By Harun Yahya
Identifying the evil of the soul and purifying it are characteristic of the true religion and the messengers communicating it.
The “soul”, (in Arabic, nafs) as commonly used in the Qur’an, means “ego” or “one’s personality.” In the Qur’an, Allah explains the two aspects of soul: the one inspiring evil and wicked deeds, and the other, guarding against every inculcation of evil. As the Qur’an makes it clear in Surat Al-Shams:
“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; Truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it!” (Al-Shams: 7-10)
The information provided in the verses about soul is of great importance: in the creation process of man, Allah inspired wickedness in the human soul. Wickedness, that is ‘fujur’ in Arabic, means “tearing apart the limits of righteousness.” As a religious term it means “committing sin and stirring up rebellion, telling lies, disobedience, transgression, adultery, moral corruption…”
Apart from the wicked side of the soul, from the Surat Al-Shams we know that Allah also inspired in the soul a conscience i.e. a sense of what is wrong and right for it. In the second part of the ayah we learn that one, who sincerely accepts the wickedness of his soul and purifies it by the guidance of the inspiration of Allah, will attain salvation for all eternity. This is indeed a certain and true salvation; earning the approval, mercy and heaven of Allah. Those, on the other hand, who fail to banish the wickedness from their souls will face a fearsome end.
At this point an important conclusion may be drawn: every soul has wickedness in itself; the only way to purify it is to accept it and to observe the limits of Allah by the guidance of Allah.
The difference between believers and unbelievers becomes quite clear at this point. Only Qur’anic teaching provides an inner understanding of the wicked side of the soul and the ways to remedy it. Identifying the evil of the soul and purifying it are characteristic of the true religion and the messengers communicating it.
In the 87th verse of Surat Al-Baqarah, the Jews are addressed as follows:
“…Is it that whenever there comes to you a messenger with what you yourselves do not desire, you are puffed up with pride? Some you called impostors, and others you slay!” (Al-Baqarah: 87)
As the verse suggests, unbelievers simply surrender themselves to the evil of their souls and thus always challenge the true religion and its messengers. Such individuals fail to save their souls from greed, as explained in the Surat Al-Shams.
This being so, we may well observe that all unbelievers demonstrate an absolute submission to the evil of their souls. That is to say that they are devoid of understanding. The life they lead is one of instinct life; to all thoughts and behaviors are inspired by the wicked side of the soul. This is also one of the reasons why analogies between unbelievers and animals are made in the Qur’an.
Believers, on the contrary, are conscious of the existence of Allah. They fear Him and thus they take care to observe His limits. They are always guided by the inspiration of Allah. They never surrender to the evil in their soul, they do not cover it, but disclose it and guard against it as Allah inspires. The words of the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) guide believers towards typical righteous conduct: “Nor do I absolve my own self (of blame): the (human) soul is certainly prone to evil, unless my Lord bestows His Mercy: but surely my Lord is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Yusuf: 53) knowing that the soul is always prone to evil, a believer should be ever alert to the misdeeds in which his soul is likely to become involved.
From the foregoing we have a clear understanding of the “evil” side of the soul. However, the soul is also open to the instigation of righteousness, in other words, to the inspiration of Allah. This inspiration makes a person turn to himself and restrain his soul from fulfilling lower desires. This inspiration leading man to righteousness, this faculty of judging between right and wrong is commonly referred to as “conscience.”
Conscience is an infallible compass within the human soul continuously calling man to righteousness. On that account, conscience is, in a way, the whispering voice of Allah. Provided that a person listens to this voice and embraces the basic principles of the Qur’an, he will always proceed in the right way.
As long as the individual follows the voice of his conscience, he will be a model displaying the attributes of Allah in his personality. Allah is infinitely compassionate and merciful; a person submitting himself to Him will also have mercy on others. Allah is infinitely intelligent, so that a believer who serves Him will also be intelligent. The closer he feels to Allah and the more he surrenders himself to Him, the purer he becomes in the presence of Allah:
“Those who have faith and do righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures.” (Al-Bayyinah: 7)
The human conscience functions in compliance with all of Allah’s commandments. However the criteria of the conscience given in the Qur’an are quite different from those adhered to by society. Feeding stray dogs or giving charity to a beggar are typical examples reflecting the inherent understanding of conscientiousness in society. The conscience of a believer, on the other hand, demands complete compliance with the commandments and prohibitions of the Qur’an. Furthermore, one comprehends and implements the details of many issues stated in general terms in the Qur’an by the guidance of one’s conscience.
For instance, Allah commands man to spend whatever is in excess of his needs. The individual can determine the extent of his needs only through his soul. ONE, who lacks the sensitivity of conscience, surely fails to arrive at a fair judgment of his needs and cannot comply with the commandments of Allah in the best way possible.
In the course of daily life, a person continuously meets situations which require him to make choices. Only one of these choices, however, best suits the will of Allah. Believers are held responsible for making the right choice; the choice led by the whisper of Allah. This is actually what one initially hears at the moment of making one’s choice, the voice guiding one to the true path. Only then, at the second stage, does the soul come on the scene, diverting one to other unacceptable alternatives. At this stage the soul whispers some excuses to justify the wrongful options. The Qur’an gives a considerable account of these “excuses” in many verses.
