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New Muslims fast for the first time in Ramadan

Jumuah or Friday prayer at Masjid Eyup Sultan

Jumuah or Friday prayer at Masjid Eyup Sultan

REDA HAMMAD

Friday 5 July 2013

The first Ramadan fast is exciting. The experience is much more exciting for men and women who have just converted to Islam and are beginning their first fasting experience in their 40′s.

What do new Muslims say about Islam and Ramadan? How did they perceive Ramadan before their conversion to Islam? What are their feelings now that they have become Muslims?

“I used to make fun of Ramadan” says Ahmed Moamen

I USED to make fun of Ramadan and the notion of Islamic fasting. I used to ridicule those Muslims who torture their bodies by fasting,” said Marcos-now-turned-Ahmed Moamen, a Filipino.

“I lived in the UAE for nine years as a traditional Christian who irregularly goes to Church. For me and my colleagues, Ramadan was a nightmare. It was a month in which we were all confined to our homes as all bars remain shut,” he recalled.

“This was not the only thing I detested about the Ramadan fast, but also this tough treatment of both body and soul. I used to believe the body has desires that should be met. Therefore, I only perceived of fasting as an unjustifiable and illogical torture,” Moamen said. “Those were the bad old days.”

“The Almighty Allah guided me to Islam,” Moamen continued. “I had a long time roommate, who once converted to Islam, tried hard to lure me into it. He used to discuss Islam and gave me some translated books about the faith until the Almighty finally opened up my heart. And here I am having my very first fasting experience in Ramadan,” Moamen said.

“After Allah guided me to Islam and after having fasted several days of Ramadan, I found out that all my previous ideas about the rights of one’s body were not true and that straightening our bodies once a year is of great wisdom. That is why Allah ordered us to fast one month of the year and not the whole year,” said Moamen of his new spiritual experience with Ramadan.

“It [fasting] brings the Muslim closer to Allah. I do not exaggerate if I say that I feel a serenity I have never before felt in my entire life,” Moamen concluded.

“Ramadan has its own sense of spirituality” says Abdul-Rahman Yousef

Abdul-Rahman Yousef, a Lebanese who was named Tony before embracing Islam also experienced his first Ramadan.

Sounding delighted about the new fasting experience, Yousef said he was overwhelmed by joy and that fasting helped him feel the serenity that only fasters enjoy.

“Ever since Allah guided me to Islam, I’ve become used to the habit of fasting every Monday and Thursday [following in the footstep of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to make up for my sins which I committed before Islam,” he said.

“But, fasting in Ramadan is a totally different experience because the holy month has its own sense of spirituality and serenity that is absent from other days and months,” Yousef asserted.

“Even prayers in Ramadan are different from the usual prayers,” he said, adding that Allah magnifies the good deeds of Muslims in Ramadan and spares them from Hell.

Yousef lamented having wronged Islam and Muslims in the past, especially during the civil war in Lebanon, and prayed to Allah the Almighty to forgive his previous bad deeds.

"When I read the Quran, I found answers" - Fatma

Muslim woman reading Quran.

Muslim woman reading Quran.

Carol Anoi was brought up in a Protestant Scottish family. She spent her childhood in the countryside which gave her a chance for contemplation and meditation.

After she finished school in London, she got a job in a UAE hotel and spent several years there until she got involved with an Arab Muslim.

“I loved him so much and he started talking to me about Islam. I began with him a search journey. We read most of the books on Islam in English,” said Carol-turned-Fatma Al-Zahra Mohammad (the name of one of Prophet Muhammad’s daughters).

“I realized that Islam is the right faith that dignified the human being and catered for the rights of man, woman and child,” she stressed. “I found it a religion in harmony with human nature,” Fatma said. “When I read the holy Qur’an, I found answers to all questions haunting my mind and soul. Eventually, I converted to Islam and we (she and her Arab Muslim friend) got married,” she recalled.

