During the past month I have been thinking about this idea which I'm calling:
The 2 verses a day challenge
What is this "challenge", you ask? Well, first let me explain my thinking: I wanted to start with a challenge that is not too difficult and something we (you and me) can do together with little or no difficulty. This challenge must not take up too much time nor must it be too mentally taxing. It should be done every day of the week and it should show instant results. Also, it must be so easy that anyone can take part and benefit from it whatever their age, language or knowledge.
I came to the conclusion: Learn the Qur'an by heart with ease over the passage of time. Learn 2 verses minimum a day. It might take you years to learn the whole book (if that is your aim), but by the end of it you would have either memorized the whole of the book or a good portion of it. And it was so easy to do!
So I'm setting the first challenge to be to learn the final Juz' of the Quran - Juz' `Ammah - by heart. The Qur'an is split into 30 parts called Ajzaa'
or individually a Juz', and Juz' `Ammah is the one which contains the shortest chapters and most Muslims know some of it already so you have a head start!
We shall start learning the Qur'an backwards, from Surat an-Nas (114) to Surat an-Naba' (178) inclusive. If, for example, you already know Surat an-Nas then you can read it again to double check you know the correct pronunciation and then skip it to go through the other chapters in reverse numerical order until you find a chapter you don't know very well or at all. From there, set the challenge to learn the first two verses for the first day. The next day you need to confirm that you remembered those first two verses and also supplement them with two more verses. You do this until you finish Juz' `Ammah. It's that simple!
This is a self-teaching challenge. You don't need to involve anyone else if you don't want to. You are in charge of your own learning and you don't need to report your progress to others.
The challenge is a minimum of 2 verses a day. If you want to do more there is no harm as long as you learn it properly and you don't take up too much time or make your life difficult. What is not allowed is to skip days. If you learned 4 verses in one day you are NOT allowed to skip the day after. You MUST learn at least two verses a day no matter what happens - no skipping! Do yourself a favor and put some time in your daily routine/calendar to learn the 2 verses. Another favor is to listen to audio recordings of the Qur'an. You can download these from the Internet, put them on your MP3/CD player and listen to them wherever you like, even if you are busy.
Juz' `Ammah is a starting point, the first challenge. Insha'allah, I hope you find this challenge beneficial and rewarding. If you have any tips or comments please feel free to make a comment on this blog. Thanks.
Q&A for nay-sayers and people who make excuses
You say: But 2 verses a day is too much.
I say: No it isn't. Come on!
You say: But 2 verses a day is too little.
I say: 2 verses a day is the minimum. If you want to learn more then feel free to do that, but if you find you are struggling, then cut down on the number. Some verses are longer than others and some are difficult to remember so even 2 a day minimum can be challenging.
You say: I don't have the time.
I say: Make the time or multi-task. And if you still don't have time, then you should quit what you are doing and reexamine your life.
You say: I don't know proper Arabic pronunciation.
I say: Listen to an Audio recording. I recommend the recitation of Mostafa Ismaeel. He's not too fast and you can hear each letter pronounced clearly. Download the MP3 files and stick them on your MP3 Player or burn them to a CD and listen to them often.
You say: I don't read/speak Arabic.
I say: Knowing Arabic is not a prerequisite for memorizing the Qur'an. Millions of Muslims around the world don't understand the language but have memorized the whole book or large parts of it. You can listen to an Audio recording as mentioned above, and you can find a trans-literal pronunciation of the Qur'an on the Internet.
You say: I don't own a Qur'an.
I say: Buy one. Or borrow one from the library or a friend. Or find it on the Internet.
You say: I'm too old/young.
I say: No you are not. I learned a good number of surahs from the Qur'an as an adult and so can you! And if you are young, it does not mean you are stupid - have confidence in your abilities! Young or old - you can do it!
You say: I don't have a teacher.
I say: You don't need a teacher. You are your own teacher. This is a self-taught challenge but if you want to get a teacher then you can.
Islam has a well defined and clear set of instructions on what is permissible and what is not. The jurisprudence of the rules of the religion is known as fiqh. Clear guidance and instruction can be derived from the pages of the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) as found in the many hadith (narration) books of Islam. Fiqh is guidance on what is allowed or not and it also shows how to carry out acts of worship but it is more detailed than saying what is halal (permissible) or haram (impermissible); It goes further and defines what is mustahab (recommended), makrooh (disliked) or mubah (indeterminate/undefined) and there are also details describing to what degree an act is agreeable or detestable.
