Reviving the Lost Art of Forgiveness in Islam، by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad 

FORGIVENESSBy Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad   

“Ali ibn Abi Taalib once said; “You will begin to heal when you let go of past hurts, and forgive those who have wronged you”

For many Muslims, the idea of forgiving a bigot, pardoning an aggressor, or a harsh unflattering critic, or letting a so-called Islamophobe off the hook, is much easier to conceptualize or articulate than it is to actually put into practice. Exacting revenge, seeking recompense, or holding a grudge, simply requires a dash of anger, a pinch of indignation and a tablespoonful of knee-jerk emotional reaction. Even hurt feelings are enough to spur a person to take punitive or compensatory action against another. Forgiveness, on the other hand, requires a particular measure of spiritual courage, moral fortitude, and emotional intelligence. Forgiveness requires a charitable heart.

While Islam recognizes the concept of retribution; forgiveness and forbearance have always been the higher and more magnanimous moral option. “O ye who believe! the law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty. (2:178).

Without diverging into a separate discussion about criminal justice policy, I’ll just say that people who murder people need to be prosecuted and brought to justice. That being said, it stands that in the religion of Islam, it is still meritorious to forgive, even if the perpetrator is prosecuted.

However, we’re not talking about murderers here. The people who have murdered or committed violent acts against Muslims in America because of their faith need to be condemned for their actions. However, they constitute only a fractional percentage of those whom we have regarded as anti-Muslim or islamophobes. What we’re talking about are the thousands upon thousands of everyday interactions, the minor skirmishes, the contemptuous glances, the unwanted comments, the simple acts of dishonor and disrespect that are aimed at Muslims and Islam. Sometimes it’s simply a case of misunderstanding but many times there is no ambiguity at all. There are the people who make it perfectly clear that they hate you because you are a Muslim.

The moral high ground in Islam affirms that it is okay to forgive such instances of bigotry and ignorance and to continue to walk in dignity. This is the higher moral ground that the Quran speaks about; “And the servants of the Merciful; they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.” (25:63).

So what we are talking about here is attitudinal change, a paradigm shift, an increased output of good old fashioned moral fortitude. For lesser infractions such as someone calling you names, criticizing your faith or your religious group, or insulting your honor, forgiveness is a praiseworthy option. There is nothing immoral, cowardly or demeaning about forgiving someone who has wronged you; nothing at all.

The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong”. (42:39-40).

In the ongoing back and forth of American Muslims mitigating anti-Muslim sentiment in our country, we seem to be neglecting the part of our religion that encourages forgiveness.  I’m not saying that it is easy to forgive; I’m saying that it’s good to forgive, and that forgiveness is a grossly underused option considering how prominently forgiveness ranks in our religion. It’s even okay to forgive when there is violence but that might be a bit much to ask of our community because we’re not that used to forgiving to begin with, and if we do forgive, we’re likely to make a full-fledged media event out of it.

The customary behavioral reaction in the Muslim community anti-Muslim sentiment is to fight fire with fire, to counter attack, to counter debate, polemicize, or to react to nearly every disparagement with either complaining about it, reporting it to the authorities, seeking some kind of redress or revenge, or amplifying our self-victimization. Many of our responses to bigotry are aimed more at getting people to see us as victims of injustice, intolerance, and oppression, than they are at being forgiving, patiently gracious, and magnanimous under fire.

I’m not suggesting that Muslim-Americans entirely overlook religious intolerance and bigotry directed towards them, or that we do not maintain vigilance against unwarranted verbal, institutional, political or violent attacks against Muslims. There have been enough incidents of violence directed towards people thought to be Muslim that warrants vigilance and awareness. Nor am I advocating that we abdicate common sense in assessing the public image disadvantages that we sometimes encounter as Muslim Americans.

What I am saying is that being Muslim brings with it a certain standard of moral fortitude standard to aim for that encourages us to withstand a fair amount of nuisance as we work to educate people and educate ourselves, and that it is okay to forgive sometimes; “You (believers) will certainly be tested by the loss of your property and lives and you will hear a great many grieving words from the People of the Book and the pagans. If you will have patience and piety, it will be a sign of firm determination and steadfastness (in life)”. (3:186)

It’s also important that we don’t overstate the problem of anti-Muslim sentiment, nor fail to recognize that the majority of people in this country do not show hatred and bigotry towards Muslims. Many Muslims are still learning about the United States and there are many areas of improvement in how we, as Muslim Americans handle bigotry. We are a fairly contentious and thin skinned people when it comes to criticism, bigotry, and anti-Muslim sentiment, and we can do a lot better in the way we deal with what some of us call islamophobia. Forgiveness and taking a high moral ground should not be taboo when it comes to our critics, detractors, and our shameless antagonists.

