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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Smiling along the miles

Having had such a friendly reaction from my neighbours (read My friendly neighbours to know), I was rather motivated to be all the more friendly to her. Here's another fictionalised account of my endeavours and their outcome:

I smiled at my neighbour,
Everytime I found her near;
In her garden, at the store,
At the crossroad, or her door.

At first she rechecked whether
It wasn't  one of her silly dreams;
Then as always gave me a glare,
That were her silent screams.

I still pursued her with my smiles,
For I believed good will result from my tries;
I smiled when she glared at me,
I smiled even if she gave me a sigh.

I smiled at her warmly
When she won at a game;
I gave her a smile so soft
When a trouble made her lame.

Then like sunshine
My smile broke the ice betwixt;
It struck a chord in her heart,
And she smiled at me so very sweet!

Essence of Ramadhan-II b

We have discussed the relevance of usual/daily prayers (read namaz) in the condition of Fasting already. In addition to it there are a special set of namaz especially prayed in this month named as Taraweh.

Taraweh is a exclusive set of Salat popularly believed to be prayed in a set of 20 prostrations daily but few sects believe it to be of 12 sets, and few others even propagate it to be a set of 8. It becomes applicable with the sighting of the crescent of Ramadhan from the eve of the first day itself and continues till the crescent of Eid(festival) is sighted.

As it is obligatory in Taraweh to halt for atleast a minute after a set of every four prostrations, it is named so after the arabic word 'raha' which means 'to halt'. There is also a special prayer (dua) to be recited in these breaks to ensure we rest atleast minimally, and do not engage in distraction during the breaks.

This tells us of the importance of rest and how to balance between work and rest in life too.

Taraweh is not obligatory but highly recommended and also seen from the example set by our prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), and performed after the usual obligatory namaz of after-nightfall.

For men it merges with the other form of prayer- reciting the whole of Quran in this month. As their pray in congregation and verses of Quran is an important part of every namaz, the cleric leading the group recites the verses of Quran from beginning to end during Taraweh throughout the month, usually completing on the eve of 27th Fasting(probable Shab e Qadr).

As women are given the provision of performing Namaz in the comforts of their homes, we can perform the Taraweh with any or even one small chapter from the Quran whichever we can recall from our memory. We try and complete a full recital of the Quran as and when we find time to do so.

The Holy book has special relevance to this month as it was sent down on this earth from heaven, in its entirety and as a guidance to humankind, in this month and on the night of Shab e Qadr.

It is even said in the Hadiths (events that occured during our prophet's lifetime, and info generated via him) that The Holy book and our Fastings will plead on our behalf for Divine forgiveness on the Day of Judgement.

As for the other form of prayer I mentioned, Dua- asking directly for Allah's mercy and fulfillment of our wishes, we can do so anytime of the day or year, but the speciality of this month is that Allah has promised to fulfill our every wish asked in the state of Fasting, and the moments of Sehar and Iftar are such which are highly praised to be those in which our prayers are never rejected, provided they are asked in the right spirit of humanity and sans every vice and unfair intentions.

And as we human's wisdom is limited to our knowledge and our wishes may also be influenced by our desires which may not always be better in our stride, Allah has even clarified either of the three ways in which He accepts our prayers;
~ He might grant us exactly what we asked for, immediately or when the time is right,
~ He might protect us from any impending danger or loss instead, or
~ He might chose to redeem our wishes on the Day of Judgement as rewards.

Essence of Ramadhan- VI

After a whole month spent under the wings of Ramadhan, there comes a night which honours all those who have fasted with true dedication towards the Almighty, and which is a harbinger of the joys of the festival ahead and captures the entire essence of the month passed by in its wraps.

It is the night of appraisal/reward called Laylatul Jaeza/ Laylatul Jaza, which is on the eve of Eid (festival) after we sight its crescent.

Layla in arabic means Night, Jaeza means appraisal, and Jaza means reward. Both the names are popularly accepted as this night beholds both the aspects of appraisal and reward.

The Almighty appraises our month long adherance to His will on this night and rewards us for our sacrifices, dedication, devotions and adherance. So it becomes all the more important that we do not indulge in distractions, divergence or resort to our bad habits as soon as we find ourself free from the obligations of Ramadhan, instead endeavour to please Him by our deeds and prayers, seek forgiveness for our shortcomings, learn from all that Ramadhan has to offer and work to be a better person every day in every way.

Just as the crescent of Ramadhan is sighted on its onset, Allah has assured us that the doorways to hell are closed for the entire month, and Satan (with his entire cult) is bound in chains so that he may not distract those who fast or trouble them in any way.

Now, after the crescent of Eid (festival) is sighted on completion of Ramadhan, and we are out of its ambit of obligations, the doorways to hell are re-opened and Satan too is set free. This phenomenon is actually an indication of the mercy of the Almighty, and a caution that If we are not careful, if we do not retrace our steps from the vice, and if we are not sorry for our misdeeds... we might just lead ourself to damnation (read hell); and with our enemy (Satan) on the loose, the road ahead is going to be treacherous unless we hold onto the Almighty's rope tightly, and walk under His divine guiding light.