“As for Ramadan, I cannot describe to you how delighted I am to fast Ramadan this year. “Ramadan’s atmosphere makes us feel closer to Allah. And since it is a month of worship, we are keen on getting closer to the Almighty through prayers,” Fatma added.

“I cannot describe my happiness while performing Tarawih prayers with many other Muslim women,” she said, lamenting that in ordinary days one would not find so many worshipers in prayers.

Amnah found peace in the body movements of the prayers

Amnah Jordon, once Caroline Jordon, from South Africa said it was that unique peace reflected in the body movements during prayers that attracted her to Islam in the first place. “Fasting is a fine way of spiritual and psychological elevation and these were the things that guided my way into Islam,” said Amnah.

“Fasting and Ramadan are the most joyful religious rituals and the closest to my heart,” she added.

“I spent years of my life searching for a way for spiritual satiety. I adored contemplation sessions and read a lot in oriental philosophy but never reached satisfaction,” she underlined.

“I completed my study in the UAE and happened to live by some Muslim neighbors who always performed their prayers by the book.

“I used to sit and watch their Rukou’a [kneeling] and Sujoud [the position when a Muslim worshiper’s head touches the ground during prayers] and it was very touching because Rukou’a and Sujoud are magnificent body and spiritual sport,” Amnah said.

She recalled performing prayers and practicing Rukou’a and Sujoud even before converting to Islam.

“I felt a kind of serenity I have never experienced before, and since that very moment I began a quest to explore Islam until Allah guided me into becoming a Muslim and I was overwhelmed by spiritual peace,” Amnah concluded.

Reprinted from the Arab News

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Ramadan Announcement 2013 / 1434 AH – Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Announcement by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

First day of Ramadan will be Tuesday, July 9, 2013
and Eid ul-Fitr on Sunday, August 19, insha’Allah.

“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” Qur’an 2:183

The Fiqh Council recognizes astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’i method for determining the beginning of lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. FCNA uses Makkah al-Mukarrama as a conventional point and takes the position that the conjunction must take place before sunset in Makkah and moon must set after sunset in Makkah.

On the basis of this method the dates of Ramadan and Eidul Fitr for the year 1434 AH are established as follows:

1st of Ramadan will be on Tuesday, July 9, 2013

1st of Shawwal will be on Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ramadan 1434 AH:

The Astronomical New Moon is on July 8, 2013 (Monday) at 7:14 Universal Time (10:14 a.m. Makkah time). Sunset at Makkah on July 8 is at 7:07 p.m., while moonset is at 7:08 p.m. Moon is born before sunset in Makkah and moonset is after sunset. Therefore first day of Ramadan is Tuesday, July 9, insha’Allah. First Tarawih prayer will be on Monday night.

Eid ul-Fitr 1434 AH:

The Astronomical New Moon is on August 6, 2013 (Tuesday) at 21:51 Universal Time. (12:51 a.m. on August 7, Makkah time). On Tuesday, August 6, sunset at Makkah is 6:57 p.m. and moonset is 6:29 p.m. Moon is born after sunset in Makkah and moon sets before sunset. On Wednesday, August 7, sunset at Makkah is 6:56 p.m. and moonset is at 7:07 p.m. Moon is born before sunset, while moonset is after sunset. Therefore, first day of Shawwal, i.e., Eid ul-Fitr is Thursday, August 8, insha’Allah.

May Allah (swt) keep us on the right path, and accept our fasting and prayers. Ameen.

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Eid Mubarak 2012 / 1433 – Happy Eid from Zawaj.com!

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak!

As-salamu alaykum,

Tomorrow morning, Insha’Allah, me, my mother and father, and my daughter Salma – who is six years old now – will wake up early and put on our best clothes, Insha’Allah. We’ll get in the car and stop at the donut shop at Shaw and Blackstone, because they have the sweetest, plumpest, shiniest donuts in town. Each one gleams like a seashell in the glass case. I’ll buy a box of a dozen to share with others after Salat al-Eid, and a few extras in a bag for our family, so we don’t have to wait in a mile-long line and elbow people to get ahead.

