The Elite Sa’eem – the degrees of fasting

In Barbados & Trinidad & Tobago, Ramadan commenced last night, First taraweeh, first sehri already have passed.

Allah swt says to the Believers:

Oh you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain taqwa.”

Quran 2:183

We are taught, and teach others that fasting in Ramadan is the daily abstinence from all food & drink, and sexual interaction, from dawn to dusk. That is one level of fasting. The other levels of fasting are outlined by Al Ghazali. Rasool s.a.w.s. is reported to have said:

One might fast and he gets nothing from his fast but hunger. One might pray at night but he gets nothing from his prayer but fatigue.”

prophet muhammad s.a.w.s.

The purpose of fasting is to attain taqwa – the purpose stated by Allah swt is immutable. Will the abstinence outlined above be sufficient for us to attain God-consciousness? Or does it only earn us hunger?

The questions of competition & pleasure

Surah Takathur is Surah 102. It is a short Surah having only 8 verses.

It is a Surah which cautions us about excess and wastage and the fruits of competition for worldly riches.

It is a Surah which begins by warning us that competition in worldly increase diverts us until we visit the graveyards (either shrouded or as funeralgoers).

The next 3 verses are very similar and emphasise that we will know.

It is a Surah of warning that we will be questioned about the bounties with which we have been blessed and how did we use them.

Look & listen to the following presentation on YouTube on this Surah:-

Al Inshirah: with hardship comes ease

Recently, two incidents occurred.

One. A local hijabi was forced to remove her headscarf at the security gate at the airport. Onlookers’ comments about respect for beliefs did not sway the officer. Flustered, frightened, she removed it in response to the officer’s …..directive. Recurred except this time she asked to remove it in a room. Eventually that request was granted. Hardship for one?

Flagged with the authorities. Directive for training of officers. Apologies. Policy for removal in a private room. Ease for more?

Two. Public announcement that religious garb, headgear, headgear will be allowed to be kept on when taking official photographs ie identification cards. Official website confirms this. 16 year old hijabi unaccompanied by her fierce mother attends to have her photo taken for the identification card. Is told to remove the headscarf. She’s 16. She removes it. (Several years ago BD was also….directed to remove her headscarf for that identification card.) Hardship?

Flagged with the authorities. Refresher on training. Ease?

So when the hardship is relieved, what are we to do? Continue to toil in devotion. And strive to please our Lord.

September 10th

Yesterday, September 10th was International World Prevention of Suicide Day. I wrote the below 3 years ago, submitted it somewhere, and meant to share it here. So finally.

I know of at least 2 boys in Youngest’s form year, who have attempted suicide. My best friend growing up was cutting herself during our teenaged years and there was nothing I could do to stop that. Alhamdulillah she is still with us. I know of one young lady who looks well-adjusted but who has also been cutting herself. I know of a young university student who took her life a couple of years back, and several persons have chosen that route in this island on which I live. More and more I hear personal stories of depression, undisclosed molestation, sexual abuse. One teenager has expressed his motivation to no longer be a burden for his unemployed mother. A few years ago, post major surgery, I was on certain medication. I missed a day for some forgotten reason, and I found myself switching (I can’t use the word swinging because that suggests a slow long motion, this was much too instantaneous a change to be considered that) from a high to a very very very low. And thoughts of suicide crossed my mind. In swirling dreary miasmic mind fog. My medical practitioner almost nonchalantly and certainly very bluntly said to me “You felt like killing yourself?” and nodded. It was a normal sequela of the absence of a single dose of that medication.

I am not a mental health professional so this is not in any way meant to be professional advice on how to prevent suicide. So of you dare, read on.

“And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the steadfast, who say, when a misfortune strikes them: Lo! To Allah we belong and unto Him we are returning.” (Holy Qur’an, Sura 2 Verses 155-56)

We face trials and tribulations daily. Regardless of our ‘place’ in society, our status, our lineage, our wealth. And we have a choice as to how to react to those trials and tribulations. Because Allah swt has granted each of us free will.

Some of us may face the same trials and tribulations – there is no formula which dictates that all of us will respond to, or deal with, those issues in the same way. Unlike performing wudhu (ritual ablutions) or salaat (compulsory prayer) there is no set or ritualistic way to respond or deal with issues which cause us discomfort of varying degrees.

The causes of suicide are unknown, but common risk factors have been identified as including (but are not limited to): –
• major psychiatric illness – in particular, mood disorders (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia, bulimia)
• substance abuse
• family history of suicide
• long term difficulties with relationships with friends and family
• losing hope or the will to live
• significant losses in a person’s life, such as the death of a loved one, loss of an important relationship, loss of employment or self-esteem
• unbearable emotional or physical pain
• post traumatic stress disorder
• domestic or psychological violence or molestation
• bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, low self-esteem issues.