We cannot be perfect. We are prone to err; but if we have realised our mistake, are truly sorry for it, desiring to undo our wrong or make amends for it, and ready to turn a new leaf... we will always find the Almighty close by to forgive us, guide us and help us through.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Essence of Ramadhan- V

The last ten days of Ramadhan gain more reverence due to the presence of Layla-tul-Qadr (discussed in my previous blog), and the observance of I'tikaf.

The literary meaning of I'tikaf is "to remain in a particular place". It is a ten days of self-imposed continuous penance we undertake, completely detaching ourself from the world, to appease the Almighty, have our heart-felt desires fulfilled and be blessed with innumerous rewards in our life and after it.

There are certain strict guidelines and conditions for I'tikaf but vital among them are to Fast during it, be completely detached from the world, confine ourself to a particular corner allotted only for this purpose and immerse ourself in piety and prayers. We are however allowed to spare ourselves in matters of great importance and urgency, with the condition to attend only to it and return immediately on its completion.

It becomes applicable from the eve of the 21st day of Fasting, and is binding till
the crescent of Eid(festival) is sighted. Though all those who Fast are free to do it, but for the sake of ease for the community, even if one person undertakes it, the entire neighbourhood is relieved from its binding.

This ritual imbibes in us traits of self restriction and harnesses tolerance, makes us understand the superficiality of the world by detaching us from it at length and helps us review our priorities.

Truly Allah provides guidance and understanding to all those who seek it. Verily, He is very understanding, most merciful.

Essence of Ramadhan- IV

Shab-e-Qadr or Layla tul Qadr "the most esteemed of all nights" is a night hidden in the 5 odd-numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadhan. That is, the eves of 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th days of Fast. We are asked to search for it in these nights by staying vigil all night in devotion and prayers. There are several hints to recognise it.

It is the night in which the Holy Quran was first revealed in its entirety to Angel Gabriel (the leader of all angels). The night is so esteemed, as told in the Quran, that we will never be able to fully comprehend its true worth. It is better than a 1000 months, and devotion in which will invoke such divine blessings as we may have never even imagined. Quran further reveals that Angel Gabriel descends on earth with an army of soldiers who spread across the globe and distribute Allah's good tidings to all those Allah is pleased with. The whole night till dawn is full of blessings, peace and benevolence.

The exact night of Shab-e-Qadr is hidden behind veils for reasons best known to Allah. It may be so to have us endeavour to get it as we humans are prone to take all things that are got easily for granted, or because the night is so esteemed that we have to earn it, or perhaps to have us realise its value and of the many of His boons in our life.

Many scholars and experts have even tried to arrive at its exact date based on many calculations and hints got from various Hadiths, and it is popularly believed to be the 25th or 29th eve of Ramadhan. It cannot be said with certainty though, but those who value it love to search for it throughout the five nights of vigil.

There is also a hadith where the exact date was revealed to our prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) after several nights of pleading he spent before the Almighty. But just as he came out of his chamber to reveal it onto us he saw two muslims fighting over a petty issue. Our prophet was so heart broken by it that he retired to his chamber and Allah too was so displeased that He made our prophet forget it, and took the knowledge of the night back under veil, never to be revealed again. This incident shows us how dear peace, harmony and brotherhood is to our Almighty and his prophet and how unpleasing feuds, fights and warfare are.

Think how displeasing the present scenario of the world would be to our dear Almighty, where jealousy, greed, enemity, feuds, fights, warfare and revenge have become the norm and human life just has no value in the eyes humans at all!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Essence of Ramadhan-III

Islam tries to inculcate in us a commitment towards the society and community in various forms, as in also seen in Ramadhan. Sometimes as an obligation (Zakaat), sometimes as punishment (kaffara and Fidya), and sometimes simply out of goodwill with the occasion as the reason in itself (Fitra).

Zakaat is the fourth tenet of Islam, and literary means "one which purifies". It is heralded as a purifier of our possessions and earnings, and becomes applicable on a muslim who owns assets, saleable property or cash to the value of/exceeding 87.48 gms gold or
612.36 grams silver at present day value, whichever is less, for over a period of one year. Every year, we are bound to set aside 2.5% worth of the abovementioned values and distribute it among those who are below such means, with a exception of syeds (direct descendants of Prophet Mohammed), each others spouse, and those in our immediate lineage.

Kaffara is a penalty imposed on us when we forego a Fast without a pressing reason. Each default earns a kaffara of feeding 60 destitutes for 60days continuously.

Fidya is a provision provided for those who had valid reasons not to Fast, and have no hope of ever being able to redeem it in life. They are allowed to compensate for each of the Fasts they missed by giving away in charity an amount equivalent to a charity of Fitra.

Fitra is a charity Allah calls upon those who have Fasted in the month of Ramadhan to distribute among the needy. Derived from the Arabic word for breaking of Fast- Iftar, we are asked to distribute Fitra in the last week of Ramadhan, or at the latest before the congregational prayer of Eid commences on the day of festival.