We’ll go downtown to the Fresno fairgrounds, and sit among a thousand other Muslims. We’ll recite the Takbeerat al-Eid, praising Allah’s greatness. We’ll pray the Eid Salat, then I’ll strain to hear the khutbah as so many people begin chattering right away. My daughter will pester me, saying, “Can we eat the donuts now?”… “Not yet sweetie, when the khutbah is over.”

I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I’m excited. It’s a wonderful day. I’ll see brothers that I haven’t seen since last year. Everyone will be wearing their best outfits.

But it’s not about the donuts, or the nice clothes. It is this feeling of being connected to every Muslim around the world; a feeling of being part of something great.

When we return home, Salma will open her presents: a new pair of shoes, a toy bed for her dolls, and a game called “Trouble”. My mother will make cookies, and we’ll put some decorations on the walls. Then we will write a letter to Hawa, an orphan in Sierra Leone who we are fostering. She is eleven years old. I want Salma to understand that part of being a Muslim is caring for others, and remembering them always.

I try to make the day special for Salma. It’s difficult. Everywhere we go, we see Halloween decorations and advertisements. When I tell Salma, “Three days left until Eid!”, she counters with, “And nine days until Halloween!” But I try.

I will also talk to Salma about our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world. In Palestine and Syria and Burma they are fighting for their freedom and their very survival. They don’t have pizza and donuts on Eid, or shiny new shoes. Many have no food to eat at all. Most have lost someone: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Some have been utterly devastated.

Yet, they are resolute. They will not stop until they are free.

These are the real heroes of Eid-ul-Adha. I feel small next to them. I weep when I think of their struggles. They are the ones living the spirit of Ibrahim (as). They have made the greatest sacrifices, and are still striving, undaunted. They are living the words of Allah:

Say: ‘Verily, my ṣalāh, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are all for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alameen’ (6:162).

That is what Eid-ul-Adha is all about. May Allah give them security, safety, comfort, victory, and Jannah.

Wael
Zawaj.com Editor
October 25, 2012

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Eid Mubarak, have a blessed and happy Eid!

Eid Mubarak with heart

Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak to all our faithful readers, first time visitors, brothers and sisters, and friends.

I thank Allah that I am alive to see another sunrise, to see my daughter laugh and learn, to enjoy all the blessings that Allah has given me, and to have another day to ask Allah’s forgiveness, pray, work, and think. Another day to strive to be a better Muslim, a better father, and a better human being.

We Muslims are people of patience and truth, and if we adhere to that path then Allah will never abandon us, rather He will guide us, ease our hearts, and open opportunities for us.

On this day of celebration, may Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, tyranny with freedom, and fill our hearts with the hope and tawakkul (trust in Allah) that is sorely needed by our Ummah.

- Wael Abdelgawad

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ISNA Eid Announcement 2012 / 1433 AH

Eid Greetings

Eid Greetings

ISNA’s Eid Announcement:

Eid al-Fitr on Sunday, August 19, 2012, insha’Allah.

The Fiqh Council of North America recognizes astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’i method for determining the beginning of lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. FCNA uses Makkah al-Mukarrama as a conventional point and takes the position that the conjunction must take place before sunset in Makkah and moon must set after sunset in Makkah.

On the basis of this method the date of Eid al-Fitr for the year 1433 AH is established as follows:

1st of Shawwal will be on Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eid al-Fitr 1433 AH:

The Astronomical New Moon is on August 17, 2011 (Friday) at 15:54 Universal Time (6:54 p.m. Makkah time). On Friday, August 17, sunset at Makkah is 6:49 p.m. and moonset is 6:30 p.m. Moon is born after sunset in Makkah and moon sets before sunset. On Saturday, August 18, sunset at Makkah is 6:49 p.m. and moonset is at 7:11 p.m. Moon is born 24 hours before sunset, while moonset is after sunset. Therefore, first day of Shawwal, i.e., Eid al-Fitr is Sunday, August 19, insha’Allah.

