Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Drawing images of living beings

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Forgive my bad English (I’m from Spain).
I heard that Prophet Muhammad said that making a picture of a human or animal being is haram (prohibited) and in the Day of Judgement God will ask us to turn our pictures to life. Is it true? Can’t we paint this beings?
God bless you

Your English is just fine! Thanks for writing. And may God bless you too for doing the research and verifying what you hear. Too many people simply take for granted what they have been told, without ever attempting to ask themselves if it is true.

The hadeeth you refer to is authentic. It was narrated by Ibn Abbaas (RA) and reported by Al-Bukhaari. Another version of it, also reported by him, was narrated by Ibn Umar (RA).

Those two hadeeths, and there are other, use the Arabic word صورة “Şoora”, which in today’s Arabic is often used to mean a picture, but it actually means “likeness” and that is how it was used by the Arabs of the Seventh Century. The word for picture is actually رقم “Raqm”, which in today’s Arabic has come to mean marking or engraving.

This distinction can be discerned from another authentic hadeeth, reported by Muslim and narrated by Abu-Talha, where the Prophet (PBUH) made an exception from the prohibition a raqm on a cloth. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the prohibition applies only to three-dimensional images, i.e., statues, figurines, embossed images, etc.

The ending of the two hadeeths of prohibition give away the reason for the prohibition. It’s what Americans call “playing God.” That is, the attempt by humans to do things that only God may do. Creation of living beings is God’s domain only.

This prohibition is not unique to Islam. The exact same thing is said in the Second Commandment, prohibiting making engraved images and bowing to statues.

This is the key to understanding the prohibition of sculpting images of living beings. It is God’s protection of us from Shirk (associating others with Him in worship).

One may think that shirk is far-fetched in today’s educated world. One, therefore, may think that this prohibition may have been called for in ancient times, when shirk was rampant, but not relevant in today’s sophisticated societies. But that is not actually the case! There are millions of people in today’s sophisticated world who pray to statues. Many even bow down to images on the wall. Many believe that a token or a figurine will bring them good fortune, heal them or stave evil away from them. All of that is shirk.

Why is shirk so dangerous? Because it creeps on people’s psyche, with enthusiastic help from Satan, until they are detached from God. That is the greatest loss.

Tawheed (the oneness of God) is the central teaching of Islam. It is also the subject of the First Commandment. God is teaching us to worship Him only and abandon any hint of worship of anyone or anything else – not because He needs it, but because we do. Human nature is such that we look for idols, literal or figurative. We keep aggrandizing the people we admire. Americans have coined a good term for that: hero worship. Shirk can be subtle.

The issue at hand is not art, creativity or expression, all of which are allowed in Islam. Rather, it is the kind of art, creativity or expression that is dangerous to our souls.

Dispropotionate expiation?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

I have a question regarding fasting. I heard that if one were to intentionally break 1 day of their fast without any good reason then they would have to fast 60 consecutive days. Now when I heard this I was a little surprised as I never heard of such a thing. But when I looked it up on the internet I found out that it is a real thing.

Now I read it was from a hadith but a lot of hadiths out there aren’t authentic and have a lot of problems. This particular hadith in my initial opinion contradicts the Quran where Allah says that he doesn’t want to ‘burden us more than we can bear,’. And where the prophet says in a hadith that ‘this religion is easy and to not make it hard on yourself’. With that said, 60 days of fasting for only missing one fast is a little excessive for me and doesn’t seem like a fair thing. And I don’t think that that is something Allah wants for us.

So can you please clear up this issue for me and explain this hadith and this whole “60 day fast for only missing 1 fast type thing”?

Both Adam and Satan disobeyed a direct order from God. Yet, God forgave Adam and gave him a second chance, while He cursed Satan till the Day of Judgment. Why?

