By G. A. Parwez
Translated by Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque
The Quran’s injunctions of fasting are explained briefly. These injunctions have been given in the surah Bakrah. The related verses are given below:
“O believers, prescribed for you is fasting, as it was prescribed for those that were before you that you may safeguard the Divine Laws.”(2: 183)
“Fasting is for a prescribed number of days.”(2:184)
“If (during Ramadan) any of you is sick or on a journey, he must complete the prescribed number by fasting on other days.”(2:184)
“And if those who cannot fast except with strain hard to bear, providing food for a person in need in lieu there-of is enough for them.”(2:184)
“Whoso volunteers for good, it is good for him; that you fast is good for you provided you understand the rationale for fasting.”(2:184)
“Fastings are of the month of Ramadan during which the Quran has been revealed.”(2:185)
“Hence a person among you who is at home during this month should observe fasting of this month. If anyone of you is sick or is on a journey, he should complete the prescribed number of fasts by fasting on other days.”(2:185)
“And eat and drink unit the white thread of the dawn becomes clear to you from the black thread, then complete the fast up to the night.”(2:187)
“Permitted to you, on the night of fasting, is to cohabit with your wives.”(2:187)
With these verses, it became known that:
Fastings are of the month of Ramadan (neither of three days, nor of nine day, but of the complete month).
During fasting – right from the time the white thread of the dawn becomes clear till the end of day – eating, drinking and having sexual intercourse with one’s wife is prohibited.
Fastings are for a person who is at home during this month and is healthy. The patient, on recovering from illness, and the traveler, on returning from journey, may complete the prescribed number of fast by fasting on other days.
One condition remains unsettled now. It is for the person who (in so-called general meanings) is neither sick nor on journey. But due to one or the other reason, fasting for him is a strain hard to bear e.g. there is an old man residing at his residence and is not sick. But due to his old age, he has become so weak that he cannot fast except with great hardship. It is evident, he can not be said to complete the prescribed number of fasts by fasting on other days after the month of Ramadan. The decree for such persons has been described in verse 4: Those who can not fast except with great hardship, need not to entangle, in any hardship. They may provide food for a person in need in lieu there-of.
Pause to reflect. The above mentioned three kinds have contained the nature of every condition. That was the very requirement of the comprehensibility of the injunction.
We have translated this verse “waAAala allatheena yuteeqoonahu” as “Those who may fast but with a strain hard to bear.” Though it is generally translated as “Those who have capability to fast.” This translation is not correct. It is because this translation would mean: Those-who-have-capability-to-fast may provide food to a person in need while those-who-no-capability-to-fast may observe fasting. It cannot be the will of the Quran. The crux of the matter is that the exposition of the word “TAQAT” acccepted to be understood in Urdu among us is different from its exposition in Arabic language. Consult Arabic Lexicons for it. At page 1304, Volume two of Moheel-ul-Moheet, it is written as:
“The meaning of TAQAT is ‘to be able to’, ‘to have power over a thing’ – but ‘to be able to’ is such a quality of prowess which a person can hardly do. Actually this word is derived from ‘TAUQ’ which means to grab anything within its enclosure.” “That which we have no prowess” is not the meaning of this verse “rabbana wala tuhammilna ma la
taqata lana bihi” (2:286). Its meanings are “The compliance of which is hard for us.”
Similarly in the famous Arabic Lexicon “Lisan-ul-Arab,” vol. 12, p. 103, it is written:
TAQAT is the name of that quantity of prowess, which is possible with great hardship for a human.
Muftee Muhammad Abduh, in his ‘Tafseer-ul-Manaar’ vol. II, at page 155, writes:
ITAA QATUN, in fact, is absolutely the lower nomenclature of MAKNAT and QUDRAT. For this reason, the Arabs use ATAQ-UL-SHAEY only at that time when its prowess is extremely weak, i.e. ‘it be hard to bear’. So UTEE QOONA HOO ‘old, weak and crippled people whose state of disrepair cannot be expected to be removed and that these are the people who like them are helpless. It means these are the working class people whose subsistence, God has placed in the jobs, which are hard to be accomplished. That is why Imam Raghib (on him be mercy) has written: TAQAT, is the name of that quantity of the prowess ‘the doing of which is with great hardship for the human.’
This has, too, been corroborated with the ‘Tafseer Kashaaf,’ where it has been written that:
The exposition of TAQATUN includes those jobs the performance of which is with strain hard to bear. And the words “waAAala allatheena yuteeqoonahu” mean those old men and old women for whom there is the decree of redemption for not fasting. It is for this reason that this verse is confirmed and not repealed.
In the exegesis ‘Rooh-ul-Ma’ani,’ there is written that
In Arabic language, the word al-was’a is the name of that prowess “which is with ease” and the word taqa tun is the name of that power “which is with severity and hardship.” Hence the meaning (of this verse) would be “And these persons, who can fast with severity and hardship, have to give food to a person in need.”
(Rooh-ul-ma’ani, vol. II, p. 59)
From the aforementioned elaborations, you have understood the exposition of the word taqa tun in the Arabic language and hence on the same basis, the translation of this verse “waAAala allatheena yuteeqoonahu” like the following translation is not correct: “And those who have the power to observe fasting.” Its correct translation is this: Those who can observe fasting with strain hard to bear.
