August 21, 2010

Forgive yourself before asking for Forgiveness..

I think of the depths of the human heart. I think of how we think we know ourselves and our intentions. But, really, we don’t.
For almost every one of us, there’s something we know we need to change but simply won’t. The issue may involve not wearing hijab, not praying regularly, watching inappropriate TV and movies, intermingling, having “boyfriends” or “girlfriends”… And for each, we have a convenient excuse, if we bother to make excuses at all.
But in Ramadan, a lot of unpleasant things come to surface because the devils are chained and the depths of our hearts are exposed.
Yet most of us still manage to wriggle out of obedience to Allah, and the excuses abound…
There’s no point in wearing hijab in Ramadan if I know I’m just going to take it off later…
I don’t want to be a hypocrite…
I know myself, and I’m not ready to change my life…
But in each excuse, there’s one key component that’s missing.
I don’t mean His name is absent. For most of us, it’s actually Allah’s name we use to justify our wrong.
Allah is Forgiving. Allah knows my heart. Allah’s my judge…
Or our favorite…
When I change, I’ll do it for Allah, not because people asked me to…
Yet Allah says, “And make not Allah’s (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly…” (2:224).
When we’re not blaming Allah for our sins, we’re blaming our natural human weakness. And it’s true; humans are weak. But the truth is that this isn’t our chief shortcoming.
But human weakness is the chief shortcoming for those with high emaan.
Those with low emaan have as their chief shortcoming a diseased heart.
The strong believers constantly strive to do what’s right, but because of human weakness, they inevitably fall short. But their energy is spent striving against sin, not giving in to it.
The weakest believers don’t even bother striving; they’re quite comfortable in their life of sin. Their energy is spent defending their sin, not fighting against it.
…I don’t want forgiveness. I don’t want to change. I like the wrong I’m doing…
This is what it really boils down to. Otherwise, we’d just make du’aa, and pray that Allah makes it easy for us to do what’s right, even if we fall short at times.
But it starts with wanting change. And that’s not an easy thing for the human heart, especially for those of us content with our low emaan and life of sin.
All will be forgiven during the month of Ramadan, except those who do not want to be forgiven.
And who does not want to be forgiven?
Those who do not ask.
The month of Ramadan is, more than anything, a month of opportunity. It’s a time to set right things that are wrong. It’s a time to change course, even as you’ve no idea how you’ll walk that new path. It’s a time to ask for change, to beg for change, to cry for it—even if part of you doesn’t even want it.
And it’s okay if you have no idea how you’ll manage wearing hijab, praying regularly, shutting off that TV, or leaving alone those “cute” girls or guys.
It’s okay, because it’s not you you’re turning to for help.
It’s Allah.
And Allah is able to do all things.
Let us remember, too, that Allah is All-Forgiving. But, of course, to benefit from Allah’s Forgiveness, we first have to want it. And wanting forgiveness isn’t just saying we want it, or just uttering a prayer. It means we regret our sin. It means we hate our sin. And it means we take every step to avoid it.
And we never give up fighting against it.
That’s what it means to want Allah’s forgiveness.
That’s what it means to ask for it.
So it is upon each of us to closely examine our lives—and hearts—and ask ourselves a simple question.
Do you want forgiveness?
If our answer is yes, we know Who to turn to for help and guidance.
If our answer is no… well, there’s nothing for us to do except what we’ve always been doing.



Ramadhan Kareem

August 11, 2010

In the month of Ramadaan it is very important that we spend a few moments reflecting on the wisdoms and lessons that we can learn from this month of fasting.

Unfortunately, many Muslims come in to this month and they are as a companion of the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Let it not be that the day that you fast and the day that you break fast be equal.” Meaning, one’s behaviour, attitude and outlook are the same whether one fasts or not, i.e. fasting has no effect upon that person. This is why we need to reflect on some of these lessons.

LESSON 1: Gaining Taqwaa

Allaah legislated fasting for gaining taqwaa, “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain taqwaa.” (meaning of SoraatulBaqarah (2):183) Taqwaa in this case means to make a shield between oneself and Allaah’s anger and Hellfire. So we should ask ourselves, when we break our fasts, ‘Has this fasting day made us fear Allaah more? Has it resulted that we want to protect ourselves from the hellfire or not?

LESSON 2: Drawing closer to Allaah

This is achieved by reciting and reflecting on Al-Qur’aan during night and day, attending the taraaweeh prayers, remembering Allaah, sitting in circles of knowledge and, for those who can, making `umrah. Also for those who can, making I`tikaaf (seclusion) in the last ten nights of Ramadaan, so as to leave all worldly pursuits and seclude oneself in a masjid just thinking of Allaah, so as to bring oneself closer to Allaah (SWT). When one sins, one feels distant from Allaah. That is why one might find it heard to read the Qur’aan and come to the masjid. However, the obedient worshipper feels closer to Allaah and wants to worship Allaah more, because he is not shy from his sins.