The difference between the two is that Adam recognized his error, regretted it and begged God to forgive him. Satan, on the other hand, refused to acknowledge that he did anything wrong and did not even attempt an apology to God. Adam knew his place; Satan deemed himself too big. Adam admitted his mistake; Satan argued with God. Adam bowed his head; Satan thumbed his nose. Adam submitted; Satan arrogated.

When you say “missed one day of fasting”, you’re not being accurate. Missing implies inability or forgetfulness. When one can fast but won’t, it’s not called missing, it’s called defiance. Missing is excusable; defiance is not.

That is why the expiation (“Kaffaara”) is different for each. The expiation for excusable breaking of the fast is one day of fasting later, or feeding a poor person a day’s worth of meals. The expiation of inexcusable breaking of the fast is to fast two consecutive months or feed sixty poor people. It is to teach the sinner humility before God. God does not benefit an iota from our worship. We do. It is in the best interest of the servant of God to be reminded of his place whenever he transgresses. If God leaves a sinner to himself, then know that the sinner is a lost cause, a hopeless case.

That is why the expiation, as harsh as it looks, is not disproportionate at all, nor unfair, nor contrasting God’s grace. Rather, it is tough love. A needed training of the believer who was headed the wrong way.

As for the hadeeth that tells us what the expiation is for inexcusable breaking of the fast, it was narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim, Abu-Daawood and Ibn Hibbaan. It is authentic. However, it is specific about mating during the fasting day. Scholars have concluded, however, that other inexcusable acts may be expiated the same way by analogy (Qiyaas). In other words, mating is just one example.

The expiation, according to this hadeeth is (a) freeing a slave, or, if not possible, (b) fasting two consecutive months, or, if not possible, (c) feeding of sixty poor persons.

Dua is really powerful

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Eid Mubarak (Blessed feast) to you and yours.

This Ramadan was significant to me. It would take a pot of coffee to explain everything. Alas, you are spared the details. I was tested. I was thoroughly tested. I came to the conclusion that was my blessing. I am at a point where I know everything will be ok. Dua is answered and it can happen in the blink of an eye.

You need to preach that message. In the twinkling of an eye Allah subhana wa taala (may He be sanctified and exalted) can change the course of your life to His Purpose when you beseech him. What apperears to be many insurmountable impasses disappear with dua.

I had to make supplication as never before. I had to make decisions and they came so easily. He, in His Infinite Mercy made the path wide open for me. Simple example, I was on the road a lot. I supplicated make this journey easy and quick. Brother, on one of the most deadly highways in the US I had no traffic. The temperature was perfect and it was cloudy. My son could not believe the progress we made on the road.

The words of one of the prophets of Allah subhana wa taala is etched in my heart and carried me through: “O Allah, I am in distress and You are the most merciful of those who have mercy.” Them some powerful words.

May Allah reward you for your Love of Him.

InshaAllah, I will hear from you. Please keep me in your dua.

Eid Mubarak to you, sister, and to your loved ones. Many happy returns in-shaa-Allah (God willing). It is heart warming to hear that Ramadhaan has been a spiritually fulfilling experience for you. That is what it is for, “So that you may watch out [for him]” (2:183).

Rumi once wrote,

“Be watchful — the grace of God appears suddenly. It comes without warning to an open heart.”

The catch is how to open the heart 🙂 That is where acts of worship come in. When done with sincerity and longing, they bring us closer to the Source of all. Once the heart is open, there is no telling what power befalls a believer.

God says in a holy hadeeth, narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari in his authentic collection, “As My worshiper keeps seeking closeness to Me with voluntary acts of worship, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he reaches and his legs with which he walks. And if he asks Me, I most certainly will give him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I most certainly will give him refuge.”

Imagine having that power! How can one fear or worry then? This is perhaps what Rumi meant when he said, “For those who cleaned their hearts, things hidden and things future are plain to them!”

But I remind myself before you: Closeness to God is only maintained with righteousness; sin turns it to a distance, causing uncertainty, apprehension, confusion and insecurity. The struggle against our dark sides is as constant as our breath.

