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July 10, 2013

Day 1 – Reconcile

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said: “He who boycotts his brother for more than three days and dies during this period will be from the people of hellfire.”

He (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) also said: “The doors of Heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday, and Allah pardons in these days every individual servant who is not a polytheist, except those who have enmity between them; Allah Says: ‘Delay them until they reconcile with each other”

The worst thing in the world you could do to your Ramadan is completely render it void because of a dispute you have with someone. It contradicts the entire essence of fasting and seeking the pardon of your Lord because it’s not befitting to request forgiveness if you’re unable to forgive others. The doors of heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday on normal days which is why the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) would fast them, but they are open the entire month of Ramadan. Imagine if every day as your fasting, Quran recitation, etc. is presented to Allah this month, He responds to the angels to delay your pardon until you reconcile with your brother.

Ramadan is the best opportunity to write that email or text message to that lost family member or friend and say “it’s not worth it to lose Allah’s forgiveness over this” and “I’M SORRY.”

Even if you’ve been avoiding someone and there is an implicit, unofficial, or unspoken boycott, make sure you end that today so that you don’t jeopardize your fasting.

Don’t do it for that person, do it for yourself and for the sake of Allah.

Oh Allah, clear our hearts from enmity, give us the ability to forgive, and pardon us for we have wronged ourselves. ameen

July 11, 2013

Day 2 – Prayer on Time

I know it sounds elementary but read the whole thing. When the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) was asked what the MOST beloved action to Allah was, he would consistently answer “Prayer performed on time” (Bukhari, Nasaai).

Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) describes the later generations of Bani Israeel as having “Lost the prayer” because they stopped praying on time (19:59). This led them to pursue their evil empty desires and meet destruction in the hereafter.

Obviously the spiritual dimension to this is that when one has no desire or longing to remember their Lord, they stand at the end of the time of prayer with laziness just to get it over with. This is how Allah describes the hypocrites (4:142).

However, training oneself to pray early in the window of prayer is the first step.

SO here is my Ramadan resolution: Even though technically speaking the absolute end of the time of prayer is the entrance of the next prayer (with the exception of Fajr), force yourself to pray Dhuhur, Asr, and Isha within 1 hour of the adhan, and Fajr and Maghrib within 30 minutes of the adhan. Obviously Maghrib is really preferred within an even shorter time and Isha can be delayed, but this is an exercise for the one who is having trouble praying on time. You can obviously also sometimes delay any prayer within a permissible time frame if you have an obstacle such as an exam, work, etc. But make that the exception and not the norm.

Place an alarm on your phone and tell yourself that if I go beyond that 30 minutes or 1 hour for the specific prayer, I would’ve “missed” the prayer.

Ramadan is the time to establish good habits and what better habit can you start than the one that is most beloved to Allah!?

July 12, 2013

Day 3 – Sunnah Prayers

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said: Allah will build a house in Paradise for whoever is diligent in observing 12 Sunnah Rakaat : 4 before and 2 after the Dhuhr Prayer, 2 after the Maghrib Prayer, 2 after the ‘Ishaa Prayer and 2 before the Fajr Prayer.”

These prayers guard your obligatory prayers and are an essential part of the day for the believer. Now a lot of times we can become lazy in performing them or just do some of them every once in a while, but Ramadan is the PERFECT time to make them regular because it structures 3 out of the 4 prayers that have sunnahs attached to them anyway! Check this out:

– Fajr sunnah is easy because you’re already awake for suhoor
– Maghrib sunnah is easy because you’re praying it early
– Isha sunnah is easy because you’re praying taraweeh anyway

So here’s what I propose: You have 4 prayers that you need to regularly establish sunnah for and you have 4 weeks to do that. Each week of Ramadan, start regularly praying the sunnahs associated with one prayer as if it is mandatory and then as the next week comes, add the next prayer. So for example, the first week of Ramadan make sure you ALWAYS pray the Fajr sunnah even if you have to make it up after the obligatory prayer. Then add dhuhur the second week, etc.

If you pray these rakaats throughout the year, it is far more rewardable in quality and quantity than Taraweeh in Ramadan.

July 13, 2013

Day 4 – The Secret Bond

“The supplication of a Muslim for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: ‘Ameen! May it be for you too’.” [Muslim].

Since the dua of the fasting person is accepted this is the best time to do it. But here is how you make it unique:

1. Do it for someone who wouldn’t expect it from you without telling that person to make it most sincere and for the sake of Allah.

2. Diversify the duas and people you make dua for so that you can be given different things. So in particular think of a person in each of the following categories and make dua for them daily:

a) A person who has good qualities but hasn’t been guided to faith. Make dua for guidance for that person so that perhaps Allah grants you further guidance.
b) A person who is involved in Islamic work, that Allah accepts from them and keeps them sincere so that perhaps Allah uses you for His cause and keeps you sincere.
c) A person who is committing a public sin. Make dua that Allah forgives that person. Imagine if the dua is accepted for a major public sin, then the angels will say ameen for you also and perhaps Allah will forgive you for both your public and private sins.
d) A person who is ill, that Allah grants him or her full health so that perhaps Allah will either heal you if you are sick or preserve your health for you if you are healthy.
e) A person who is struggling financially or suffering a worldly hardship, ask Allah to help that person so that perhaps Allah will help you in that same situation.
f) A person who has a particular blessing that you wish for, that Allah maintains that blessing upon that person without making it a means of taking him or her away from goodness in the hereafter so that perhaps Allah will grant it for you or maintain your blessings upon you without making them a means of harm for you.

