A short history of Fasting the month of Ramadan, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Fasting the month of Ramadan was prescribed in the early years after the hijra of the Prophet (SAWS) from Mecca to Medina. However, the rulings regarding fasting were not all revealed at once; there were several incremental updates from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala that were sent down to the Prophet (SAWS) and as revealed texts, and appearing in verses in the Quran

This is a true account of the mercy of Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, to the believers. Fasting the month of Ramadan was prescribed in the early years after the hijra of the Prophet (SAWS) from Mecca to Medina. However, the rulings regarding fasting were not all revealed at once; there were several incremental updates from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala that were sent down to the Prophet (SAWS) as revealed texts, and appearing in verses in the Quran.

For example, when the Prophet (SAWS) first came to Medina, they used to fast three days out of every month and they use to fast the day of Ashooraa. After that, Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala made it incumbent upon them to fast Ramadan, by revealing the verse: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” [2:183-184] observing the month of Ramadan became incumbent, but they had a choice; they could either fast, or they could ‘ransom’ their fast by feeding a poor person for every day instead of fasting. “For those who can do it, is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent.” [2:184] Still it was better for them to fast, by the verse; “But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him”. [2:184] Despite the choice of either fasting or feeding, fasting was deemed the better of the two options; “And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” [2:184] In either case, it was better for them to do extra, such as feeding more than one person for each day or by fasting and feeding a person based upon the verse; “But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him”.

After that, another verse was revealed which made fasting incumbent (fard) upon everyone; “So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting”, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put 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. [2:185] After this verse was revealed, it was incumbent on every person who was present when Ramadan came, to fast the month except for who was sick, or travelling.  The dispensation of being able to ransom by feeding, instead of fasting, remained for the frail and the elderly, until this day. The companion of the Prophet (SAWS), Anas ibn Malik when he became a very old man, would have a big feast during Ramadan and feed thirty people at a time.

The companions of the Prophet (SAWS) used to, if a man was fasting, and the time of iftaar came but he fell asleep, or prayed ishaa before he ate a meal; he wouldn’t eat for the rest of the night and continue to fast until Maghrib the next day. So one day Qais ibn Sir’ma al-Ansaari was fasting and when the time of iftaar came, he said to his wife; do you have any food? She said: no but let me go and see if I can get some for you He had been working that day, so he ended up falling asleep (while he was waiting). She finally came and when she saw him asleep, she said: ‘you missed it’.  It was reported in another narration that when his wife came to him with the food, he said to her: “I feel asleep”, she replied: “no you didn’t” and he insisted that he did. Nevertheless, he slept that night without eating anything, and the next day, when he got up in the morning, he was fasting.  By the middle of the day, he lost consciousness. This incident was mentioned to the Prophet (SAWS) and then the verse was revealed: “Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you,” [2:187], when this verse was revealed,  the Muslims were extremely happy because as they understood it now, they were able to continue to eat, drink or have relationships with their wives throughout the night without restriction, whereas before, if they happened to fall asleep, or if they prayed ishaa, they wouldn’t eat afterwards until sunset the next day.

Right after that, the versed was revealed: “and eat and drink, until the white thread appear s to you distinct from the black thread; then complete your fast Till the night appears”. [2:187] However, the words; (of the dawn) were not revealed yet. So the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) updated their fasting according to what was revealed and would consider it permissible to continue to eat, drink, or have relations with their wives throughout the night until the dawn came, and many of them would tie a black and white thread around their leg.

It was reported about Sah’li ibn Sa’d, who said: the verse: “and eat and drink, until the white thread appears to you distinct from the black thread”, and the words; (from the dawn –min al-fajr) were not revealed. So when men wanted to fast, they would tie a black thread and a white thread around their leg, and continue eating in the morning, until they could distinguish one from the other. After that, Allah revealed the words: (of the dawn) and they knew then that what were meant were (the threads of night) and day. This is how Allah showed his mercy to the companions of the Prophet (SAW) and heralded in the fast of Ramadan as we know it today, step by step.

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Free Audio Lecture by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad, Explanation of the Hadith: ‘The Shayaateen are chained during Ramadan’

Ramadan is different than any other month of the year. During this month, the major forces of evil (demons) from amongst people, and jinn, are curtailed and their effect upon the one who is fasting sincerely for Allah is limited. There are different explanations for the hadith that the shayaateen are chained during the month of Ramadan. This is explained in the free recording.

