Preparing for Ramadan

We are only a few days away from Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims around the world. The Muslim fast, which consists of abstinence from food, drink and marital relations, is from the morning (dawn) to the evening (dusk). Some physical and mental preparation is in order for a successful Ramadan. Muslims are encouraged to fast a few days a month throughout the year, so the fasting itself should not be an issue for most people. However, there is a spiritual aspect to Ramadan that we must prepare for to get the most benefit from the month of Ramadan.

The purpose of fasting is to get Taqwa or consciousness of God (hope for His mercy and fear of His wrath). Taqwa is a sought after quality for every believer. Taqwa requires effort on the part of the believer to acquire. Allah says in the Quran about fasting:

ياايهاالذين أمنوا كتب عليكم الصيام كما كتب علي الذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون

O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous –

[Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayah 183, Al-Quran]

The prescribed way to establish a connection with our Creator and Sustainer Allah is Salah or the prayer. The month of Ramadan is not just the month of fasting but it is also the month of the Quran. Islam is not practiced in isolation. Ramadan is specially a time when the whole community comes together.

To prepare for the blessed month of Ramadan, it is important to bring our focus toward the worship of Allah with the Prayer, increase in the study of the Quran and to reach out to people around us to really get into the spirit of Ramadan inshaaAllah. In summary, just remember these three points:

1-Worship of Allah with prayer more
2-Study of the Quran more
3-Reach out to people around you more

May we reach the blessed month and may this Ramadan be the best Ramadan yet, Ameen.

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Model of our Solar System in the Milky Way

I found these videos depicting the model of our solar system in the Milky Way galaxy amazing. Fascinating to see the motion of the planets around the sun and the sun’s own motion through the galaxy. It’s hard to say how accurate this model is. Still it’s pretty awesome. SubhaanAllah!

I’ve always been interested in Science in general but specially so with Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy. My interest in these areas were recently reawakened by a book I’d long wanted to read: A Brief History of Time by the late Stephen Hawking (read my other blog entry about that book here). What a fascinating book that was. It’s surprising that life throws so much at you that you forget what you’re passionate about it put what really fascinates you aside for so many years. Doesn’t resonate with you? Maybe it’s just me then 🙂 I’ll likely start writing more about Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy more now as I’m reading more about those topic areas now. Obviously my other interest areas are the Quran & Hadith, Computers & Programming (and most recently Data Science, Machine Learning & AI) and Languages (particularly in love with Arabic (for most of my life), Persian (because of their beautiful art movies and books of poetry), Turkish (because of Ertugrul and German & Dutch just because). Did you know I took a course in Linguistics in college and enjoyed it immensely.

Here are a few of the verses from the Quran relevant to astronomy:

O company of jinn and mankind, if you are able to pass beyond the regions of the heavens and the earth, then pass. You will not pass except by authority [from Allah ]. [Surah Ar-Rahman, Verse 33, Al-Quran] (https://quran.com/55/33?translations=20)

It is not allowable for the sun to reach the moon, nor does the night overtake the day, but each, in an orbit, is swimming. [Surah Yaseen – Verse 40, Al-Quran] (https://quran.com/36/40?translations=20)

Then I swear by the setting of the stars, [Surah Al-Waqiah, Verse 75, Al-Quran] (https://quran.com/56/75?translations=20)

 

 

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Birds in the Sky

Why worry about our sustenance when Allah provided for us when we were babies and entirely dependent on our parents, May Allah bless them for taking care of us. Why worry about our sustenance when Allah feeds every creature, big and small? Why worry about our sustenance when Allah has promised that sustenance is His to provide? We worry because of the weakness in our faith or complete lack thereof.

It is strange that as intelligent as we human beings are, we completely ignore our intellect when it comes to sustenance. We completely ignore what we observe. We completely rely on our own assumptions which we have made up. We assume we are responsible for our sustenance. What we ignore is the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea and animals in the wild. Even the insects. Even the microbes. Even the kings and queens of the world. They all depend on Allah alone for their sustenance. If Allah stopped the sun from shining and giving us life supporting warmth or the atmosphere from providing us the air we breathe or the water from quenching our thirst or from plants and animals from being the source of food and energy for our survival.