July 14, 2013

Day 5 – Seek Redemption

In a very weak hadeeth that’s often quoted, the first 10 nights of Ramadan are for mercy, the second 10 are forgiveness, and the third 10 are redemption. Aside from the fact that the chain of the hadeeth is broken, the concept is also problematic since it implicitly justifies the laziness many people carry themselves with through the first two thirds of Ramadan waiting for the redemption part. In truth, the entire month is mercy, forgiveness, and redemption.

In fact, in an amazing authentic hadeeth, the Prophet (SalAllahu alayhi wa salam) said, “At every breaking of the fast, Allah has people whom He redeems from the fire.” [Ahmad]

SubhanAllah can you imagine, EVERY night some people are written as those who will be protected from the fire?!

Why is this so important: The Prophet (SalAllahu alayhi wa salam) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them) frequently emphasized the importance of treating every moment as your last. So with that, we have the narrations such as “pray as if it is your last prayer”, “actions are judged by their ending”, etc.

As such, we should fast every day as if it is our last fast and hope that on each special night, we are amongst those written from the redeemed!

So ask Allah in those last moments of your fast every day to write you from amongst them and here’s a good way to ask: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM1D57SGNhM

July 15, 2013

Day 6 – Dinner Conversation

“Its not good to talk while eating.” I’ve heard that many times and although it’s definitely rude to talk with food in your mouth and your mouth open, I think this issue needs further examination.

For one, lets admit that Ramadan is as much about food as it is about fasting these days with all of the iftar parties, etc.

The upside of that though is that food brings people together…sometimes. In many households today, iftar/dinner is when everyone comes and gets their food and then goes their own way. It’s also a time where the TV might be on or everyone’s got their own text messaging conversations going, and even though people are sitting together, they’re actually all individually warped in their own world with no one but the TV or the person they’re texting.

So its from the sunnah to eat together, especially with family, and also to have good conversation accompany the food. Some of the greatest sayings of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) were said over a meal which is why Imam Al Nawawi (rahimahullah) said:

وَفِيهِ اِسْتِحْبَاب الْحَدِيث عَلَى الْأَكْل تَأْنِيسًا لِلْآكِلِينَ
“And in that is a sign that it’s recommended to hold conversations while eating in a way that soothes those that are eating with you”

So use your meals to reconnect with family and friends, demonstrate good manners, and have beneficial conversations. Put away the phones, tvs, laptops, etc.

Particularly for those of you whose parents are still alive and live with you, one of my greatest regrets from my childhood is not eating with my parents more often. You have no idea how soothing it is to them for you to eat with them and TALK to them.

For those of you who don’t have family with you, invite good people to eat with you and try to use that as an opportunity to form or stabilize your bond with righteous people.

On a side note for Ramadan, it would help facilitate iftar conversation if there wasn’t a mountain of food to finish before taraweeh.

July 16, 2013

Day 7 – A Jannah Farmer’s Advice

In one of my favorite narrations, Ibn Masood (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said, “I met Ibrahim (alayhis salam) on the Night of Ascension and he said to me: Oh Muhammad! Convey my greetings to your Ummah, and tell them that Jannah has a vast plain of pure soil and sweet water and is set as a plain leveled land. The plants grow there by uttering: SubhanAllah wal hamdulillah wa la ilaha ilallah wAllahu Akbar (Allah is free from imperfection, praise be to Allah, there is no true god except Allah, and Allah is Greatest).”[At-Tirmidhi].

These phrases of remembrance all individually have a multitude of narrations extolling their virtues. However, this narration is dear to my heart because look who is giving the advice, to whom it’s being given, and where it is being given!

If a person just constantly repeats these phrases all day long even as he works, Internet surfs, exercises, etc. How many trees in paradise would he be able to plant? Trees that have shade that extend thousands of miles and flowers that grow that would be admired for hundreds of years before moving on to the next one.

Why is this so important in Ramadan? Because the fasting of the tongue is the hardest form of fasting. Many fasts are rendered fruitless because of the negative use of the tongue. By repeating these phrases at all times, you protect the tongue from negative usage which starts from idleness.

The worldly benefits of these phrases are also not to be neglected, Fast forward to 17:43 of this lecture for an amazing story featuring the Imam of Ahlus Sunnah, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (ra) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8mEispyTb4

July 17, 2013

Day 8 – Acquaint Yourself

It’s pretty old now that if you mention the oppressed people of one country by name, whether in a khutbah or status, you will be bombarded with the “but what about…” crowd. I remember one particular khutbah, an Oromo brother came to me afterwards in tears and said “you are the first person I’ve ever heard make dua for the Muslims in Ethopia suffering from the Ahbash.” That really touched me because it was almost as if the brother felt like his cause was validated because “Ethopia” was mentioned in the khutbah. Just 15 seconds later, a “what about!” brother came to me and angrily said how come you never mention (insert country name)!

