Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan)

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Ramadan is expected to begin on April 24th, give or take a day.  Some helpful information was shared on the FaceBook site.  Check it out.  Ramadan Mubarak in Advance!

O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves.

The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion.(Quran: Chapter 2, 183)

The fourth pillar of Islam is Sawm or Fasting in the month of Ramadan. Fasting is also practiced in many other religions and is mentioned in the Torah and Bible as well as in Hindu scriptures. Observant Christians fast during Lent by giving up a particular food. Hindus fast on certain days of the week or on holidays, and for Jews, the most important day of fasting is on Yom Kippur, which lasts a little over a day.

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Calendar. Because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, it rotates through the seasons, moving back around eleven days each year. Last year, Ramadan started on May 6th and this year, Ramadan will begin around April 24th.

Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drink during this time. The aim of the fast is to weaken the physical desire or self and allow for the purification of the soul. It’s a process of spiritual purification and strengthening of willpower to carry us through the year. Muslims break their fast with dates and water followed by the evening prayer and dinner.

Those who are sick or unable to fast, such as elderly, pregnant or nursing women, travelers, and of course children, are exempt from fasting. However, they do participate in the spiritual part of Ramadan, rejuvenating their faith and growing closer to God through extra worship, feeding the poor, charity and other good deeds.

 

The Covenant


In one of the lessons by Dr. Ramadan al-Buti, he mentions that as a Muslim all our actions are based on a covenant we took with God.  He further explained that if we abide by this covenant or agreement, then we are rewarded in this worldly life and the next.  However, if we disobey, we will be punished in this worldly life or the next.  This agreement is for an individual who made the declaration of faith and took God as Lord, an authority, Majestic, the one who is All-Knowing and Judge, accepting His commands, etc.,

However, if someone is not a Muslim and did not make such an agreement – it is important to note that God will not reward or punish them for these commands.  They will be held accountable for the truth that reached them, that their soul recognized as true, in the hereafter. This is a matter between God and His creation, not for anyone of us to judge another. There is a secret witness in each of us, our conscience that will bear witness before God regarding such matters.  As for us, Muslims, we must be aware and show resolve to the agreement made.

I recently had a relative pass away, and as you go through the motions, and review your notes, you now understand the questions the Angels raise when you are in your grave.  These are questions that first determine if you took God as a Lord. You can now fully understand why Satan was accursed.  Out of arrogance, not ignorance, he refused to take God as Lord. The Angels took Him as Lord, and so did Adam, upon him peace.

Questions in our grave:

The first question is:  “Who is your Lord?”
The second question is: ‘What is your religion?”
The third question is: “Who is this man who was sent among you?”

Remind yourself of the three questions every night and morning, when you go to sleep and wake, to remind yourself of the covenant made.

And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (Quran 7:172)

Be aware.

At least seventeen times a day, it is obligatory to remind ourselves of this reality in prayer.  Al Fatiha is the first chapter of the Quran, the key or opening of the Quran. Let us reflect on it a bit. The chapter begins with the first words of Prophet Adam, upon him peace, and emphasizes the human need for His Mercy and Guidance. Also, the chapter emphasizes the covenant and taking of God as Lord, Master of the Day of Judgment, and our need to show resolve for the straight path:

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgment.
Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
Show us the straight way,
The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.
(Quran 1:1-7)

 

A Month of Quran
It is customary for families to attend the local mosque after breaking fast for special nightly prayers called taraweeh. The entire Quran, 114 chapters or 6,000 verses are recited by the end of Ramadan in a melodious recitation, called tajweed. The aim is not to rush through the reading but to connect to it, and connect to the central figures within the reading.

Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

God listens to every supplicant when we call on Him, to our prayers of need and forgiveness, and now we need to listen to His call so we may walk in the right way.

We spend our lives talking to each other and even talking to God. This is a month that emphasizes listening to God.

It is encouraged to read the entire Quran and listen to God. This might be difficult at first but if you do not judge yourself and wait for the right feelings to manifest, and just do it regardless the mood or feelings, over time, you will develop a love of listening to the Quran and listening to the meanings of the verses.

Initially, years ago, reading the Quran was difficult. At times, certain passages disturbed you. However, as time flew and one continued to listen, the beauty in the passages and the light in its wisdom started to unfold layer by layer. Now listening to various scholars discuss the verses of Quran is something that I enjoy. And the conversations within the Quran, help you understand not just life, but nurture within you love of the Prophets and God.