May Allah (swt) keep us on the right path, and accept our fasting and prayers. Ameen. For more detailed information, please visit: www.fiqhcouncil.org  or www.moonsighting.com

*****

Eid Mubarak to all our faithful readers, first time visitors, brothers and sisters, and friends.

The last year has been a time of growth for me, and for Zawaj.com. Most importantly, I thank Allah that I am alive to see another sunrise, to see my daughter laugh and learn, to enjoy all the blessings that Allah has given me, and to have another day to ask Allah’s forgiveness, pray, work, and think. Another day to strive to be a better Muslim, a better father, and a better human being.

On this day of celebration and commemoration of the sacrifices of Ibrahim, Hajar and Ismail (may Allah be pleased with them all), may Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, tyranny with freedom, and fill our hearts with the hope and tawakkul (trust in Allah) that is sorely needed by our Ummah.

- Wael Abdelgawad

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Eid Shopping in Old Hyderabad, India

Shopping for Eid-ul-Fitr gifts in Old Hyderabad, India

Shopping for Eid-ul-Fitr gifts in Old Hyderabad, India

By Mohammed Shafeeq for FacenFacts

Hyderabad: During Ramadan, shopping for Eid in the walled quarter of Hyderabad does not end with the night.

In fact, it picks up at night with the centuries-old markets doing business round-the-clock.

As such, with only a couple of days left for Eid-ul-Fitr, marking the culmination of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, all roads in the city are now leading to shops, hotels, roadside eateries and the ubiquitous vendors around Charminar, the symbol of Hyderabad and the hub of Eid shopping.

In fact, the old city and some Muslim-majority areas in the central part of the city never sleep during the holy month.

While the faithful spend the holy nights in prayers, other men, women and children throng the markets for Eid shopping.

As one crosses the Musi river to enter the old city, the aroma of haleem (a Ramadan dish of meat, wheat flour, spices and ghee) wafts in.

The numerous hotels at Madina Junction and on the High Court Road do brisk business selling haleem, said to have come to Hyderabad via Iran and Afghanistan during the Mughal period.

The Madina-Charminar road, notorious for its traffic chaos throughout the day, is witnessing jams throughout the night these days, with vendors occupying the footpaths and selling from garments to hairpin.

Madina, Patthargatti, Patel Market, Gulzar Houz and Laad Bazar — famous for readymade garments, textiles, footwear, jewellery, pearls, bangles, ‘attar’ (natural perfumes) and crockery, cutlery, upholstery – teem with thousands of buyers.

Night bazaar around Charminar, Hyderabad at Eid time

Night bazaar around Charminar, Hyderabad at Eid time

The city authorities may be planning to open a night bazaar around Charminar for long, but every year during Ramadan, the area by itself turns into a night bazaar, especially in the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Those fasting, including women, take a break from shopping to end their fast in the lawns of the historic Mecca Masjid.

After tasting haleem, dahi bade and other delicacies at nearby eateries, they resume the shopping with fresh energy and this goes on till late into the night.

The price hike has not dampened the spirits of Eid.

“We may have to spend a few bucks more, but we can’t do without shopping for our families, especially as the occasion comes once a year,” said Syed Yousuf, who works in a private company.

The prices of readymade garments have gone up by over 30 percent this year and the traders attribute it mainly to rising transport costs.

“Last year, I bought a dress for Rs.5,000 but this year, it cost me Rs.7,000,” said Shaheda Parveen, a student.

While many glittering and sprawling shopping malls have come up in the city in the last few years, the area around Charminar remains the hot favourite for Eid shopping.

Shoppers from neighbouring districts and even from Maharashtra and Karnataka pour in for shopping.

Almost all the families buy new clothes, footwear and bangles for the occasion. What makes these markets so special is the fact that they cater to all sections of society.

With well-to-do families paying ‘zakat’ (Islamic wealth tax of 2.5 percent on their cash and other valuables) and every man who fasts paying ‘fitra’ (fixed this year at Rs.60), the poor also join the festivities by buying clothes, ‘sweyian’, dry fruits and other items for ‘sheer khorma’ — a sweet dish prepared in almost every houshold on Eid.