Believers should know to cope with these whisperings, simply by showing no interest to them, not listening to them, and going on their way, inspired by conscience. The examples provided by the Qur’an about the conscience should lead man to ponder upon this issue. In the following verse, the case of believers who are deeply grieved at not finding a way to fight is related:
“There is no blame on those who are infirm, or ill, or who find no resources to spend (on the cause), if they are sincere (in duty) to Allah and His Messenger: no ground (of complaint) can there be against such as do right: and Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. Nor (is there blame) on those who came to you to be provided with mounts, and when you said, “I can find no mounts for you,” they turned back, their eyes streaming with tears of grief that they had no resources with which to contribute.” (Al-Tawbah: 91-92)
Fighting against enemies obviously involves danger. One who decides to take part in a war surely risks his life or health. Despite this fact, in the times of our prophet, believers had shown an intense eagerness to fight in the cause of Allah and furthermore, suffered deep grief at not finding a way to fight. This is indeed a striking example of conscience, as explained in the Qur’an.
The evil side of the soul cannot lead a believer astray all of a sudden. Rather, it encourages neglectfulness of the responsibilities he has to fulfill in the cause of Allah. By making excuses, the soul tries to shake one’s commitment to observing the limits of Allah. The influence of the soul becomes more profound wherever one appeases the desires of his soul. The resultant effects of such an approach would be detrimental to his faith. He may even drift into disbelief. Whatever the circumstances, he is obliged to comply with the commandments of Allah, and invariably to curb his selfish desires and whims. Allah addresses His servants thus:
“So fear Allah as much as you can; listen and obey and spend in charity for the benefit of your own soul. Those saved from the covetousness of their own souls, they are the ones that achieve prosperity.” (Al-Taghabun: 16)
In this verse Allah commands believers to fear Him, obey Him and to listen to His judgement. They are also required to spend for the cause of Allah, since this will save believers from “the covetousness of their own souls” and make them attain real prosperity. Another verse declares:
“And for such as had entertained the fear of standing before their Lord’s (tribunal) and had restrained (their) soul from lower desires, their abode will be the Garden.” (Al-Naziat: 40-41)
A soul purified of selfish desires, and thus earning the pleasure and the heaven of Allah, is referred to as “the soul in complete rest and satisfaction” in the Qur’an.
“(To the righteous soul it will be said:) “O (you) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, well pleased yourself, and well-pleasing to Him! Enter then, among My devotees! You, enter My Heaven!” (Al-Fajr: 27-30)
Those, on the other hand, who fail to purify their souls and thus attain Hell are full of remorse for what they have done. The remorse felt by the billions of people that have ever lived on earth is horrible to witness. This is an inescapable truth awaiting unbelievers. This is a real day; so real that Allah calls to witness “the self- reproaching spirit” right after the resurrection day:
“I call to witness the resurrection day; and I call to witness the self-reproaching spirit.” (Al-Qiyamah: 1-2)
Harun Yahya was born in Ankara in 1956. He studied arts at Istanbul’s Mimar Sinan University and philosophy at Istanbul University. Since the 1980s, the author has published many books on political, faith-related and scientific issues. Harun Yahya is well known as an author who has written very important works disclosing the imposture of evolutionists, the invalidity of their claims and the dark liaisons between Darwinism and bloody ideologies. Some of the books of the author have been translated into English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Albanian, Arabic, Polish, Russian, Bosnian, Indonesian, Turkish, Tatar, Urdu and Malay and published in the countries concerned. Harun Yahya’s books appeal to all people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, regardless of their age, race and nationality, as they center around one goal: to open the readers mind by presenting the signs of Gods eternal existence to them.
By Harun Yahya
Man’s duty in this world is to have faith in God and the hereafter, to conduct himself in compliance with the commands of the Qur’an, to observe the limits set by God, and to try to earn His good pleasure.
God has created everything according to His divine wisdom and has rendered many things to man’s service. Clearly, many things in the universe, from the solar system to the ratio of oxygen in the atmosphere, from the animals that provide us meat and milk to water, have been created to serve man. If this fact is recognized to be evident, it follows that it is illogical to think this life has no purpose. Definitely, there is a purpose to this life, explained by God as follows:
“I only created jinn and man to worship Me.” (Adh-Dhariyat: 56)
Only a minority of humanity understand this purpose of creation and lead their lives thereby. God has granted us life on earth to test whether or not we will conform to this very purpose. Those who sincerely serve God, and those who rebel against Him, will be distinguished from one another in this world. All those blessings (his body, senses, property…) given to man in this world, are a means by which God tests him. In a verse of the Qur’an, God relates the following:
“We created man from a mingled drop to test him, and We made him hearing and seeing.” (Al-Insan: 2)
Man’s duty in this world is to have faith in God and the hereafter, to conduct himself in compliance with the commands of the Qur’an, to observe the limits set by God, and to try to earn His good pleasure. The continuing trials of this life over time reveal those people who are committed to accomplish these tasks. Because God demands a true and sincere faith,—which is the kind of faith that is not attainable only by saying “I believe”—man must demonstrate that he has true faith in God and His religion and that he will not swerve from the right path despite the cunnings of Satan. Similarly, he must demonstrate that he will not follow the disbelievers, nor prefer the desires of his own self over God’s pleasure. His response to the events in his life will reveal all these qualities. God will create certain hardships, during which man must show patience, in order to expose the degree of his dedication to faith in God. This fact is stated in the Qur’an as follows:
“Do people imagine that they will be left to say, “We believe,” and will not be tested?” (Al-‘Ankabut: 2)
In another verse, God states that those who say, “We believe” will be tested:
“Or did you imagine that you were going to enter Paradise without God knowing those among you who had struggled and knowing the steadfast?” (Al ‘Imran: 142)
This being the case, disappointment in the face of difficulties would not be the right response to allow oneself to have. Such difficulties may be great ordeals or just trivial daily problems. A believer must consider all such circumstances as part of the trial placed upon him, place his trust in God, and conduct himself in compliance with His pleasure. In a verse of the Qur’an, those difficulties placed upon the believers are related as follows:
“We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and life and crops. But give good news to the steadfast.” (Al-Baqarah: 155)
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) also reminded the believers of this, by saying, “Whoever accepted it [God’s trial], will enjoy God’s Pleasure and whoever is displeased with it, will incur God’s Displeasure.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Not only will difficulties, but also blessings in this world serve to test man. God tries man with every benefit He bestows upon man, to see whether or not he will be thankful. As well, God creates many circumstances through which man adopt a certain attitude. In the midst of these trials, man may formulate a decision, either in compliance with God’s pleasure, or his own soul. If he recognizes such an incident to be a trial from God and conforms his conduct accordingly to earn God’s pleasure, then he succeeds in his test. However, if his decision is in accordance to the dictates of his own soul, it will both be a sin, which he will greatly regret in the hereafter, and a source of anxiety in this world, as it troubles his conscience.