As you know, the style of the Quran is that it puts forth a principle, and then it leaves to the collective system of the Ummah to stem its detail on its own. Hence this very comprehensive style has been used for this verse: “waAAala allatheena yuteeqoonahu”
A principle has been stated here and its detail has not been given on its own (as to whom are those people who can fast with strain hard to bear). Its detail has already been defined and can even now be reconsidered. Nevertheless, in Allama Qartabee’s book ‘Jaama-e-Ahkaam-ul-Quran’ (vol, II, pp. 368-369), it has been written that:
All the scholars agree on this contention that old men and old women, who do not even have power to fast, or can fast with severe hard labor, not to observe fasting is legitimate for them. But there is disagreement on this point: What is the charge that such people have to undertake? Hence Imam Rabee and Imam Malik (on them be mercy) have said: There is no charge that they have to undertake. But Imam Malik, has, also, said if these people give food to a person in need every day, it is desirable in my opinion. Hazrat Uns, Ibn-e-Abbas, Qais bin Assaa-eb and Abu Huraira (on them be mercy) have said: The charge they have to undertake is redemption and not the making up for the omission (the delayed fasting).
Muftee Syed Muhammad Abduh has further added to it, and has said:
The verse alla zeena utee qoona is intended to mean such old, weak and crippled people whose removal of their state of disrepair is not expected. In the same way those people will also be included in their category who are laborers, whose subsistence God has laced in the jobs very hard to accomplish, i.e. labor of the coal mining, and those criminals who are in rigorous imprisonment and those for whom fasting is with strain-hard-to-bear. The third category is of those people for whom fasting is with strain hard to bear due to some factors which are not expected to be removed. For example old age, congenital weakness, employment in the jobs demanding hard labor and chronic disease the recovery of which is not expected. And similarly those people whose cause of strain is a normal routine, for example pregnant woman and lactating woman. It is legitimate for all these people that in lieu of fasting they may give food to a person in need. The quality of the food may be equal to the average food of a normal person to fill up his/her belly.
(Tafseer-ul-Manaar, vol. II, pp. 155-157)
These elaborations enable to compile the following list:
Old man and old woman
Crippled and Invalids
Those suffering from chronic diseases – who may not be expected to recover and may, with this state of disrepair, fast with strain hard to bear
The weak – who are constitutionally born weak
The labor whose subsistence is always through the jobs demanding severe hard labor, for example those working in the mines, in the factories or rickshaw-drivers
The criminal who are taken in rigorous work in the prisons
This is not the only comprehensive list. Additions according to the existing as well as individual circumstances can be made to it. But the principle is this alone: whosoever can fast with strain hard to bear, may not fast.
Briefly saying these are the very injunctions of the Quran about fasting. Consult these verses in the Quran on your own as well. (i.e. Surah Baqr, verse 183 to 188) (1963)
By G. A. Parwez
Translated by Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque
A person from Lakhnow (India) writes:
The Hanafees say there are twenty rak’ahs of Taraweeh to be offered daily as compulsory Sunnah in Ramadan; but Ahl-i-Hadith and Shias are not convinced with it. To the Ahl-i-Hadith Taraweeh and Tahajjud are one and the same thing; the number of rak’ahs in both is eight; they talk of the twenty rak’ahs of Taraweeh as schism – an innovation. There have remained and are continuous happenings of bickering over this issue among the Hanfees and the Ahl-i-Hadith. What is your research about Tarweeh? . . . The Hanafees confess this fact that there was no practice of offering Taraweeh before the saga of Hazrat Umar, even then they consider the renouncers of Taraweeh as sinful. What is its genuineness?
There is no mention of Taraweeh in the Quran. These were initiated at the times of Allah’s Messenger or of Hazrat Umar’s. This is a question of history. The Shias and Sunnees have disagreement over it. Everyone is aware of these discussions and controversies. On the question whether the number of rak’ahs in Taraweeh is eight or twenty, there is disagreement within the Sunnees itself. And no one is unaware of these debates. Tolu-e-Islam does not revel in such debates. Its precept in the matters not mentioned in the Quran is self-explanatory.
Islam is the name of the life of preservation of the self within the boundary walls of the Quran. For this purpose, it is necessary that the human (Muslim) must know as to what are the boundary walls of the Quran and along with it, he must also get himself up for self-control. The month of Ramadan is the specific instrument for inculcating and substantiating each of these two matters. In the modern terminology, call it a Training Camp or a Refresher Course. The fasting makes the human get himself up for leading striven-life through self-control. And its fixing is in this month, wherein the beginning of revelation of the Quran was initiated. It brings this stark fact to the fore-front that special arrangements during this Training Course should be made for gushing forth the entire Quran to the striven-people (Mijahideen) so that they may fully comprehend as to what the connexion of “the sword and the Quran” is with each other and how these two come to be the instrument for safeguarding each other. It appears that the Islamic system of the First Era, in order to bring the Quran to the mind of the people all at the lame time, devised this method – and method is now being performed only to acquire the reward of a virtuous act (Sawaab). It is because the way the Quran is recited now, during the Taraweeh, is neither understood by the Quran-conner who cause others to hear it as to what he had recited, nor do their disciples in the congregation comprehend it as to what they have listened. And it is obvious that the way the words of the Quran are repeated and heard without being understood cannot make the exposition of the Quran understandable. And neither it can be known which design of life it carves for us. When the system of caliphate based on the precept of Nabuvva is established, its job will be to oversee where the revamping is essential in our traditional mores and cores. It will then be the time, whence-fore the correct concept of “Sin and Sawaab” comes to the fore-view. (1956)
By G. A. Parwez
Translated by Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque
A person from Karachi writes:
Some days back I had a chance of hearing a sermon of a big Maulvi Sahib in Jumm’a prayer. He proved the order of Etekaaf from the Quran and told that to sit in Etekaaf during the last ten days of Ramadan is a very important worship. He elaborated the orders of Etekaaf in such a way that I sensed pure monasticism glistening vividly in it. (He was saying) a man confines in a mosque for sometimes, far away from the hurly-burly of life; where he remains busy in the prayer (worship) of Allah all the time. – I could not understand as to how Islam and the Quran impart such type of teaching of monasticism. But I was amazed when he refered the Quran for what he had said; he recited the verse of Surah Baqr of the Quran and put on the pan of the Quran what he had said. Will you please explain as to what the factual position of Etekaaf is and what the correct meaning of the referred verse is?