It is the duty of a Muslim to learn fiqh as part of learning Islam. While some things are clear and it is easy to discern wrong from right and evil from good, there are things that are less clear-cut and Muslims follow the guidance of God, through the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet, the Sunnah, for clear instruction. The clarity that the teachings of Islam brings is one of the things that makes it superior to other religions whose followers have no solid foundation in the rules of the religion nor guidance in life. When a Muslim has a question about their religion there is usually a good answer/solution found in the Qur'an or hadith books, but things can become quite complicated based on different situations.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said: "That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which many people do not know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters [eventually] falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah's sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a piece of flesh, which, if it be whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of [the body] is diseased. Truly, it is the heart." [Sahih Bukhari/Muslim]
A wise person once said: "Life is as difficult as you make it". And when it comes to living your life as a good Muslim these words ring true. I sometimes get asked for advice or am given questions that are in fact particularly complicated and sometimes I just have to answer, "Sorry, I don't know. I recommend you consult a learned scholar". Things can get very complicated very quickly because people have committed sins or broken the law and this has led to further sins and harming of people other than themselves and they have to find a way to solve many problems. It always leaves me wondering beyond the initial "why did you commit that first sin in the first place?" - "WHY did you not stop and repent but instead go on to cause yourself and other people more trouble? I've noticed that often, big sins start off small with a 'little' lie and then things start to snow-ball, more lies are told, then big sins are committed and people get hurt. Had a person not allowed the problem to grow or not lied in the first place they would be much better off.
An intelligent person learns from their own mistakes and avoids them. A wise person also learns from other people's mistakes - she or he observes them and recognizes their errors and does not repeat the same mistake. A wise and intelligent person also recognizes the importance of knowledge and spends time reading up on fiqh and informing themselves on the complicated issues and sins they should avoid altogether.
In my opinion, one of the most beautiful things in Islam is that seemingly innocuous or ineffectual rules are some of the most powerful and beneficial to people. These are the rules of avoidance, order and discipline. Non-Muslims may point to them and laugh or wonder in amazement at why Muslims are asked to avoid certain things and why it is so strict, but it is not until you realize that everything is connected and the consequences are more complex and far-reaching than they first appear and that there is a bigger picture, only then do you realize the hikmah, or wisdom, of those rules.
One of the most well known rules in Islam is that drinking Alcohol is forbidden, and the grand majority of Muslims know this and actively avoid drinking alcohol. This rule is well known and well documented and you don't have to be Muslim to recognize that Alcohol is a scourge on society (whether you agree or not is not the point). But what is not well known and might appear innocuous with regards to alcohol is that Muslims not only are forbidden to consume it, but are forbidden to trade in it (either buying or selling), or to serve or be served it, or to frequent a place of drinking or sit at a table where people are drinking, or to be part of a drinking crowd.
There are two types of laws that govern such rules - well known specific rules mentioned in the Qur'an and Hadith, such as clear statements from the Prophet saying that drinking alcohol is forbidden, and unspecific or indirect laws – laws that apply in general situations, such as not putting yourself in view of other people in a way that might make them think you are committing a sin and/or inspire them to commit those sins themselves. While such a law does not deal specifically with alcohol it is still relevant and applies to such situations as mentioned above.
One of the main reasons people sin is because it is made easy to do so and they see other people doing it. People need to be aware that something is a sin as well as have a good deal of will power and faith in oneself and in God to avoid sin when it is presented to a them in an alluring and attractive manner and their friends coax them into it. Only when they fall into this trap and get deep into sin do they realize their mistake and see the consequences and they understand the hikmah behind these rules.
A wise Muslim knows that they not only need to avoid the sin itself, but also avoid things that may bring themselves or other people closer to committing sins or leave them in a doubtful state. If a Muslim never attends a party, never joins a drinking crowd, does not go to a place of alcohol, then it makes it far more difficult to commit minor sins that would eventually lead them to fall into the trap of committing major sins. A wise Muslim also avoids the company of sinners and instead seeks the company of friends who remind them of God and increase them in knowledge and faith.
Islam is simple and its aim is to make the life of a believer safe and easy. Islam aims to keep the believer safe from evil and teaches avoidance of sins. Islam only becomes hard and complicated to follow when people ignore the safe-guards and break laws and commit sins. The greater jihad is to keep oneself free from sins and Allah shows us that this jihad can be made easy with the understanding of His religion through the study of His laws and guidance and the active avoidance of sins or things that may lead to sin. And even when we do sin, Allah, in His Beneficence, gives us the opportunity to right our wrongs and seek repentance from Him, and He is Oft-forgiving and Most Merciful.