BTW, the prophet who said the supplication you quoted was Ayyoob (Job), peace be upon him. And wouldn’t you know it? God immediately gave him a prescription to heal him from his illness: a jog in and a drink from the Jordan river.

Don’t be so sure

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Ever felt content with your worship of God and thought that you have done well for yourself and deserve to go to heaven? Let me tell you three stories.

A man observed Al-Hasan ibn Ali, may God have been pleased with both, supplicating hard and weeping. He approached him and said, “You cry out of fear of God when you have all the means to salvation?” He replied, “Like what?” The man said, “How about your lineage to the Prophet (PBUH)? [Al-Hasan was the Prophet’s grandson]. What about his mediation for Muslims? What about God’s vast mercy?”

Good points, right? Well, Al-Hasan answered him: As for my lineage, God says, “Then when the Horn is blown (on the Day of Judgment), there is no kinship between them!” (23:101) As for the Prophet’s mediation, God says, “Who is that who will mediate with Him except by His permission?” (2:255) As for God’s vast mercy, God says about it, “I will grant it to those who watch out [for Me].” (7:156) So, where is security, brother?

Good counter-points, don’t you think? If a saint whom the Prophet (PBUH) said was going to be a prominent youth among the people of Paradise isn’t sure, how can ordinary folks be sure?

Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may God have been pleased with him, once said, “If an angel on the Day of Resurrection, announced that all people will go to Paradise but one, I’d worry I’m the one!” This, coming from the second Caliph, a man renowned for his piety, whom the Prophet (PBUH) gave him the good news that he was one of ten who will go to Paradise, if he is not sure, how can the rest of us be?

One time the Prophet (PBUH) surprised his fellows sitting with him listening to his teachings when he said to them, “The work of any of you will not enter him into Paradise!” They asked, “Even you, O Messenger of God?” He replied, “Even me, unless God covers me with mercy from Him and favor.” Narrated by `Aa’isha and Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari and Muslim in their authentic collections.

The Prophet (PBUH) was teaching that while faith and good deeds are necessary for admission to Paradise, they are not sufficient. It is God’s mercy and favor that gets us there. Faith and good deeds only make it likely.

This is not to dash the hopes of Muslims, but rather to balance their attitude. Imam Al-Ghazaali, may God bless his soul, brilliantly defined faith in Islam as “The balance between fear and hope.”

The Prophet’s love for the prayers

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Happy birthday, beloved Messenger of God!

On the occasion of the birth of the last and final Prophet and Messenger of God, Muhammad, peace be upon him, I send him my unbound love and endless gratitude for bringing humanity from darkness to light and for leaving with us “what we will never lose our way as long as we hold on to them: the Book of God and the Sunna.” (Narrated by Maalik ibn Anas and reported by Al-Albaani who rated it Hasan (Sound)).

The Prophet’s love for God and desire to please Him was phenomenal, and is a tough act to follow. In an article about the Prophet’s life, peace be upon him, in The Mosque Foundation Community magazine, two hadeeths are mentioned that illustrate it. In one hadeeth, Huzhayfa ibn Al-Yamaan, may God have been pleased with him, narrated that he decided one day to join with the Prophet (PBUH) in his Tahajjud (night prayer). It turned out to take much longer than Huzhayfa expected! He narrated, “The Prophet (PBUH) started reciting Al-Baqara (Chapter 2, which is the longest in the Quran). Huzhayfa said to himself, ‘Maybe he will bow down after the 100th verse’. But he continued reciting! Then Huzhayfa thought, ‘He will finish it then bow down’. But he continued to recite Chapter 3 and then Chapter 4 (both quite long themselves). Huzhayfa also said, ‘Whenever a verse called for sanctifying God, the Prophet (PBUH) would say loud ‘Subhaan-Allah’ (May God be sanctified), and whenever a verse called for asking God for something, the Prophet would ask Him, and whenever a verse instructed seeking refuge in God, the Prophet would say loud, ‘I seek refuge in God’. And as if that was not long enough, his bowings and his prostrations took almost as long. Narrated by Muslim who rated it authentic.