Indeed, God creates everything that happens in this world as a trial. Those events considered to be mere “coincidence” or “bad luck” by the ignorant, are actually circumstances created according to the great subtleties of a divine plan. Of this, God gives the example of Jews who broke the Sabbath, tempted by an abundance of fish:
“Ask them about the town which was by the sea when they broke the Sabbath—when their fish came to them near the surface on their Sabbath day but did not come on the days which were not their Sabbath. In this way, We put them to the test because they were deviators.” (Al-A’raf: 163)
The Jews may have thought that the fish came forth to them on a Saturday by “coincidence,” but, the event was predetermined as a trial for them by God. As this case makes clear, there is a divine purpose and a test in every occurrence in life. All that befalls a believer has been determined in order that he keep this notion in mind and that he tries to succeed at his test, and adopt a form of behavior that is in compliance with the consent of God.
Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.harunyahya.com.
Harun Yahya was born in Ankara in 1956. He studied arts at Istanbul’s Mimar Sinan University and philosophy at Istanbul University. Since the 1980s, the author has published many books on political, faith-related and scientific issues. Harun Yahya is well known as an author who has written very important works disclosing the imposture of evolutionists, the invalidity of their claims and the dark liaisons between Darwinism and bloody ideologies. Some of the books of the author have been translated into English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Albanian, Arabic, Polish, Russian, Bosnian, Indonesian, Turkish, Tatar, Urdu and Malay and published in the countries concerned. Harun Yahya’s books appeal to all people, Muslims, and non-Muslims alike, regardless of their age, race, and nationality, as they center around one goal: to open the readers’ mind by presenting the signs of Gods eternal existence to them.
By Amal Stapley
Try to clear your diary as much as possible during Ramadan, so you can spend more time concentrating on spiritual matters. Reschedule non-urgent activities before or after Ramadan.
Ramadan is just around the corner and, if you’re a new Muslim and haven’t experienced it yet, you’ve probably got a million-and-one questions going around your head about it and you’re possibly wondering how on earth you’ll manage.
You may be wondering: How will I adjust to those long summer days without food?
How will I manage to do all the things I usually have to do on a daily basis when I’m not eating and drinking?
And on top of that, how will I be able to fit all those extra activities in that people are telling me about?
As a new Muslim, you’re probably keen to please God as much as you can and you want to get your fasting right. But how will you cope if you’ve never done it before?
And also, how will your friends, family, and co-workers react to you fasting?
The major comfort you can take is that millions of people have done it before you and survived and received the blessings of this special month, and millions will do it after you. Whatever challenges you will face, someone else has managed the same challenges.
God guided you to Islam and He knows what you can bear and He never tests you with something you can’t cope with. And fasting is the only thing He asks you to do for Him:
“Allah said: ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…’” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
So how will you manage?
Like anything new, the best thing to do, to make it as easy as possible, is to prepare for it. Below are some ideas that may help you that others have tried in the past.
Preparing Yourself Psychologically
The thought of fasting will probably seem quite strange to you at the moment unless you have had contact with other people fasting previously, so you might feel a bit nervous and apprehensive about it.
You can reduce these feelings by finding out more about fasting and what it entails. Some of the ways you can do this are:
- Talk to Muslims who have fasted before: It will be particularly helpful if you can meet up with or talk to other new Muslims to find out about their experiences.
- Read introductory information about Ramadan: Reading information such as A Beginner’s Guide to Ramadan and other information will help to dispel a lot of worries.
- Listen to talks about Ramadan: There are lots of talks that you can access the internet now. This would be a good starting point. You may also find that there will be talks at your local mosque or university Islamic society that will help to prepare you.
- Start getting rid of bad habits now: If you are someone who is prone to swearing, lying, backbiting or any other bad habits, become more aware of what you’re doing and try to curb the habit before Ramadan. And, if you typically waste many hours in front of the television, start gradually replacing this with more beneficial activities.
- Free-up your diary for Ramadan: Try to clear your diary as much as possible during Ramadan, so you can spend more time concentrating on spiritual matters. Reschedule non-urgent activities before or after Ramadan.