It is okay to say, I don’t understand but listen. The understanding will come to you at the right moment after serious study and you will develop a relationship with the Author as you struggle to know Him.

The words will no longer be words on a page, or thoughts in one’s mind, or an analysis – but a connection, to oneself, to the prophets and believers and more importantly to God. The prophets are described as when they hear the verses of God, they fall down in prostration and tears of adoration. May we reach that state of love of God that the Prophets reached.

Whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears. (Quran 19:58)

A Month of Blessings
Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings taught Muslims:

Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which God covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, God looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show God goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of God, the Mighty, the Exalted.

Muslims are reminded to embrace this opportunity and receive the blessed month of Ramadan with gratitude, repentance, sincerity, steadfastness and fervor.

Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, addressed his companions on the day before Ramadan began, saying,

Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which God has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to God) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven.

A Month of Mercy, Forgiveness, and Salvation
The first ten days of the month is an emphasis on seeking mercy. The second ten is an emphasis on seeking forgiveness and the final ten, salvation.

Many view Ramadan as a boot camp for Muslims, where everyone strives to purify the soul together. Teachers will remind Muslims that God should also see from us on the first night of Ramadan sincere remorse and genuine repentance from all the wrong actions of our lives up to this point.

What is Remorse?
Remorse is not feelings of being bad. Remorse is an acknowledgement of our lack of God-consciousness, our resolve to stay on the straight path, and the awe of God in our hearts coupled with love for God.

How so?

Thou canst but admonish such a one as follows the Message and fears the (Lord) Most Gracious, unseen: give such a one, therefore, good tidings, of Forgiveness and a Reward most generous. (Quran 36:11)

Let us review the prayer or dua of Prophet Adam, upon him peace.

Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.
(Quran 7:23)

First, an acknowledgement of God as Lord, not your buddy or peer.
Second, an acknowledgement of wronging oneself, not God, but oneself.
Third, an acknowledgement of our need of God’s Mercy and Forgiveness.
Fourth, an acknowledgement that without God, we are losers.
In a nutshell, that is remorse, hope for God’s pleasure and acceptance.

Such words can only be uttered by one who accepts their human condition as well as has love in their heart for God.  God knows we are weak. It was a Divine Plan that we will be on earth, before Adam, upon him peace was created. It is important to note that Adam, upon him peace, did not say Satan is a loser, but we. Also, he was not debating or arguing with Satan, but turning to God.

We learn from this that our effort should not be to lash out at others if they do not believe and call them losers or mock them, but rather to acknowledge to ourselves and internalize deeply this reality such that if we stumble we can privately and immediately turn to God and confess our need for His Forgiveness and Mercy and without Him, we are losers. Notice Adam and Eve, upon them peace – who and what they were focused on.

Adam’s, upon him peace, first words were “Alhamdulillah.” Hamd is the highest station.  This is a state we share with the Angels who are constantly praising God. Within that Hamd, his second reality is revealed which is a confession to our need for His Forgiveness and Mercy. Here we separate with the Angels who are sinless, and cannot have this need in the way humans do.  One can look at this as internalizing shame, or an invitation to know God in deeper and more intimate realities.

Let me clarify
If we are made to believe that as long as we treats others well, that we will be accepted, then we will only behave better for the same reasons that we behave badly, for attention and belonging. This leads to lack of self knowledge which leads to people being afraid of themselves, because they learn to doubt that as the real person that they are, they will be accepted. This does not lead to faith but to multiple personalities, shallowness, and superficiality. Think about this and I will expand further, later on.

He created man from clay like [that of] pottery. And He created the jinn from a smokeless flame of fire. So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?
(Quran 55:14-16)

Jinn or Djinn is a reference to another set of beings, devils or satans, although according to Islamic tradition, some of them accepted Islam. They rejected the call of their forefather Iblis.

However, in general – Satans are enemies to human beings and to God.

Try to think about this for a moment. He created human beings, and their enemies who will implant ideas or incite humanity against God.

People often express confusion about Satan: Why did God allow this powerful djinn to trick Adam? Why does God continue to allow Satan to target those of us who are trying to do right in the world?

Why didn’t God stop Satan then, and why doesn’t He stop Satan now?

At times, when people ask this question, they are blaming God for their slips, implying that a good or just God would not allow Satan to exist. But to answer the question of “Why Satan?” we must also ask the question “Why humanity?” Angels and djinn existed long before God created humans.

Satan was worshiping God just fine before Adam, upon him peace came along.  He was in the company of the Angels and helped them clear the earth of creatures doing mischief and shedding blood. So in truth, it is Adam’s fault.  Right?

