from their livelihood, so they might need some assistance during this time.”
Source: Taken with modifications from Onislam.net
If I`tikaf is for the last ten days of Ramadan, the observer should leave after sunset the last day of the month.
By Tajuddin B. Shuaib
Linguistically, I`tikaf means to engage and to devote something, to a thing, be it good or bad. In Shari’ah it means to engage in a retreat in the Masjid and stay there with the intention of seeking nearness to Allah the Almighty, and His reward.
The majority of Muslim scholars agree that I`tikaf is permissible, for the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) observed I`tikaf in the Month of Ramadan during the last ten days. In his last Ramadan he observed it 20 days, as is related by Bukhari and others. Besides, his companions and wives observed it during his lifetime and after.
The prerequisites of I`tikaf
For a retreat to be valid, the observer must be Muslim, must have reached puberty, and must be pure from janabah (major defilement, menstruation, and post-childbirth bleeding).
The pillars of I`tikaf
There are two pillars for I`tikaf: intention, and staying in the Masjid. Allah states:
“…But do not associate with your wives while you are in retreat in the masajid… “(Al-Baqarah 2:187).
This verse prohibits two things: marital relationships during I`tikaf because this contradicts the spirit of devotion, and observing I`tikaf in any place but a masjid. Thus, any believer man or woman who desires to observe I`tikaf may do so only in a masjid as we see the Messenger (peace be upon him)’s wives were building their tents in the masjid.
The beginning and ending time of I`tikaf
There is no specific time for beginning or ending I`tikaf. Whenever one enters into the masjid with intention, he begins his retreat. If he intends to engage in I`tikaf the last ten days of Ramadan, he should prepare his tent before sunset. In a hadith related by Abu Sa`id, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever intends to retreat with me should retreat during the last ten nights (of Ramadan).” (Al-Bukhari). The first night of the last ten is the night of the 21st of Ramadan because in Islam the days begin at sunset.
However, the reports that said the Messenger (peace be upon him) entered his I`tikaf place after Fajr prayer do not mean he started after Fajr, they mean he returned to his place of I`tikaf at that time.
If I`tikaf is for the last ten days of Ramadan, the observer should leave after sunset the last day of the month, but it is preferred that he remain in the masjid and should not leave it until the time of `Eid. If a person intends to engage in I`tikaf for a day, or several days, as voluntary I`tikaf, he will enter into his place of I`tikaf before the break of dawn and will leave after sunset, whether it is in Ramadan or not. If a person intends to engage in I`tikaf for a night or two as a voluntary act, he should enter before sunset and leave after the break of dawn.
The reason is the night begins with the sunset and completes with the break of dawn, and the day begins with the break of dawn and completes with sunset. If a believer intends to engage in I`tikaf for a month he should enter the first night of the month before sunset and leave after sunset when the month finishes.
What should a person in I`tikaf engage in?
It is recommended that the person in a state of I`tikaf should engage in supererogatory worship, and engage himself with prayer, recitation of Al-Qu’ran, Glorification of Allah, Praising Allah, frequent declaration of the testification of faith, Takbir (saying Allahu-Akbar “Allah is the Greatest”), seeking forgiveness from Allah, invoking Allah’s blessing on the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), and supplications, as well as any act of worship that will bring the servant nearer to Allah. Included in these acts of worship is studying the books of Tafsir, hadith, the life history of the Prophets, as well as any books on Fiqh and religion. He should build a retreat (store his provisions) in the corner of the masjid where he or she will not disturb the regular worshippers.
He should not concern himself with what does not concern him, which is the best way to seek nearness to Allah. In a hadith reported by Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), was delivering a sermon, khutbah, and a man stood up but would not talk. A companion said, “This is Abu Israel. He vowed to not stand, nor sit, nor seek shade, nor speak, but fast.” The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Command him to speak and seek shade, to sit and complete his fast.” (Bukhari, Ibn Majah and Abu Dawud).
What is permitted for a person in a state of I`tikaf?
He may leave the retreat and go out to bid farewell to his family. Safiyah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was in his retreat, so I came to visit him at night. I spoke to him, and when I was leaving he stood to bid me farewell. When we reached the door to open it and they quietly passed and greeted the Messenger (peace be upon him) then the Messenger told them: `slowly, you don’t need to run, she is Safiyah bint Huyayy, (my wife; don’t think I am walking with another sister)’ they said in surprise: `Glory be to Allah, O Messenger of Allah!’ (for they were baffled for what he said to them.) The Messenger said `The Satan circulates in the human system the same way the blood circulates, so I was afraid that Satan might throw or whisper (ill thoughts) in your heart.” (Bukhari and Muslim) The Prophet, (peace be upon him) left his retreat. Thus it is permissible to leave.
It is permitted to comb one’s hair, shave, trim the nails, clean the body, wear one’s best clothes and use perfume. In a report by `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), she said: “The Messenger used to be in I`tikaf and he would put his head through the window and I would wash it for him, while I was in my menstruation.” (Muslim and Al-Bukhari)
It is permitted for him to leave the masjid to take care of essential things. The scholars agreed that the retreater is permitted to leave to eat and drink and to use the toilet, also to leave the masjid to purify the body from janabah and to clean the clothes.
It is permitted to eat and drink and sleep in the Masjid, but extreme care should be taken to safeguard the cleanliness of the Masjid. The person may be a party to weddings and some legal contracts taking place in the masjid during the I`tikaf.
Things that invalidate I`tikaf
- Exiting from the masjid without any good reason, even if it is for a moment, because that is one of its pillars.
- Apostasy (riddah) for it contradicts worship.
- Insanity due to madness, drugs or intoxicants, for sanity is prerequisite in all forms of worship.
- Menstruation and post-childbirth bleeding (nifas).
- Martial relations.
Nothing is wrong with touching one’s spouse provided it is free from passion. This does not include kissing. If one kisses or touches his spouse with passion, he or she has done wrong, for it contradicts the spirit of I`tikaf, but the I`tikaf is valid provided he does not discharge semen. That is according to Imams Abu Hanifah and Ahmed. Imam Malik, on the other hand, said in this instance, the I`tikaf becomes invalid because this is illegal association, even without discharge of semen.
Redemption of I`tikaf
Whoever starts I`tikaf voluntarily and then breaks it is recommended to redeem it. But if he vows a day, or two, then starts and then invalidates it, he must redeem it whenever he is able, according to the majority of the scholars. If he died before making it up redemption is not necessary, however, Imam Ahmed said: “His next of kin should redeem it for him.”
Source: Taken with modifications from the author’s Ramadan the Fasting Month.