The Eid shopping is the climax of unprecedented month-long economic activity.

Truckloads of dates, preferred for breaking fasts, and fruits are sold every day.

The meat supply goes up drastically to meet the demand from hotels preparing haleem.

With Muslims accounting for 40 percent of the city’s seven million population, every commodity associated with the festivities opens up huge business opportunities.

The volumes of business, mostly in the unorganised sector, are beyond anybody’s guess.

The business covering eatables, garments and footwear is estimated to be over Rs.2,000 crore.

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The Last Ten Days of Ramadan

Palestinian Muslims pray at Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

With the Dome of the Rock Mosque seen in the background, Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray, during the first Friday prayers of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. AP / Muhammed Muheisen

How to take full advantage and benefit from the last part of Ramadan?

Though all parts of Ramadan are full of blessings and rewards, its last ten days hold a special status reflected in the recommendations and practices of the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, and his companions. I will focus here on three major practices of the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, and his companions during these days.

1-Praying in the last ten nights of Ramadan

Al-Bukhari and Muslim record from ‘Aishah that during the last ten days of Ramadan, the Messenger of Allah would wake his wives up during the night and then remain apart from them (that is, being busy in acts of worship). A narration in Muslim states: “He would strive [to do acts of worship] during the last ten days of Ramadan more than he would at any other time.”

Aisha reported that With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work hard) and used to pray all the night, and used to keep his family awake for the prayers. [Bukhari]

2-Performing I`tikaf in the Masjid (seclusion in the Mosque)

Before going to the essential of this last section, let us stop by one of the great Imam of ahl Assunnah wal jama`ah, one of the greatest revivers of the Da`wah and the methodology of the Salaf, Shaikhul-Islam Shamsuddeen Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah who will give us a brain storming admonition.

He says (rahimahu Allah) in Zaad al Ma`aad fi hadyi khairi al `ibaab :

“Since the hearts’ rectitude and firmness upon the path towards Allah the Most High, rests upon directing it solely upon Allaah and causing it to turn and give all its attention to Allaah the Most High. Since the disorder of the heart cannot be rectified except by turning to Allaah the Most High, and its disorder will be increased by eating and drinking too much, mixing with the people excessively, speaking profusely and sleeping too much. These will cause it to wander into every valley, and cut it off from its path to Allah, weaken it, divert it or put a halt to it.

From the Mercy of the Mighty and Most Merciful is that He has prescribed for them fasting, which will cut off the excesses of eating and drinking, and empties the hear of its desires which divert it on its journey to Allah the Most High. He prescribed it in due proportion as will be appropriate and will benefit the servant, with regard to this world and the Hereafter, and does not harm him, nor damage what is beneficial for him.

He also prescribed i`tikaf for them, by which is intended that the heart is fully occupied with Allah, the Most High, concentrated upon Him alone, and cut off from preoccupation with the creation. Rather it is engrossed with Him alone, the One free of all defects, such that remembering Him, loving Him and turning to Him takes the place of all anxieties of the heart and its suggestions, such that he is able to overcome them. Thus all his concerns are for Him. His thoughts are all of remembrance of Him, and thinking of how to attain His Pleasure and what will cause nearness to Him. This leads him to feel contented with Allah instead of the people, so that prepares him for being at peace with Him alone on the day of loneliness in the grave, when there is no one else to give comfort, nor anyone to grant solace except Him. So this is the greater goal of I’tikaf”.

***

The book Zaad al Ma`aad as well as all other books of Ibn al-Qayyim are amazing works that every Muslim should read. Al-hamdu liLLAH there is a great effort among the followers and revivers of the methodology of the Salaf in translating these books into English. Some of them or part of them are already available. You may want to contact the bookstore of al-Qur’an was-Sunnah Society of North America [USA] or al-Hidaya Publishing in UK.

I`tikaf is the seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah. This was the practise of the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, during the last ten days of Ramadan especially. He would do it during other months as well.