In another hadeeth, Abdullah ibn Mas`ood, may God have been pleased with him, did something similar and he narrated, ‘He stood up so long I almost did something sinful!’ He was asked, ‘What was it?’ He replied, ‘I almost decided to sit down and leave him standing!’ Narrated by Al-Bukhaari and Muslim who both rated it authentic.

Bear in mind that both gentlemen were younger in age than the Prophet (PBUH). The Blessed Prophet (PBUH) fully heard God when He told him,

“O you who is wrapped up in covers! Stand up [in prayer] the night, but a little. Half of it or a bit shorter, or a bit more and recite the Quran articulately” (73:1-4)

He was hoping in what God promised him when He said, “And [a portion] of the night, spend it in prayer, an extra for you, perhaps your Lord will send you out [on the Day of Resurrection to] a praised station.” (17:79)

May God grant him that high station and join us with him there.

To some people, a prayer is a necessary chore that they can’t wait for to end, but to the Prophet (PBUH), it was a delight that he couldn’t wait to do. He often called on Bilaal ibn Rabaah, may God have been pleased with him, who was the Mu’azhzhin (caller to prayers), “O Bilaal, relieve us with it (the prayer)”. (Narrated by Saalim ibn Abil-Hamd and by Bilaal and reported by Abu-Daawood who did not rate it and by Al-Albaani who rated it authentic).

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.

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?

Is delaying the prayer a sin?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

In the Quran, it says,

“So woe unto those performers of Salaah (prayers) (hypocrites). Those who delay their Salaah (prayer from their stated fixed times)” (107:4-5)

Does this mean if I delay my prayer 30 minutes later but I still have two hours of prayer left it’s a bad thing??

Or is it that I delay it until the two hours finish?

Please answer asap!

A better translation IMHO of the word “Saahoon” (in 107:5) would be “unmindful”. Praying during the allotted time means that you are mindful of the prayers.

Verb to delay is active while verb سها is passive. That is why when your flight doesn’t go on time, it is said to be delayed. The Arabic verb سها, on the other hand, means left out unintentionally, i.e., was unmindful. It is similar to the verb نسي (to forget), except that the verb نسي, is more often used in the Quran as an active verb, That is, it is often used as a figure of speech to mean rejection or abandonment, e.g., “they forgot God, so He forgot them” (9:67).

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.

Tell me a positive experience from Islam

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I’m really conflicted right now, part of me knows that Islam is what I wanted Christianity to be (which I left 11 years ago). The prayer, serving only God, living your life in a good way and helping those less fortunate.

What did turn me off about Christianity are the negative things. I understand if you do good things, you’ll be rewarded, if you do the wrong things, you’ll be punished. I lived my life as a Christian out of fear, and that gets very tiring, very quickly. I don’t want to live in fear of Allah. (And I mean fear as in “afraid” not fear as in “respect” which many people use the word for. Respect is something that I want to give of course).

Can anyone share with me the positive things that you have experienced since being Muslim?

Thank you in advance.

Imaam Al-Ghazaali, may God have been pleased with him, a Muslim scholar and author who lived in the Eleventh Century defined faith eloquently as “the balance between hope and fear.” Only fear can dissuade you from listening to Satan or your desires and disobeying God, and hope is the most reliable way to persuade people to do good.

That said, let me answer your question in my case. I have prayed Istikhaara (the “consultation prayer”) several times in my life, a prayer a Muslim prays when s/he is stuck and cannot decide a matter. Every time the answer came immediately! I felt like God was right there, which of course, He always is.

The feeling I get when the month of Ramadhaan has ended is indescribable. I feel light, pure, happy, strong, confident, humble, grateful, at peace, healthy, sharp-minded, and surprisingly not hungry nor thirsty at all.