Preparing Yourself Physically
Physically, the major change during Ramadan is the change of routine, you’ll be eating at different times and probably waking much earlier than you’re used to. So rather than wait until Ramadan arrives and suddenly expect your body to cope with the changes, if you start getting into training now, it will be much easier when you actually have to do it.
Here are some suggestions:
- Consult your doctor if you’re taking regular medication or have health issues: It’s always wise to have a chat with your doctor before you start to fast, to make sure that it won’t harm you. The scholars have said that if you are sick, it’s disliked to fast if it will be very difficult for you, and it is forbidden to fast if it will harm you. So if a trustworthy doctor says that you can fast, you should do your best to do so.
- Start adjusting your sleeping pattern now: This will make it easier for you to wake up on time to eat Sahoor (the pre-dawn meal) before the Fajr Prayer time when Ramadan arrives. So now, instead of leaving it to the latest time to pray Fajr, start praying towards the beginning of the time. You could even try getting up and doing a few units of Night prayer before Fajr to get your body used to get up early. (You can always go back to sleep after you’ve prayed!)
- Start having an early breakfast: Some people say that one of the most difficult things for them is to have a good breakfast at the start of the fasting day, as they aren’t used to eating a lot in the morning. Practice having a nourishing breakfast as early as you can before Ramadan comes to get your stomach used to it. If you’re not sure what to eat, click here to get a good guide to healthy eating while fasting:
- Reduce your caffeine intake: If you habitually drink a lot of tea or coffee, it’s a good idea to start reducing the amount you drink before Ramadan, so you’ll avoid having headaches when you’re fasting. Maybe even substitute decaf versions in increasing amounts.
- Get rid of bad habits in advance: If you’re still smoking, work out a plan so you can stop before Ramadan. Likewise, if you regularly chew gum, take this opportunity to stop before Ramadan arrives.
- Practice Fasting: The first three days of fasting are usually challenging for most Muslims until their body adjusts to the routine, but as you have probably never fasted for a full day, let alone for 18 hours, it will help if you do some practice fasts beforehand.
- How about trying a half day fast without food and drink at the weekend and then gradually increase the time as you get nearer to Ramadan?
- Or maybe try to fast on Mondays and Thursdays like the Prophet (peace be upon him) did. Some people find it easier to fast when they are at work where they are busy rather than at the weekends when they are home and tempted by food in the kitchen!
Preparing Yourself Spiritually
Ramadan is not only a month to control your physical desires; it’s also a month to focus on spiritual matters too. If you can start preparing from now, it will give you a head start when the blessed month finally arrives.
- Focus on your prayers: If you aren’t yet praying all the five daily prayers in full, make a concerted effort to learn them before Ramadan comes. In this way, you’ll be able to get the extra reward for the prayers during Ramadan and you’ll also find it easier to join in with Tarawih (the special Ramadan night prayers) and also the other congregational prayers.
- Get in the habit of spending time with the Qur’an daily: Even if you can’t read Arabic yet, just spend some quiet time with the Qur’an on a daily basis, contemplating its meanings.
- Learn some Ramadan Dua’ (supplications): Try to learn some of the special Dua’ related to Ramadan, such as those said when breaking the fast or when you’re invited to break your fast at someone else house.
Preparing Your Family and Friends
For those of you who have told your family, friends, and co-workers about your conversion, explain to them what you will be doing during Ramadan and help them to understand it as well as you can. They may find the whole idea of Ramadan difficult to accept.
As food and drink is such an essential part of most people’s daily life, they may find it hard to accept you not eating and drinking for such a long period of time.
- Be patient with them: Try to remember back to a time when you may also have thought like they do. You may need to reassure them that you won’t come to any harm if you fast and that it is safe, and that you’ll still be spending time with them.
- Plan how you can best fit your fasting in with their usual routine: If you usually eat with them, try to work out ways to make it as least disruptive to them as you can. If possible try to work out how you can involve them in what you’ll be doing.
For those of you who haven’t yet told your family, friends, and co-workers, it will be more complicated, as people are likely to notice if you aren’t eating and drinking at the usual times. There are a number of ways that you could handle things under those circumstances, and these are a few:
- Consider whether this might be the right time to start to tell them of your conversion: If you do feel you can tell them now, it will make it much easier for you to celebrate Ramadan in the way God wants you to.
- If you really feel that it is not the right time yet: It may be an idea to see if you can stay with Muslim or sympathetic friends as much as possible during the month or just spend as much time as possible away from friends and family, especially around their mealtimes.
- Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“There is no obedience to any human being if it involves disobedience of Allah.” (Ahmad)
However, if you feel that you would actually put yourself in danger if you told those close to you about your conversion, and you really can’t work out a way to spend time away from them or avoid eating with them, all you can do is to do your best to obey God as much as you can.
I pray that He will help you to find a way out of your situation as soon as possible!
So what steps will you be taking to prepare yourself for Ramadan?
Taken with slight editorial modifications from onislam.net.
Amal Stapley, a Life Coach for Muslim women, founded the SuperMuslimah Project at www.coachamal.com to support, motivate and encourage Muslim women to step forward in their lives with confidence. After accepting Islam in 1992, she graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia with a degree in Psychology and Islamic studies, and then went on to work with Islamic organizations in the USA, Egypt and now in her home country, the UK. She’s now the Chair of the Sheffield New Muslim Project.
By Dr. Ali Al-Halawani
Set a goal for yourself in Ramadan which you will do your best to achieve. Let that goal be to save yourself from Hellfire and to enjoy Allah’s pleasure and salvation during that noble month.