‘Aisha reported that the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, used to practice I`tikaf in the last ten nights of Ramadan and used to say, “Look for the Night of Qadr in the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan.” [Bukhari]

Abu Hurairah, radiyallahu ‘anhu said: “Allah’s Messenger, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, used to perform i`tikaf for ten days every Ramadan, then when it was the year in which he was taken (died), he performed I`tikaf for twenty days. [Bukhari]

‘Aisha reported that the Prophet,salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, used to practice I`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice I`tikaf after him. [Bukhari]

`Aishah radhiya Allahu `anha also reported that the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, “Used to perform i’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah the Mighty and Majestic, took him. [Bukhari and Muslim]

Al-Bukhari records from Abu Said that the Prophet (S) said: “Whoever makes I`tikaf with me is to make I’tikaf during the last ten [nights].”

This Sunnah of the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, has been abandoned by many Muslims and it is worth reviving it in this era.

Sayyid Sabiq says in Fiqhus-Sunnah :

The sunnah or preferred i`tikaf has no specific time limit. It can be fulfilled by staying in the mosque with the intention of making i`tikaf for a long or short time. The reward will be according to how long one stays in the mosque. If one leaves the mosque and then returns, he should renew his intention to perform itikaf.

Ya’la ibn Umayyah said: “I secluded myself in the mosque for some time for I`tikaf.” ‘Ata told him: “That is I`tikaf, as long as you secluded yourself there.”

One who is performing Sunnah (like in Ramadan) i’tikaf (i.e. not the obligatory one that is made after a vow) may end his i`tikaf at any time, even if it is before the period he intended to stay.

‘Aishah related that if the Prophet intended to make itikaf, he would pray the morning prayer and begin it. One time he wanted to make i`tikaf during the last ten nights of Ramadan, and he ordered his tent to be set up. Aishah reported: “When I saw that, I ordered my tent to be set up, and some of the Prophet’s wives followed suit. When he [the Prophet] prayed the morning prayer, he saw all of the tents, and said: “What is this?” They said: “We are seeking obedience [to Allah and His Messenger].” Then he ordered his tent and those of his wives to be taken down, and he delayed his i`tikaf to the first ten days [of Shawwal].”[Bukhari]

The fact that the Messenger of Allah ordered [his and] his wives’ tents to be struck down and [he himself left and] asked them to leave the i`tikaf after they have made the intention for it shows that they discarded the i`tikaf after they had begun it. (in this small paragraph are some additional comments to clarify things).

It is preferred for the one who is making I`tikaf to perform many supererogatory acts of worship and to occupy himself with prayers, reciting the Qur’an, glorifying and praising Allah, extolling His oneness and His greatness, asking His forgiveness, sending salutations on the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and supplicating Allah – that is, all actions that bring one closer to Allah. Included among these actions is studying and reading books of tafsir and hadith, books on the lives of the Prophets, upon whom be peace, books of fiqh, and so on. It is also preferred to set up a small tent in the courtyard of the mosque as the Prophet did.

Permissible Acts for the Mu`takif (the person performing I`tikaf)

The following acts are permissible for one who is making I’tikaf

(1) The Person may leave his place of I`tikaf to bid farewell to his wife and a Woman can visit her husband who is in I`tikaf}

Safiyyah, radhiya Allahu `anha said : The prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, was making i`tikaf [in the last ten nights of Ramadan], so I came to visit him at night [and his wives were with him and then departed]. I talked with him for a while, then I stood up to leave, [so he said:"Do not hurry for I will accompany you",. He stood along with me to accompany me back -and her dwelling was in the house of Usaamah Ibn Zayd [until when he came to the door of the mosque near the door of Umm Salamah], two men of the Ansaar were passing by, when they saw the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, they hastened by, so the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said : “Be at your ease for she is Safiyyah bintu Huyayy.” So they said:” ‘SubhanAllah, O Messenger of Allah! [we did not have any doubt about you].’ He said: “Indeed Shaytan circulates in the son of Adam just as blood circulates, and I feared that he would insert an evil thought” -or he said : “something – into your hearts” [Bukhari and Muslim, in [] are additional narrations from Abu Dawud]

(2) Combing and cutting one’s hair, clipping one’s nails, cleaning one’s body, wearing nice clothes or wearing perfume are all permissible. ‘Aishah reported: “The Prophet was Performing itikaf and he would put his head out through the opening to my room and I would clean [or comb in one narration] his hair. I was menstruating at the time.” [al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud].