You have correctly understood. In such a type of Etekaaf in vogue among us, the person sitting for Etekaaf by stretching out a coverlet remains occupied in a corner of a mosque. And he does nothing except repeating the words of the Quran day and night or remains sleeping. It is absolutely non-Quranic and negation of the true essence of Islam. Islam does never impart the teaching of such a type of monasticism or worship. There is no mention of such kind of Etekaaf in the Quran. The words – Aakefoon and Aakefeen – have come at many a place in the Quran, where the meanings are: “continuously and steadfastly go on doing a work.” About K’ab’a, it has been said that it is for “Taa-i-feen” (2: 125). Here “Aak-i-feen” means such a group of people who does not keep the humanity unkempt and tossed but keeps its environ set in order by tying it up in a relation and continuously remains busy in this very noble cause – with this bliss enjoyed, its members take their way on. (You will find the meanings of these words in the Lughaat-ul-Quran – Lexicon of the Quran).
In the very verse you have referred, there has neither been any order given to the Muslims for sitting in Etekaaf, nor has any aspect of its honor been described. In the aforementioned verse, nothing more has been given except that there is a direction for those “Aak-i-feen Fil-Masaajid” And nothing else. The meanings of “Aak-i-feen Fil-Masaajid” are – those taking up their abode punctually in the mosque, those harboring in the mosques, those having a firm footing in the mosques. Who are these “Aak-i-feen Fil-Masaajid” whose mention has, by the way, been made in the injunctions of fasting? In order to understand it – without getting bogged down in its detail – keep this point in mind that fasting is, in fact, a Training Course for developing self-control and endurance in the Muslims. And the mosques are the locus standi in the national life of the Muslims. In connection with fasting, the mosques here mean the Training Centers or the Training Camps. Then understand this point that in this annual training course there may necessarily be some people, who may be detained in the training centers or training camps during the night hours for the accomplishment of some argent matters. As has already been described in detail in the verses given under the injunctions of fasting that those (i.e. the general fasting persons), taking part in this Training Course, have been ordered not to eat and drink and not to cohabit with their wives for the whole day. They have been permitted therein that they can go to their wives during night hours (when there is no fasting at night). But contrary to the general fasting persons, those who have been assigned certain duties and have been detained in Training Centers or Training Camps, during night hours, should remain away from their wives during night hours. This is neither limited to ten days, nor to the last days of Ramadan. It depends upon the System to observe as to how many days or how long this System detains a person in the Training Centers or Camps during the night hours. Any way, as long as these persons remain in the Training Centers or Camps, they will have to avoid the sexual intercourse with their wives. It is this – the exposition and the perspective of this verse of the Quran. Since this System has eluded our observations, and all maters are being carried out just as traditional worship, hence is this vestige of Etekaaf being acted upon – just a ritual convention in vogue among us. (1956)
By G. A. Parwez
Translated by Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque
LAILAT-UL-QADAR, THE NIGHT OF MANIFESTATION OF A NEW WORLD
What are the problems before the living nations for the solutions of which their days and nights become the primary swamp of their struggle and action? And which problems are confronting the Muslim community for which the Muslims get increasingly worried about the solutions? And the solutions the priests of their religion have suggested out of their sheer benefaction are given below with the help of the two examples just for you to estimate as to what the quality of their solutions is.
The following questions and their answers have been published in Sadaq (Lacknow) vide its issue of July 15:
What is thing known as “Shah-i-Qadar”?
What is intended to search it out?
What is its state and how does it look to be?
How to seek it out?
These are the very questions, which continue emerging in the mind. Some one says it is the light which looks manifested during the condition of pray and austerity. While other says it is some thing else. As many are the preachers, so many are the contradictory sermons. These, instead of settling the issue, pay to increase the miasma of mental agony. After consulting the exegesis of the Sura Inna an zal na by Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani and the annotations of Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani given in the Quran, it became known that an specific commotion comes to prevail upon imbuing adequate inclination, motivation and interest during prayers and invocation. Even the consulting of Tafseer Biyaan-ul-Quran for the meaning and exegesis of this Sura could not solve this knot any more.
From the Bukhari’s Ahadith of the Messenger(s), it became known that “Shab Qadr” comes to effectuate at one night i.e. the night which falls in one of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. What does come to effectuate in these nights? It is hoped you will unveil the covering so that the long-standing confusion is settled. Hope you will very kindly guide on this issue.
“Shab Qadr” belongs to the transcendental world. Its complete detail has not even occurred in Hadith. And what so ever it is – we have only this thing beneficial at our disposal – and it is that what we ought to do during those nights. It is the most virtuous and the most reverend night of the year (as is the Friday, the most virtuous day of the week and Ramadan, the most reverend month of the year). In Hadith, it has been identified that it falls in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan: 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, the five nights. The mind of great many religious scholars goes to the 27th night. Keeping it ambiguous, unfolded the open expediency of Sharia, the religious code, that all the five nights (and when it becomes a habit: all the ten nights) be lived busy in striving for the Divine prayer, the invocation and the revamping of one’s self. Surely there would have been shower of special lightning and sparkling and a few of the pious men (Ahl-i-Dil) would have had the visibility of something through their material eyes. The real, the genuine, phenomenon is that maximum preparations be made for the awakening of the soul and the purification of the self – and no opportunity for supplication and benediction be lost.