For one’s life to be meaningful, it has to have a goal that is worked toward or striven for. If one leads all of one’s life without a goal to be achieved or an end to be reached, all of one’s life goes with the wind. This is true of all people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But for a Muslim, this issue has much more value, as the end-goal is to attain Allah’s pleasure and to be granted admission to Paradise in the Hereafter.
Based on this, true Muslims should have an objective for both their whole life and their individual deeds during every minute that they stay on earth.
No one can deny the fact that Allah designed and subjugated the creation in order for man to fulfill the objective he was originally created for, which can be seen in Allah’s saying in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an:
“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone). I seek not any provision from them (i.e. provision for themselves or for My creatures) nor do I ask that they should feed Me (i.e. feed themselves or My creatures).” (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56-57)
In addition, Allah Almighty gives man one chance after another to come back to Him and seek the straight path. As for Muslims, Allah gave them the month of Ramadan as a great opportunity to increase their potential good deeds and decrease their sinful ones, to help them attain Paradise in the Hereafter. Ramadan is the month where the reward for good deeds is multiplied manyfold by the grace of Allah. Thus, it is a real opportunity to overcome the obstacles of life and the malicious schemes of Satan.
Set a goal for yourself in Ramadan which you will do your best to achieve. Let that goal be to save yourself from Hellfire and to enjoy Allah’s pleasure and salvation during that noble month.
In order for you to achieve that lofty goal, you will have to stop with yourself at some important stations. These stations go as follows:
Let your objective this Ramadan be that you abstain from all that is prohibited for you by Allah. So do not cheat or lie or backbite or usurp others’ properties or gaze at what Allah has prohibited (the opposite sex). It is well-known that fasting is of three degrees:
- Abstaining from food, drink, and intimate intercourse.
- Keeping your ears, eyes, tongue, hands, and feet, and all other bodily organs free from sins.
- Avoiding occupying your heart with unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, and upholding nothing in your heart but Allah the Almighty.
So, what holds you back from drawing nearer to Allah and being one of those very few people who observe fasting of that third and special degree?
With Standing in the Night in Prayer
Have an objective this Ramadan to perform a minimum of eight rak`ahs in Prayer after `Isha’ and before Fajr in addition to Shaf` and Witr. Do not let anything prevent you from performing these precious rak`ahs every night in Ramadan. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said the following:
It is highly recommended for you to observe Qiyam al-Layl (Night Prayer), for it was the practice of your righteous predecessors. Qiyam al-Layl brings you closer to your Lord, atones for your sins, drives disease from your body, and stops transgression. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
With the Qur’an
Be keen on finishing reading the whole Qur’an at least once during the month of Ramadan. Recite at least one of its 30 parts every day. What if you are not that good at reading the Qur’an? You should not despair or be disappointed, for there is still a chance for you to gain reward from Allah. This can be achieved by listening directly to one who has better recitation, listening to a recording, or listening to a radio station. Spending your time listening to Qur’anic recitation is also good and rewarding.
With Ties of Kinship
During Ramadan, you should be keener on being connected with your family and relatives, especially those whom the vicissitudes of life prevent continual communication with. Spend some money on getting reconnected with them. You may assign, let us say, $10 for this purpose. Imagine, this tiny sum of money could bring you together with all your relatives! It will also bring you nearer to Allah the Almighty.
Also, in so doing, try to remember the hadith in which Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that a person said this:
“Allah’s Messenger, I have relatives with whom I try to have a close relationship, but they sever (this relation). I treat them well, but they treat me ill. I am sweet to them but they are harsh towards me.” Upon this he (the Prophet) said, “If it is so as you say, then you, in fact, throw hot ashes (upon their faces) and there would always remain with you on behalf of Allah (an angel to support you) who would keep you dominant over them so long as you adhere to this (path of righteousness).” (Muslim)
Let there be a charity that you give to in Allah’s cause every day in Ramadan. The reward for charity and all other good deeds is multiplied manyfold in Ramadan. This is one of the blessings of this auspicious month. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Give out charity, for it guarantees your salvation from Hellfire” (At-Tabarani). However, what if you do not know one or it is not that easy for you to access a charity every day? You could try to gather and combine your charity every 10 days, for example, and then give it out at once.
With Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah)
Keep your tongue wet with the continuous remembrance of Allah. Remembrance of Allah is one of the best kinds of worship that is due for Allah, as well as one of the easiest kinds of worship for those for whom Allah makes it easy. The story of Hudair, one of the Prophet’s Companions who was persistent in remembering Allah during one of the great battles of early Islam, is a good example of the reward Allah Almighty has set for those who remember Him very frequently. It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forgot to give Hudair his provision for the journey, but the remembrance of Allah removed his need for food for several days, till the Angel Jibreel descended to inform the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about his case. The Prophet sent another companion after Hudair carrying the necessary provision for him.
A true Muslim should be keen on using “the believer’s weapon,” du`aa’ (supplication to Allah), in every situation. This is true of every situation that occurs for a Muslim in daily life. During fasting, stick to making du`aa’, because in this state you are nearer to Allah and your supplications are more likely to be accepted. Thus, you should make du`aa’ to Allah all the time and not forget that Allah responds to the invocations of the supplicant when he or she calls on Him sincerely from the heart. Allah says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an:
“And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad—peace be upon him) concerning Me then (answer them) I am indeed near (to them by My knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)
Finally, let your other objective in Ramadan be to set your head free from things that can take you to Hellfire, by doing all the aforementioned things; they are so easy for those for whom Allah makes them easy.