Ramadaan Mubaarik beloveds, “When Ramadaan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up” [Related by Bukhaari] Every Sunday, our family, (the Ahmad clan) has a class together, today the topic was the chaining of the devils during Ramadan. Click on the link below to listen if you like. Please remember us in your du’aa. Wal Allah al-Musta’aan Imam Luqman Ahmad

Explanation of the hadith: ‘The Demons are chained’ during Ramadan

Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom, The Blind Companion with Keen Insight, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Ibn Umm Maktoom was blind, but the Prophet (SAWS) trusted him as an able bodied imam of the salat and he would frequently lead the prayers in Madinah when the Prophet (SAWS) was away on an expedition, this happened several times including the time the Prophet (SAWS) left for the conquest of Mecca.

This is a short story about one of my favorite companions of the Prophet (SAWS). What I love about him is that despite being born blind, he showed a dedication to our faith, a desire for knowledge, and love for the Prophet (SAWS) that was so profound that Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala spoke on his personal behalf from above seven heavens in verses in the Quran. One of the things that I love about him is that he did not let his disability (blindness) prevent him from service to our faith, allegiance to our Prophet (SAWS), or from being and a true servant of Allah.

His name was Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom. He was also known as Amru Ibn Umm Maktoom, as well as Amru Ibn Qais. His mother’s name was Aatika and her surname was Umm Maktoom which means (mother of the concealed). They called her that because she gave birth to a blind child, thus his name; Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom. He was the cousin of the Prophet’s first wife Khadija bin Khuwailid, and he converted to Islam early on during the Meccan period.  He was one of the seventy something persons who accompanied the Prophet (SAWS) during the migration (hijrah) to Medina. Ibn Umm Maktoom was blind, but the Prophet (SAWS) trusted him as an able bodied imam of the salat and he would frequently lead the prayers in Madinah when the Prophet (SAWS) was away on an expedition, this happened several times including the time the Prophet (SAWS) left for the conquest of Mecca.

In the narration of al-Barraa ibn Aazib, he said: “the first one to come to us of the Muhaajireen was Mus’ab ibn Umair and then after that it was the blind man, Ibn Umm Maktoom. Ibn Umm Maktoom was one of the two principle mu’athhans (callers to prayer), of the Prophet (SAWS), the other was Bilal. Sometimes Bilal would call the athaan and ibn Umm Maktoom would call the iqaamah and then other times it was the other way around.

Several verses of the Quran were revealed regarding this companion of the Prophet (SAWS). Some of the scholars of tafseer say that 10 verses were revealed about him. In one instance the Prophet (SAWS) was trying to convince some of the high ranking members of the Quraish; Abu Jahl, also known as Amr ibn Hishaam, Ut’ba ibn Rabee’ah, and his brother Shaybah, and Walid ibn al-Mugheerah, the father of Khalid ibn Walid who would later become known as the Sword of Allah, about Islam, when a blind man approached him, entered into the conversation with the group, and pleading, he said; O messenger of Allah, teach me something that Allah has taught you”.

The Prophet (SAWS) at the time, didn’t like the interruption, so he frowned, turned away from the man and turned his attention back to the others. After the Prophet (SAWS) finished speaking with the group of men, he headed back to be his family. It was then the verse was revealed. “He frowned and turned away when the blind man approached him ! Yet for all you knew, (O Muhammad), he might perhaps have grown in purity or have been reminded of the Truth, and helped by this reminder. Now as for him who believes himself to be self-sufficient, to him you gave your whole attention, although you are not accountable for his failure to attain to purity. But as for him who came unto you full of eagerness and in awe of God, him did you disregard. Nay, verily, this is but a reminder and so, whoever is willing may remember Him in the light of His revelations blest with dignity, lofty and pure, borne by the hands of messengers, noble and most virtuous.” [Quran, 80:1-16]

This verse amounted to light admonishment for the Prophet (SAWS) from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and after these verses were revealed, the Prophet (SAWS) used to honor ibn Umm Maktoom and give him the utmost respect. He used to say to him; “do you need anything?”, and, “is there anything that you require of me?” and before the Prophet (SAWS) would leave his presence, he would ask him; what can I do for you?

In the report of al-Barraa ibn Aazib, he said: once the Prophet (SAWS) asked that a shoulder blade or a writing board be brought to him, and he wrote down the verse: “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home)”. Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom was standing right behind the Prophet (SAWS) and said; “is there any exemption (rukh’sa) for me? Then the words; “and receive no hurt,” were revealed and added to the verse, which then read: “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) except those who possess disabilities, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward”, [4:95], with the words, [except those who possess disabilities] inserted.