The Quran has simply said that Lailat-ul-Qadr is that night in which the revelation of the Quran was initiated. And the Quran’s revelation was started in the month of Ramadan. Since through the Quran’s revelation the world got new values, so the night in which its revelation burgeoned was surely the Laila-tul-Qadr, the night of VALUES. The Quran does say nothing more than that. (1955)
By G. A. Parwez
Translated by Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque
Inquiries from numerous places have been initiated to know as to the honor of which ceremony, the Eid-ul-fitr is celebrated and that what the purpose of this festival is. The answer tendered to this question is that at the eve of Ramadan – and that of its ending – Eid-ul-Fitr is, in deed, a sacred function of the annual celebration of the Quran’s revelation. Usually the festivals of jubilation and rejoicing are celebrated in the world for the change of the seasons or for establishing the monument of any person or for preserving any prominent event of history. But what Islam declares is this: The change of season takes place according to the Law of Allah; the human’s monuments can perish and the world’s events can be made to forget. But the message of Allah preserved in the Quran can never vanish – the charge of its preservation He got unto himself; He who is alive and can never die; is so lasting that He has neither any decadence, nor is destined to decay. This rejoicing Festival of Eid is the monument of the revelation of living and lasting Book of Allah, the Allah who is the Living and the Everlasting. Preparations were made all over the month for the celebration of this festival (those preparations were, in deed, the integral part of this Festival as well). Islam is the name of obedience to the Divine Laws – not the obedience by compulsion but the obedience from the core of the heart. It is the accomplishment of the Laws in such a way that a true sub-ordinate to these Laws can not even touch a thing, unlawful and unrecognized. It is he, in whose hands, no illegitimate loss can be rendered to the property, life, honor and chastity of any human. For the consolidation of this very passion of obedience, it has been ordered that in compliance to this Law, even the thing lawful and pleasing be left for some time so that there be never any casting of the eye to the thing unlawful and unrecognized. They were made habitual to bear the intense pangs of hunger and thirst all the day over so that they are addicted to pass smilingly and steadfastly through the extremely difficult stages of their life struggle. It was, as if, an Annual Training Camp in which provisions were made to revitalize the new inspirations in life; it was a refresher course, a memoria technica, to reinvigorate the memorandum, – that in which the direct link between Allah and man was refreshed. It was stock taking through which we had to evaluate the sum total of our deeds and consequences spread over the whole year to oversee as to what extent we have marched ahead on this scale in one year. When, after the labor of hard work and during the obedience of a complete month, growth in the tender feelings of heart, vision in eyes, sharpening in minds and invigoration in psyche were inculcated, they were ordered to assemble at a place so that they may sit jointly and contemplate as to what they have to do to achieve and perpetuate the life which is the characteristic feature of the party of those who follows the Laws of Allah (Party of Momineen); and that the contracts of which are vividly glistening, like the true diamonds, in every page of the Quran. As a result of this contemplation they may develop such a program, which their selected leader (Imam) may announce in his address. After that, their representatives with this decisive program may start going to the concrete capital of the Islamic Ummah (i.e. the House of Allah at Mecca) where, in the light of these various local programs, a common system is devised for the all Ummah. It is these – the various integers of this mirthful festival and the brief outline of its integral parts. Keep these in view and then reflect how these festivals on the basis of which there were living hopes bouncing on every facet of its vastness, and the fresh thrilling invigorating the psyche of human have gradually transformed into the icons of rituals. According to Allama Iqbal (R):
That Blood no longer remain in thy veins
That heart, that craving no more in thy life
Thou hast the prayer, the fasting, the sacrifice, the Hajj
All in rituals alive in thee But thou hast lost thyself.
By: Dr. Mansoor Alam
The evening prayer has attracted a larger than usual number of worshippers. Today, the advent of the new moon might herald the start of the holy month of Ramadan – the Muslim month of fasting. In an effort to observe the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), some worshippers are busy trying to sight the new moon when the call to prayer is made. After the prayer, the Imam is informed that the new moon has been sighted. Members of the council also confirm this news. This prompts worshippers to congratulate each other and the mosque is filled with the chants of Allahu Akbar (God is great).
For this group the holy month of Ramadan has begun. Yet Muslims in many other mosques are still debating whether or not the new moon has been sighted. Sunni Muslims generally look to Saudi Arabia for answers to this, as well as many other religious matters. Although ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) has established for North American Muslims, a Shura (or consultation) council for dealing with controversial religious issues (such as moon sighting), many Imams in local mosques decide such matters on their own.
Year after year, this story is repeated among Muslims in many towns around the world. This pillar of Islam begins with controversy among Muslims and ends with controversy. Shi’as have their own clerical system and their Imams look to Iran in this matter rather than Saudi Arabia.
One wonders if this is the way our Prophet (PBUH) and his companions started and ended the holy month of Ramadan?
In any case, within a day or two of each other, the holy month of Ramadan generally begins for every (Sunni as well as Shi’a) Muslim community around the world. The standard sermon for Ramadan goes something like this:
“Dear brothers and sisters! Allah opens the gates of Heaven in this month. Satan is locked up in Hell so he cannot mislead those who are fasting. The reward for good deeds is multiplied 10 times in this month. Allah becomes very generous in this month and forgives the previous sins of those who fast.” And so on.
Purpose of Fasting
Is fasting just about having sins forgiven and getting rewards multiplied in the Hereafter? What about the problems of life here in this world? Is fasting just a ritual or does it have some other significance?
Modern Islamic scholars draw attention to the physical and spiritual benefits of fasting. But since physical and medical benefits of fasting accrue to anyone who fasts, regardless of one’s belief in God, it is obvious that the physical and medical benefits are not the primary purpose of fasting in Islam.
What about spiritual benefits? Since different religions have different concepts of spirituality, what does spirituality mean in Islam and how can it be developed through fasting? The proponents of other religions, including many Muslims, claim that spirituality is an individual and subjective experience. How then can one know that one’s spiritual development is taking place due to fasting? In addition, would a Hindu’s or a Buddhist’s spiritual development, due to fasting, be as significant as a Muslim’s? In fact, Buddhist monks and Hindu saints go through much more rigorous rituals than Muslims. Does this mean that their spiritual development is of a higher level? Obviously, no Islamic scholar would be prepared to accept this.