It is a great shame to see, that in this time, when knowledge is so easily accessible, education is universal and there are no barriers to learning, that the personage of Hussain ibn Ali (AS), or Imam Hussain as he is often referred to, is little known, even amongst the Muslims.
I wrote an article about the tragedy that befell Hussain last year and how it should play a role and impact on the activism and rebellion of the Arab Spring uprisings. But what was missing from that article was a thorough explanation of who Hussain was and his importance to Muslims. In this article I plan to shed a bit more light on who this person was.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) used to refer to Hussain and his brother Hassen, with much affection and love, as "his sons":
"These are my sons and my daughter's sons. O Allah, I love them, so I beseech Thee [O' Muslims] to love them and those who love them." [Sahih Tirmidhi]
Hussain and Hassen (AS) were the sons of Fatimah (AS), the daughter of the Prophet Muhammed and of Ali ibn Abu Talib (AS), Imam Ali as he is often referred to, cousin of the Prophet Muhammed. So, Hussain’s mother was Fatimah, whom the Prophet titled: Mistress of the Women of the World, and also one of the four elated women of humanity (alongside Khadijah (her mother), Mary and Asiyah), and he had a father, Ali, whom the Prophet titled: Commander of the Believers, and he had a grandmother (Khadijah bint Khuwailid (RA)) who the Prophet titled: The Pure One, and he had a grandfather who was the Prophet of God, Muhammed ibn Abdullah, seal of the Prophets. Hussain and his brother belonged to this honorable and blessed family, the family of the Prophet, the Ahlulbayt (AS):
"... As the Apostle of God saw mercy descending, he demanded: 'Call them for me, call them for me!' His wife Safiyya asked: 'Who should we call, O Messenger of God?' He answered: 'Call the people of my household (Ahlulbayt): 'Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Hussain.' When they were brought, he spread a mantle over them; then lifting his hands to heaven said: 'O God, these are the people of my House; Bless, O God, Muhammad and the people of the House of Muhammad!' God then sent down the verse of the Qur'an (33:33): Surely God wishes to remove all abomination from you, O People of the House, and purify you with a thorough purification." [Mustadrak al-Sahihayn by al-Naysaburi]
Furthermore, the Qur'an explains that Prophet’s recompense from the people for bringing them the religion was not money or anything worldly, but rather he had one condition which God commanded and enjoined on the believers:
"Say [O' Muhammed]: I ask no other reward of you save love/obedience of my next of kin (family)" [The Qur'an 42:23]
The Prophet titled Hassen and Hussain: The Masters of the Youth of Heaven. If we look at how the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) loved and revered his family and that God loved him and his family, we must understand that if we call ourselves Muslims and love and revere the Prophet, then we too must also get to know and love his family, his Ahlulbayt: Ali, Fatimah, Hassen and Hussain.
But my telling you Hussain's position in relation to the Prophet and in the teachings of the religion of Islam is insufficient. We should get to learn something about the personality of Hussain as well, and this is best done through mentioning some simple stories from his life.
The young children Hassen and Hussain were on their way to pray one day when they observed an old man doing the ablutions (wudhu') but making key mistakes that would invalidate his wudhu' and consequently his prayers. They turned around and looked at each other wondering how best to approach the man and make him aware of his mistakes. They had three choices: Say nothing and walk away, or walk over to the man and expose his mistakes in front of other people, or they could make the man aware indirectly. They concluded that the third option was best. One brother called loudly to the other: "Come here! Let us have a competition to see which of us does the best wudhu". They glanced at the old man and called him to judge between them. They both walked over to the water source and began to perform the wudhu'. The old man observed them with wonder at how perfectly they both performed the ablutions. "So, dear judge, which of us has won?" asked the boys. The old man understood what they were doing and he said, "Both of you have performed the wudhu' perfectly. I am grateful that you chose to guide me in this way,", and the old man repeated his wudhu' but this time in the correct manner.