Our faith requires a higher degree of moral fortitude and spiritual maturity that would preclude us from feeling the need to counter every affront or criticism of Islam or Muslims. We should own the fact that we have within our communal body, cultural and historical predilections that make us particularly sensitive to any hint of criticism or rejection. The Muslim culture of revenge and outrage and holding grudges is legendary and make the Hatfields and McCoys look like Donald and Mickey. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse that is.  However, we have better examples to choose from.

When the companion of the Prophet Mistah ibn Athaatha participated in the awful slander of the Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha, at the time, his only income was the regular charity he was getting from Aisha’s wealthy father, Abu Bakr, who was a distant relative of Mistah by way of Mistah’s grandmother, Ru’haita bint Sakhar.  Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq, clearly ruffled by Mistah’s role in spreading the terrible rumors about his daughter Aisha, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, Abu Bakr swore by Allah to never to give any more money to Mistah. It was about this matter that the verse was revealed;

Let not those among you who are endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, those in want, and those who have left their homes in Allah’s cause: let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”. (24:22).

After this verse were revealed to the Prophet ﷺ, he summoned Abu Bakr and asked him; “would you like that your sins be forgiven”? Abu Bakr replied; “yes”. Then the Prophet ﷺ informed him that this verse was revealed about him. After that, Abu Bakr forgave Mistah, and swore that he would never withhold help from Mistah, ever again.

Another example is that when the Prophet ﷺ conquered the holy city of Mecca on the 20th day of Ramadan in the Julian year of 630, there were many Meccans who had fought against him in previous battles. Polytheist combatants had violently opposed the Prophet ﷺ, and persecuted, tortured and Killed many of the Prophet’s companions over the years. Many of those killed were people close to the Prophet ﷺ and people even made attempts on his life ﷺ.

The Prophet ﷺ had plenty of reasons to exact revenge on his enemies and he ﷺ could have easily done that. However, that’s not what he did once he was in power. What he did was to forgive everyone. He even paid some of them in order to sway their favor.

A young Muslim recently asked me about what should a person do when they are confronted with anti-Muslim sentiment or an islamophobic act. My response to his question was to see if he could find a way to overlook the slight and forgive them. That’s what the Prophet ﷺ used to do; he used to forgive people. Forgiveness is a much more redemptive act than revenge and holding onto anger and contempt. As Allah has mentioned; “The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” This verse was revealed about Abu Jahl, who was a staunch enemy of the Islam and of the Prophet ﷺ.

Certainly, American Muslims should address islamophobia, although it would help significantly if we conclusively defined the word; something that has yet to be done, but that’s the topic for another discussion perhaps. However, we should deal with anti-Muslim sentiment using the tools of faith. “Those who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good”. (3:143). We should forgive at least some of the time.

When we fail to employ the full breadth of moral tools and principles in our religion when defending our faith and ourselves against bigotry, it gives the distinct impression that perhaps we really don’t understand our religion.  American Muslims are long overdue for a major metanoia in our approach to what we call islamophobia. Perhaps If we were more forgiving and showed more fortitude in the face of the bigotry that we occasionally encounter here in the United States, people who have negative views of Islam and Muslims would begin to see and perhaps understand another side of what it is to be a Muslim.  In the process, maybe we too would start to see and realize another, higher minded side of ourselves.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the new book “Double Edged Slavery, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which in part formed the mindset of ISIS. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

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

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”.

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This Ramadan, our dear sister Aisha is homeless. Spend you sadaqa in helping her get an apartment of her own.

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.  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.

Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and the weekly khateeb at the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim the challenges and issues related to American Muslim converts in the United States. He is also and the author of the book, “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

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

CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan’ Campaign: Well intended? Maybe. Bad Idea? Definately!

The national campaign suggested by the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] to “Share Ramadan”, although perhaps well intended, is ill-conceived, misleading, and quite frankly, borders upon sacrilege. The concern of some American Muslims about the increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment in America is, understandable. Albeit overblown and hyperbolic, nevertheless, it is a legitimate concern. However, sharing Ramadan, inviting people to fast for a day, sprucing up our behavior for the benefit of the media, or thinking that a non-Muslim will somehow vicariously experience what a believing Muslim feels when he or she breaks their fast, will do little to stem the rising tide of islamophobia or change public opinion about Islam and Muslims except to demonstrate the degree of ostentation (riyaa) which we are willing to embark upon to get someone to like us. It gives the impression that we are a disingenuous and desperate people. Such actions breed more contempt and suspicion than sympathy, or a warm and fuzzy feeling towards Muslims.