LESSON 3: Acquiring patience and strong will

Allaah has mentioned patience more than seventy times in the Qur’aan and has commanded patience in more than sixteen ways in His Book. So when one fasts, and gives up one’s food and drink, and one’s marital sexual relations for those hours, one learns restraint and patience. This Ummah needs man and women that are strong willed, who can stand upon the Sunnah and the Book of Allah and not waver in front of the enemies of Allaah. We do not need emotional people, who just raise slogans and shout, but when the time comes to stand upon something firm, they cannot do so, they waver.

LESSON 4: Striving for Ihsaan (righteousness and sincerity) and staying away from riyaa’ (showing off)

Ihsaan means to worship Allaah as if one seeks Him, and even though one does not see Him, He sees all. Hasan al-Basree said, “By Allaah, in the last twenty years, I have not said a word or taken something with my hand or refrained to take something with my hand or stepped forth or stepped back, except that I have thought before I have done any action, ‘Does Allaah love this action? Is Allaah pleased with this action?’ So when one is fasting, one should gain this quality of watching oneself and also staying away from riyaa’ (showing off). That is why Allah said in a hadeeth qudsee, “Fasting is for Me and I reward it.” (al-Bukhaaree) Allaah singles out fasting from all other types of worship saying, “Fasting is for Me”, because no one knows whether you are fasting or not, except Allaah. For example, when one is praying or giving charity or making tawaaaf, one can be seen by the people, so one might do the action seeking the praise of the people. Sufyaan ath-Thawree used to spend the nights and the days crying and the people used to ask him, “Why do you cry, is it due to the fear of Allaah? He said, ‘No.’ They said, “Is it due to the fear of the Hellfire?” He said, ‘No. It is not the fear of Hellfire that makes me cry, what makes me cry is that I have been worshipping Allaah all these years and doing scholarly teaching, and I am not certain that my intentions are purely for Allaah.’”

LESSON 5: Refinement of manners, especially those related totruthfulness and discharging trusts.

The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then Allaah (SWT) has no need that he should heave his food and drink.” (al-Bukhaaree) What we learn from this, is that we must pay attention to the purification of our manners. The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “was sent to perfect good manners.” (Maalik) So we must check ourselves, are we following the behaviour of the Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him)? For example: Do we give salaam to those we don’t know and those we do know? Do we follow the manners of Islaam, by telling the truth and only telling the truth? Are we sincere? Are we merciful to the creation?

LESSON 6: Recognizing that one can change for the better

The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “Every son of Adam sins and the best of the sinners are those whorepent.” (Ibn Maajah) Allaah provides many opportunities to repent to Him and seek His forgiveness. If one was disobedient they can become obedient.

LESSON 7: Being more charitable

Ibn `Abaas said, “The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) was the most charitable amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadaan when Jibreel used to meet him on every night of Ramadaan till the end of the month…” (al-Bukhaaree) The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will receive the same reward as him, without nothing being reduced from the fasting person’s reward.” (at-Tirmidhee)

LESSON 8: Sensing the unity of the Muslims

The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “…Those of you who will live after me will see many differences. Then you must cling to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided khaleefahs. Hold fast to it and stick to it.” (Aboo Daawood) In this month we sense that there is a possibility for unity, because we all fast together, we break fast together, we all worship Allah together, and we pray Salaatul-`Eid together. Therefore we sense that the unity of Muslims is possible. It is possible for Muslims to be a single body, but this will only be achieved when obedience is only to Allaah and His Messenger.

LESSON 9: Learning discipline

The Prophet (ma Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) made us adhere to discipline and strictness, strictness that does not lead to fanaticism or going outside the bounds that Allaah has laid down. One cannot knowingly break the fast before the sunset, as this will not be accepted by Allaah. Muslims should learn to be very strict in their lives, because they are people of an important message, which they mold their lives around.

LESSON 10: Teaching the young to worship Allaah

It was the practice of the people of Madeenah, that during the fast of `Aashooraa (which is now a recommended fast of one day) to get their children to fast with them. When the children would cry of hunger and thirst, their parents would distract their attention by giving them some sort of toy to play with. The children would break their fast with their parents. (as mentioned in al-Bukhaaree).

So the young should be brought to the masjid and they should pray with their parents, so that they are able to get into the habit of becoming worshippers of Allaah. If one does not encourage children to fast when they are young, they will find it very difficult to fast for thirty days at the age of puberty. This is why the Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “Command your children to pray at the age of seven and beat them at the age of ten (if they do not pray.” (Haakim)

LESSON 11: Caring for one’s health

Fasting has many medical benefits and it teaches Muslims to take care of their health and too build strong bodies. The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone.” (Muslim)