Let us review the clarification point I addressed above:

If we are made to believe that as long as we treats others well, that we will be accepted, then we will only behave better for the same reasons that we behave badly, for attention and belonging. This leads to lack of self knowledge which leads to people being afraid of themselves, because they learn to doubt that as the real person that they are, they will be accepted. This does not lead to faith but to multiple personalities, shallowness, and superficiality. Think about this and I will expand further, later on.

In a different lesson, Dr. “al-Buti asked whether those listening had complained about their weaknesses and imperfections to God? We often complain about others to God. But do we sit with God and talk to Him about our own transgressions, dark thoughts, or feelings? Do we ask Him to help us or put us in the path of someone who can help us remove those imperfections?

If you have this conversation with God, then God is not going to shame you. If we look at Adam and Satan, yes, Adam made a mistake, out of neglect. This mistake didn’t bring him down in the eyes of God, although Adam did have to deal with the consequences of his actions. If you believe in specific imperfections, then you have to deal with consequences. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.” –Fedwa Wazwaz, Nobody’s Perfect

The truth is, only God can accept you as you are as He created you and knows you better than you know yourself.  First, He teaches us to accept ourselves, then nurtures us, so we can accept Him as The Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, Lord of the Worlds, and al-Mutakabbir.  So, if you are searching for the one that will accept you as you are, you will find Him, or He will find you lost in the midst of the chaos and confusion, and guide you.

 

al-Mutakabbir


One of God’s names is al-Mutakabbir.  It is important to pause and reflect on the meaning of His Beautiful Name as we proceed to understand the clarification.

Self-acceptance vs. self-oppression

What does it mean to accept oneself?  And what does it mean to oppress oneself? Often when we speak of self-acceptance, we are really using the logic and definition of self-oppression.

If I was to ask you who are you?  How would you define yourself? Some will focus on their humanness which is part of who we are, but there is more. We are also spiritual beings and self-acceptance requires that we accept all parts of who we are. Listen to the following verse and reflect:

When we have died and become dust and bones, are we indeed to be resurrected? And our forefathers [as well]?” Say, “Yes, and you will be [rendered] contemptible.” It will be only one shout, and at once they will be observing. They will say, “O woe to us! This is the Day of Recompense.” [They will be told], “This is the Day of Judgement which you used to deny.”
(Quran 37:16-21)

I learned from Dr. Ramadan al-Buti, in one of his lessons, that it is a sin to ask God to remove all animalistic-type desires from one, as there is a purpose for them within us.  It is a form of arrogance or a being who is inherently weak in origin yet acts as al-Mustakbir, not according to his/her reality but as though they are a deity. I always use the term, playing God. These desires, including our ego, and conditions which make us prone to error or mistakes is our reality, to push us to our need for His Mercy and His Forgiveness, as well as His Generosity.  We were created from earth and will return to it, however, our purpose is to build this earth for our lives here and in preparation for our hereafter.

We oppress ourselves when we are in denial of our human condition or ask God to turn us into angels instead as beautifully discussed by Dr. al-Buti. Yet, we also oppress ourselves if we are denial that we are spiritual beings who will be resurrected and face a day of account for our actions on earth.  Most humans oppress themselves denying one or the other.  Hence, to accept oneself is to accept that we are spiritual beings living on earth for a temporary time until we return, and give an account for this human experience.  So to further expand on the clarification point above, whose eyes are you using to nurture you? And which definition of who you are, are you using to define you?

Reflect on this.

Therefore, we must ask God to help us utilize these conditions and internal desires in accordance to the sacred law and if we are not able to, to protect us from engaging in them in an impermissible manner, hence why I add the word [PROTECTION] to the prayers of Hasan al-Basri as mentioned in the end of this blog post.  As humans, we are always between fear and hope, between need of His Protection and Generosity as well as His Forgiveness and Mercy. Everyone needs Him, but He needs no one.

I requested a teacher to review my upcoming book, which will be published on Eid, Insha-Allah, and a discussion arose on Joseph, upon him peace, and how he would have desired her if it was not for God’s gaze upon his heart, or God’s intervention.  I explained to him that I listened to Shaykh ash-Sharaawi as well as Dr. al-Buti who explained this verse very well. The lessons are in Arabic, but if you can find someone to translate some spicy thing an Arab leader said and distort it and run away with it, I think you can find an Arab who can translate this lesson to help clarify the meaning.  In short, there is no sincerity or truthfulness – if Joseph, upon him peace, was asexual. 