Ever since 9/11, American Muslims have been on the defensive, and more often than not, we are over-defensive. Many times, acting at the behest of American Muslim political and advocacy organizations, we will leave no stone unturned in prostituting various foundational aspects of our faith in order to influence public opinion. True Islam belongs to Allah; we don’t need to defend it, we only need to practice it. Not surprisingly, ten years of spin doctoring Islam, have netted very little tangible results. To this day, we’re till complaining how much they don’t like us.

Consider that acting under the unhealthy influence of islamic political organizations, American Muslims have already changed, (may Allah help us) for the benefit of public consumption, the meaning of Islam from submission to peace, we’ve established the despicable precedent that Friday prayer (Salaatul Jum’ah) does not have to be performed for Allah only but can be done on a state capitol lawn in order to make a political statement, and we’ve asserted that it really makes no difference whether you are Muslim, Christian or Jewish, it’s really just one religion. Now, as we approach the holiest month of the year, our ambitiously bodacious political Islamic leaders at CAIR, are asking us to share one of the most personal acts of devotion; the observance of the month of Ramadan, with our non-Muslim neighbors and associates!

 The ‘Sharing Ramadan’ campaign inaugurated by CAIR suggests that we do group spectacle and mockery of our own faith during the holiest month of the year, and that we invite partners with whom we will share our devotion to Allah, and then, as suggested in CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan’ resource guide, film it all, and send it to CAIR.

Increasing righteous acts during Ramadan is a Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS). Make your non-Muslim friends, neighbors or family member a plate of food if you want, or spend some of the money you save during the month in charity.

However, your fast, your iftaar, your worship, and your devotional observance of the month of Ramadan, is  between you and Allah. It’s not for sale, it’s not for public relations and it’s not to impress and it’s not for show. We cannot share or magically transfer our experience of fasting Ramadan because each persons fast, is known only to Allah, Judged only by Him, and accepted or rejected, by Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. Your fast is not yours to share. If you share it, you have associated partners with Allah. 

 Fasting, iftaar, taraaweeh, qiyaami lail, are all for Allah only, and He imparts, the blessings, the joy, the spiritual bliss and the reward of Ramadan, to whomever He pleases and in whatever measure He wants.. When we invite guests to the Masjid to ‘share’ Ramadan, we should realize that they cannot share in the blessing or reward since in order to be rewarded for fasting the month of Ramadan, you must first be a Muslim, after that, you must observe the fat, and it’s applicle rules and conditions according to the Quran and sunna.

CAIR suggests that a person can fast without belief, and break the fast without fasting, and that we should thank them for it.  [Please do not forget to send “thank you” notes to the religious, political and civic leaders who attended the iftaar;][1]

Ramadan is a pillar of faith, and should in not be prostituted as part of a public relations campaign initiated by a national political Islamic organization, to alter perceived public opinion about Islam. If we allow that, then we are corrupting the very foundations of what we believe sacred, which is the unique oneness and devotional exclusivity of, and to the Almighty God, Allah (tawheed and ikhlaas). Without tawheed and ikhlaas, the essence of righteous and devotional acts of worship is rotted and devoid of any spiritual value.

Observance of the month of Ramadan is considered ritual worship (ibaadah) according to sacred law. The unanimous opinion of Islamic legal orthodoxy, is that ritual worship and devotion (including observance of Ramadan) is invalidated by partnering [shirk]; It may still look good on the outside. However, on the Day of Reckoning, when it counts, it will be worth nothing.

The slogan of CAIR’s campaign; “sharing Ramadan” suggests a compromise in devotional exclusivity (ikhlaas) to Allah, and it goes downhill from there. Although that may not be the intention behind the campaign, the slogan ‘sharing Ramadan’ is a misnomer to say the least and only adds to the confusion that a non-muslim may already have about Islam. Sharing food or sharing a meal is considered one of the noblest acts of faith, and something that every Muslim should do when he or she is able. However, feeding food is best when done for the sake of Allah, and not for the purpose of the cameras, public relations, or Muslim image making;

إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاء وَلَا شُكُورًا 76:9

“[Saying, in their hearts,] “We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks:”

Taking iftaar is a devotional act that is part of the observance of Ramadan; you can’t share that with anyone. Iftaar to a Muslim is a very special moment that is part of the observance of Ramadan. Iftaar, to a non-Muslim, it’s just a meal just like any other meal. The only way for a person to experience Ramadan, is to first, believe in the Lord who commanded it, and second, observe the month according to the rules and ordinances of the Quran and prophetic tradition (Sunna). It is the divine right of God that worship should be done exclusively for him and him only.

فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاء رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا 18:110

Whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner. 18:110

Fasting is a special type of worship and devotion to Allah. Even though every act of worship is done for devotion to Allah, and for the benefit of one’s soul, fasting is particularly for Allah in ways that are beyond our comprehension. Allah has said, “All of the actions of mankind are done for his own sake except for fasting; it is done exclusively for me, and I reward it accordingly[2]

Although it frequently resorts to hyperbole and fear tactics to elicit support, CAIR is arguably a necessary organization and occasionally does good work on behalf of people who need support. The local people whom I know at CAIR are passionate, hard working people who I admire and respect, but like us all, they make mistakes, and the ‘Share Ramadan campaign is one of them.

Islamic Political organizations should not be in the habit of setting agendas for what are supposed to be religious based initiatives. It is for this reason, many Americans regard Islam as a political ideology bent on takeover instead of a god centered religion that leads to salvation for the human soul. Public relations are important, and have a place in Islam. However, islamic public relations is accomplished by going out amongst the people who live amongst you, and serving them, feeding our poor, helping the elderly shut in, who lives down the block, protecting our children from drugs, gangs, keeping an eye out for criminals, predators and violence in the neighborhood. That’s how you are neighborly in Islam, and that’s how people understand neighborliness in America.

You don’t reach out to your neighbors by sending formal invitations to politicians and religious leaders, to a controlled, choreographed, dry scripted event at the place where you worship, in an environment that is totally foreign to them. There is no spontaneity in that, no sincerity, and no personal interaction with everyday people. As far as most Americans are concerned, such events are fake, and disingenuous. Our mothers and grandmothers who weren’t Muslim, taught us better than that. I grew up on America as a Muslim, and lived next door to folks for years and we interacted with our neighbors all the time, as Muslims. We played football in the street, shared food, utensils, shoveled each other’s snow off the sidewalk, picked up each other’s mail when we went on vacations, and watched over each other’s houses. If you look out for your neighbors, they will look out for you. That’s the way things are done in America, and for Muslims who are tired of people looking at you like you don’t belong here, it’s important that you understand that.

Being a good neighbor is part of the Islamic way and it is part of the American way. Every Muslim family in America has the opportunity on a daily basis to get to know their neighbors. You don’t need a national political Islamic organization, to puppeteer you through it, step by step like you are a robot. Americans can see right through that.

Being a good neighbor is not something that you do once a year, at a staged event, with the cameras rolling and with flash cards, talking points and press kits. You can be a good neighbor and reach out to them simply by walking a few feet to the next door on either side of you with a bag of groceries, or by shoveling the freshly fallen snow off your neighbors pavement as you shovel your own, or offering to feed their dog while they are on vacation. Being a good Muslim is to worship Him alone in the proper manner, without associating partners with Him. Trying to please politicians will not bring us closer to Allah, and it is not the basis for success in this life or the hereafter. American Muslims need to rediscover tawheed and ikhlaas, and not let our worship and duty to our Lord be compromised by partnering our worship with political objectives a public relations imagery whether it is orchestrated by CAIR or anyone else.

Restricting CAIR’s unhealthy and destructive influence in our nation’s masaajid (mosques) and Islamic centers will do more to change public opinion about Islam, than a thousand camera ready iftaars and open houses. It will also open the door for American Muslims to practice Islam and interact with our neighbors in faith, sincerity, and without political or public relations consideration, all of which are detrimental to our disposition of our souls when we stand before Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala. Islam is a religious journey, not a political campaign. If we concentrate on practicing our faith, instead of trying to control the image of it in the public eye, people might start to believe that Islam is indeed a religion based upon truth and godliness, and not subterfuge and deception. Ramadan only comes around once a year and we are not promised to see the next one.

The sad part about this is that CAIR actually does good work on behalf of Muslims in certain areas of advocacy, and since they recruit their volunteers from within the nation’s Muslim congregations, the people who work with CAIR are usually hard working, god fearing conscientious. I love our local CAIR Director here in the city that I live, and I support him in the good work he does for our community, and he does a lot. May Allah reward him and strengthen him.

This is the United States of America and people are free to do as they want. We all have to answer to Allah for our actions when we meet Him. For that reason, we should not allow our mosques, Islamic centers and congregations to be manipulated and our great to be politicized by a few people to serve their organizational self-interests. All criticism of Islam and Muslims cannot be summed up as a case of islamophobia; there are elements that come into our masaajid and politicize and take advantage of ordinary, unsuspecting Muslim Americans, using fear tactics, hyperbole, and spiritual blackmail, and we need to put an end to it so we can go about or lives, being productive while practicing Islam as a religion and not as a political ideology Let’s keep politics, public relations, and pandering to media and public opinion out of this Ramadan, and the Ramadans to come. May Allah accept our observance of the month, forgive us for our sins, and purify our intentions. Wa Allahu al-Musta’aan wa bi hi tawfiq.