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah International Univerity, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator, and researcher. You can reach him at [email protected].
By Truth Seeker Staff
With Ramadan upon us, many of our homes naturally infused with the excitement and anticipation of this month of fasting, Tarawih prayers, night vigils, reciting the Qur’an and connecting with family and friends.
Khutbahs (sermons) abound with instructions on how to make the most of this month of mercy and how to make its benefits long-lasting. But how real are the effects of a month of abstaining daily from food and drink, additional prayer, and giving charity to us as individuals?
The editors of Al-Jumu`ah magazine wanted to know how Muslims in America evaluated their Ramadan experience.
Does Ramadan accomplish what it should for us personally? Does it make us more worshipful, improve our characters, and train us for the year ahead? Also, how do newly married couples feel about the restraints Ramadan imposes on them?
To this end, we surveyed men and women asking them to self-evaluate their Ramadan program. Having spent the last two Ramadans overwhelmed by natural life changes, I instinctively believed people would have felt a kind of lag in the recent Ramadans that have passed—too many Iftars, not enough time for prayer and reading Qur’an, little concentration in our prayer. And dare I say, even missing a few tarawih prayers…?
Ramadan’s Long-Lasting Effects
To my pleasant surprise, the Muslims we interviewed were highly positive about their Ramadan routines. Fully 88 percent of the people we surveyed said they had special programs they implemented during this month. Aspects of their routine included reading Qur’an (across the board, this was a daily goal), attending all of the tarawih prayers, Dhikr, performing extra prayers, not overeating, Qiyam, and, as one of our answerers straightforwardly told us, sin analysis.
Of that group, nearly 100 percent of them said they felt their Ramadan programs were effective in bringing about positive change to their worship habits and character beyond the month of Ramadan. How heartening is that?
“During the month, I get out of work at 3 p.m., giving me time to do all the above… which is a reminder to me of how busy I have become in worldly matters and not taking time out for myself or my spirituality.
“After the month is over, I am reminded of these things, and it stays with me, or sometimes afterward. For example, after last Ramadan, I was reminded how little of the Qur’an I have memorized and that I need to get closer to the Qur’an. Since then, I have slowly been trying to memorize the 30th juz’ and have succeeded,” one answerer told us.
This detailed response is quite similar to how others replied: “For me, it’s very helpful because, throughout the entire month, my number one goal is to collect as many “hasanat” as possible. That should be the case throughout the year, but during this month I’m consciously tracing all the opportunities for potential thawab. So for one month, that’s my ultimate goal and anything else that I want to do, like study or work or socialize, I can make time for later.”
Ramadan as a Marriage Foundation
A little more than 35 percent of the people surveyed were newly married just shortly before Ramadan. Of these, nearly 70 percent were happy to have been married so close to the month.
I was surprised by people’s positive responses to the long-lasting effects of their Ramadan routines, I was stunned by the cheerful attitude of our respondents about this aspect. I, too, was married shortly before Ramadan, and my husband and I found it quite difficult. Our focus had to be away from getting to know each other leisurely and enjoying “non-worshipful” activities together, and much more toward fasting, reading Qur’an, performing tarawih and so forth.
Suffice it to say, we were a little disappointed by the shift in focus. But the surveyed were far happier with their first Ramadan as newlyweds. One articulate respondent said: “Ramadan was only a few weeks after our wedding. It didn’t pose that great a challenge. On the contrary, it was nice to have that experience so early on, as our marriage should be based on pleasing Allah and coming closer to Him together…it gave us that opportunity to help each other do that by praying more together and reading books, etc., together because it’s a time when you don’t feel like your pressuring `religiosity’ on someone (as during this time it’s something that everyone wants to do), whereas otherwise, a newly married couple might feel wary to do things like that so early on together and want to focus their marriage on `enjoying’ their time together. Obviously, this is important, but for a strong marriage it needs to be more than that.”
One respondent summed it up as a great opportunity, as both spouses stopped smoking in Ramadan together.
The small percentage of people that felt more could come out of Ramadan are not to be ignored. Some felt, “The month of Ramadan is fine but after[wards] everything goes back to normal again.”
I think many of us can relate to that. When our families and communities are all partaking in focused `ibadah (and it’s only for one month), it’s much easier to keep up the rhythm and commitment to be worshipful.
But when those special routines come to an abrupt end, it’s harder to continue on that path. As one of our respondents advised, it’s really about how much you put into the month. The more you put in, the more “focused [you are] on realizing that it’s a means of bringing [you] closer to Allah,” the more likely it is that Ramadan will bring long-lasting benefits to your spiritual life.
Others, primarily women, said they felt that if they had someone to watch their kids, they could focus more on tarawih prayer. They also believed that Mosque etiquette and socialization needed to be worked on. “[Get] the women to stop talking during tarawih. If you are there to socialize, then don’t come!” Furthermore, “start a culture of more worship and less iftars during Ramadan…, for some reason, during the month of more worship, we create more social obligations of dinners and reciprocal dinners we need to attend!”
I am aware that our survey does not include all the diverse voices in the American Muslim community, nor is its sample sufficient to be statistically significant. But it was a detailed-response survey, and for so many of our respondents to express their positive attitudes about, not its significance, but the impact of Ramadan on them and their own experience of it is a cause to be grateful to Allah, the only One who guides and sets hearts aright. For truly the month of the Qur’an, as it is also called, is supposed to be a kind of boot-camp, a focused and all-out 30-day (or 29) break from normal life, filled with `ibadah and good works, so that we build the spiritual muscle to be the worshipful creatures we were created to be during the marathon race of the rest of the year.
