- The happiness
- Islam means "submission to God in peace". Islam teaches there is only One God, whose primary name is "Allah" in the Arabic language. Islam is the same essential message given to all the prophets, from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally to the Last Prophet, Muhammad, (peace be upon them all). They all proclaimed the same basic Divine message: worship only God, stop worshipping human beings and other created things There's a different between Islam and Muslims!! What's the purpose of life? What Do You Know About Islam? Not what you have heard about Islam, not what you have seen in the actions of some Muslims, but what do you really know about Islam?
Saturday, August 13, 2011
It was Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, who made us raise our eyes from the dust beneath to view the glory of the starry heavens above. It was Muhammad who led us from the depths of darkness to the grandeur of the light of God.
The Prophet was the one who led us to break our stone statues and wooden gods. It was Muhammad who lifted us out of the filth of idolatry to relish the serenity of God's transcendence.
On the Night of Power in one Ramadan, the Quran descended on Muhammad, and he received its first verses in the Cave of Hira. (Ibn Abbas)
Thereafter the Prophet taught us how to celebrate Ramadan through days of fasting and nights of prayer: to honor each day of Ramadan as a day of patient endurance through fasting, and each night as a night of gratitude through prayers.
An Unexpected Transformation
It was nothing short of miraculous how the Prophet reformed and refined those unruly tribes of Arabia and transformed them into pious, disciplined, God-fearing ascetics, who stood in prayers in the mosque five times a day seeking the guidance of God.
And imagine: these same people who once reveled in the pleasures of "wine and
women" could now spend the whole month of Ramadan in fasting and prayers.
Into the hearts of his followers, the Prophet instilled the love and fear of God and love for humanity. His example was inspiring and irresistible; and each of them became eager to be his closest follower.
To them he was the sincerest and the most cordial of leaders. And his life was open
before them like a book; they could see him practicing most closely in his own life what he was preaching.
Letting the Spirit Reign Supreme
The Prophet demonstrated to his people how this world is less important than the next, and how the body is less important than the soul. In fasting, the Prophet taught them step by step how to ignore the physical demands so that the spirit reigns supreme.
Abandoning food, drink, and sex was only a prelude to the next stage of greater significance: of conquering avidity and cupidity, lust and licentiousness; of liberating one's mind from flights of passion and fits of temper. Indeed the Prophet said:
"The strong person is not the one who can wrestle someone else down. The strong person is the one who can control himself when he is angry." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Also about the effect of fasting on one's behaviour, the Prophet said, "Fasting is a
shield, so the one who fasts should avoid obscene speech and ignorant behaviour. If someone abuses him or starts to fight with him, he should reply by saying: 'I am fasting. I am fasting'." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The core of fasting according to the Prophet was one's willingness not merely to give up self-indulgence, but to feel the need of one's brother as one's own. And no one was more kind-hearted and generous than the Messenger of God; and his generosity reached its peak in Ramadan. (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet stressed on the importance of treating people nicely when he said:
"Make things easy for people and do not make them difficult, and cheer people up and do not drive them away." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
He also said:
"The most beloved of actions to God Almighty, is making another Muslim happy, removing a hardship that has befallen him, paying off a debt of his or ridding him of hunger. It is more beloved to me indeed that I walk with my Muslim brother to see to a need of his than secluding oneself in a mosque for a month..." (Tabarani)
The heart of one who sincerely fasts is open to the contemplation of the magnificence of the countless bounties of God. That is why the Prophet asked his followers to avoid gluttony:
"The food of two people is enough for three, and the food of three people is enough for four." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Gentleness in Hardship
God is All-Merciful and He has expressed His Mercy to us His creatures through the sending of His final messenger Muhammad as an embodiment of mercy. The Prophet said:
"Have mercy to those on earth so that He Who is in Heaven will have mercy on you." (Tirmidhi)
"The believer is not the one who eats his fill when the neighbour beside him is hungry." (Bayhaqi)
So it was not surprising that the Prophet's Companions loved him dearly, as he was
the kindest of men, bestowing his mercy not only upon humans but also on other
creatures of the world as well.