Imam Luqman Ahmad



[1] CAIR brochure ‘Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide’

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

The Virtues of the Islamic Month of Rajab: فضائل رجب

rajab1
The Virtues of Rajab: Fadaa’il Rajab by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

“BEHOLD, the number of months, in the sight of Allah, is twelve months, [laid down] in Allah’s decree on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; [and] out of these, four are sacred: this is the ever-true law [of Allah]. Do not, then, sin against yourselves with regard to these [months].”[1] According to the shariah[2] of Islam, years are properly reckoned by the cycles of the moon and not the sun; “They ask you concerning the crescent moons; say: they are time determinants for people and for the Hajj.[3]

The names of the Muslim lunar months:


1. Muharram 7. Rajab
2. Safar 8. Sha’ban
3. Rabi’ al-awwal (Rabi’ I) 9. Ramadan
4. Rabi’ al-thani (Rabi’ II) 10. Shawwal
5. Jumada al-awwal (Jumada I) 11. Dhu al-Qi’dah
6. Jumada al-thani (Jumada II) 12. Dhu al-Hijjah

The Muslim Hijri calendar was first introduced by the Caliph and companion of the Prophet (SAWS) Umar ibn al-Khattaab in the year 638 C.E[4]. It consists of 12 lunar months. The beginning of each month is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Each lunar month lasts approximately 29 or 30 days. The month of Rajab is one of the sacred months of the Islamic calendar. The other three sacred months are the consecutive months of Dhul Qi`da, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram. Thuswe have just entered into the sacred month of Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijri calendar as of June 3rd  2011. It is a good idea to keep track of the Islamic months because during each month, there are recommended and sometimes compulsory actions which are recorded in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS).

There are many areas of ah’kaam (jurisprudence) related to the month of Rajab. Some of the reported traditions of Rajab trace back to the days of jaahiliyyah[5] (pre-Islamic period) and continued after the dawn of Islam. Others were prohibited by the Prophet (SAWS). Scholars differ as to which of these traditions continued after Islam. So in response to a question by one of the sisters about the month of Rajab and what are the recommended actions of the month, I have prepared the following.