It is in the choice and the struggle to adhere to the call of God, that the manifestation of his truthfulness and sincerity is witnessed by God. The other part missing in the story, is Joseph was tested with a very powerful, beautiful, and attractive woman, someone who is very desirable.  Likewise, Joseph, upon him peace, was extremely beautiful and attractive to many women.  They were a test for each other, and he acted according to his faith.  

 

al-Mustakbir


The reflections for this lesson is from Dr. Ramadan al-Buti. Who is al-Mustakbir? Someone who desires to wear the rope of greatness, although, they are inherently weak. This is different than God honoring people with positions of high status or greatness.  It is the internal state that we focus on here, not the external.  He refuses to see the signs of Allah, regardless of how well you present it to him/her.

Explanations or any evidence you give has no benefit; the mustakbir responds by arguing and debating, scheming, twisting, and distorting to tire you out and drain you.

Shaykh al-Mustakbireen is Satan
The internal state of such a person is a very diseased heart.
Important to differentiate between:

  • gafla or heedlessness – this person has no intention or deliberation to disobey but was negligent. Mainly a lack of resolve. God’s Forgiveness and Mercy envelop such a person.
  • ‘i’raad – stubborn denial – this person is intentional and deliberate, has stubborn resolve to deny without listening, or considering evidence or explanations. Given the diseased heart, God’s Mercy and Forgiveness will not reach this person. They will not seek it and feel it is beneath them to ask for it. Instead, such a person will obsess with power, as Satan did. Instead of asking for Forgiveness and Mercy, he said,

(Satan) said: “Then, by Thy power, I will put them all in the wrong.”

He asked for God’s Power, instead of His Forgiveness.  To do what? To manufacture evidence against Adam, upon him peace, and his progeny. Hence, when he was doing good before and ridding the earth of evil, he was not doing it for God. He was seeking greatness.  The creation of Adam, upon him peace, manifested the reality of his diseased heart to him. If you are doing something for God, you should want the person to be guided, not misguided and disobey.

God did not falsely accuse Satan. If you genuinely love someone or worship and internally acknowledge that He is Lord, why would you turn His creation against Him?

Then, the al-mustakbir’s life is internally in a state of anguish, has a hard time to be alone and in peace. In sleep, he struggles to sleep and has nightmares. The heart has a key, and that key is with God, not with you or others. The house or the spouse is not the key to the heart. The heart’s key is with God, and it is surrender to His commands and decree that bring about peace. God might test this person in various ways, including physical sickness, yet his heart is clean and at peace with God. When a person is in a state of dunka or internal darkness – it means they are not at peace within themselves. Dunka is not depression or trauma.  Focus on the words of Satan so you do not accuse everyone struggling with sadness, depression, or trauma of having an internal state of dunka:

(Satan) said: “Then, by Thy power, I will put them all in the wrong.”

Satan was not depressed or traumatized.  He was scheming to harm and misguide others.

Mustakbir vs. Jahlil
Jahil or ignorant person – has an excuse, and God will not hold such people to account for their ignorance. God forgives them and envelops them with His Mercy. The learned are held to account for not teaching them.

However, there is an arrogant type of person who knows, and denies. For example, they send someone to you to make false claims. You know the rumors they are passing about XYZ are false as well as the scheme they plotted and planned, and they are throwing shade at you, so you throw the game out in the open. Instead of admitting fault, apologizing for their scheme, lies, actions of a charlatan, they accuse you of slander and gossip.

Effort and Results
God rewards people according to what they seek internally. For example, whoever wants the results in the Dunya or this worldly life, and insists on it and strives for it, God gives it to him or her, like Qarun and Satan.  He also gives it to believers, if their faith is not strong to handle patience. God rewards them for their efforts in the Dunya in what they seek, ask for, and strive. You work hard and strive, God rewards you.

God rewards people for their efforts, regardless if they are Muslim or non-Muslim, believer, or mustakbir. He rewards their hard work and efforts and allows them to see the fruits of their labor. Those who strive but do not see the results in the Dunya; however, acted on their faith and values – will see the results in the hereafter. Prophet Ibrahim and his wife Hajar are some of the examples. Their souls and faith are of a much higher state than those who cannot wait and might lose faith if they do not see the results. God knows His creation and knows how to test them, and what is best for them.  If the person is true and sincere, is striving hard, God will pour trials upon him/her as He did for those He brought to His nearness.