According to the Quran, every Muslim (who can) must fast in the month of Ramadan (2:183-185). And fasting has to be done collectively at the community level. Unlike a Buddhist monk or a Hindu saint, a Muslim does not have to go to a mountain or a forest retreat to develop his/her spirituality through fasting and prayer. Moreover, it is not necessary for this type of retreat-based, solitary spiritual development to be done in Ramadan. That can be done in any month. This shows that a Muslim cannot advocate a spirituality that is based on individual and subjective experience. Therefore, in Islam, individual and subjective spiritual development is not the purpose of fasting in the month of Ramadan.
Since the Quran prescribed fasting specifically in the month of Ramadan, it is important to know the significance of this special time. A special feature of the Quran is that whenever it gives a command for action, it also provides the wisdom behind it. It tells what the final result of that action will be in this world, if it is successfully carried out. In this way the Quran provides a pragmatic test for people to see whether or not they are moving toward that desired result. Regarding fasting, the Quran says:
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. [al-Baqarah 2:183] Translation: Yusuf Ali
Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. [al-Baqarah 2:185] Translation: Yusuf Ali
In the above verses, three results of fasting in Ramadan have been mentioned: 1) Taqwaa: learning self-restraint, 2) Takbir: glorifying Allah because of being guided, and 3) Shukra: being grateful. Part 1 of this article will focus on Taqwaa or self-restraint.
What is Taqwaa?
In the above translation by Yusuf Ali, Taqwaa has been translated as self-restraint. Other translations include: God-fearing or God-conscious. But none of these translations bring out the true root meaning of Taqwaa. The root of Taqwaa means to steadfastly remain vigilant in practicing Allah’s commands and, because of this, to be protected from all kinds of evil, corrupt, and destructive forces. In other words, the cornerstone of Taqwaa is developing a strong character by following the principles laid down by Allah in the Quran. A person who has developed such a character and which is reflected in his/her actions is a Muttaqi in the eyes of Allah.
Current Misconceptions Among Muslims
Many Muslims today who claim to fear God or to be God- conscious firmly believe that they are among the Muttaqoon based on their performance of certain rituals. According to this belief, which of the following category of Muslims would qualify to be Muttaqoon?
1. Would the rich, who pray regularly, fast the entire month of Ramadan, give the 2-1/2% charity from their wealth, and perform pilgrimage (Hajj or Umra) on a regular basis qualify as Muttaqoon?
2. Would the current, so-called Muslim governments and the Muslims working for them qualify to be among the Muttaqoon?
3. Would Islamic scholars and leaders of various religious parties and their followers who demand governments to implement the so-called Shariah qualify?
4. Would professionals like doctors, engineers, professors, lawyers, etc. – who initially work very hard to build and establish their careers and later turn to Islamic activities on a voluntary basis – qualify?
5. Would Sufis who spend most of their adult life in zikr (remembrance) of Allah in mosques or in solitary confinements, unconcerned with what goes on in the world outside, qualify as Muttaqoon?
6. Would those who leave behind the poor, the orphans, and the widows in their own communities and go to far-off places, for several months at a time, inviting people to Islam, qualify?
7. Would the professional Imams who lead prayers in mosques and give sermons about Islam qualify as Muttaqoon?
8. Would the poor, who pray regularly and fast the entire month of Ramadan but cannot afford to perform the pilgrimage, qualify to be Muttaqi?
9. Would the millions of average Muslims who struggle all their lives to meet the basic needs of their families and who try to pray and fast but do not have the time or resources for anything else, qualify to be Muttaqi?
How many of the 1.2 billion or so Muslims fall into categories 1-7 and how many into categories 8-9? No doubt, 99% of Muslims fall into the latter. Will they be excluded from being Muttaqoon because they cannot perform all the five pillars? Or, should we say that all Muslims are Muttaqoon? No controversy, no discussion, no problem? Every Muslim, by virtue of being Muslim, is bound for Heaven anyway, sooner or later.
Definition of Muttaqoon
A very comprehensive definition of Muttaqoon is given in the following verse:
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing (muttaqoon). [al-Baqarah
2:177, Translation: Yusuf Ali]
This verse puts in perspective the ritual-based Islam that we practice versus the substance and goal-based Islam, which the Prophet (PBUH) and the Sahaba (R) practiced. Proponents of the ritual-based Islam would have us believe that once the rituals are done properly, meticulously, and sincerely we are guaranteed salvation in the Hereafter. The Quran clearly rejects this view of Islam in this verse. The Quran says that these people are misguided, have fabricated a Shariah, and have mixed it with the Book of Allah and which they proclaim to be Divine (2: 176).
According to verse 2:177, the essential purpose of Islam is not fulfilled by a mechanical performance of rituals, e.g., turning eastward or westward during prayer, but requires instead:
1. 100% conviction, Iman, in Allah; in the law of requital; in the life Hereafter; in the forces created by Allah for our benefit, Malaa-ikaa; in all the Prophets (PBUT); and in all the Books revealed to them; and
2. The establishment of a system in which resources are made available to help those who (a) are left without protection or support in society; (b) lose their means of livelihood or are incapacitated to work; and (c) cannot earn enough to meet their needs. This system will also provide assistance to those outsiders, who, while passing through its territory, become indigent, as well as arrange for the liberation of slaves from bondage.
According to this verse, Muslims are required to establish a system wherein members of the society adhere to the Divine code of life voluntarily – this is a requirement of Iman -and the means of development are provided to all who need them. Muslims must honor their promises and commitments. If hostile forces confront them, they must face them with steadfastness and fortitude, and must not let fear and despair weaken them.
Only those who follow this path unswervingly can claim to be true believers and they only can rightfully claim to be Muttaqoon.