  1. Animal Sacrifices: During the days of jaahiliyyah, people used to make animal sacrifices of sheep and called it al-ateerah[6]; scholars differ whether the practice is still permissible. It was reported the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “There is no far’a[7] and no ateerah[8]. Other scholars say that the practice of ateerah is permissible, among them is ibn Seereen and it was related about Imam Ahmad that the people of Basra used to do it. It was related that the Prophet (SAWS) said while standing of the mountain of Arafat: “each year, every household should slaughter a sacrifice and that is what they call al-ateerah[9]. In another tradition it was reported about Abu Razeen[10]; he said: “I said: O Messenger of Allah, we used to perform animal sacrifices during the days of jaahiliyyah (during Rajab), we would eat it and feed whoever came to us” the Prophet (SAWS) replied: “there is nothing wrong with that.”[11] In another tradition reported by ibn Abbaas, he said: “The Quraish sought permission from the Prophet (SAWS) continue the ateerah and he said: “You may do the sheep slaughter of jaahiliyyah; however, if you sacrifice for the sake of Allah and want to eat it and give some away as charity then you may do so.[12]” scholars of Islam reconcile the prohibition in the hadith of Abu Hurraira and the permissibility of the practice reported in the other hadith by saying that the prohibition relates to the pre-Islamic practice of offering sacrifices to gods other than Allah. Sufyaan ibn Uyyaina says that what’s meant by the prohibition here is the removal of wujoob (obligation). Other scholars say that the hadith of Abu Hurraira is the most authentic narration available on the topic and should provide the standard on how the action is mitigated[13]. It was related about Hasan al-Basri that he said: “There is no ateerah in Islam. Ateerah is something that existed in jaahiliyyah. Some of them used to fast the whole month of Rajab and perform an ateerah during it and the sacrifice would resemble a religious rite or holiday.[14]” it was related about ibn Abbaas that he used to dislike that people take Rajab for a holiday. [15]The conclusion is that if a person wants to slaughter a sheep during the month of Rajab for the sake of Allah and eat some and distribute or feed some to others; that is permissible. However, they shouldn’t take a specific day or make into a holiday occasion for that would not be consistent with the Sunna. And Allah knows best.
  2. Prayer on particular days of Rajab: There are no authentic narrations about the Prophet (SAWS) regarding a specific prayer designated for the month of Rajab. There are several narrations regarding ‘salaatul raghaa’ib’ during the first Jum’ah night of Rajab but they are weak narrations with no validity. Such a prayer is considered an innovation by the majority of scholars but not all of them. Ibn Jawzee[16]and Abu Bakr as-Sam’aani are amongst the latter-day scholars who mention this. The rulings on salaatul raghaa’ib were not mentioned by earlier scholars because the practice did not appear until about the fifth century of the Hijra.
  3. Fasting during Rajab: There is nothing authentic reported directly from or about the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions regarding fasting during specific days of the month of Rajab. However, there is a report about Abu Qalaaba that he said: “There is a castle in paradise for those who fast during the month of Rajab.” According to al-Baihaqi, Abu Qalaaba being one of the luminaries of the taabi’een would not have said such a thing unless he received it from one of the companions.[17] It was reported in a narration Mujeeba al-Baahiliyyah about her father that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “fast some days of the sacred months and leave some days.[18]” Some of the Salaf[19] used to fast the entirety of the sacred months; among them Abdullah ibn Umar, and al-Hasan al-Basri, and Abu Is’haaq as-Sabee’i. Ibn Abbaas and Anas ibn Malik used to dislike that people fast the entire month of Rajab and in another narration about ibn Umar and ibn Abbaas; they used to prefer that if people fasted Rajab, they break their fast at least some of the days. It was also reported about imam Ahmad, Sa’eed ibn Jubair and Imam Shaafi’ee that they used to dislike that people would fast the entire month of Rajab. Imam Shaafi’ee was reported to have said in a former opinion; “I dislike that people complete the fast of Rajab like they would the fast of Ramadan.” His argument for this was the hadith of Aisha; “I never saw the Prophet (SAWS) complete a month (of fasting) ever, except for Ramadan.[20]” Some of the Hanbali scholars view that fasting the complete month of Rajab is not disliked if they also fast another month before or after it in its entirety as well. I already mentioned that Ibn Umar and others used to fast the entirety of all the sacred months. There is no harm for a person to fast the entirety of the month of Rajab if it is incorporated as part of a perpetual fast (siyaamul dahr[21]) Some fasts are customary in the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and can and should be incorporated into Rajab: Such as fasting three consecutive days of the month, as reported in the hadith of Aisha, she reported: “the Prophet (SAWS) used to fast three consecutive days out of each month.” Or fasting Mondays and Thursdays as recorded in the Sunna. According to Imam Nawawi; “Neither prohibition nor praiseworthiness has been established for the month of Rajab in itself, however, the principle concerning fasting is that it is praiseworthy in itself, and in the Sunan of Abu Dawudthe Prophet has made the fasting of the sacred months praiseworthy, and Rajab is one of them. And Allah knows best”.[22]I also like the statement of my late Sheikh, Sayyid Saabiq; “Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the Sunna that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajar says: “There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, nor fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month.” Thus fasting during Rajab particularly has no special bearing in Islam but fasting during the sacred months is acceptable and was practiced by some of the companions. Fasting three days of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays is a Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and a praiseworthy act.
  4. Zakaat during the Month of Rajab: Some Muslim countries and communities have become accustomed to collecting and paying zakaat during the month of Rajab. Such a practice is permissible as the zakaat is due annually and needs to be paid. However, here is no basis for singling out Rajab for zakaat in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). This alone does not make it prohibited to do so because zakaat is due annually and its payment is based upon reaching the nisaab of a year and not a particular date. However it was reported about Uthmaan ibn Afaan that during his term as Caliph that he ascended the pulpit and said: “Oh people, this is the month of your zakaat, so whoever amongst you has a debt, then he should pay his debt.[23]” Other scholars say that zakaat should be paid in the month of Muharram because it marks the beginning of the year and some of the jurists say the Muharram is the time when the imam should dispatch the people to collect the zakaat. Others say that zakaat should be paid during the month of Ramadan because of the sheer virtue of Ramadan and the virtue of charity during the month of Ramadan. The fact of the matter is that zakaat is due after the nisaab has reached a year. According to Abu Saud, the basic definition of nisaab is that amount which is sufficient to sustain the minimum average family for one year. In some modern Muslim countries, nisaab is often interpreted to equate a governmentally determined poverty threshold. Once a person’s holdings have reached the level of nisaab, the zakaat is due on that wealth, regardless of the month. The issue of zakaat is a lengthy subject and not the central topic of our discussion. Please refer to the books of fiqh for more detail.
  5. Umrah[24] during Rajab:Once ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) performed umrah during Rajab, Aisha was present and repudiated what Ibn Umar said, he heard her repudiate it and didn’t object[25]. Umar ibn al-Khattaab and other companions used to like to perform umrah during Rajab. Aisha used to do it as well as Abdullah ibn Umar. Ibn Seereen reports that the Salaf used to do it. Thus there is no harm performing Umrah during the month of Rajab or any other month.