All we need to remember is that we didn’t come into this world by our own choice. Our Creator created us into existence and put it on this planet and He promised us sustenance. We do need to work for it but we needn’t worry about it. If we increase and strengthen our faith in Allah, we will find that the worry will diminish and disappear. We are here for a purpose. Recognize what that purpose it and we will find our hearts will be at peace as we work on that greater purpose. And Allah will take care of our sustenance just as he takes care of the sustenance of innumerable birds in the sky.

And Allah knows best.

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Why Study the Seerah

The Seerah refers to the study of the blessed life of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (ﷺ) may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The reason for studying his life is obvious: he is the Prophet of Allah who brought Islam to us. The Quran was revealed to him. He explained Islam to us. Allah commanded us in the Quran to obey Him and His Messenger (ﷺ). Therefore, it is our religious obligation as Muslims to learn about our Prophet (ﷺ) and what he taught and follow his teachings in order to succeed in this life and in the hereafter.

He (ﷺ) implemented Islam in his own life and showed it to the companions who also followed his examples. They meticulously recorded his sayings, his habits, his likes and dislikes, his approvals and disapprovals, his orders and his prohibitions. They even recorded how he looked, how he dressed, how he handled himself, how he behaved with different people, how he was as a husband, how he was as a father, how he was as a leader, how he was as a friend, how he was as a human being. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

The Quran as well as the Hadith contain details of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) life. To really understand what Islam is, we have to take a deep dive into the study of the Seerah. We need to learn the background, the culture, the time, the tradition, the language and the circumstances in which the Prophet (ﷺ) was sent to really understand the message he brought. The more we study the life of the Mercy to the Worlds (ﷺ), the more we love him. The more we learn about what he went through, how he dealt with every situation in his life, what his comforting words to the companions were in every situation, the more we can’t help but love him (ﷺ).

Just like with the study of the Tafseer and any other study in Islam, it is important to study it from the most authentic sources available to us and not fall victim to propaganda of the Orientalist writings which consist of numerous texts readily available nowadays that were written in an attempt to misguide the masses and misinform them. So we should be careful and weed out the bad stuff and focus on the writings of the Muslim scholars. A lot of these authentic texts have been translated into English as well as other languages globally so they are accessible even if you don’t yet read Arabic.

 

And Allah knows best.

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Al-Adab Al-Mufrad by Imam Bukhari

Al Adab Al Mufrad by Imam Bukhari

Imam Muhammad Ibn Ismail Al Bukhari Rahimahullah (may Allah have mercy on his soul) is well known as a great scholar who has done a tremendous amount of work in the authentication, preservation and narration of Hadith. His collection of Hadith, the Sahih of Bukhari, is considered to be the most authentic book in Hadith. In fact, Sahih Bukhari has a status as one of the fundamental sources of Islamic knowledge right after the Quran itself. The actual title of which is “al-Jaami’ al-Sahih al-Musnad al-Mukhtasar min Umuri Rasooli-llahi wa sunanihi wa Ayyaamihi”. Imam Bukhari collected a lot more Hadith than are included in his Sahih collection. His compilation of the Hadith about the Character of Muslims in his book called Al Adab Al Mufrad.

Al Adab Al Mufrad book should be taught in every Muslim school to really build the character of Muslims. It is a collection that contains Hadith that address various aspects of everyday to show how one should behave in those common situations and occasions. For instance, it includes our manners when it comes to our parents, our relatives, our daughters, our children, our neighbors, orphans in the community and many more. It also mentions common everyday manners for everyday tasks such as sleeping and getting up, visiting friends and receiving guests and other general behavior. In short it covers how a Muslim should behave individually, with his family, relatives and neighbors, with society in general and so on.

If you have not been taught this book in school, it is easy to start at any age. Find and attend a class in your local mosque if possible. If not, maybe take a class online. Or if you’d like, you can pick up a copy and read it yourself. But it is better to study it under a scholar to get the most benefit of the book.