The following verses further describe the character of the Muttaqoon. [Translation by Yusuf Ali]
[Al-Imran 3:76] Nay – Those that keep their plighted faith and act aright,-verily God loves those who act aright (muttaqeen).
[al-Anfal 8:56] They are those with whom thou didst make a covenant, but they break their covenant every time, and they have not the fear (of God) [la-yattaqoon meaning these people are NOT Muttaqoon].
39:33] And he who brings the Truth and he who confirms (and supports) it – such are the men who do right (muttaqoon).
[al-Ma’idah 5:8] O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety (taqwaa): and fear (wattaqoo) God. For God is well acquainted with all that ye do.
[Al-Imran 3:133] Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous (muttaqeen).
[Al-Imran 3:134] Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men – for God loves those who do good.
Fasting is a means to becoming Muttaqi. No doubt, fasting has health and spiritual benefits, but we must never lose sight of the main goal of fasting. Ramadan provides an environment for our collective training and development of character. Muslims are required to emulate and display, year long, the qualities laid down by the above verses as a result of fasting in the month of Ramadan. Since character building is a hard, long, continuous process, Ramadan is repeated every year as a reminder and re-enforcer. We must judge our accomplishments by the standards laid down by the Quran. We should not be under the false impression that our spiritual development is taking place while our life goes on as usual. We have to keep the life and works of the Prophet (PBUH) and Sahaba (R) before us to know whether or not we are among the Muttaqoon.
At present, nearly two billion human beings on planet earth are counted among the Islamic faith, and fasting in Ramadan is a unique annual event shared by a large percentage of Muslims in what is one of the most profound global spiritual experiences.
Why do Muslims observe fasting in Ramadan, and what are some of the benefits of fasting in Ramadan?
While in reality the rewards for fasting in Ramadan are countless and its full benefits known only to God, the following are ten very important reasons for why Muslims are encouraged to observe fasting in Ramadan.
Fasting in Ramadan, #1: A Pillar of Islam
The foundation of Islamic spiritual practice is known as the Five Pillars of Islam, which form the basis for a spiritual culture designed to provide an ideal environment for personal growth and spiritual evolution. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, constituting one of the most important spiritual practices designed to empower a human being in overcoming the self and transcending the ego, the one true veil between a human being and his or her Creator.
Fasting in Ramadan, #2: Spiritual Purification
One of the primary benefits of fasting in Ramadan is spiritual purification, the essential goal of Islamic Spirituality. Although we tend to think of the mind, body and spirit as separate components, in reality they are all connected and inter-related, and improvement in any one naturally effects improvement in the others as well. Fasting in Ramadan purifies the mind, body and spirit, leading to greater clarity, sensitivity and health.
Fasting in Ramadan, #3: Health
It has now been scientifically documented that the single most effective practice for improving human health and longevity is the reduction of intake and consumption. Fasting in Ramadan allows the digestive system, the engine of the body, to rest from the normal demands of processing and breaking down food, freeing up system resources to cleanse and purify the body of accumulated toxins, thereby allowing more effective healing and tissue repair. Fasting in Ramadan keeps the body healthy and youthful, provided one does not overindulge when breaking fast.
Fasting in Ramadan, #4: Community and Family
One of the greatest benefits of fasting in Ramadan is renewing solidarity and cultivating relationships with one’s family and community. Only one who observes fasting in Ramadan can truly know the beauty and joy of breaking fast with others, celebrating the gift of life daily for thirty days with loved ones.
Fasting in Ramadan, #5: Gratitude
It’s true that one generally does not realize what he or she has until it’s gone or not available, and by fasting in Ramadan, Muslims become acutely aware of the unlimited abundance of divine favor God Almighty has blessed humanity with, particularly with regards to sustenance. The cultivation of gratitude is a core purpose of Islam, and few spiritual practices cultivate gratitude as does fasting in Ramadan.
Fasting in Ramadan, #6: Humility and Selflessness
By fasting in Ramadan, a Muslim realizes how totally dependent we are upon the divine grace of God for survival, and humility is a natural result of this realization. Generally, we take things for granted and become heedless as a result of living in the world, dunya, yet by fasting in Ramadan, we are continually reminded of our frailty, leading us to humility, reverence, piety and selflessness, primary goals of Islamic Spirituality.
Fasting in Ramadan, #7: Empathy and Compassion
Although we live in a world of natural abundance, of divine grace and providence, unfortunately due to lack of empathy, compassion and solidarity among human beings, there are many throughout the globe who still struggle with hunger, poverty, lack and scarcity. When a Muslim observes fasting in Ramadan, he or she feels the hunger that many experience daily as a normal consequence of their circumstances. By fasting in Ramadan, we develop the holy qualities of empathy and compassion, becoming more aware of our intrinsic connection and oneness with all human beings regardless of borders or labels that create artificial separation among the citizens of the human race.
Fasting in Ramadan, #8: Restraint and Self-Discipline
The modern world and its culture is largely defined by materialism, consumption and instant gratification of desires. This results in the diminishment of human consciousness, the regression of planetary culture and the suppression of the soul. When fasting in Ramadan, a Muslim consciously curtails this unhealthy norm by consciously practicing restraint and self-discipline, separating him or herself from the animal kingdom which is governed by the unconscious drive to satiate one’s immediate needs and desires. Fasting in Ramadan is thus an essential practice for attaining true freedom and independence from dunya, the external world of form and appearances, and for the liberation of the soul from the self, the mind-body that is unconsciously driven by fear and the struggle survival.
Fasting in Ramadan, #9: Simplicity and Non-Attachment
When living without discipline and restraint, life quickly becomes overly complicated, leading to a heavy burden that results in unnecessary stress, anxiety, unhappiness and difficulty. By fasting in Ramadan, we limit excess and indulgence, facilitating the return to simplicity and non-attachment, releasing one from dependence on dunya and so contributing to psychological health and happiness.