Conclusion: Rajab is indeed a sacred month and on should increase acts of goodness during the sacred months as in other months. It was reported in the hadith of Anas that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Oh Allah, bless us in our Rajab and Sha’baan for they deliver us into Ramadan.” The hadith although it has weakness in its chain, shows that it is permissible to ask Allah to prolong your life to a more blessed time so that you can perform good deeds during that time. It’s like saying; oh Allah keep me going until Ramadan. The Salaf used to like that when they died, it would happen at the end of a good deed; right after Ramadan, or on the way back from hajj and they used to think that if someone died in that manner their sins would be forgiven. It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “verily deeds are reckoned according to one’s final acts”. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com.


[1]Quran, 9:36

[2] Sacred law.

[3] Quran, 2:189

[4] Christian era.

[5] Jaahiliyyah refers to the period that existed before Islam. It also refers to practices which contradict Islam and the principles of Islam.

[6] Ateerah: a sheep sacrifice.

[7] Far’a: the first born of a she camel which during the days of jaahiliyyah they used to slaughter n the name of the pagan gods.

[8] A sound hadith (sahih) collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[9] A good hadith, collected by Abu Dawud

[10] His name was Laqeet ibn Sabira, a well known companion of the Prophet (SAWS)

[11] A sound hadith collected by Al-Nissa’i

[12] Collected by Tabaraani with his own chain except that the chain of this particular hadith contains Ibrahim ibn Ismaa’eel ibn Abi Habeeba, who was considered trustworthy by Ibn Ma’een but a weak transmitter by most others.

[13] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, page 207

[14] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, page 206

[15] Collected by Abdul-Razaaq with a broken chain

[16] Abu Faraj Ibn Jawzi; his name was Abdul-Rahmaan ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad, one of the great Hanbali scholars of Baghdad; he died in the Hijri year of 597.

[17] This alone does not validate the hadith as authentic, but it does according to some scholars lend marginal credence to the narration.

[18] A weak hadith collected by Abu Dawud and others.

[19] Righteous people and scholars of the frst three generations of Islam.

[20] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[21] Perpetual fast; this is when you fast every single day perpetually.

[22] Imam Nawawi, Explanation of Sahih Muslim, Kitab 13 Bab 34

[23] Collected by Imam Malik in the Muwatta.

[24] The lessor Hajj.

[25] This story is related in sahih al-Bukhaari.

Advice for Ramadan From Imam Luqman Ahmad;Patience and Forgiveness towards Anti-Islamic Sentiment,

Ramadan is a month when Muslims should exhibit the best qualities in the face of spiritual tests and challenges that lay in our paths. Since it is a month when the purpose is to obtain taqwa (piety), we should take care to follow the correct principles of faith and guidance when responding to challenges and not react to anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment based upon our fears and our emotions, as has been done in the past. If we truly want our condition to change than it is inevitable that we first must change; “verily Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change that which is in themselves[1].   Ramadan is a month of patience, a month of sacrifice, and a month of change. A disturbing trend is occurring amongst many Muslim Americans where people are more concerned with defending the image of Islam, than practicing Islam. This should give us pause

I am of the belief that Muslims are human like everyone else. Even though Islam is a perfect religion and a way of life; Muslims are not perfect people, and there are things about us as a whole which need improvement. We cannot continue to point the finger at everyone else, and not consider that perhaps we contribute in some ways to anti-Islamic sentiment by some of the misguided and ill conceived tactics we employ to address it. It is contradictory to our faith to measure ourselves by the number of positive statements people make about Muslims or the percentage by which we can improve our standing in the view of the general public. We should define ourselves by how much we can practice Islam, and concentrate on our own moral deficiencies; not by how much we can deflect criticism and sanitize public opinion about Islam and Muslims.

Some leaders call upon American Muslims to convey gratuitous expressions of thanks to anyone who says something good about Muslims, while appearing oblivious to how humiliating it is to grovel for approval and trip over thanks with anyone except Allah. It would have been better to simply thank our Lord in the first place for the freedom and liberty we have in this great nation to worship and serve Him, and bypass the incessant whining and complaining over what amounts to Muslim name calling.