And Allah knows best.

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Criteria for Selecting Islamic Texts for Study

There is an incredible amount of books on every subject available nowadays. It is very easy to pick up a book on almost any subject, religious or otherwise. Publishing has become very easy and literally anyone can do it. There is really no way to only allow books that contain reliable material to be published. Although, this is not a new concept, but just the sheer amount of content these days is dizzying to say the least. As a student of knowledge, it is vital to be able to distinguish between books that are beneficial and good and books that are harmful and misleading.

This book is really a guide to get students of knowledge to get on the right path of acquiring the authentic Islamic Knowledge to get to a point where you are well read about the religion, understand the foundations of Islam and are equipped with the necessary knowledge to carry on studying throughout your lives on. Life is a journey and we all want to know how Allah wants us to lead our lives according to the Islamic teachings.

How do you tell which books to read and which to avoid? Is there any criteria that we can use to filter out the garbage and focus on the real good stuff? It turns out that there are a few resources available to help us in this regard. Here are some general guidelines:

Find books from recognized “Muslim” publishers
Avoid publishers who regularly publish negative material about Islam
Take the time to look up who the author is and what their background is, where they studied and what else they might have written
Read the reviews online if available on the bookstore web sites such as amazon.com
Take a look at the table of contents to figure out the structure of the book
Read the preface or introduction to see what the purpose of the book might be
Take a look at the references included in the footnotes or in the bibliography

And Allah knows best.

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The Reasons for Studying Hadith

Hadith is one of the two primary textual sources of Islamic Knowledge. I have mentioned this earlier in the previous chapter. The Study of Hadith complements the study of the Quran to give us a complete picture, so we understand the Quran more accurately. The Quran is a complete text in and of itself but it does not contain all the details that are needed to follow Islam the way it is meant to be followed. The reason for this is explained in the Quran itself. The Prophet (ﷺ) is also a guide and a teacher to the Muslims. He explained the Quran to his companions, he showed by his own example, he confirmed their understanding when it was correct and corrected their understanding if they misunderstood anything.

It is possible to misunderstand the revealed text. Even the companions sometimes thought a verse to mean one thing but the Prophet (ﷺ) had to explain to them what the intended meaning really was. There are tons of people nowadays who interpret the Quran according to their own understanding. They do not rely on the authentic Hadith that show how the Prophet (ﷺ) explained the verses and how the companions understood them. Many incorrect interpretations of the text of the Quran are done, sometimes by mistakes and other times deliberately to mislead people.

People have this mistaken belief that they only need the Quran and don’t need the Hadith because of several very well documented reasons. Scholars of Islam have addressed each and every one of these questions to try and persuade the people who don’t want to accept Hadith. However, the fact of the matter is that it is the weakness of Imaan that has deluded some people into rejecting Hadith. Shaitaan has convinced them that the Quran alone is the sacred text and Hadith is just something extra that they don’t understand and don’t need to understand, follow or implement. As a result, numerous requirements of the religion which have been recorded in Hadith are simply ignored! May Allah protect us all from this and all other misguidance.

And Allah knows best.

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Resources for learning the Quran

There are numerous resources available for learning the Quran. As I alluded to earlier, there is not just one subject area when it comes to studying the Quran. Consider the following areas and some of the better resources for studying these that I have found.

Learn to read with proper Tajweed:

The best possible thing you can do to learn Tajweed is to find a reputable Quran teacher, preferably someone whose mother tongue is Arabic. This is to get the most accurate pronunciation for the hard to articulate letters that are unique to the Arabic language.

In addition to learning Tajweed from a good teacher, you can also read up on this topic and watch videos:

I recommend the following book:
Al-Qaa’idah al-Qur’aaniyyah – An Introduction to Tajweed by Qari Muhammad Idrees Asim

I recommend the following video course:
Tajweed Series – By Wisam Sharieff

Learn Arabic for the Quran:

This is a lifelong journey for all serious Muslims particularly those who consider themselves to be students of knowledge. However, there are courses that one can take to get a focused education to really understand the Quran, at least on the elementary level so when you read the commonly recited verses, you actually know what they mean.