For this percentage of people surveyed to feel so upbeat about their Ramadan schedules should encourage us to utilize the month in much the same way. Mosques and community centers take note: Overwhelmingly, respondents felt their Ramadan programs were directly tied to connecting with the community, going to the Mosque, and being around family and friends that were also on a similar, vigorous worship program.
Here is my word of advice:
Many of us here in America express an attitude about Ramadan, almost with pride, that we are a people that remain economically and academically “productive” in Ramadan. In fact, many of us say we believe that we increase our “productivity,” and work more in Ramadan, while our fasting and prayer at night don’t slow our wear down, they don’t make us produce less, or affect our academic studies. Nor do they affect the amount of money we earn.
This attitude grows out of a false materialistic view. Ramadan teaches us that there are transcendent values that are worth taking a break from our yearly routines for, and those are more profound, deeper and more meaningful than material values.
In fact, our respondents, who felt a meaningful success in Ramadan, reflected this in our survey. More than 75 percent of them mentioned the time they took off or away from work to concentrate on the spiritual goals they set out for themselves as being key in their spiritual success.
In Ramadan, we refrain from food and drink and sexual pleasure in the day and strive to worship longer and harder at night. This can potentially reduce our GPAs, our productivity at work, or cause us to take days off because of the fatigue we experience from our daily spiritual exertions. But the right attitude toward Ramadan tells us that that’s okay.
It’s not a constant mode of life, our Ramadan routines. It’s one month out of the year. Furthermore, we use this one month out of 12 to build certain characteristics in ourselves at precisely the expense of material acquisition. We endeavor to build taqwa, resolve, and psychological discipline.
We want to instill in ourselves, in the long run, the spirit of sacrifice. We desire to train ourselves in the virtues of resilience and heartiness. So, the message here is not fast and amp up your worship schedule without it taking a toll on your worldly pursuits, but take a break from the latter and focus on the former. It’s not only all right to do it, it’s what you must do to make Ramadan most effective.
Our fasting is meant to affect us, to deplete us in a worldly sense, so as to replenish us in faith and the fear of Allah Almighty. We fast out of a belief in the Afterlife, putting our Hereafter deliberately and squarely out in front of our pursuit of the world and our misguided attempts to consume it, which is exactly as it should always be. But the heavy spiritual disciplines of Ramadan—and they should be arduous amount to a regime that does, indeed, have a major physical effect on us, and thus should it be.
Now Ramadan is before you. Make it count. Make it last!
Taken with slight editorial modifications from islamweb.net.
By Sarah Ghias
If a person overeats in the evening and indulges in heavy, fatty foods, this offsets the physical benefits of fasting.
The holy month of Ramadan is a time of restraint, reflection, and renewal. Muslims make every effort to better themselves and to be drawn closer to their Creator.
They guard their tongues, engage in long hours of worship, exercise patience, and open up their hearts and pockets to charitable causes.
However, when it comes to consuming food during the evening hours, some believers fall short of following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him (PBUH).
In order to compare the eating habits of Muslims today, during the month of Ramadan, with that of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) an informal survey was conducted.
In 2008, over 270 participants from around the world were asked about their consumption habits during this sacred month.
Sixty percent of participants were from the US, 20% from the Middle East, 10% from South Asia (Indian Subcontinent) and 10% were from other countries.
Breaking the Fast
Regarding the iftar meal, it is encouraged to break your fast as soon as it is permissible to do so. The Prophet (PBUH) would hasten to break his fast.
Sahl ibn Sa`d reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “The people will not cease to be upon good as long as they hasten in breaking the fast.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
It is reported that the Prophet (PBUH) would also break his fasts with dates as do 86.5% of the survey participants; this is a Sunnah that is well followed by Muslims today.
Anas Ibn Maalik said: “The Prophet (PBUH) used to break his fast with fresh dates before he prayed. If he didn’t find fresh dates then with dried dates. If there were no dried dates then with a few sips of water.” (Abu Dawood).
Imam Ibn Qayyim Al Jauziyah states in his book “Healing With the Medicine of the Prophet” that breaking the fast with dates “is a wise decision because fasting empties the stomach of food. Thus the liver would not find any sufficient energy that it could transfer to the various organs. Sweets are the fastest foods to reach the liver when one eats ripe dates the liver accepts it, benefits from it and then transfers the benefit to the rest of the organs of the body.”
After this process, the body is ready to accept and digest additional food. Thus ideally, one should break their fast with a date and after praying the Maghrib prayer, they should continue with their meal.
This gives the body ample time to prepare itself for the sudden increase in food intake. 58% of respondents to the survey stated that they eat their meal after the Maghrib prayer.
It is during the Iftar meal that we consume the most and often overindulge ourselves.
40% of participants admitted that they eat at least twice as much for Iftar than they eat for a regular dinner in any other month.
Fifty percent of respondents to the survey admitted that they overeat during Ramadan and 62% felt that they eat heavier and richer foods during this blessed month.
Thus, it is a cause for concern that especially in this holy month of Ramadan, when the nafs (self) should be kept in check, some choose to overindulge and eat in extravagance.
Fasting during the daylight hours has several health benefits; it cleanses the system and removes harmful toxins from the body.