The story above shows us how aware the young Hassen and Hussain were of other people's feelings, how they cared about people, and how they were careful not to humiliate a person or embarrass someone in front of others or to make a big deal of the innocent mistakes of others. They thought before they spoke and chose the best way of teaching other people their religion - by example and with kindness. Another story:
Imam Hussain was once walking past a farm and observed a slave eating a meager meal and feeding a stray dog some of it. He was impressed that a person with so little should be feeding a stray dog and inquired about his situation. The slave replied, "I am a slave and my master works me very hard on this land and I am unhappy but when I feed this dog it brings me joy". Hussain was impressed and went to talk with his master and managed to get ownership of the slave. Upon returning to the slave he told him that he had bought him but the slave registered only that he was being passed to a new owner and did not think too much of it. Then Imam Hussain said to him "I set you free for the sake of God" and handed him a handsome amount of money and left him to live his life a free man.
From this story we see that Hussain was pleased to see kindness being shown to animals. No doubt he remembered the story his grandfather (SAW) had told him of how a prostitute once helped a dog from dying of thirst and how her sins had been forgiven. We also see that Hussain believed that kindness begets kindness and in observing the kindness the slave showed to the dog he showed kindness to the slave and set him free with enough money to support and make something of himself. Yet another story explains his kindness and charity to people.
A friend of Hussain ibn Ali once came to visit his son (who survived the massacre at Karbala), Ali ibn Hussain (AS) (commonly called Imam Al-Sajjad and Zayn al-Abideen). After they had been through the pleasantries he began to talk about his friendship with his father and asked about something that he observed about Hussain that had left him wondering to that day: "I once observed your father's uncovered back and noticed it was marked with rough skin and calloused. Why was this?". Ali replied to him, "These signs you saw on his back were due to the heavy bags of food he used to carry at night and distribute amongst the poor and needy, the houses of widows and orphans."
Just like his father, Ali was also reputed to have continued this tradition of carrying food to the poor neighbors by night. Hussain's devotion to caring for the poor and needy in his community was exemplary. Imam Hussain (AS) gave to charity by day and by night, some of it was observed during the day but very few people knew that it was Hussain ibn Ali (AS) who was helping them at night until after he had gone and they missed him.
One day Imam Hussain's son came running to his father really happy with a big smile on his face. "Father, father, I have learned to recite surat al-Fatiha from the Qur'an by heart!". His father looked pleased and asked him to recite it and when he did he picked him up and kissed him as he was so very proud of him. He then went to the mosque to find his son's tutor. The teacher was talking with the parents of the children he taught when the Imam came in. The Imam walked over to him and congratulated and thanked him for doing a wonderful job and he gifted him a handsome amount of money. The parents that were watching began to wonder why he had rewarded him so handsomely and thought it unnecessary. The Imam explained to them, "What comparison can there be between the gift I have given to the tutor of my child, and his teaching the Noble Qur'an, the gift which he has given to my child?"
Imam Hussain respected the role of a teacher and paid well for their teaching of his children, especially the teaching of the Qur'an. He cared deeply about the education of his children and he had them learn the Qur'an and Sunnah (way) of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and a good many duas (supplications) as well. He showed love and affection to his children and helped them grow up as educated and well-rounded people.
These little stories are only a small example of the character and values held by Imam Hussain. It is well worth it to read the story of his life. The story of the massacre at Karbala is but an episode of his life, but when read in depth, it shows a lot more of his character, including his clarity of thought and decisiveness, his patience in adversity, his strong will and determination, his stand against tyranny and oppression, his bravery, his humanity, his absolute faith and devotion to God, and his will to sacrifice everything dear to him and his self for the sake of God and for the sake of Islam. There is a lot to learn from such a great man.
Imam Hussain (AS) is often associated with the Shia sect of Islam but it is a mistake to think of him as belonging to any one group of Muslims. Hussain is a key figure in Islam, a Sahabi and grandson of the Prophet Muhammed and he belongs to all of us regardless of sect, and even non-Muslims can find benefit in his teachings and viewpoint as they do a person like Mahatma Gandhi even though he was Hindu.
What is quite sad to know is that there are some Muslims out there who celebrate the day of Ashura', the day Imam Hussain (AS) was slaughtered along with his companions and members of his family. They do this because Ashura' is reputed to have been a day where many things occurred, many of them good, but the Prophet Muhammed never celebrated Ashura' and what they introduced is a cruel innovation and an insult to the memory of Hussain and the Prophet who so loved him. Another group of Muslims go to the extreme in the opposite direction and display their sadness with self-flagellation and blood-letting. It is sad that they feel they need to harm themselves and express themselves in such an undignified way that Hussain would have never approved of. Furthermore, there are some "scholars" and their followers who negate the contribution of Hussain and promote the agenda of the enemies of Hussain and even go as far as glorifying Yazid ibn Mu'awiyah (LA), the person who ordered his killing! May Allah guide them to the right path, but some of these "scholars" knew the position of Hussain and his righteousness and the cruel nature of Yazid and his major wrong doings but they remained spiteful to Hussain until they died and misguided many people. For them I ask Allah that He raise them up with their idols and never grant them or their idols the intercession of the Prophet.