I recommend the following book: Learning Arabic Language Of The Quran by Izzath Uroosa
I recommend the following video course:
Learning Arabic Language of the Quran By Dr.Abdussamie

Learning Tafseer of the Quran:

So by now, you’ve learned how to recite the Quran and learned enough Arabic to actually know what the verses mean without relying on translations (for most common words anyway). The next step in our understanding of the Quran is to study the various authentic Tafseer books (also preferably with a reputable teacher). There are several very good books of Tafseer available to us these days. Additionally, there are a lot of good teachers who are teaching Tafseer in class rooms. Find and attend a good Tafseer class in your local area.

I recommend the following book: Tafseer ibn Katheer
I recommend the following video course: Dr Israr Ahmed Tafseer of Quran English

If you speak Urdu, there is a great resource available in Dr Israr Ahmed (Rahimahullah, May Allah have mercy on his soul): his explanation of the Quran are available in books and Multimedia (Audio/Video) formats.

And Allah knows best.

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Avoiding Misinterpretations of the Quran

The Quran is a fundamental source of Islamic knowledge. The Hadith which includes the sayings and recorded actions of the Prophet (ﷺ) among other things, closely follow the Quran as the second fundamental source of Islamic knowledge. Early scholars have done a great service to Islam to meticulously collect and authenticate the Hadith. They actually developed a science of Hadith authentication that is not found in any other literature religious or otherwise, specially from that long ago. Furthermore, early scholars also wrote Tafseer (exegesis or the explanation) of the Quran. Classical Tafseer also rely on the Hadith and Athaar (sayings of the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ).

In other words, simply picking up an Oxford printing of the translation of the Quran into English by an Western Orientalist author does not convey the real meaning of the Quran to anyone.

To understand and interpret the message of the Quran accurately, one has to find out what the Arabic words meant (i.e. the linguistic and cultural context of the people of Quraish tribe in Mecca at that time), the reasons of revelation (the historical context within which the verses were revealed), what the Prophet (ﷺ) said about the revelation and how the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) understood it (recorded in the books of Hadith) and how the early scholars explained it (recorded in the books of classical Tafseer).

Trying to interpret the Quran any other way would result in misinterpretations. It makes no sense to base our understanding of the Quran on the explanation of people who neither know the Arabic language nor rely on the classical Tafseer and authentic Hadith collections. Yet we see a lot of people doing just that. May Allah protect us all from misguidance.

In the next chapter, I’ll write in more detail about the importance of relying on Hadith to arrive at the correct understanding of the Quran and hence getting an accurate picture of Islam as a whole.

And Allah knows best.

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Increasing the Odds of a Good End

I just watched a short video clip gone viral on social media recently of a man dying while reciting the Quran in a mosque somewhere. SubhaanAllah indeed! And hopefully it is not a fake video (that would be the topic of a future blog post)! We all want and pray that we meet our Creator while we are doing something good and pleasing to Allah. And we all pray to be protected from an evil end.

I remember a lunch room conversation with a co-worker a long time ago: he remarked, almost out of the blue, that he would love to die while doing something good! I was happily amazed to hear that from him and I congratulated him and told him that it was the first step: wanting a good end. We would have to ask Allah for it and we would have to increase the likelihood of that happening by engaging in good more and avoiding evil as the plague. Since we don’t know when we would die, it would not make any sense to sometimes be engaged in doing things that displease Allah. What if we died doing them and didn’t get a chance to repent?

It is a great achievement to meet Allah when He is pleased with us. We should always make it a priority to pray for this. And remind each other and ourselves to pray for a good end. And to engage in good deeds on a daily basis and to avoid evil deeds at all costs. Conversely it is a huge loss to die after having gone against Allah’s commands and not being able to repent. Like dying while one is drinking or dancing or having extramarital relations with someone or cheating someone or hurting someone in some way and not been given a chance to repent to Allah and make amends after having made an error.

May Allah protect us all from an evil end and may Allah be pleased with us when we die.

And Allah knows best.

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