No leader could be more considerate and solicitous of his followers than Muhammad: he never allowed any Muslim to bear any burden more than they could bear, as taught by God Himself.
For he was well aware of the infirmities of people; and this is evident from his
consideration for his followers in the matter of fasting: He taught Muslims to delay the sahur (the pre-dawn meal before fasting) till a little before Dawn Prayer and not to delay the iftar (the meal to break the fast) after the call to Sunset Prayer so that no unnecessary strain is laid on the fasting person by prolonging the fast time.
During travel in Ramadan, the Prophet would either fast or break his fast; and he
allowed his companions to choose between the two, according to their ability.
It is noteworthy that the Prophet did not specify a particular distance in travel as a
minimum limit for a person to break the fast. His Companions sometimes broke the fast immediately after leaving home, because this was the example set by the Prophet himself.
Similarly during times of heat or thirst they were permitted to cool themselves by
pouring water on the head, and the Prophet himself did so.
His example in the matter of consorting with his wives during Ramadan was not
different; he disallowed only such acts that would obviously undermine the fasting.
As for the Tarawih Prayers (the supererogatory night prayers performed in Ramadan), it is recorded that the Prophet began praying them in congregation and then he stopped, fearing that such prayers would become obligatory if he continued to pray them in congregation.
Thus while he demonstrated through his example that the Tarawih Prayers are better offered in congregation, he allowed leniency in the matter out of his mercy.
Seclusion: Refreshing the Soul
The highest point of Ramadan for Muslims is seeking the Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power) during the last ten days. One act of worship the Prophet emphasized particularly during this time is itikaf, which is a spiritual retreat in which one confines oneself to a mosque to spend one's time entirely to the worship and remembrance of God.
In these modern days when people hanker after indulgence in ephemeral pleasures, one needs to return to the seclusion of the house of prayer from time to time; which is essential for one's spiritual rejuvenation and the return to one's Creator.
Thus the beloved Prophet has taught us how to use Ramadan as a month for
disciplining our intransigent passions, for renouncing our desires for self gratification and for practicing patient endurance in the face of hardships.
The Prophet exhorted us that during Ramadan most especially it is our duty to support and uplift our less fortunate fellow humans.
Above all, Ramadan is a month of contemplating the Grace and Bounty of God
Almighty, of returning to our Guardian Lord in repentance, of sincerely seeking His forgiveness.
Why Do Muslims Fast?
Dr Bilal Philips
Most of us who are fighting the battle of the bulge have experimented with some form of fasting, like an all fruit fast, a water fast or an sugar-free fast, you name it. But what many may find rather strange and intriguing is a whole nation of people;
be it man or woman, old or young, rich or poor; going completely without food and drink from dawn to dusk for a whole month - Ramadan. What is the significance of Ramadan beyond shortened work hours? Is it not a very harsh practice? Is it merely a time when Muslims sleep and fast and hardly work all day; and eat, drink, enjoy and stay awake all night? What really is the spirit of Ramadan?
Fasting Prescribed in All Religions
In English "fasting" means to abstain from food or from certain kinds of food
voluntarily, as an observance of a holy day or as a token of grief, sorrow, or repentance.
This practice can be found in most of the major religions of the world. For example, in Hinduism, fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Devout Hindus observe fasting on special occasions as a mark of respect to their personal gods or as a part of their penance. Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days they do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food. For Jews, the day Yom Kippur ("Day of Atonement") is the last of the Ten Days of Repentance observed on the 10th of Tishri. It is forbidden on that day to eat, drink, wash, wear leather, or have sexual relations. In addition, prohibitions on labor similar to those on the Sabbath are in force. It should also be noted that Moses (peace be upon him) is recorded in the Torah to have fasted.
