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Today's Reminder

April 03, 2020 | Shaʻban 9, 1441

Living The Quran

Open Hearts
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Chapter 2: Verse 183

"O Believers, Fasting (sawm) has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa (God-consciousness)"

This important announcement begins by addressing believers directly to remind them of who they are and of their status with God. God is aware that for believers to fulfil any religious obligation, regardless of its immediate benefits, they need encouragement and motivation. Hence they are addressed by their essential quality of having faith.

The verse establishes that fasting had been made obligatory for all believers, past, present and future, and that the aim behind it is to open their hearts to God and make them more conscious and fearful of Him. Therefore, the principal objective of fasting is to attain and refine this quality of Taqwa. Fasting, when observed in obedience to God, and in pursuit of His pleasure, instils and revives Taqwa in the human heart and acts as a safeguard against evil and wrongdoing.

For the Ummah (world-community) of Islam, whose duty is to undertake a campaign of struggle (Jihad), as a means of establishing God's universal order of mercy, peace, and justice, and who is to stand witness to the rest of mankind, it is only natural that fasting should be made obligatory. Fasting is a means of testing a person's determination and will-power, and an important aspect of his or her relationship with God. It is a discipline that teaches one how to rise above his or her physical needs and overcome the pressure of temptation in order to earn God's blessings and reward.

Compiled From:
"In the Shade of the Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 1, pp. 182-184

From Issue: 593 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Honouring Ramadan

Shaban is one of the meritorious months for which we find some particular instructions in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It is reported in the authentic ahadith that Prophet Muhammad used to fast most of the month in Shaban. These fasts were not obligatory on him but Shaban is the month immediately preceding the month of Ramadan. Therefore, some preparatory measures are suggested by Prophet Muhammad. Some of these are given below:

1. The blessed companion Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, reports that Prophet Muhammad was asked, "Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of Ramadan?" He replied, "Fasts of Shaban in honour of Ramadan." [Tirmidhi]

2. The blessed companion Usama ibn Zaid, may Allah be pleased with him, reports that he asked Prophet Muhammad: "Messenger of Allah,I have seen you fasting in the month of Shaban so frequently that I have never seen you fasting in any other month." Prophet Muhammad replied: "That (Shaban) is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting." [An-Nasai]

3. Ummul Mumineen Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, says, "Prophet Muhammad used to fast the whole of Shaban. I said to him, 'Messenger of Allah, is Shaban your most favourite month for fasting?' He said, 'In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting.'" [Bukhari]

4. In another report Aisha says: "I never saw the Messenger of Allah fast a complete month except for Ramadan, and I have never seen him fast more in a month than he did in Shaban." [Bukhaari, Muslim]

These reports indicate that fasting in the month of Shaban, though not obligatory, is so meritorious that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not like to miss it.

But it should be kept in mind that the fasts of Shaban are for those persons only who are capable of keeping them without causing deficiency in the obligatory fasts of Ramadan. Therefore, if one fears that after fasting in Shaban, he will lose strength or freshness for the fasts of Ramadan and will not be able to fast in it with freshness, he should not fast in Shaban, because the fasts of Ramadan, being obligatory, are more important than the optional fasts of Shaban. That is why Prophet Muhammad himself has forbidden the Muslims from fasting one or two days immediately before the commencement of Ramadan. The blessed Companion Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reports Prophet Muhammad to have said, "Do not fast after the first half of the month of Shaban is gone." [Bukhari]

Compiled From:
Sha'ban: Merits, Do's, and Dont's - Taqi Usmani

From Issue: 691 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Introspection

In Islamic law, terrorism (hirabah) is considered cowardly, predatory and a grand sin punishable by death. Classical Islamic law explicitly prohibits the taking or slaying of hostages or diplomats even in retaliation against unlawful acts by the enemy. Furthermore, it prohibits stealth or indiscriminate attacks against enemies, Muslim or non-Muslim. One can even say that classical jurists considered such acts to be contrary to the ethics of Arab chivalry and therefore fundamentally cowardly.

It would be disingenuous, however, to propose that this classical attitude is predominant or even that familiar in modern Arab-Muslim culture. What happened to the civilization that produced such tolerance, knowledge and beauty throughout its history? A lot has happened. The Islamic civilization has been wiped out by an aggressive and racist European civilization. Colonialism and the expulsion of Palestinians happened. Numerous massacres against and by Muslims happened. Despotic and exploitative regimes have taken power in nearly every Muslim country. Most important, however, a dogmatic, puritanical and ethically oblivious form of Islam has predominated since the 1970s. This brand of Islamic theology is largely dismissive of the classical juristic tradition and of any notion of universal and innate moral values. This orientation insists that only the mechanics and technicalities of Islamic law define morality. Paradoxically, it also rejects the classical juristic tradition and insists on a literal reinterpretation of all Islamic texts.

Fundamentally, this puritanical theology responds to feelings of powerlessness and defeat with uncompromising symbolic displays of power, not only against non-Muslims but also against Muslim women. It is not accidental that this puritanical orientation is the most virulent in flexing its muscles against women and that it is plagued by erotic fantasies of virgins in heaven submissively catering to the whim and desire of men.

This contemporary orientation is anchored in profound feelings of defeatism, alienation, frustration and arrogance. It is a theology that is alienated not only from the institutions of power in the modern world but also from its own heritage and tradition.

The extreme form of this puritanical Islam does not represent most Muslims today. But there are two ways in which contemporary Muslim culture, Arab or non-Arab, inadvertently feeds these extreme trends. First, since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the onslaught of colonialism, Islamic intellectuals have busied themselves with the task of "defending Islam" by rampant apologetics. This produced a culture that eschews self-critical and introspective insight and embraces projection of blame and a fantasy-like level of confidence and arrogance. Second, Muslims got into the habit of paying homage to the presumed superiority of the Islamic tradition but marginalize this idealistic image in everyday life.

The reality of contemporary Muslims is unfortunate. Easy oil money, easy apologetics, easy puritanism, easy appeals to the logic of necessity have all but obliterated the incentive for introspection and critical insight. Arab and Muslim organizations in the U.S. are right to worry about hate crimes and stereotypical projections of Muslims and the Islamic religion.

The problem, however, is that Muslims themselves responded to the challenge of modernity by stereotyping and then completely ignoring their own tradition. It is not surprising that some extremists have taken this tendency to its logical and heinous extreme.

Compiled From:
"What Became of Tolerance in Islam?" - Khaled Abou El Fadl

From Issue: 976 [Read original issue]