Still, despite his disability, Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom longed to participate with his Muslim brethren in military campaigns, was a brave man and wanted to make the sacrifice like others had done before him. He would say to them; ‘I’m blind, and I won’t be able to flee, so give me the flag and place me on a horse between the ranks. In the 14th year of the Hijra, Umar ibn al-Khattaab mounted a major campaign. Anas Ibn Malik said that during the battle of al-Qaadisiyyah in 636 C.E., which was the battle between the Muslim forces and the Sassanid Persian army, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom was a standard bearer. The battle lasted three days, and when it was all over, Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom was dead amongst the martyrs, with the Muslim flag still clutched in his hand.. May Allah be pleased with him, and grant him the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed his grace. Ameen.

Audio Khutba: Welcoming Ramadan by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

The sacred month of Ramadan is upon us. It is the month in which we recharge our faith to prepare for the coming year. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan in faith and in seeking reward (from Allah), his past sins will be forgiven”. In this khutbatul Jum’ah held @ Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, Ca, we explain the importance of observing the month of Ramadan. Click on the link below to listen. Wal Allahu al-Musta’aan.

Welcoming the month of Ramadan

Can Muslims Create an American Identity? By Imam Luqman Ahmad

American Muslims have come from many diverse paths that led them to where we are today. The notion that a singular, made for the media consumption, Muslim identity can be crafted by a few American Muslim intellectuals (mostly of foreign descent), is absurd, problematic, and misleading. We are who we are; with our differences, our problems, our successes, and our failures. We are all American Muslims with our different politics, backgrounds, proclivities, pastimes, lifestyles and ways of being American. That’s the real identity of American Muslims.

The Muslim American reality in the United States as it stands today is a relatively new phenomenon. The jury is still out regarding what our domestic identity as a religious minority will eventually be in the United States, and it depends on a variety of circumstances and how we as individuals, as disparate groups, and as a religious minority collective, decide to move forward.  Identities take place through the natural process of social evolution, and ultimately, it is a behavioral issue, and a historical narrative, not a public relations issue. When Muslims attempt to create a sanitized apple pie version of an American Muslim identity, then the audacity of such an attempt becomes itself, part of our identity.

Muslims have been a part of America’s social fabric since the 1600’s when the first Muslims were brought here as slaves. A domestic identity is not something that you create in a laboratory, or stage for public consumption as if you are on a Hollywood soundstage; people’s identities are real, and personal. That’s the American way. It is a culmination of who, and what you are as a people. With that respect, there are many types of Muslims with different histories, different agenda’s and social realities, and different ways of looking at themselves. All of that combined; make up a people’s identity. There are indigenous African American Muslims who are Sunni orthodox and have been practicing a purely American brand of Islam for decades; that’s an identity, and there are other converts who need a sanction from a sheikh, 10.000 miles away in order to make daily life decisions; that’s another identity.

There are Muslim immigrants who are insecure about who they are, and have yet to find their place in American society; that’s an identity, and there are other immigrants Sunni, and Shiite, who have found their place as Americans and have never looked back; that’s an identity. There are new arrivals of Afghani, and Iraqi refugees from the war who are just trying to find some peace and a simple new life without killing, and they have their own identity. There are conservatives, there are liberals, there are democrats, republicans and independents; these are identities. There is working class, middle class and well to do American Muslims that all have their own identity. Some Muslims are devoutly religious and some not so much, and each has their own distinct identity.

American Muslims have come from many diverse paths that led them to where we are today. The notion that a singular, made for the media consumption, Muslim identity can be crafted by a few American Muslim intellectuals (mostly of foreign descent), is absurd, problematic, and misleading. We are who we are; with our differences, our problems, our successes, and our failures. We are all American Muslims with our different politics, backgrounds, proclivities, pastimes, lifestyles and ways of being American.  That’s the real identity of American Muslims. In the year 2012, the fact that Muslims are still talking about crafting an American identity, underscores just how much many Muslims misunderstand American society, and the reality of American independence and individualism.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento Ca. He can be reached @ imamabulaith@yahoo.com

The Islamic Ruling Regarding Celebrating the Fourth of July Independence Day By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

The celebration of Independence Day is not a Christian, Jewish or Islamic celebration; it is an American celebration and anyone who is an American has a right to claim it. Celebrating Independence Day is a non-religious, national holiday and is permissible in Islam as there is no verse of Quran or authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) or statement of a credible and informed group of scholars that conclusively prohibit it.