"And he was there with the Lord 40 days and 40 nights, he neither ate bread not drank water." (Exodus 34:28)
For Catholics among Christians, Lent is the major season of fasting, imitative of the
forty-day fast of Jesus (peace be upon him). In the fourth century it was observed as six weeks of fasting before Easter or before Holy Week. It was adjusted to forty days of actual fasting in most places in the seventh century. Jesus (peace be upon him) is recorded in the Gospels to have fasted like Moses.
"And he fasted 40 days and 40 nights, and afterward he was hungry." (Matthew 4:2 & Luke 4:2)
It is in this context that God states in the Quran: "O believers! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you in order that you become more conscious of God." (Quran 2:183)
Among the Best Righteous Deeds
Although in most religions, fasting is for expiation of sin or atonement for sin, in Islam it is primarily to bring one closer to God, as stated in the above-mentioned verse. Since, God-consciousness is the prerequisite for righteousness, great stress is placed on fasting in Islam. Thus, it is not surprising to find that when Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, was asked:
"Which is the best deed?" He replied, "Fasting, for there is nothing equal to it." (Al-Nasa'i)
There are as many levels of fasting as there are facets to being human. Proper fasting should encompass all dimensions of human existence for it to have the divinely intended effect. The following are some of the major levels of fasting:
The Levels of Fasting
The Ritual Level
This level of fasting requires that the basic rules for fasting be fulfilled, which are
avoiding food, drink and sexual intercourse between dawn and sunset for 29 or 30 days each year. On this level, one is basically following the letter of the laws regarding fasting without particular consideration for the spirit of fasting. It is the entrance level which must be fulfilled for the fast to be Islamicly correct, but the other levels must be added for the fast to have any real impact on the fasting person. Fasting on this level alone will not benefit one spiritually, except from the perspective of submission to divine instructions, if one chooses to follow the ritual consciously and not merely according to tradition. Thus, by itself, the ritual level will not purify one of sin or atone for sin.
The Physical Level
Fasting on the "physical" level causes the fasting person to experience the pangs of
hunger and thirst when the prophetic (Sunnah) way of fasting is observed. Prophet
Muhammad used to consume a very light meal before the dawn (suhoor) and moderate meal (iftaar) to break the fast at sunset, while scrupulously avoiding filling his stomach.
He is reported to have said:
"The worst container a human being can fill is his stomach. A few morsels of food to keep a person's back straight are sufficient. However, if his desire overcomes him, then let him eat a third, drink a third and leave a third for breathing." (Ibn Majah)
before beginning the sunset prayer. This level allows the fasting person to
experience the pangs of hunger and thirst and thereby develops sympathy in him or her for those starving and dying of thirst in other parts of the world.
On the physical level, some chemicals in the brain that transmit messages and create feelings, called neurotransmitters, are affected by fasting. Fasting encourages the endorphin neurotransmitter system, related to the feeling of well being and euphoria, to produce more endorphins and, in fact, makes us "feel" better. This is similar to the effect of exercise (but without the physical work).It has also been noted by medical experts that fasting improves the physical health in numerous ways. For example, during the fast the body uses up stored cholesterol (fat) that is often deposited in the blood system, as well as in other fatty areas of the body. Thus, it helps to keep the body firm and minimizes the danger of heart attacks. The difference between the ritual level 1 and the physical level 2 is that a person dong only ritual fasting may eat large meals prior to beginning the fast
and immediately upon ending the fast, and thus not feel any hunger or thirst throughout the whole month. However, like level one, if the fasting person does not incorporate the other levels of fasting, the fast will only be physically exhausting. The Prophet said:
"Perhaps a fasting person will gain nothing but hunger and thirst from fasting."(Ibn Majah)
The Libidinal Level
The sexual instinct and drives (libido) are harnessed on this level of fasting. In these times where the media continually plays on sexual desires to promote and sell products, the ability to control these powerful desires is a plus. Fasting physically reduces sexual desires and the fact that the fasting person has to avoid anything which could stimulate him psychologically helps to further lower the libido. Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said:
"O youths, whoever among you is able to marry let him do so, for it restrains the eyes and
protects the private parts. He who is unable to marry should fast, because it is a shield." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
By restraining oneself from sexual acts which are permissible, the fasting person
makes it easier for himself to restrain himself from forbidden sexual acts when he is not fasting.