Abu Hurairah narrates: "The Prophet (SAW) looked toward Ali, Hassan, Hussain, and Fatimah (AS), and then said: "I am in war with those who will fight you, and in peace with those who are peaceful to you." [Sahih Tirmidhi]
Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage, is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a mandatory rite of worship that every single Muslim man and woman must do during their lifetime if they are physically and financially able. The pilgrimage should be done during the Islamic month of "Dhul-Hijjah", which literally translates to "Of Pilgrimage", and it is the twelfth and final month of the Islamic calendar. This year, Dhul-Hijjah begins 17th October 2012 so the day of Eid Al-Adha falls ten days later on the 27th of October and the new year of the Islamic calendar 1434 begins from the 15th of December 2012. At the start of the month of Dhul-Hijjah some 12 million pilgrims flock to the holy city of Makkah from all the corners of the world to perform the hajj.
The purpose of Hajj serves both the individual and the Muslim Ummah (worldwide community of believers). Firstly, for the individual, by going to perform the hajj, they are doing one of the essential rites of worship that they must complete in their life, and by doing so they enact a spiritual baptism that washes away their sins and renders them purified and if they maintain this purity their reward is heaven.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
"Whoever does Hajj for the sake of Allah (sincerely), and does not have sexual relations or commit sins (while in the state of ihram), will come back like the day his mother bore him (sinless)."
Then, from the perspective of the Ummah, pilgrims from all the different countries of the world leave behind their personal burdens and personal foibles, they leave behind their errant ideals and the things that divide people like political association, creed, social status, wealth, race, skin colour and nationality and unite as one people under the banner of Islam, professing the oneness of God, reciting His praise and worshipping their Lord together as one. They vocally recite in unison the Talbiah prayer:
La shareeka laka.
La shareeka lak."
|"Here we come,
O Allah, here we come!
Here we come.
No partner have You.
Here we come!
Praise indeed, and blessings, are Yours -
the Kingdom too!
No partner have You!"
A person who intends to perform the pilgrimage must enter the state of Ihram, which means they declare an intention to complete the hajj and abide by its special rules. The word Ihram comes from the word haram which means forbidden. When in the state of Ihram the pilgrim is forbidden from things which would normally be allowed, such as cutting nails or wearing perfume. The word ihram is also the name of the clothing of a pilgrim. A pilgrim must put away their fancy clothes and jewellery and change into the clothes of ihram – simple clothing that, for men, are two unsown white sheets that are wrapped around the body. The requirement of wearing the same simple clothing as everybody else brings a person down to earth. The rich and powerful man now stands next to the poor and weak man, shoulder to shoulder and equal in status. This destroys the illusion that some people have that they are superior to their fellow human being.
When Allah looks to measure the value of a person He does not value them by how much money they have in their bank account or who their parents are or what their nationality is or by their race or skin colour. No. Here, God reminds us that we are all human beings and equal to each other.
The mandatory rites of Hajj are partly symbolic of the history of the Ka'bah, the first permanent shrine built in pure reverence and homage to God by the Prophet Abraham with the help of his first born son Prophet Ismaeel (Ishmael) (PBUT). Prophets Abraham and Ishmael are the fore-fathers of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (SAW). It helps to know a few of the stories of Prophet Abraham to understand some the hajj rituals. Summarized, they are -
Once the Prophet Abraham was asked by God to take his wife Hajir (Hagar) and the baby Ismaeel (Ishmael) to Arabia and return back to Palestine. He did as he was requested and it was not long before Hagar had run out of food and water. In a bid to find water for herself and her baby she ran to-and-fro between two hills after seeing mirages of springs. She returned to Ismaeel without any water and prayed for water with absolute sincerity. Suddenly a spring of water sprang from beneath the feet of Ismaeel and they were saved. Today, this spring continues to flow and is called the Zamzam spring and it is recommended to drink from it. Also, part of the hajj rituals is to jog seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwa as Hagar did in search of water.