The clarification point is simply act according to what you believe, it will manifest in time, either in this world or the next.  If you acted for desire of greatness, belonging and attention – God will try you to graduate you to the next level.  We all are toddlers seeking attention and belonging at one point in our life.  We are all born ignorant and engage in acts of gafla or negligence.  It is a need and as humans we are prone to err.  Some had parents that fulfilled that need, and some did not.  It is not a sin to have these desires, but when you are ready to graduate and God knows you are ready – He will try you.  Seek His Strength, Protection, and Forgiveness and Mercy and keep moving forward.  A trial can just be a time to graduate to the next level of faith with God’s Help and Strength.

Manifestation of His Mercy


Do ye not see that Allah has subjected to your (use) all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made his bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, (both) seen and unseen? Yet there are among men those who dispute about Allah, without knowledge and without guidance, and without a Book to enlighten them!


Taskheer – subject to you

He made these creations as servants to you and your living.
Not everything, just what we are in need of.

Some are subject without any effort from us.
Some require effort like fruits, plants, animals, electricity, etc.,
Even the moon and sun follows their own orbit, by design to nurture life.

Reflect on this.  Will update later.

Allah shows mercy to those who are merciful. Mercy is not just for Muslims, but this should extend to people of other faiths. In addition to this, we should have mercy in our hearts for all of His creation and have a sincere desire for the guidance of all morally responsible beings on the surface of the Earth.

This is also a time for expressing our true state, which is brokenness and neediness for God. This is the real meaning of prostration in Islam.

These spiritual teachings are important as Prophet Muhammad, upon him, peace and blessings taught Muslims that fasting is not just about hunger and thirst. It’s about re-dedicating ourselves to God and becoming conscious and grateful of God’s enabling grace upon us. This is the month of self-evaluation and rebuilding community and family ties. It is an opportunity from the Divine to aid us in our struggles to perfect our character in every way.

  • How did we do since last Ramadan?
  • What milestones and goals will we work towards next year?
  • What have we done for the less fortunate?
  • What are we going to do? Did we remember them in our prayer at least?
  • Will we not even make a prayer for them this Ramadan?

I always like to use the Prayers of Forgiveness from Hasan al-Basri and add the word ‘protection’ to each prayer as God knows us and our weaknesses and blind spots best. Below is an example.

“O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness [and PROTECTION] for every sin that Your pen recorded and Your knowledge encompassed—every one that I have committed and that I am to commit until the end of my life. I seek Your forgiveness for all my sins: the first and the last, the intentional and the unintentional, the few and the many; the minor and the major, the subtle and the noticeable, the past and the recent, the secret and the open and public—and all those I am to commit throughout my life.”

A Month of Charity
Muslims believe that Ramadan is also the month of charity and generosity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased. It is also the month that helps and trains Muslims to be compassionate for those less fortunate than us. Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, used to be at his most generous in Ramadan.

A Month of Prayers
Muslims are taught to make the intention to perform extra acts of devotion and worship therein, including additional mid night prayer (qiyam) and end of night prayer (tahajjud), and abundant charity to the poor and needy. The last ten days of Ramadan, for the aspiring souls is a time of seclusion (i’tikaf) wherein Muslims spend the entire night at the Mosque spending the whole night till dawn in prayer and worship. This Ramadan, we are invited to make all of it a time of seclusion with God. Check on your family members and remember them in your prayers.

High Intentions and Set Goals
Ramadan trains you and gives you the support, but the acts of worship are encouraged throughout your life. If you make your intention for this Ramadan and every Ramadan until your last moment, and act upon it now and yet never make it to another Ramadan, you get the reward for every Ramadan you intended as though you did the act of worship.

What seduced you from your Most Generous Lord?

Make high intentions now, and act with the power and gifts you have.

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, currently titled Love is Deeper Than Words: Key Lessons from the Prophets.

Gentle reminders:

“It’s scary telling another person, ‘This is who I am. This is what I want.’ Scarier still is standing by the truth about ourselves – our integrity – as we must when we give the other person a choice to accept or not accept our decisions and differences.” –Susan Forward, Emotional Blackmail

Said [Solomon]: “We shall see whether thou hast told the truth or art one of the liars! (27)

Why are you here checking this blog?  You were invited to court of law/independent investigator to present your evidence.
You refused. So, why are you here?

Just breathe and live your life.

He who wishes that people always remember him with goodness is neither God-fearing nor sincere.
–Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Adham

On Judgment Day, God will resolve the disputes between us. Until then, let us part ways in peace. We are not birds of a feather.

I am fasting. I am fasting.

Respect yourself, and move on.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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