The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans participate in some form or another, either actively or passively, in the celebration of Independence Day on July 4th. Even the people who claim that they hate it and have nothing to do with it, accept the overtime pay, or the paid day off, or the discounted sale items in the stores on that day. So whether it is cooking out, taking off from work and getting paid, lighting or watching fireworks, having picnics, attending family civic, or cultural events on that day, taking advantage of July Fourth sales at the mall, or simply using it as a holiday where you close your business, stay at home and rest, there is hardly any Muslim who lives in the United States who does not take part, benefit, or some way observe Independence Day. There are people who use the day as a time of protest. Still they are observing the day and benefit from our independence..

Not all Americans make a big deal out of the day; after all its just one day of the year, and it has become part of our nature, for many people not to not make a big deal about such holidays. However there is an undertone of uneasiness on the part of some Muslims in that even though they participate in the events of the day, there is something unislamic about it. Other people condemn the holiday, and any Muslim that participates in it in any way. This is because of the many opinions circulating which prohibit any commemoration of Independence Day, condemning anything and everything that has to do with America or being American. There are Muslims who will bristle with indignation if you even refer to them as an American.

Can certain days of the year be considered haram?

It has become common for some people to declare this or that day haram without making any distinction between the day itself, and the activities that may occur or that has occurred on that particular day. Some muslim have gone as far to say that the Independence Day itself, is haram which makes no sense at all because it is not possible to make any day haram since all of the days on the earth belong to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and regardless of whether one celebrates Independence day or not, or whether or not one even acknowledges Independence day, the truth of the matter is, that the United State of America was declared an independent republic on July 4th, 1776.

From the shariah point of view, days are decreed by Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala , and made subject to human beings to do in them as they will. “And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day hath he (also) made subject to you.[1]Thus, all of the days and all of the nights, all the weeks, months and years belong to Allah. Human beings will continue to have day and nights and handle their affairs therein, until Allah decides otherwise. Therefore when discussing what holidays are permissible or prohibited, it’s not the day itself which is in question; it’s the activity that one engages in on that particular day which desires a ruling.

The reasons why some of them say that celebrating Independence Day is prohibited

The problem is that a surprising number of religious edicts or fataawa rendered upon people, events and circumstances which occur in the United States are made by scholars who are qualified and astute in their own regard, but are woefully uniformed about the details and social-cultural minutia of life in the United States of America. Subsequently, many rulings are made that are faulty and harm the Muslim in areas of their faith rather than benefit them. This phenomenon is one of the causes of American Muslim moral dysfunction.This problem is further exacerbated when we see that in many Muslim countries, holidays other than the two Eids are celebrated with the consent of the scholars while some of the same scholars, render prohibitions against Muslims celebrating anything besides the two Eids here in the United States.Many fataawa are targeted specifically towards converts here in America while ignoring other Muslims who are not converts. Some of the same scholars who prohibit imitating the kuffaar, cooperating with them, and so on, have no problem coming here to live in our suburbs or for study, or sending their children to some of our countries top universities, or participating in cultural events held in our country.Thus, the many fataawa in circulation that prohibit the celebration or even the recognition of Independence Day, are rulings are made by scholars who are well intended in sha Allah, but are ignorant of American culture and uninformed of what separates religion from civics in our country. Failure to acknowledge independence day is ludicrous because it is indeed a real and annual occurrence in the United States; people get paid holidays, there are thousands of celebrations and commemorations held all over the country, and it a day that appears on every calendar. Whether or not a person acknowledges it or not is irrelevant; the fact of the matter is that it does exist.

Another reason is that they say that it forbidden is that they say it is a celebration of non-Muslims. That is another fallacy; Muslims have been on this land (the United States) since before it became a republic. An estimated 30% of the slaves who helped build this country were Muslim, and Muslims have been participants in July fourth celebration in one way or another for decades. American Muslims whether they have long lineage here in the United States or whether they are recent immigrants have just as much right to America as anyone else, and they are free to participate in the cultural affairs and norms of our country as long as they are not disobeying Allah and His Messenger (SAWS). There are no verses in the Quran or ahaadeeth of the Prophet (SAWS) which prohibit the celebration of one’s independence. The Prophet (SAWS) used to encourage the freeing of the slave and the eradication of tyranny. American independence was a step in that direction and therefore worthy of celebration.