The Emotional Level
Fasting on this level involves controlling the many negative emotions which simmer in the human mind and soul. For example, among the most destructive emotions is anger. Fasting helps to bring this emotion under control. Prophet Muhammad, said:
"When one of you is fasting, he should abstain from indecent acts and unnecessary talk, and if someone begins an obscene conversation or tries to pick an argument, he should simply tell him, 'I am fasting.'" (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Thus, on this level, whatever negative emotions challenge the fasting person must be avoided. One must abstain from lewd conversation and heated arguments. Even when one is in the right, it is better to let that right go and keep one's emotional fast intact. Likewise, the negative emotion of jealousy is reduced, as every fasting person is reduced to the common denominator of abstinence; no one is externally superior to another in this regard.
The Psychological Level
This level helps the fasting person psychologically to control evil thoughts and trains him or her, to some degree, how to overcome stinginess and greed. The Prophet was reported to have said:
"Allah has no need for the hunger and the thirst of the person who does not restrain himself from telling lies and acting on them even while observing the fast." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
In this age of immediate gratification, when the things of the world are used to fulfill human needs and desires almost as soon as they have them the ability to delay gratification is an important skill. What is between immediate gratification and delayed gratification is patience. During the fast, the believers learn patience and the benefits of it.
From a psychological perspective, it is good to be somewhat detached from the things of the world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a good and full life - in fact, one can and should expect that. However, it is important that people are able to detach ourselves from material things so that they do not become the most important part of their lives.
Fasting gives one the opportunity to overcome the many addictions which have become a major part of modern life. Food, for many people, provides comfort and joy, and the ability to separate oneself from it gives the fasting people the psychological benefit of knowing that they do have some degree of control over what they do and what they do not do.
The Spiritual Level
In order to establish this, the highest and most important level of fasting, the level of God-consciousness, Prophet Muhammad made the renewal of the intention for fasting a requirement before every day of fasting. He was reported to have said:
"Whoever does not intend to fast before Fajr (the dawn) will have no fast." (Abu Dawud)
The daily renewal of intention helps to establish a spiritual foundation of sincerity
essential for the spiritual cleansing effects of fasting to operate. Sincere fasting purifies and atones for sin, as the Prophet said:
"Whoever fasts Ramadan out of sincere faith and seeking his reward from God, his previous sins will be forgiven."
He was also reported to have said, "From one Ramadaan to the next is atonement for the sins between them." Sincere fasting brings one closer to Allah and earns a special reward. The Prophet informed that there is a gate in paradise called Rayyaan reserved for those who fast and he also said:
"When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are open." (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Fasting is primarily between the person and God, as no one can be sure that any
person is actually fasting. Because of this intimate aspect of fasting, Allah was quoted by the Prophet as saying:
"Every act of Aadam's descendants is for themselves, except fasting. It is meant for Me alone, and I alone will give the reward for it." (Saheeh Muslim)
When combined with the previous levels of fasting, this level transforms a person from within. It restores, revives and regenerates the fasting person's spirituality and radically modifies his or her personality and character. These are the precious products of aheightened state of God-consciousness.
On the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted, a special celebration is made, called Id al-Fitr. A quantity of staple food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and put on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.
There are other fast days throughout the year. Muslims are encouraged to fast six
days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan, Mondays and Thursdays, and the ninth and tenth, or tenth and eleventh of Muharram, the first month of the year. The tenth day, called Ashurah, is also a fast day for the Jews (Yom Kippur), and Allah commanded the Muslims to fast two days to distinguish themselves from the People of the Book.
While fasting per se is encouraged, constant fasting, as well as monasticism, celibacy, and otherwise retreating from the real world, are condemned in Islam. Fasting on the two festival days, Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha, the feast of the Hajj, is strictly forbidden.