September 10th has been identified as International World Prevention of Suicide Day. Suicides are not limited to any particular ethnicity, culture, nationality, gender, social status, or even age, and statistics vary depending on demographics and geography.

In Islam, the consequence of suicide as it relates to the spiritual consequence varies depending on whether the suicide was a product of mental illness where the suicide victim was unaware of the nature of his/her act, and whether the suicide was in fact aware of what he/she was doing. Indeed, Sura 4 Ayah 29 of the Holy Qur’an has been interpreted as prohibiting suicide:
“O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.”

Further, it has been narrated that Prophet Muhammad, (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever kills himself with something will be punished with it on the Day of Resurrection.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5700) and Muslim (110).

Suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:
• Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
• Procuring the means to take one’s own life, such as buying pesticides or stockpiling pills
• Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
• Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
• Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
• Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
• Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
• Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
• Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
• Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
• Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
• Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated.

The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “No pain, hardship, sickness or grief befalls a believer, not even worry that befalls him, but some of his bad deeds will be expiated.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5642) and Muslim (2573).

Being Muslim does not preclude feeling sad, or being depressed, or feeling incapable of facing or dealing with issues of conflict or triggers. Indeed, even being a prophet of Allah swt did not preclude several of the Prophets (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon them) from feeling sadness or despair.

However, Islam does offer some tools for combating hopelessness, depression and suicidal thoughts and inclinations.

Reciting Qur’an
Reading the Holy Qur’an and understanding its meanings – references to the Mercy of Allah swt and His recognition of man’s limited capacity for burdens is prolific throughout the Holy Qur’an.
“On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.” (Holy Qur’an Sura 2 Verse 286).
The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Quran is the best remedy for the illness of the soul” (Bukhari).

Reciting Sura Ad Duha
Reciting Sura 93 of the Holy Qur’an, which was revealed to the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) when he felt great despair. This chapter of the Quran can be considered a direct recipe from Lord for depression.

Reciting Surah Nas
Consistently reciting Surah Nas safeguards one from depression and improves his/her mood.

Reciting this Hadith Du’a
The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) is known to have said:
“Whoever was afflicted with grief and distress and says (see the following Dua), Allah, the Exalted and Ever-Majestic, will remove his grief and will change his sorrow into happiness.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah! (Do) we have to learn these words?” He said, “Yes, whoever hears them should learn them:
“O Allah, I am your slave, the son of your slave. My forelock is in Your Hand. Your judgment of me is inescapable. Your trial of me is just. I am invoking You by all the names that You call Yourself, that You have taught to anyone in Your creation, that You have mentioned in Your Book, or that You have kept unknown. Let the Qur’an be delight of my heart, the light of my chest, the remover of my sadness and the pacifier of my worries” (Musnad Ahmad, 3704).
The Prophet also recommended the following Dua for a believer feeling grief and hopeless:
“O Allah, I hope for Your mercy. Do not leave me to myself even for the blinking of an eye (i.e. a moment). Correct all of my affairs for me. There is none worthy of worship but You.” (Abu Dawud 4/324, Ahmad 5/42)

Remembering Allah swt:
Remembering Allah comforts the heart and removes your depression and anxiety.

“Those who believe, and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.” (Holy Qur’an, Sura 13 Verse28)

Offering Salah:
“O you who believe! Resort to patience and prayer; surely, Allah is with the patient.” (Holy Qur’an, Sura 2 Verse 153)

Seeking Help Through Patience:
“Seek help through patience & prayer” (Holy Qur’an Sura 2 Verse 45).

Relying on Allah Almighty (Tawakkul):
Rely on Allah by constantly remembering Him throughout your day. Establish a plan to deal with a specific issue or problem, put it in motion, and put your trust in the most Wise and the All-Knowing that is Allah Almighty and the One in control.
“When you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah” (Holy Qur’an Sura 3 Verse 159).

Seeking Forgiveness for one’s Sins: When one seeks forgiveness of Allah, he/she will be relieved of the anxiety and depression that caused by his sins. Forgiveness brings happiness, so ask forgiveness and also try to forgive others.

Don’t Procrastinate (avoid tawaakul): Laziness is one of the most common causes of stress because a person sees that he is not finishing his job. The Prophet (SAW) used to seek refuge in Allah from laziness.

Being Grateful
Be grateful to Allah swt for his bounties and blessings.
And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me (by obedience) and believe in Me that they may be (rightly) guided. [Holy Qur’an Sura 2, Verse186]
Allah (SWT) promises His believer:
“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease” (Holy Qur’an Sura 94 Verse 5).