Another reason some people make celebration of independence day prohibited is the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS): “Allah has given you better than those (feasts): Eid al-Adha and the ‘Eid al-Fitr[2], However in this case, the Prophet (SAWS) replaced the pagan holidays that were practiced in Medina with the two Eids, and both, the previous jaahiliyyah[3] practices, and the two Eids, had religious significance. However, the hadith is a statement (khabr) in the form of a command since both Eids are Fard kifaaya, and the hadith is in no way a prohibition (nahiy) of anything except that in abrogated the pagan holidays that existed at the time. There is no indication no indication in the hadith that the Prophet (SAWS) forbade Muslims from participating in other non-religious holidays, events or joyful occurrences, and this was not the understanding of the majority of the companions nor of the Salaf.

Another faulty fatwa states that anytime a non-Muslim is happy, then it is the obligation of the Muslim to be unhappy at the happiness of a non-Muslim. Unfortunately, I’m not making this up. Nevertheless, there is nothing in the Quran or in the authentic Sunna that indicates that a Muslim is required to be miserable anytime a non-Muslim is happy or in a good mood. If that was the case, then all of the Muslims in the world would be required to be perpetually miserable since considering that there are over 4 billion non-Muslims on the planet; it is assured that at least one of them would be happy on any given day.

The Ruling of why celebrating Independence Day is permissible.

The celebration of Independence Day is not a Christian, Jewish or Islamic celebration; it is an American celebration and anyone who is an American has a right to claim it. Celebrating Independence Day is a non-religious, national holiday and is permissible in Islam as there is no verse of Quran or authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) or statement of a credible and informed group of scholars that conclusively prohibit it.

The overriding principle of usool al-fiqh (Islamic legal foundation) when it comes to haram (prohibition) and halal (permissibility) is that the non-religious affairs and actions of people are permissible unless there is conclusive proof to the contrary.  If this were not the case, then every single action and statement of every single human being on the planet would have to be examined in detail to determine whether or not it is permissible. Such would be grossly impractical and extract an undue hardship upon the Muslims which is counter to the objective of the law as mentioned in the verse’ “verily Allah wants ease upon you and does not want hardship upon you”, and by the hadith; “The practice of religion is easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will be overpowered by it.”[4]

Scholars in Saudi Arabia have upheld the celebration of Saudi National Day which commemorates the unification of Hijaaz and Najd in 1932, and scholars of Azhar in Egypt have upheld the permissibility of Egypt’s National day on July 23rd as well as other holidays. Many of the prohibitions leveled at July 4th Independence Day have been due to anti-American sentiment, and bias towards indigenous American Muslims, and not based upon Islamic law, or sound argument, and that is unacceptable. Furthermore, there has been no ijmaa (consensus) reached by the scholars that national holidays are prohibited. Therefore they remain in their original state as permissible.

American Muslims has more freedom than Muslims residing in most Muslim countries. Part of the significance of Independence day is that not only are people free to worship Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, build masaajid, give charity, fast Ramadan, make Hajj, honor their neighbors, obey their parents, raise their children, and earn an honorable living; they are free to celebrate or not celebrate the Fourth of July as they see fit. So whether or not a Muslim makes a big deal out of celebrating independence day or not, every muslim should value our independence because by it, we are able to worship Allah, think for ourselves, be free of foreign control of our religious affairs, and act in our own best self-interest as Muslim Americans without being beholden to anyone’s brand of Islam.

Celebrating Independence Day has different meanings and involves different activities depending upon the person. For some it means simply having a paid or unpaid holiday from work, for some it means overtime pay, for others it means cooking out, picnics and barbeques, fireworks displays, and deeds and actions of patriotism, and for some it is all of the above or parts thereof. However, there is nothing in the Quran or in the Sunna that prohibit any of that.

If the celebration of Independence Day is accompanied by alcohol consumption, lewd behavior, criminal acts, recklessness, and endangerment such as not being careful with fireworks or camp fires, then the lewd, dangerous and wrongful acts, are prohibited like they are during any other day. However, the celebration of the day without engaging in the prohibited acts is permissible. Likewise, if a person wants to simply ignore the day, and not give it any thought, then he or he may do that also.

Whether it is success or failure, victory or defeat, goodness or evil, or sadness or joy, it is Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala who gives human beings these days and grants to them in them whatever He pleases; “Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns” 3:140

And Allah knows best.  

Imam Luqman Ahmad


[1] Quran, 14:33

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Days of ignorance.

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.