Prophet Abraham once had a dream, a message from God, where he was asked to sacrifice his only son Ishmael. When he was about to slay his son, God stopped him and instead brought him a ram to sacrifice instead. The pilgrims remember this test from God and on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah, the Eid Al-Adhha, (celebration day of the slaughtering), they also laughter a sheep, goat, cow or camel as a sacrifice to God just as was done at the time of Prophet Abraham and afterwards, and eat the cooked meat, share it with others and distribute it amongst the hungry and poor people.
Prophet Abraham and his son were asked by God to build the first physical and permanent shrine building devoted to God. This building is called the Ka'bah because of its cuboid shape and pilgrims go around the Ka'bah circulating it anti-clockwise seven times. This is called tawaf. There is a place at one corner of the Ka'bah called Maqam Ibraheem, the station of Abraham (PBUH), which is the place Prophet Abraham stood and observed the building process when he originally built the Kaaba, and pilgrims pray a short prayer at this stop.
Prophet Abraham was once pursued and harassed by Satan, Iblees, three times. Abraham took stones/pebbles from the ground and threw them at him to make him go away. As part of the hajj rites, pilgrims collect enough pebbles to throw 7 clear shots each at three stone pillars that represent Satan. The stone throwing symbolizes an assault on Satan and the act of distancing the devil from oneself.
Aside from the mandatory acts of worship there are also many mustahab (recommended) rites of worship that are done during the hajj like doing different prayers and supplications, seeking sincere repentance, kissing Al-Hajar al Aswad (The Black Stone – a religious relic), drinking from the spring of Zamzam, visiting the Prophet's mosque in Madinah, visiting the grave of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and the graves of the martyrs (AS/RA) in the Baqi' graveyard and elsewhere.
Pilgrims who have completed the hajj are often called a Hajji (if male) or Hijjiyyah (female). Hajj is a life-changing experience that raises the soul and I have personally noticed that people who have returned from the hajj return relaxed with a warm glow on their faces and are revitalized and purified both physically and spiritually. This is something we all personally desire and indeed we should make every effort to go on the pilgrimage as soon as we can.
Eid Greetings from Islamic-Dictionary.com
The holy month of Ramadhan is a great gift from God for the believer and its blessings are not to be missed. In this month Allah grants the believer more thawab (reward) for their good deeds and blessings are increased manifold and God has said He will forgive even more sins, so how can we let this opportunity go by?
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
One who receives the month of Ramadhan (and does not strive in it) is not forgiven. Allah distances Himself from that person.
Keep Away From Sin
This is a month in which abstaining from doing any sins, merely breathing, obtains you copious thawab. And a believers' sleep is like staying up late in worship in other months. Such are the blessings from God. What you really do not want to do is turn away those blessings by committing sins. While God has written great forgiveness for Himself in this month, He has also warned against the committing of sins in this month as the sins count for more in this month as well.
Imam Ali (AS) says:
The Prophet Muhammed was delivering a sermon about the virtues of the month of Ramadhan so I asked him: O' Prophet of Allah! What is the best deed for this month?
The Prophet (SAW) replied:
O' Aba al-Hasen! The best of deeds in this month is the abstinence from that which is forbidden by Allah, The Mighty, The Glorious.
Read The Holy Qur'an
The month of Ramadhan is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed in full. In this month the thawab for reading a single verse is like readings the whole of the Qur'an in other months. Such are the blessings are rewards of God subhanallahu wa ta'ala. Many Muslims strive to read the whole Qur'an in this month and they achieve this by splitting up what they intend to read across the whole day. They succeed in reading the whole Qur'an by the end of the month due to the effort put into organizing themselves and making the most of their time, and the blessings for this are gigantic.
Observe the Obligatory and Recommended Prayers and other acts of worship
Muslims are required to pray five times a day but in this month this same act of worship has a greater reward than in other months:
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) has stated:
(The rewards of) one who has performed in it (the month of Ramadhan) a single act from amongst the wajib (obligatory) acts of Allah, would be like (that of) one who has performed seventy obligatory acts in other months.
There is also much reward for doing the mustahab (recommended) optional acts of worship. This is a month in which mustahab prayers are highly recommended, especially the night prayers, Salat al-Layl (also called Salat al-Tahajjud). Other recommended acts of worship include ghusuls (ritual baths), recitation of supplications and observing the suhur (the predawn meal).