You can’t win in this situation nor should you try to and that’s not what this status is about. The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said: “The example of the Believers in their mutual love and mercy is like the example of a human body. If one part of it complains of any form of pain, then the entire body feels sickness and fever.” (Bukhari)

One of the most frustrating things in the world for me while attending various fundraisers around the country is that a Pakistani crowd will donate to Pakistan earthquake relief and an Arab crowd to the Palestinian cause in huge numbers, but when the causes of Burma and Somalia are mentioned, the numbers suddenly dwindle. In fact, when actual local causes are mentioned you can sense the mockery towards the idea of spending your zakat locally even though that is the preference.

The frustration is not due to the money; it’s due to the attitude that leads to that discrepancy. In essence, our causes have been reduced to petty nationalistic frenzies that are pure folly from an Islamic perspective.

Palestine never was a “nationalistic” call (reference Salahuddin, the Ottomans, etc.). Nor should Syria, East Turkestan, Somalia, Burma, or Bangladesh become such. This isn’t about waving flags, shouting slogans, or trolling Facebook statuses. This is about self-reflection, supplication, educating ourselves and others, and strategic political engagement. And we don’t have to wait for gory images in the news to do those things.

Action plan:

1. Abandon the sins that bring hardship upon the ummah (Quran 30:41). Flaunting a flag while simultaneously flaunting a sin is counterproductive.
2. Acquaint yourself with some of the not so popular causes.
3. Ask Allah in the depths of the night to support your brothers and sisters.
4. Give some amount of charity to a people you have no connection to what so ever so that it will be most sincere.
5. Study ways to educate people in a productive manner about the cause and explore ways to support it in the political arena.

July 18, 2013

Day 9 – Ihtisab

When you encounter a trial or a hardship, there is a level of patience you have to have whether you like it or not. That patience may or may not be rewarded, depending on your behavior. However, there is a level of patience that is only achieved by those who aspire to please Allah. That patience is called “Ihtisab” which means “seeking the reward.”

Why is this so essential to understand in Ramadan? Because the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) conditioned the forgiveness of Allah in this month with 2 things:

“Whoever fasts during Ramadan with Iman (faith) and Ihtisab will have his past sins forgiven.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

We all know what Iman is, but what makes Ihtisab so special here? In essence, if you really want the forgiveness of Allah, that needs to be demonstrated in your attitude. Usually Ihtisab is only mentioned in the context of the quality of your good deeds. So a person seeking reward from Allah will not just do the bare minimum, but instead seek to excel in his qiyam, quran reading, etc. But the concept is really far broader than that. To truly understand it, look at this hadeeth:

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said: “Fasting is a shield, so when one of you is fasting he should not use foul or offensive language. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: “I am fasting, I am fasting.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

In essence, what fasting teaches you to do is to not just tolerate trouble, but to see it as an opportunity.

That person that insults you is providing you with an opportunity to be praised by Allah. That person that asks of you is providing you an opportunity to having your requests answered by Allah. That hardship that strikes you is an opportunity to gain ease in the hereafter.

All of these things will occur regardless, but Ramadan is the perfect time to learn how to approach these occurrences. It also says a lot about who you are and what your priorities are.

So next time something happens: 1. Smile 2. Say al hamdulila 3. Count on the Divine to compensate you with something too amazing for this world to grasp.

July 19, 2013

Day 10 – Braking Too Soon

We’ve officially arrived at the middle 10 nights when the numbers at taraweeh dwindle and Ramadan enthusiasts take a break waiting for the last 10 nights to get to Khatam-hopping and worship hard! Ok, maybe that’s a little exaggerated. But I think we’ve all come to expect the annual Ramadan dip at this time of the year.

So here are my thoughts and tips on how to avoid it:

1. The acceptance of an act is its continuation as Ibn Al Qayyim (ra) mentions. Our hope should be that we are leaving sins in Ramadan and developing good deeds that will continue throughout the year. If you’re already falling off WITHIN Ramadan, that’s a blaring siren that you may not be doing it right.

2. Read slightly more Quran in these 10 days than you did it the first 10 so as to prepare yourself for the last 10 nights.

3. Appoint someone to call you out if you’re suddenly slacking with your prayers in the masjid.

4. In order to be from those who surpass the rest (Al Sabiqoon), make sure you’re outdoing everyone in your family and/or close circle of friends.

5. Recognize the opportunity to vie for Allahs love here. As people fall off in these 10 nights, stand up in prayer and say “Oh Allah, I am still here standing seeking Your pleasure alone, hoping for Your forgiveness, and asking for Your highest garden, Al Firdaws”

May Allah make us amongst those who progress in these next 10 nights and reward us with the highest level of Jannatul Firdaws. Ameen!

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