Fasting in Ramadan, #10: Focus
With the constant demands of modern life, it’s easy to become lost and forget not only who we are, but we automatically forget our divine purpose and destiny. Without constant reminder, we become lost in the dream and disconnected from reality. Fasting in Ramadan for thirty days is a powerful practice in restoring focus, direction, balance and purpose to our lives
Fasting in Ramadan is a Gift from God
The opportunity to observe fasting in Ramadan is a gift from God, allowing us to grow and develop as human beings, enabling us to become more compassionate, caring, kind and grateful. Fasting in Ramadan is a unique opportunity to develop spiritually and gain strength and control over our selves, our egos, the nafs, the unconscious automatic primitive nature that tends to dominate our lives if unchecked. By observing fasting in Ramadan, a Muslim has a unique opportunity to become more peaceful, present and spiritual – the very goal of Islam
Share Your Experiences of Fasting in Ramadan
What are some of the benefits and special experiences you’ve been graced with by fasting in Ramadan? What insights have you gained? How has fasting in Ramadan helped you as a human being and as a Muslim? Share and let the world know.
Living in non-Muslim societies, it is easy for us to fall into the habits and customs of these lands. We start to set our moral compasses in relation to theirs. Sometimes, we go so far as to think that if what we are doing is better than what they are doing, its acceptable. While this may be true in a society of honorable people, in this society where the woman who wears a one-piece bathing suit instead of a bikini is considered modest, we cannot use them to set our compasses.
We have to set our standards much higher. They have to correspond with the teachings and understandings of Islam. Also, we have to recognize that when it comes to morality and values, Islam is the standard. Want to know a prime example? Ever heard of the Golden Rule? It says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Sound familiar? It should, the Prophet stated the same basic thing. He said,
Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.”
What about the statement, “If you can’t say something good, say nothing at all.” Here it is in our beloved Prophet’s words.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (or insult) his neighbor.
All this goes to preface the idea that we have to care about each other in a way that is in line with Islam, not the lessor standards of the non-believers. Let them follow us. When we think of gheebah (gossip, backbiting), most of us think that this is the speech as defined by the non-believers – saying something negative about someone – whether truthful or not. But Islam has given it a stronger definition:
Narrated AbuHurayrah: Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said: Do you know what is backbiting? They (the Companions) said: Allah and His Apostle (PBUH) know best. Thereupon, he (the Prophet) said. “Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner that he does not like.” It was said to him, “What is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of? He said, “If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact backbiten him, and if that is not in him it is a slander.
Al-Muttalib ibin Abdullah said, “The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Gheebah (gossip, backbiting) means that a man mentions about a person something which is true, behind his back.”
Just imagine the high standards that Islam has set, that this horrible sin is not even confined just to the oral or written statement.
Hasan Ibin Al Makhaariq reported that “Once a woman visited Aisha and when the woman got up to leave, Aisha made a sign with her hand indicating to the Prophet that the woman was short. The Prophet immediately chastised her, saying, “You have backbitten!”
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin: I said to the Prophet (PBUH): It is enough for you in Safiyyah that she is such and such (the other version than Musaddad’s has) meaning that she was short-statured. He replied; You have said a word which would change the sea if it were mixed in it.
Here we can see that Gheebah (gossiping, backbiting) is also what we do that a person may dislike if done in reference to them.
This is a serious sin. I know it is easy to underestimate its worth, but Allah has warned us about it in His Glorious Book,
O you who believe! Avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin, and do not spy nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? But you abhor it; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, surely Allah is Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful.
Allah described backbiting as an act of eating our brothers or sisters flesh. But don’t think of this as only metaphorical. Our beloved prophet proved this to us in one of his great miracles.
Ubaid, the freed slave of the Prophet, reported that someone came to the Prophet and showed the Prophet two women who were fasting and said that they were dying of thirst. The Prophet turned away silently refusing to give permission for them to break their fast. So, the man begged him again, mentioning that the women were on the verge of death. The Prophet then said, bring them to me and bring along a bowl. When they turned to him, he turned to one and told her to vomit in the bowl. She complied, spitting up a mixture of vomit, blood, pus and pieces of flesh which half-filled the bowl. He then turned to the other and had her do the same. After the bowl was filled, he said, “Verily these two have fasted from what Allah has made halal for them and broken their fast from what Allah has made haram. They spent their fast eating the flesh of others.”
These women gave up food and drink – halal substances, and instead partook of the flesh of their brothers and sisters. So distasteful was this fare that it made them sick to the point of near death. Subhanallah!
Further, our scholars have warned us and have warned us to repent from it: Al Qurtubi said, “The scholars agree that it is a major sin, and that the committing of this sin necessitates repentance (tawbah) to Allah”.
The Prophet has warned us of great punishments which may befall us as a result of committing this sin:
Narrated AbuBarzah al-Aslami: The Prophet (PBUH) said: O community of people, who believed by their tongue, and belief did not enter their hearts, do not back-bite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in the open for everyone to see, even if he hid it in the innermost part of his house.
See, we talk about others, exposing them and Allah gives us a taste of our own medicine – exposing us. Which of us has no secret which would harm us if exposed? Who among us can afford to risk this punishment? Allah Protect us from his Wrath.
We have to be very careful. Remember, on the day of Judgement, Allah may forgive us the sins we committed against Him, but He will not take away our rights as individuals. A person will have the right to take our good deeds or even give us their bad deeds because of crimes we have committed against them. One of these crimes is gheebah, where we sacrifice the honor of our brothers and sisters.
Narrated AbuHurayrah: Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said: Do you know who is poor? They (the Companions of the Prophet) said: A poor man amongst us is one who has neither dirham with him nor wealth. He (the Prophet) said: The poor of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers and fasts and Zakat but (he would find himself bankrupt on that day as he would have exhausted his funds of virtues) since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others, and his virtues would be credited to the account of one (who suffered at his hand). And if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then his sins would be entered in (his account) and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire.