Make Repentance and Recite Supplications
The month of Ramadhan is a month in which Allah has informed us that He increases His mercy but He calls us to make repentance in order for Him to remove our sins. So actively raise your hands in supplication and ask Him sincerely: O' Lord! I ask you Almighty to forgive me my sins and I turn to you in repentance! Ya Rabb! Istaghfurullah Al-'adheem wa attoubu illayk.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
Surely, the month of Ramadhan has been named so because it scorches away the sins.
The month of Ramadhan is the best month to ask Allah to remove your sins in and also to ask for what you covet - it is recommended to pray for good things such as the opportunity to make Hajj (pilgrimage) to the Holy Kaabah, to find and marry a good woman/man and to become prosperous and devout.
I'tikaf on the Night of Qadr
The night in which the Qur'an was revealed in full to the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) is known as Laylatul-Qadr, a night in which the thawab for good deeds are better than a thousand months-worth of good deeds. Allah says:
In The Name of Allah The Most Gracious The Most Merciful
[97.1] Surely We revealed it (the Qur'an) on the grand night.
[97.2] And what will make you comprehend what the grand night is?
[97.3] The grand night is better than a thousand months.
[97.4] The angels and Gibraeel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair,
[97.5] Peace it is till the break of the morning.
The exact day that Laylatul Qadr falls on was not confirmed to the believers but they were given a number of days to pick from to do their worship in (the odd days in the last ten days of the month), granting them multiple opportunities to take up this great blessing. A lot of Muslims go to the mosque on Laylatul Qadr and undertake a secluded spiritual retreat (I'tikaf) - they stay up during the night in worship, reading Qur'an, praying obligatory and mustahab prayers, making up for a weeks-worth of obligatory prayers and reading supplications until the night ends. I'tikaf can also be done at home and at other times.
Give To Charity
In Islam the concept of sadaqah (charity) spans beyond just giving money to the poor. The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) taught that even a smile is a form of charity. Having the ability to give charity to the poor is a gift from God, because He has blessed you with sufficient wealth that you can spend as you wish, but He rewards you when you give it to someone poorer than you and blesses them through you. By giving charity you help your neighbor, benefit society and increase your own spiritual level.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said: Charity extinguishes sins as water extinguishes fire.
The month of Ramadhan, being the month of fasting, gives us a small idea of how the poor feel when they do not have enough to eat. This insight should increase the willingness of a person to alleviate the hunger, thirst and other hardships of the poor through giving to charity.
The month of Ramadhan is a month that only a fool would let pass without trying to obtain as much blessings and benefits from it. Who knows if this opportunity will come around again this time next year? Allah has blessed us so much and given us so many opportunities for seeking his forgiveness and reward and we should be thankful and take his gifts.
Ramadhan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and it is a holy month best known as the month of fasting, sawm, and the month in which the Qur'an was revealed. This year the lunar month of Ramadhan begins around Saturday 21 July 2012 and ends a month later around Saturday 18 August 2012. The end of the holy month of Ramadhan is marked by a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr.
Islamic-Dictionary.com is releasing this interactive Arabic Alphabet page where you can learn the Arabic Alphabet, abjadiyyah 'arabiyyah, by clicking on the letters to hear the audio of how they are correctly pronounced.
Please visit the Arabic Alphabet page.
Often, when someone talks about "halal" they are usually talking about food, specifically about meat prepared using Islamic methods, but there is more to halal than just food.
The word halal means permissible and it is the antonym of haram, forbidden. The word haram is used to label all sorts of sinful things, but the word halal is often just used for food. It shouldn't be like that. If the word halal means permissible, it should be attributed to many things.
There are far more things in Islam that are halal (permissible) than there are haram (forbidden). The general law of Islam is that if there is no proof of something being harmful or described as forbidden in the Quran or forbidden according to the teachings from the Prophet Muhammed (SAW), then it is halal by default. Islam is a positive religion and promotes the doing of righteous and beneficial deeds and God has made many things halal for us and we should be grateful. Allah says in the Quran:
[5.87] O you who believe! do not forbid (yourselves) the good things which Allah has made lawful for you and do not exceed the limits; surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.
[5.88] And eat of the lawful and good (things) that Allah has given you, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, in Whom you believe.
It is unfortunate that a lot of Muslims culturally care more about their food being halal than their actions. You find a lot of Muslims will not eat haram food but they will commit many sins and this makes no sense. A Muslim is not only meant to follow dietary laws but must also follow the other laws, be a good person and be kind to their neighbors. If Muslims paid as much attention to the other laws as they did the dietary laws the world would be a better place.