When the body is fasting and not occupied with the process of digestion, its organs are given an opportunity to rejuvenate and restore themselves, in turn allowing the one who fasts to recover from various ailments.
However, if a person overeats in the evening and indulges in heavy, fatty foods, this offsets the physical benefits of fasting.
It is generally presumed that since one is restraining from food and drink during the daylights hours, the body needs increased input during the non-fasting hours.
This isn’t the case, however, as the body regulates itself when it is in fasting mode and has the opportunity to utilize its storage of body fat.
To remain healthy and active during Ramadan, the amount of food intake isn’t as important as the variety of foods we eat.
The Prophet (PBUH) was known to eat an assortment of foods including meat, fruit, bread, and dates, according to Imam Ibn Qayyiim.
Thus to maximize the physical benefits of fasting it is desirable to eat less but have a balanced diet which taps into the major food groups.
As for the types of foods eaten during Ramadan, 67% of respondents said they eat 3 or more different types of dishes, with the over 30-year-olds eating more of a variety of foods than the 18 – 30-year-olds.
Fifty-seven percent of the participants stated that they eat fried food for iftar and 34% of them said that the majority of their meal consists of this type of food. Thirty-four percent of respondents include desserts in their iftar meal.
Suhoor, the Blessed Meal
The Prophet (PBUH) strongly recommended eating Suhoor. Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri reported that the Messenger (PBUH) said: “Eating the Suhoor is blessed. Do not neglect it even if you take a gulp of water because Allah and His angels invoke blessings upon those who partake in the pre-dawn meal.” (Ahmad).
It is encouraged by the Sunnah to delay the Suhoor as much as possible and eat until the last permissible minute.
70% of the respondents claim that they delay their suhoor till the last moment.
According to ‘Amr ibn Maimun: “The companions of Muhammad (PBUH) would be the first to break the fast and the last to eat their Suhoor.” (Al-Baihaqi, Abdur-Razzaq, and Al-Haithami; Sahih).
For Suhoor it is recommended to have high fiber, slow digesting foods that satisfy the hunger for longer; oats and fiber-rich fruit are good options to have.
The Prophet used to eat dates for Suhoor and it is recorded that he said: “The best Suhoor for the believer is dates.” (Abu Dawood, Al-Baihaqee, and Ibn Hibbaan).
Dates are a powerhouse of nutrients and an instant source of energy; they are high in sugar, fiber, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Consuming dates allows one to feel satiated for an extended period of time, making it a perfect food to start your fast with.
Forty-nine percent of the respondents said they have tea or coffee for Suhoor, this isn’t a wise option as caffeine is a diuretic which doesn’t provide us with sufficient hydration and causes us to lose liquids along with essential minerals from our body.
Sixty-one percent of respondents who are over 30 drink tea or coffee in the morning and 42% of respondents younger than 30 drink tea or coffee.
Ramadan is an excellent opportunity to rid ourselves of addictions to caffeinated drinks. One should drink plenty of water and pure fruit juices instead.
Moderation is Key
Allah says in the Qur’an,
“Eat of the good things We have provided for your sustenance, but commit no excess therein.” (Taha 20:81)
The body of mankind has been blessed with is an Amanah (trust) from Allah.
It is an obligation to take care of it and fuel it with that which is good.
The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, “The stomach is the tank of the body and the veins go down to it. When the stomach is healthy the veins come back in a healthy condition, but when it is in a bad condition, they return diseased.”
Islam emphasizes moderation in every aspect of life and it is essential that this concept be applied to food intake as well.
Imam Ash-Shafi’ said: “I have not filled myself in sixteen years because filling oneself makes the body heavy, removes clear understanding, induces sleep and makes one weak for worship.”
Temperance in eating leads to a healthy body, a sound intellect, and a gentle disposition. It curbs our desires and positively affects the physical as well as the spiritual being of the heart.
This point is further explained by Imam Ibn al-Qayyim when he said: “From the Mercy of the Mighty and Most Merciful is that He has prescribed for them fasting, which will cut off the excesses of eating and drinking, and empties the heart of its desires that divert it in its journey towards Allah the Most High.”
The Prophet (PBUH) warned against submitting to our desires when he said, “My greatest fear for you is the appetites of transgression with regard to your stomachs and your privates and the inclinations which lead astray.” (Ahmad).
Thus we should eat only that which is beneficial and only enough to sustain us and give us the strength to carry out acts of worship and obedience.
A well-known hadith reported by al-Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Man fills no vessel worse than his stomach. A few morsels should be enough for him to preserve his strength. If he must fill it, then he should allow a third for his food, a third for his drink and leave a third empty for easy breathing.”
This concept is emphasized in the Qur’an where Allah says,
“Eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” (Al-A`raf 7:31)
Ramadan is an opportunity to reevaluate one’s relationship with food. It allows one to realize that they can get by without eating for several hours and that their bodies are capable of functioning on a moderate amount of consumption.
Ramadan is fast approaching so instead of spending the coming weeks stocking the pantry and freezer with delights to feast on when the sun sets, let us focus our attention on perfecting our ibadah (worship) so that we may savor the bountiful treats of Jannah (Heaven) without having to worry about clogged arteries or accumulating extra pounds!
Courtesy onislam.net with slight editorial modifications.
Sarah Ghias is a freelance writer who currently resides in Texas, United States. She graduated with Honors from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Business Administration Degree. You can contact her by sending an e-mail to [email protected]