Let’s reflect on this. Here we are. We thought we were doing good. We prayed. We fasted. We worked hard on doing good deeds. Yet, there we will be on the day of Judgement. We will have survived all of the horrible trials, the judgement, the bridge and the huge thorns, which snatch us according to our deeds and throw us into Hell. We will have been through all this, only to lose all our good deeds because we could not or would not control our tongue.
On this day, we will stand there and be asked by those whom we harmed for their rights. A person whom we have backbitten may take that one crucial deed that means Heaven or Hell. How many deeds can you afford to GIVE away? Personally, I don’t feel that I can spare one. Subhanallah! On this day, the mother will drop her load. Your mom will not know you or care about you! Your mother! The Prophets will be saying, “I am not fit for that” The Prophets, what chance do you or I have??? We must not give ourselves so much credit that we actually have the gall to believe that we can afford to give away even one deed. Allah protect us all.
This is a major sin that we have to guard against. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into it. Allah warns us that nothing will be hidden on that day. We will have even our limbs speaking against us or for us:
On the day when their tongues and their hands and their feet shall bear witness against them as to what they did.
And Our Prophet warns us to be careful of our tongues, what we say. He also encouraged us with the rewards we get for doing so.
Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever can guarantee (the chastity of) what is between his two jaw-bones and what is between his two legs (i.e. his tongue and his private parts), I guarantee Paradise for him.”
Narrated AbuHurayrah: Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said: The servant (whose fault) Allah conceals in this world Allah would also conceal (his faults on the Day of Resurrection.
Narrated Uqbah ibn Amir:: Whoever covers the faults of believer is like one who has brought to life a female child buried alive.
Mashallah. The rewards are so great. We should be so careful in this matter to avoid the punishment and to receive the great blessings.
There are a few situations where it is allowed for us to talk about something, but these are limited. Here are a few allowed situations:
Marital advice or protection from possible harm: Fatimah bint Qays went to the Prophet seeking marital advice when both Muawiyah Ibin Abu Sufyan and Abu Jahm had proposed to her. The Prophet told her, “Muawiyah is stingy and tight fisted) and Abu Jahm beats his women.” So marry Usamah instead.
Complaint: Narrated ‘Aisha: Hind, the mother of Mu’awiya said to Allah’s Apostle, “Abu Sufyan (her husband) is a miser. Am I allowed to take from his money secretly?” The Prophet said to her, “You and your sons may take what is sufficient reasonably and fairly.”
Seeking advice from someone who has the power to help: Abu Hurayrah narrated that a man said, “”O Messenger of Allah! I have a neighbor who is harassing me.” He said, “Go and put your belongings on the street.” So, the man went and put his belongings on the street. People gathered and asked, “What’s wrong with you?” He said, “I have a neighbor who is harassing me; I told the Prophet about it and he told me to go and put my belongings in the street.” The people began to say, “O Allah Curse him! (about the neighbor). The neighbor heard about this so he came to the man and told him, “Go back into your house, by Allah I will not disturb you again.”
Now, once we have seen this, we have to reflect upon it. What if we have committed gheebah, what should we do? Well, Al Nawawi said, “The Ulama have said that if you have committed Gheebah, then ask forgiveness for it. Commenting on this, Shiekh Al Albaani said, “This is if you do not fear any worse evil to result from askinf him for forgiveness; otherwise, it is enough to pray for him.’
So, how do we repent from this awful deed? We have to first ask Allah to forgive us and make a decision to not repeat it. Then, we go to the person, if possible, and ask them to forgive us. Remember, Allah will forgive us his right, if we ask sincerely, but He will not remove a right from a believer. So we must ask the believer for his forgiveness as well.
One last note: What shall we do if we are in a situation where others are backbiting? We have to first remember Allah, and have them do so as well by advising them nicely. If this does not work, we must leave, because sitting there and listening is as bad as doing the deed. For the scholars agree that a person who is in attendance when a sin is being committed is as guilty as the ones who are committing the sin. Your presence is a kind of approval of the deed. If your friends are angry with you for not participating in their sins, they are not really friends. Why would they want to harm you? Your deen? or hurt your chances to get to Paradise? Also, remember in doing so, you are protecting the honor of your brother or sister, and look to the reward of doing so:
The Prophet said, “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will deflect fire from the face of one who defends his Muslim brother’s honor in the latter’s absence.”
O Allah! Guard our tongues. O Allah! Guard our actions. O Allah! Forgive us our sins against You and ease the hearts of those we have harmed so that they too will forgive us. Ameen
by Shariffa Al Andalusia
Sahih Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12.
” Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 76, Number 482.
Sahih Muslim: Book 31, Number 6265, Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, others.
(Al_Suyuti, Zawa’id Al Jami from the report of al Khara’iti in Masawi Al Akhlaq. Malik reported something similar with a Mursal Isnad as mentioned in Al-Sahihah, No. 1992)
(Ibin Jareer tafseer Al Quraan al AdHeem, vol. 4, p. 328)
Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 41, Number 4857
(Al-Qurtubi, Tafsir of Surat Al Hujirat)
Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 41, Number 4862, Sahih Sunan Al Tirmidhi (1655), Ibin Hiban, Hasan by Al Albani, Ghaybah al-Muram, 420
Sahih Muslim: Book 31, Number 6251
(Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 76, Number 577).
Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 76, Number 481
Muslim: Book 31, Number 6266
Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 41, Number 4873
(Muslim, Abu Dawud, At Tirmidhi, An Nisai, and Ibin Majah]
Sahih Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 34, Number 413
Bukhari: Adab Al Mufrad 124 (Al Mundhiri classified its isnad as Hasan in Targhib wal Tarhib)
(Gossip and its adverse effects on the Muslim Community, Husayn Al Awayishah, 76)