Anyway, let's get back to the question of food, albeit let's skip the discussion about ritual slaughter (dhabihah). There is more to halal meat than its' being correctly slaughtered according to Islamic law -
For example, you cannot call what you eat halal if it contains or has been contaminated with haram things. When haram and halal substances are mixed together the result is a haram mixture, much like when salt water is mixed with drinking water, the result is salty water, not recommended for drinking. So always check the ingredients of what you are eating.
Haram foods are often also ritually impure, najis, so you have to be careful they don't come into contact with halal foods. You also need to make sure that utensils and the hands preparing your food are not passing this impurity (najasah) onto your food through moist-contact and contaminating your halal food making it haram. For example, a fork used to pick up pork should not be used to handle halal meat.
Then there are things that go beyond the actual food. You have to consider the origin, the country, company or source of the food - Is the food being given grown on stolen land that is still being claimed, like in the case of products from Israel (Occupied Palestine)? If it is then it is haram. How about the people you are buying from - did they obtain their merchandise legally and fairly? If they are selling stolen or illegal products then it is forbidden to buy from them. And another question you need to ask: Is the money going in to the company from a permissible source? If the person you are buying from is a criminal or primarily invests in sin and corruption then you are not permitted to fund them by buying their products.
It is your Islamic responsibility to check where your food comes from and how it is prepared. But there is one more important thing you need to consider -
If the money you use to buy halal food or other products is from a haram source, be it stolen, defrauded, illegal, laundered, or any other type of ill-gotten money, then whatever you have bought with it becomes haram because you have effectively stolen the item through using stolen money to pay for it. While technically the item itself might be permissible, the fact that it was bought with dirty money makes it dirty as well and you are committing a sin just by consuming or using things obtained with dirty money.
So be mindful and remember - there's more to halal than just food.
'Fair Trade' is a concept, a global social movement, whose aim is to help producers of products such as fruit to get a fair price for what they sell and to reduce poverty, support local trade, provide better wages and working conditions. The movement started as a reaction to international trade whose practice was to produce and sell things in bulk and for as low a price as possible.
The methods of mass farming and bulk trade led to them outcompeting the smaller companies and local farms and putting them out of business. International companies would enter a country, buy out all the local farms and produce things in bulk and sell them for a lower price all while paying a meagre wage to workers and putting them in bad working conditions. This meant that local farmers could not sell their products because they were more expensive than the mass produced items and if they wanted to compete with the mass produced items they had to sell their produce for a much lower price or else close down their farms and go out of business. It also meant that people who worked for the large farms suffered more yet still remained poor as they were given a poor and unfair wage.
As so many producers went out of business whole areas became poor and poverty and unemployment became rife. Farmers lost their jobs, their livelihood, their trade and had to sell their ancestral land for a cheap price just to survive. This introduced social and economic problems and the people suffered. Had all the farmers sold their farms and given up, the world would be a very different place today where all farms would be owned by massive corporations and be used only for mass production and there would be no fair competition. Thankfully, conscientious people started to realize that there was more to life than money and bringing down costs and they backed a movement that called for fair trade, better pay, working conditions, social development and social justice.
In order that Fair Trade works it relies heavily on the consumer, the customer - you and me. Instead of selling out to large corporations and buying the cheapest or most commercial products at the super market, we have to be aware of where our money is going and if it will benefit people or harm them. We have a responsibility to know where our money goes and by buying Fair Trade products we are supporting the smaller companies and making sure they are getting a fairer price for their produce and we ensure they remain in business.
Although there are numerous Fair Trade movements that help out small and/or local companies and poorer farmers, the Fair Trade Foundation label is the most well known and is commonly found in many supermarkets around the world so look out for the picture the next time you go shopping. The foundation labels are found on many different types of products such a coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, sugar, oil, chocolate and non-consumables such as cotton and gold. What the Fair Trade Foundation tries to do, beyond ensuring that the farmers, the producers, get a better deal for their produce, is increase the development of the business and the welfare of their workers. They ensure that a portion of the profits from the sales of Fair Trade produce goes back into the business to buy better machinery to increase yield or to provide better working conditions at the farms so workers are happier, safer and get paid a better wage and are better able to support their families.
So, what of the Islamic perspective?
When our consumer behaviour, the money we pay to buy things, can drive the betterment of other people's lives and increase social justice and decrease poverty, how can we, as Muslims, as human beings with conscience not support our neighbours, brothers in faith and humanity through buying Fair Trade?! Allah says in the holy Quran: