Archive for the ‘Rituals’ Category

Can faith go up and down?

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Brother, I pray this finds you in high eman (faith) and good health.

Here is one of my serious questions. I did not know where to start the research.
I pray. I believe in prayer. I try not to miss my salat (prayer).

I got sick. I could not pray. I do not mean physically. There arose the problem. I could not make myself pray. I put it off. I blamed the physical lethargy. I could not understand nor rationalize the blockage.
The inability to pray ran down to my soul. I could not find an answer.

To try and sum it up in words: Why do we have periods of such low eman (faith) that prayer becomes difficult? It is not the total abandonment of prayer but a temporary inability to pray. Does this even make sense? I understand that the body hurts but the soul hurts more when prayer is ignored. It was as if I felt I was abandoned.

Point the passages in the Quran for me to ponder on this one. I know others who have the same blockage. It is not that you do not want to pray..but something prevents you from praying.

You’re asking why is this happening to you. The answer is simple: Satan got to you. Don’t panic; it happens to everybody. Satan never tires of trying to get to people so that they may follow him instead of following God. In the holy Quran, God quotes Satan challenging Him and saying, “I will come to them before them, behind them, at their right sides and at their left sides, and You will not find most of them thankful!” (7:17)

What do you do about it? You show Satan who’s boss! You fight him on it. You drag yourself to pray if necessary and cry to God in your prayer to help you win that fight. It is not an easy fight, it’s a jihaad (struggle). And if you just start it, God promises He will be on your side, “And those who struggle in Us, We shall surely guide them to Our ways.” (29:69)

Prayer is the second most emphasized notion in the Quran, after the oneness of God. Why? Because once you understand who God is, you certainly want to find out how to communicate with Him.

Prayer is an audience with God that He invites you to five times everyday. It is a privilege given to every believer, similar to the privilege God gave to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on his Mi`raaj (ascension journey to heaven). Unlike audiences with human dignitaries, you don’t make an appointment first, you don’t need intermediaries, you can stay as little or as long as you want, and you can ask for anything and be sure that an answer will be given right away and in the way that fits you best.

Prayer, therefore, is much more than a duty upon every believer toward His Maker, it is a fabulous opportunity; like a freebie you get five times a day and all you have to do is open the door to get it. No strings attached.

Prayer is a chance to thank God five times a day for the many more than five favors He has given you that day.

Belief does not go up and down, but faith does. Belief is binary :-), you either believe or you don’t. Faith, on the other hand, is the practice, cordially, mentally, verbally and manually, that proves the belief and affirms it. Since all of these can go up and down, that’s why faith can go up and down. God defined believers as follows, “Verily, believers are only those who, when God is mentioned and His verses are recited to them, it increases their faith, and upon their Lord they rely.” (8:2)

To make your faith go up, you increase the rate at which you affirm your belief. Cordially, you contemplate God’s love and grace often. Mentally, you reflect on God’s creation and bounties often. Verbally, you do Zhikr often, and manually, you perform the rituals, charity and good deeds often. The more you commit yourself to that, the easier it gets, because Satan will find you a tough nut to crack and will look for an easier prey, just like a car thief doesn’t bother with cars that have a powerful alarm.

The Prophet (PBUH) often said this supplication, “O turner of hearts, steady my heart on Your religion! O diverter of hearts, direct my heart to obeying You!”

And he always said this supplication after ending each prayer, “Allahumma a`inni `ala zhikrika wa shukrika wa husni `ibaadatika” (“O God, help me to remember You, thank You, and comply well with your ordinance.”)

Supplication during the night

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Assalaamu ‘alaikum WR WB brother.

Is there any specific Du’a recorded in the Sunnah which should be recited
specifically during night prayers (Qiyaamul Layl)
If so , please do share them Insha Allah

The first time God ordered the Prophet (PBUH) to stay up at night praying was in Chapter 73 (Al-Muzzammil), very shortly after revelation started. In this chapter, God only tells the Prophet to recite the Quran.

Later, in Chapter 17 (Al-Israa’), God tells the Prophet two things about night prayer: (a) that it is voluntary (Naafila) and (b) to say in it this supplication, “Rabbi adkhilni mudkhala sidqin wa akhrijni mukhraja sidqin waj`al li min ladunka sultaanan naseera” (17:80) which means, “Lord, make me enter an entrance of truthfulness and make me exit an exit of truthfulness, and set for me, from Your Own, a supporting authority.” Followed by, “Jaa’a-l haqqu wa zahaqa-l baatilu. Inna-l baatila kaana zahooqa” (17:81), which means “Truth has come and falsehood has passed away. Indeed, falsehood is always passing away.”

The Prophet (PBUH) did that and much more. He was committed to night prayer even after he was told it was voluntary. And he added other supplications, such as this one reported by Al-Bukhaari in his authentic compilation,
“O God, to You is praise; You are the Caretaker of the heavens and the earth and whomever is in them. To You is praise; You are the King of the heavens and the earth and whomever is in them. To You is praise, You are the Truth. Your promise is truth. The meeting with You is truth. What You say is truth. The Garden (Al-Janna) is truth. Hellfire is truth. To You I have submitted. In You I have believed. Upon You I have relied. Back to You I have returned. With You I have argued. For Your sake I have judged. So, forgive me what I have put forward and what I have put behind, what I have kept private and what I have made public. You are the Advancer (Al-Muqaddim) and the Regresser (Al-Mu’akhkhir). There is no god but You and there is no capacity nor strength except by You.”

Happy Eid-ul-Adhha

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Eid Mubarak to all fellow Muslims around the world. Today is the feast of sacrifice, commemorating the ultimate willingness to surrender to God by prophets Abraham and Ishmael and Lady Haajar (Hagar), peace be upon them. They all teach us the lesson that surrender to God, which is what the word Islam means, is the gateway to peace, prosperity and longevity.

Hijr-Ismail

Tawaaf around the Ka`ba

The intimacy of supplication

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Assalaam walaikum,

OK…I am stuck on dua. Many know it to be a form of worship.

I believe it is more than worship. Yet, I do not know the word to describe this level of intimacy with Allah.

Du`aa’ (supplication) is worship. All rituals of worship can be intimate, if the worshiper performs them as he or she should.

Intimacy is two-way. God is already close to us. He says in the holy Quran,

“And We created man and We know what his self whispers to him, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein.” (50:16).

So the question is how can we get closer to Him? That is what a good Muslim strives to be. It starts with a clean heart filled with faith and certitude about God. Then that faith is put in practice by the rituals and the good deeds. Then that faith is put to the test by enduring hardship and gratitude for bounty.

Forgetfulness during prayer

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

I want to learn about prostrations of forgetfulness. How is that done?

Prostration for distractedness (Sujood-us-Sahw) is an established practice (Sunna) of the Prophet (PBUH). Whenever he was reminded by people that he forgot to do something in it that is mandatory, he would make up what he missed, e.g. a rak`a (Bowing) then make two prostrations after the prayer. Several authentic Hadeeths teach that the making up can be done during the prayer or after ending it. If you choose to make the prostrations during the prayer, then you have to do them after the Tashahhud and before the Tasleem.

They are two prostrations, with a sit up between them. Each prostration is made as the normal prostration, but instead of saying “Subhaana Rabbiy Al-`Azheem” (Sanctified is my Lord, the Grand) three times, you instead say once, “Subhaana man la yas-hoo wa la yanaam” (Sanctified is He who does not get distracted, nor sleeps). As usual, each movement is preceded by the words “Allaahu Akbar” (God is greater).

So, let’s take a few examples:

  1. You prayed `Ishaa’ three rak`aat instead of four. In this case, you rise up, say “Allaahu Akbar”, pray a rak`a until you say the Tashahhud. Then, and before Tasleem, you make the two prostrations and then make the Tasleem.
  2. You prayed `Ishaa’ five rak`aat instead of four. In this case, you rise up, say “Allaahu Akbar”, then immediately sit down, make the two prostrations of Sahw then say the Tasleem.
  3. You forgot to make the first Tashahhud, or you made three prostrations instead of two, etc. This case is like the second case above. You only make the two prostrations of Sahw.

If you have done either of the above two cases, but remembered that during your prayer, i.e., have not yet made the Tasleem, then you may continue with the Tasleem and do like above, or you may do it before the Tasleem. Both methods have been narrated in authentic Hadeeths.

Why do we have to pray 5 times a day?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

God doesn’t need our prayers, right? So, why did He order us to pray to Him 5 times everyday? What is the significance of prayer?

Have you ever reflected on the words you say near the end of every prayer? They are (translated into English):

“Greetings to God, and prayers and all good things.”
“Peace is upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of God and His blessings.”
“Peace be upon us, and upon all righteous worshipers of God. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His worshiper and Messenger.”

It is called At-Tashahhud, as you know. It sounds like a conversation, doesn’t it? I read a long time ago that it is the conversation that took place between the Prophet (PBUH) and God, when God invited him up above the Seventh Heaven and before His Throne during the Night and Ascension journey (Al-Israa’ wal-Mi`raaj).

Whoa! When we pray, we are in an ascension toward God. Does that answer your question about significance? 🙂 No wonder many of the Salaf (Muslim predecessors), such as An-Naysapoori and As-Suyooti, have described prayer as “the ascension of the believer”.

Prayer is so important that it is the only mandate in Islam that was made directly by God to the Prophet (PBUH) on the Ascension journey. Everything else was conveyed by Gabriel as Quran or in inspirations as Hadeeth.

One Qudsi (holy) Hadeeth, narrated by Abu-Qataada and reported by Ibn Maajah and Abu-Daawood, states that prayer is “the covenant between God and the believers. If they keep it, God will fulfill His Covenant with them by admitting them to Paradise. If they don’t keep it, they have no covenant!”

Prayer, therefore, is the most important tool we have to keep our covenant with God.

Why do we have to pray? Do you need to eat and drink everyday to stay alive? That’s the food for the body. The food for the soul is the company of God. Prayer gives us that. God does not need our prayers. We do. Our souls would die without it.

One of the fascinating verses in the Quran to me is this,
“So, endure what they say and sanctify with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and during periods of the night sanctify [God] and at the ends of the day, that you may be contented.” (20:130)

Did you notice that? “so that you may be contented“. We are the beneficiaries of prayer. That verse also answers the question, “why five times?” Because our soul needs its food that often, much like our bodies need to eat and drink three or more times everyday. The spreading of prayer times over the waking hours also serves to make each one lighter to do and leaves no period without the remembrance of God, which we all need to stay focused on what’s really important.

Do you take a bath frequently to keep clean? The Prophet (PBUH) gave that parable about the prayer. He said to his fellows, “See you if there was a river by the door of one of you, in which he bathes five times a day; does that leave out of his dirt anything?” They answered, “That would not leave out of his dirt anything.” He replied, “That is the parable of the five prayers: God erases with them the sins.” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari who rated it authentic.

With every prayer, you have audience with the King of kings, where you can ask Him for anything and stay with Him as long as you want. How many kings come close to that Grace?

How do we raise our thoughts above desire?

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Our eyes behold an object and we become attached to the object. Thus we are told to lower our gaze. Like a child in a candy store when I see it..I want it. I want to consume it. Often in our lives we see beauty and we become consumed by desiring the object. We can get no rest until it becomes ours.
The question becomes how do we Islamically discipline ourselves to detach from the beholding and gain an understanding that we can love the object but not desire it.
What ayats and hadeedths would help us to refrain from acting on our desires.

Faith in God means trusting His judgment. When He says, “Do this,” believers do it, even if they don’t really want to, because they trust that God would not have ordered them to do if it weren’t beneficial to them. Likewise when God says, “Don’t do that.” Believers refrain from it for the harm they know must be in it.

Thus, it is faith, first and foremost, that leads a person to overcome his or her desire for or against something. People even do that out of perception, so doing it out of faith is all the more reason.

The mechanism that hones self-discipline is commitment to, and steady practice of, religious teachings. Taqwa is its name. The word means keeping a shield between you and God’s displeasure. Sort of like when you say, “Don’t let your guard down!”

Ali ibn Abi-Taalib, may God have been pleased with him, defined and summarized Taqwa succinctly and eloquently in this poem,


الخوف من الجليل
والعمل بالتنزيل
والرضا بالقليل
والاستعداد ليوم الرحيل

Translation:
Fear of the Majestic One,
Commitment to the Revelation,
Contentment with little,
And preparation for the day of departure!

Knowing that, one can train himself or herself with recitation of the Quran, prayer, fasting, charity, good deeds, supplication, being mindful of God, being on alert from Satan, being conscious of, and in control of, one’s negative emotions, contentment with what life throws one’s way, all the while being mindful of where we are going and how to get the best life in the Hereafter.

There are many verses in the Quran that teach us self-discipline. For instance,
“And do not wish for what God has favored some over others…” (4:32)
“God extends provision for whom He wills and measures [it]. And they rejoiced in [this] the nearest life, while the nearest life is not, compared to the Hereafter, but [brief] enjoyment.” (13:26)
“But as for him who feared the stature of his Lord, and prohibited [his] soul from desire, then the Garden is the abode [for him].” (79:40-41)

The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, “Be content with what God has allotted to you and you will be the richest of people!” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Albaani who rated it Hasan (sound).

What to tell a pantheist?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

My older brother who’s 18 years old just left Islam. Now he’s a pantheist. Would you please help me to give a beautiful explanation, so he’ll think of Islam again? What should I say to him? What would YOU say to him if you were my parent? I don’t understand his philosophy very well, except that he believes in impersonal god and everything occurs in the universe has always been a mere mechanical process (not God’s will). He’s trying to convert me, my sisters, and my mother, a few days ago older sister’s starting to believe his conversion was making sense.

Sorry to hear that. I know you must be feeling terrible.

God is not a person, but He is not impersonal either! These terms apply to creatures only. He is above and beyond everything that we can imagine or conceive of. Everything in the universe did develop in a mechanical way, but it was God who created the mechanical and physical laws, right? God says in the holy Quran,

“[Pharaoh asking Moses and Aaron] saying, “Who then is your Lord, O Moses?” He said, “My Lord is He who gave everything its form and then guided [it]” (20:49-50)

The main question that no atheist has been able to answer is: who created the laws that operate everything? They say they don’t know how any law evolved and may never know. God tells us in the Quran that it is He and no one else who created all, including the laws by which all operate.

Why do these laws operate so orderly and so consistently? Has your brother ever been wounded? Did he ever reflect on how the wound heals? What tells scar tissue to form, just above new skin cells that are too ripe still to be exposed to air?! How does scar tissue know that new skin cells are ready and thus it drops off having served its purpose?! Isn’t this a sign of God, the Healer?

Atheists may think that they are intellectuals, but they really are irrational. Their motivation, IMHO, is one or more of three things: (a) Resentment of God for His Power over them, (b) resentment of God for allowing imperfections in this world, or (c) evasion of religious obligations. All three reasons are ill conceived. God’s power over us is a good thing, because we tend to abuse our powers while God never does, so He is the Balance in the universe. Imperfections in this world is the result of the exercise of the free will. Without the free will, no atheist would have been able to reject God! Finally, religious obligations are for our own benefit. They are our connection to God and the food for our souls.

Remain a good brother to your brother, and pray for him, but educate yourself and him. I suspect that the main reason he veered from Islam is that he knew little or knew wrong about Islam. Yes, many Muslims are ignorant about their religion, I’m sad to say.

How do we struggle “in God”?

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I enjoyed reading your posts about Sufism. I’m not Sufi, but I’m curious: You quoted 29:69, which says, “And those who struggle in Us…”. How does one struggle in God?

Thanks. Interestingly, God answers that question immediately after the phrase you quoted! He says, “and God surely is with benefactors.” (29:69)

Benefaction (Ihsaan) is to do beautiful things. The Arabic word has the noun root Husn which means beauty. So, benefaction is more than doing good, it is doing good in a beautiful manner. God calls every good deed Hasana (a beautiful thing).

The Prophet (PBUH) defined the difference between Islam (submission), Eemaan (faith) and Ihsaan (benefaction). He said that Islam is to do the five pillars of it: Shahaada (testimony of faith), prayer, fasting, Zakah (alms giving) and pilgrimage to Mecca if you can. He defined Eeman as belief in the six pillars of it: Belief in God, His angels, His scriptures, His Messengers, the Final Day (the Hereafter), and the Qadar (precision and wisdom of God’s timing and provision). Finally, he defined Ihsaan as follows, “That you worship God as if you see Him! While you do not see Him, He sees you!” That is the realization that causes a Muslim to be a benefactor: God is watching and appraising what we do and the angels are writing down in our eternal record of deeds.

What is best done in the honored ten eves?

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

The month of Zhul-Hijja (the twelfth lunar month) is upon us and the first ten eves of it are highly honored by the Quran. What are the best things to do during those ten eves?

The thing to do is to do a lot of good deeds and Zhikr (praise of God) in the first ten days (starting Nov. 6th night) and offer Udhiya (sheep sacrifice) on the tenth day. You can pay an organization which will do the sacrifice for you.

If you’re not going to Hajj, you should pray Eid prayer in the Mosque on the tenth day and join your fellow Muslims after each prayer saying, “Allaahu Akbaru Allaahu Akbaru Allaahu Akbar. La Ilaaha illa Allaah. Allaahu Akbaru Allaahu Akbaru wa Lillaahi lhamd,” three times. That is what the people at the Hajj will be saying as they throw pebbles at the three stone columns (Al-Jamraat), symbolizing casting away of Satan.