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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Important Tips for a Successful Fast during Ramadan

As we undertake yet another month of striving to seek forgiveness and mercy from our Lord it is only through prayer, sacrifice, and charity to others that we can gain good character, Imam Abdullah encourages us to reflect on our lives and work on increasing the following things which he titles the 5 D’s:

1) Durus (lessons)
Be actively engaged in seeking knowledge. We should involve ourselves in as many classes as we can this Ramadan.

2) Dhikr (remembrance)
Actively engage in the remembrance of Allah (SWT) and be a reminder to one another.

3) Dua (prayer)
To call upon Allah (SWT) asking for guidance that will lead to success in this life and salvation in the next.

4) Dawah (invitation)
Call others to what we are striving to attain, the pleasure of Allah (SWT).

5) Difah (defense)
Defend ourselves against our own evil inclinations and deeds by seeking refuge in Allah (SWT) in the manner that Allah (SWT) describes to us in Kutbahtul Hajar. We can increase our defense by increasing our Taqwa of Allah (SWT) (consciousness, fear, etc.), for surely Allah (SWT) is the best Wali, Maula, Wakil (protector, friend, and guardian). What better defense is there than this? When we fear Allah (SWT) as He should be feared, all our enemies are small.

This Ramadan we should strive for self-purification. Allah (SWT) describes in the Quran three conditions of the soul:

Nafsul Amara: The Soul given to its own desires seeking the lower path. Allah (SWT) says: Nor do I absolve my soul from blame, verily the human soul is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows his Mercy on whom he wills, verily my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
(S: 12; A: 53)

Nafsul Lawama: The Soul which feels consciousness of its evil and is a repenting soul. Allah (SWT) says: And I swear by the self-reproaching soul. (S: 75; A: 2)

Nafsul Mutmaeena: The soul that has attainted this highest stage in which one is pleased with their Lord and Allah (SWT) is pleased with them. Allah (SWT) explains about this soul: it will be said to the pious, oh soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction.
(S: 89; A: 27-30)

Tarawih Salat
Tarawih Salat is another great opportunity for the believer to seek Allah (SWT)’s pleasure during Ramadan. Tarawih literally means to take a break, or rest between every 4 Rakats of this special prayer offered after Isha during Ramadan. The Prophet (SAWS) offered this prayer during Ramadan after Isha prayer several times in congregation.
Then one night the believers noticed that he hadn’t come out to lead them in Tarawih Salat, when they questioned him as to why he had stopped he expressed his concern that it might become compulsory for them if he continued, and that they might not be able to uphold the obligation.
Narrated Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (saws) said regarding the month of Ramadan: Whoever prays at night (i.e. in the month of Ramadan), out of sincere faith, then all of his previous sins will be forgiven.

One can offer this prayer at home or in congregation; there is a special merit either way; however it is only during Ramadan that this special prayer can be offered in congregation so let us take full advantage of this special time and come together for Tarawih Salat as much as possible.

Laylat ul Qadr (The night of power)
The actual night of the beginning of the revelation of Quran from Allah (SWT) (T) occurred during this blessed night in which Allah (SWT) the Exalted has said Laytul Qadr is better than a thousand months. That’s just over 83 years, a full life span.
This night is found in an odd night of the last 10 nights of Ramadan (i.e. 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or 29th, etc.). We should seek it in all of the last ten nights

Some things to consider!!
May our fasting during this month awaken our hearts. If our intention is sincere, Allah (SWT) (S.W.T.) will purify our souls and forgive us our sins. Ameen.

As Muslims, we must also remember to refrain from gluttonous eating, drinking and appeasing other urges of the flesh. Islam creates a harmonious relation and balance between the urges of the body and that which the soul strives for; The Good Pleasure of Allah (SWT) (T).

Through fasting we must learn to appreciate the things we usually take for granted as human beings.

Insha Allah (SWT) this fast will instill in our hearts a genuine concern and sympathy for those who are suffering and are in need throughout the world and even in our own backyard. The Prophet (SAWS) describes the month of Ramadan as one of consideration and compassion. Therefore, let us use the fast to help us increase the consideration and compassion for our brothers and sisters in Islam and all humanity as well.

Let us begin today, to establish Regular daily Islamic talks in our homes, with our families, in the Masjid in groups, study the Qur’an and the Sunnah; and strive to implement what we have learned from our reading and experiences during this month.

Let us not permit the vows we make to Allah (SWT) to improve ourselves be in vain, or let useless talk make our good deeds like scattered dust. Ameen!

Al Hamdulillah, we have reached another blessed month of Ramadan, and once again it is a time for us to consider both the responsibility and the reward that this great pillar of Islam offers us.

It is a time when the believer must question how he or she will choose to stand before the Lord of all the worlds. What deeds will weigh heavy on the scale and earn the forgiveness and Mercy of Allah (SWT). A hadith of the Prophet states that this is a time in which the Shayteen are chained and have no power to suggest to us. We therefore must bear witness to the weaknesses and wickedness within us, so that we can honestly assess and seek to improve ourselves, with Allah (SWT)’s Help.

In this month, the rope of guidance and salvation was extended to all of mankind. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran: Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down; a guidance for all mankind, and a clarification of guidance and a criterion of truth and falsehood.
(S:2, A:185)

Also, Allah (SWT) (T) says in the Quran: Whoever witnesses it (the month of Ramadan), it is obligatory for him to fast the whole month. All adult Muslims must fast unless they are exempt by the laws of Islam (Shariah). Allah (SWT) says: “Oh you who believe, the fast has been made obligatory on you”. S:2, A:183 Thus, Allah (SWT) teaches us that Fasting is an obligation and a means to attain Taqwa, which increases believers in their rank with Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) (SwT) says: “The most honored by Allah (SWT) amongst you are those best in Taqwa.” (S:49; A:13)

Without this source of light and guidance, the whole world and it’s many wonders and charms, with its trials and tragedies, would be a very dark place and the road to paradise uncertain. Surely, this is a great Mercy to mankind. Allah (SWT) has entrusted us to be the carriers of His Divine Message to Humanity. Allah (SWT) (swt) says: On this day, I have perfected your Religion (way of life) and I am pleased with Islam as your Religion (way of life). To be successful each of us must decide to uphold this honor by being Muslim and carrying the Message of Al Islam to the whole world?

Beginning Ramadan
The Prophet (saw) said: Begin to fast after the sighting of the new moon (of Ramadan) and break the fast after sighting the crescent (of Shawal), if the sky is overcast and you cannot see it, then complete thirty days of Sha’ban.
Requirements for the validity of Fasting

• Must be as sane adult Muslim. Adult being one who has reached the age of puberty.

• Making your intention the night before to fast or before dawn. It is sunnah to recite the following duah [Bi sawmin ghadin nawaytu min shahri Ramadan] which means: I have intention tomorrow to observe a fast of the month of Ramadan.

• You must abstain from food, drink, smoking, sex, false speech, and evil deeds.
Exemptions from Fasting

• The mentally insane

• Children who have not reached puberty.

• The elderly and chronically ill for whom fasting is unreasonably strenuous. A person in this case is required to feed a poor person for every day of Ramadan in which he or she has missed the fast.

• Pregnant or nursing women. In this case, one must make up the days missed at a later date, preferably before the next Ramadan.

• Menstruating women. In this case, the fast is prohibited and one must make up the days missed at a later date, preferably before the next Ramadan.

• Those who are ill or are traveling, provided the days are made up when they have completed their travel and are well.
Duration of the Fast

• Fasting starts just before the Fajr Salat and ends after sunset. Allah (SWT) says: Eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread, then complete your fast during the day until the night appears.
What to do Upon Starting and Breaking the Fast

• Take a meal (sahoor) as close to Fajr time as possible. The Prophet (saw) said: Partake of Sahur for there is a blessing in it.

• To break the fast as soon as one is sure that the sun has set. The Prophet (saws) said: If any of you was fasting, let him break his fast with dates. If he can’t find (i.e. dates), then let him break his fast with water, for water is wholesome.

• When you break your fast, it is Sunnah to make the following duah:

1) Allahuma laka sumtu wa ala rizqika aftartu. Oh Allah (SWT), for you did I fast and with your bounties do I break my fast.

2) Dhahaba Dzamau wabtalatil-uruuqu wa thabit- al-ajru in Insha Allah (SWT). Gone is the thirst and moistened are the veins and if Allah (SWT) wills, the reward is also assured.

Things Which Break the Fast

• Intentional breaking of the fast.

• Sexual intercourse during the fast.

• Intentional eating and drinking.

• Hijamah, the removal of blood by scarification or by opening the vein.

• The menses and post childbirth bleeding of women.
Extra things that we can try to do this Ramadan

• Reading and applying what you have read of the Quran. We should try to read a Juz of the Quran each day.

• Supplication to Allah (SWT).

• Give in Sadaqah. Be more generous to the poor and disadvantaged.

• Increase in your good deeds and abstain from evil deeds.

• Avoid vain talk.

• Avoid false speech.

• Avoid any act, which is contradictory to what is intended while fasting.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) (saw) said: Fasting is not merely refraining from food or drink. Fasting is refraining from vain talk and indecency, and if one slanders you or aggresses against you, then you should say, I am fasting.

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