When Muslims invite non-Muslims to practice fasting with us and think that it will help them understand Islam or the personal connection one has with God through observing the fast, that’s what I call desperate. It may help a person understand hunger, and they’ll likely come away thinking we worship a Lord that wants to starve u to death. The point is that we endure making fools of ourselves all year long in following American political Islamists and their ridiculous campaigns to improve the image of Islam and raising money through the process. This year, let’s keep Ramadan for Allah. Perhaps it’s not only the so called islamophobes who need to change; maybe American Muslims need to take a shot at stepping up our own spiritual game; and what better month for Muslim introspection and spiritual clarity (baseerah) than Ramadan?

It is understandable that Muslims in the United States are concerned about the growing-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is seen in protests, editorials and inflammatory statements made by antagonists of our faith. Although this precipitous rise in anti-Islamic sentiment marked by threats of Quran burnings, growing suspicion of Muslims in America and planned protests at some of the nation’s mosques, is viewed as a cause for alarm and worry, the opposite is true. These challenges are a test of our faith, and an opportunity to look inside ourselves and access the qualities of patience, pardon, and dignity that define the true meaning of what it is to be a Muslim. We should not forget that this s the month of Ramadan, and as such, we should strive to be more faithful and steadfast than in the previous months. In the Prophetic tradition narrated by Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (SAWS), she said, “The Prophet (SAWS) was the best of persons, and he was at his best during the month of Ramadan[2].  American Muslims should hold fast to our beliefs, and follow the guidance of our Prophet (SAWS) in confronting challenges.

A disturbing trend is taking place amongst many Muslim Americans where people are becoming more passionate about defending the image of Islam than actually practicing the principles of Islam. This Ramadan I am urging all American Muslims to keep politics, fear of backlash and the tendency towards image building away from our fasts and devote the month exclusively to Allah. We can do this in sha Allah by doing our best to follow His guidance, and the methodology of His Prophet in faith building, and righteousness and not let external influences divert our attention away from the essential purpose of Ramadan, which is to obtain piety and salvation. When confronted with anti-Islamic sentiment American Muslims are urged to consider the following advices during this month, and Imams are urged to mention some of these to their congregants who are worried and feeling uneasy about the growing anti-Islamic sentiment taking place in our Nation. Wa Allahu Musta’aan

  1. Remember that this is the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is different from other months. This is a time when conditions are optimal for a Muslim who is observing the fast and the spiritual injunctions of the month to display a greater degree of spiritual fortitude, control of emotion and magnanimity than during other the times. The doors of Paradise are opened, the doors of hell are closed and the (whispering) demons are restrained.
  2. 2.      Muslims should refrain from forwarding emails back and forth to each other detailing incidents of anti-Islamic sentiment occurring around the country, this only causes people to waste time worrying and becoming angry or frustrated with that which has already been decreed and is outside of our control. “Be concerned with yourselves; he who is astray cannot harm you if you are rightly guided”.
  3. Greet any protesters or antagonist who may come to the Mosque which you attend with a wish of guidance and peace, instead of countering protest with protest and indignation with indignation. “The men of the Merciful, who walk humbly upon the earth, and when they are addressed by the ignorant, reply with saying ‘peace’”
  4. If you feel compelled to complain, then complain to Allah, for He is the only One with the power to change what is in people’s heart.
  5. 5.      Instead of asking the authorities to take action against people who are merely expressing their views, ask Allah that He guide and still their hearts away from anger, and contempt. Allah is more Capable, and Quicker in hearing the call of the distressed. It is reported in Prophetic tradition that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “beware of the supplication of the oppressed, for verily there is no barrier between it and Allah”.[3]
  6. 6.      Be gracious and hospitable to any Mosque protestors by making sure they have access to water, coffee, or anything that will comfort them. Despite being unwelcome guests to the mosques, they are still guests at the houses of Allah. The Prophet (SAWS) displayed patience and forbearance towards a man who urinated in the Masjid. Surely we can show patience and magnanimity toward people who are expressing their views, even if we disagree. The Prophet said: “Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say:”I am fasting, I am fasting!”[4]
  7. 7.      Follow the guidance of Islam and simply pardon those who may offend us or insult us during this month, and forgive them for any perceived or actual transgression. Forgiveness and pardon are far better displays of benevolence, peace and Islamic character, than to counter protests against Islam with protest.  “Those who shun dispute, and pardon people, for surely Allah love the righteous”. Quran, 3:134

 

Muslims should stop self-victimizing ourselves by obsessing over the way that others view Islam and Muslims. We owe it to ourselves! Take a close look at who we are, and how we can improve our practice of Islam, and remain a people who put faith first before image. This is a free country and people have the liberty to believe or disbelieve what they want. .These are troubled and portentous times that we l

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