And finally, how can we help that Muslim who may be having suicidal thoughts? Befriend her, keep the lines of communication open, call or drop by to check in , lend an ear and keep his/her confidence, recommend that he/she go for counselling, try to find something that means a lot to him/herer, be positive and encourage him/ her in halal activities which could elevate his/her mood and outlook. Encourage him/her to increase intake of vitamins B and C, to sit or walk in the sun, to engage in a physical activity, to journal, to reflect on and identify the triggers for the thoughts, to believe that Allah swt is benevolent and Merciful and the answerer of prayers, agree to wake each other to pray tahajjud.

Encourage him/her to do something good for someone else – there is sadaqah in even a smile. Pray for, and with him/her.

12 lunations.

Surely, the number of months according to Allah is twelve (as written) in the Book of Allah on the day He created the heavens and the Earth, of which there are Four Sacred Months. That is the right faith. So, do not wrong yourself therein. And fight the Mushriks all together, as they fight you all together, and be sure that Allah is with the God-fearing.

holy qur’an surah at-tawbah ayat 36

However, unlike the 12 month Gregorian calendar, the Islamic year is not counted by the number of revolutions of planet Earth around the sun, but by the revolutions of the moon and the moon around planet Earth. Confused yet?

The Islamic 12 month calendar is based on lunar months. A lunar month is the time that it takes the moon to pass through each of its phases – new, half, full. The moon rotates once around its axis in approximately the same time that it takes for the moon to orbit once around planet Earth. (NASA says that it takes the moon around 27.3 days to complete a revolution but 29.5 days to move through the synodic phases). Every person on Earth sees the same phases of the moon although depending on where you are, the moon could appear ‘upside down’ compared to the other side of earth.

It is He Who causes the dawn to split forth, and has ordained the night for repose, and the sun and the moon for reckoning time. All this is determined by Allah the Almighty, the All-Knowing.”

holy qur’an surah al-an’am ayat 96

Earth takes approximately 365 and 1/4 days (one year) to make a complete revolution around the sun. A lunar month (or lunation) takes approximately 29.5 days (or between 29 and 30 days) to complete one revolution, so that a lunar year comprises approximately 354 days.

The solar calendar is an annual cycle around the sun (I have yet to look at why the months are of varying lengths) while the lunar calendar is the monthly cycle of the moon’s phases (synodic months).

So, the time difference (or epact, a term describing this specific time difference) is usually 11 days. Each year, the Islamic months start 11 days earlier than the year before (when we compare it to the solar calendar). Over an elapse of 33 years, there will be a lag of one year between solar and lunar calendars as a result of consecutive epacts.

And the sun runs its own course; unchanging. That is the decree of the Almighty, the all-Knowing. And the moon we have measured for its mansions (To traverse) till it returns like the old dried curved date stalk. It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, or the night out-strip the day. They all float in their orbits.

Holy qur’an surah yasin ayah 38-40

Ramadan Reflections 20:1441AH – a socially distanced Eid

In Barbados, the mosques remain closed, and although most workplaces are open for business with social distancing rules (physical distancing & masks & sanitising of spaces), the traditional prayer sites remain closed to congregations except for the publication/broadcast of religious services, weddings & funerals (with limited numbers). Even the beaches are open for limited hours morning and afternoon.

The Barbados Association of Thelogians has issued a guideline with respect to the performance of Eid salaat at home (a minimum of 4 mature males must be present for the salaat folllowed by a short Eid kihutbah to be performed) If the minimum isnt met, then do not pray the Eid prayer. This is of the Hanafi fiqh, but other fiqh conditions and prohibitions are respected. Strangely enough, or maybe simply, enough, in Trinidad, 2 viewpoints of the Hanafis have come forth – one for the Eid salaat at home, and the other saying simply, no, it is not to be performed at all, although one can pray the nafl salaat. In both countries, the Islamic faith organisations have encouraged adherents to observe the rules and guidelines of the country – in Barbados, traditional visits to the graveyard after the Eid salaat have been warned against.

We remain socially distanced in person, but it does not prevent getting together on online platforms to greet each other, and see the meals and treats (if any) prepared. Those who are sequestered in homes are blessed, but so are those who are alone – say farewell with sorrow to this Ramadan, many have not lived to see it at all, and many have not seen all of it, pray that we see another Ramadan, and celebrate this Eid ul Fitr – clean your surroundings, dress your bed, make ghusl, pray Fajr, recite Qur’an, eat something sweet, perform Eid salaat if you follow that school of thought, or if not, pray some nafl salaat during the course of the morning, prepare a different meal, dress your selves in your finest clothing, try a new activity (should we go to the beach this year?), make contact with your friends, family, near or distant, say Alhamdulillah and if you have performed the Eid salaat, then greet:

 Taqabbal Allaahu minna wa minkum (May Allaah accept (this worship) from us and from you). It was narrated that Jubayr ibn Nufayr said: When the companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) met one another on the day of Eid, they would say to one another: “Taqabbal Allaahu minna wa mink (May Allaah accept (this worship) from us and from you).”