In general belief, each Fitra varies from 2.05 kilograms to 3 kilograms of wheat we consume. Those with means can also calculate for the same measure of corn, barley,raisins, dates or rice too. The aim of Fitra is to enable even the most desolate to partake in the joys of the festival.

The essence of all these forms of charity is to discourage greed, pinch-penny attitude and love of worldly gains, and establish an humanitarian society full of care, empathy and charity.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Essence of Ramadhan-II a

The almighty Allah has Himself cited that when His believers Fast and do not pray and do the needful, then there's no value of their Fasting. For Him, it is just like His animals are hungry.

This emphasises the importance of prayer and work during Fasting as well as in our life. One nourishes our soul, the other our body, and together they prosper our life.

Where He speaks with such severity, He even shows linency by increasing the rewards by manifold for every prayer and good deed done in this month.

Also there is the provision for the sick and those in travel to forego the Fasts in Ramadhan, and make do for the same in non-ramadhan days, after they have recuperated or reached their place of rest/home. Allah cites in Quran that He wishes ease for us and does not intend to put us through hardship.
Here we get wonderful lessons in leadership and governance. How a balance of reward and punishment can work splendidly in the character development of human beings. And where we need to care for the convenience of those below us, while also being strong in the regulations.

In Islam, the concept of prayer is segregated into numerous forms with the simple act of smiling at our fellow men with the intention of pleasing Allah and nurturing goodness also taking the form of worship. But the forms of prayer we will look into here are those which are highly recommended and esteemed in Islam especially in the month of Ramadhan alongwith Charity and good deeds, viz.
Namaz, also called Salat (set of ritualistic prostrations before the Almighty), reciting the Holy Quran, and  Dua (sublication, i.e, asking directly of His mercy and fulfillment of our wishes). continued in part b.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Essence of Ramadhan- I

It's almost a week now since we bid adieu to the blessed  month of Ramadhan and the shallowness of it's absence already feels like an abyss in our life. The day long Fasting, the nights spent in prayers, the charity, the obligations, and everything about it is just so soulful and soothing, one who has truly felt it wish its  Ramadhan all year through.

Ramadhan is basically a month of Fasting, but there is so much more to it than which meets the eye. So, when my dear friend suggested I present a general idea of Ramadhan, I felt it will be a wonderful opportunity for its observers and those interested in understanding it alike.

Ramadhan, the 9th month of islamic calendar and the holy month of Fasting for muslims world over. We begin our Fast daily a few minutes before dawn, and Fast till the last minute of twilight.

Sehri and Iftar:

This ritual of eating before dawn is called as Sehri, taken after the word Sehar which means - that which is hidden. (It refers to the last part of the night, behind whose veil hides the breaking of dawn). There is an option to observe Fast without eating Sehri too, as a last resort, but Islam highly recommends eating  in Sehri, with our Prophet Mohammed also advicing us to do so even if its only three morsels as it is blessed with mercy and prosperity.

Apparently, we would feel more hungry and weak if we would Fast without sehri, but the emphasis on it is to teach us the relevance of food in our lives, and to let us to understand that Allah does not intend to create hardship for us.

At the same time there is a strict adherance to time. Even a second past the last minute stipulated to be done with the sehri, destroys the Fast. We cannot eat a single grain or even drink a drop of water past that time. If we do, our Fast becomes null and void, and we have to make do the same on another non-ramadhan day. This teaches us the virtue of commitment, respect of law and conditions us in aspects of obedience, self-governance and self-righteousness.

The whole duration of daytime when we observe Fast, it's just not enough to abstain only from food and water, but also every vice and impure acts and thoughts. We are not supposed lie, cheat, kill, do mischief or such acts, as the essence of Fasting is not simply to starve us for few hours. It aims to imbibe in us goodness of character, salvage us from the destruction we have set about for ourselves and the world , and re-emphasize the virtues of humanity.

We are even commanded to carry our work as usual. Thus emphasising on the importance of hard-work, and make us realise the plight of the hungry, poor and down-trodden.

This continues to dusk till the last minutes of twilight hours. The ritual of now breaking the Fast is called Iftar(meaning to break the Fast on schedule). Allah here again shows us mercy by asking us to do so at the earliest moments of Iftar (not prior to it), so we don't feel the pangs of starvation more than our due.

It is Sunnat (example set by our prophet) and preferred by Islam that we break our Fast with dates and/or water. It is so, because dates are rich in nutrients, and water is a natural cleanser. This again teaches us the value of good food, and presents itself as d reward of day long endurance.

It is also highly esteemed and pleasing to Allah to share our iftari (food eaten during iftar) with our friends, neighbours,brethren and the poor. Thus highlighting the virtues of sharing, cordiality, friendliness and helping the needy.

But as I said, Ramadhan doesn't just abstain us from food and water. There's more to it than which meets our eye. Let's explore such various aspects in the days to come.