(3) The person may go out for some need that he must perform. ‘Aishah reported: “When the Prophet Performed I`tikaf, he brought his head close to me so I could comb his hair, and he would not enter the house except to fulfill the needs a person has.” [al-Bukhari, and Muslim].

Ibn al-Mundhir says: “The scholars agree that the one who performs itikaf may leave the mosque in order to answer the call of nature, for this is something that he personally must perform, and he cannot do it in the mosque. Also, if he needs to eat or drink and there is no one to bring him his food, he may leave to get it. If one needs to vomit, he may leave the mosque to do so. For anything that he must do but cannot do in the mosque, he can leave it, and such acts will not void his itikaf, even if they take a long time. Examples of these types of acts would include washing one’s self from sexual defilement and cleaning his body or clothes from impurities.”

(4) The person may eat, drink, and sleep in the mosque, and he should also keep it clean.

Actions that Nullify the I`tikaf

If a person performs one of the following acts, his I`tikaf will be nullified:

(1) Intentionally leaving the mosque without any need to do so, even if it is for just a short time. In such a case, one would not be staying in the mosque, which is one of the principles of I`tikaf.

(2) Abandoning belief in Islam, as this would nullify all acts of worship. If you ascribe a partner to Allah, your work will fail and you will be among the losers.

(3) Losing one’s reason due to insanity or drunkenness, or the onset of menstruation or post-childbirth bleeding, all of which disqualifies a person for itikaf.

(4) Sexual intercourse. Allah says [in meaning]: “But do not associate with your wives while you are in seclusion (I`tikaf) in the mosques. Those are Limits (set by) Allah. Approach not nigh thereto. Thus does Allah make clear His Signs to men: that they may learn self-restraint. [al-Baqara; 2:187]

I`tikaf is not restricted to men only, women also can do it :

‘Aisha (the wife of the Prophet) reported that the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, used to practice I`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice I`tikaf after him.[Bukhari]

Dear Sister! when reading this do not forget the modesty and the Hijab of the wife of the Prophet (S) that you should observe if you intend to perform I`tikaf.

3-Seeking Laylatul-Qadr (the Night of Decree)

It is the greatest night of the year like the Day of `Arafah is the greatest day of the year. It is a night about which Allah reveled a full Surah, Suratul-Qadr [97:1-5] and the 3rd to the 6th verses of Surat ad-Dukhan [44:3-6]

It is the night when the Qur’an was revealed.

It is the night when the Message (the Final and seal of all messages) sent to Mohammad, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, started

It is the night when the light, that would illuminate mankind to the end of life, began.

It is the night when every matter of ordainment is decreed.

Allah says in what can be translated as :

“Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’aan) down in the Night of Decree (Lailatul-Qadr). And what will make you know what the Night of Decree is? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. Therein descend the angels and the Rooh (ie. Jibreel [Gabriel]) by Allaah’s Permission with all Decrees, Peace! until the appearance of dawn.” [97:1-5]

and in Surat ad-Dukhan :

“We sent it (this Qur’aan) down on a blessed Night. Verily, We are ever warning (mankind of Our Torment). Therein (that Night) is decreed every matter of ordainment. Amran (i.e. a command or this Qur’aan or His Decree of every matter) from Us. Verily, We are ever sending (the Messenger). (As) a Mercy from your Lord. Verily! He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” [44:3-6]

A person who misses Laylatul-Qadr is really a deprived person!

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said “The blessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting during it obligatory upon you. During it the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates of Hellfire are locked, and the devils are chained. There is a night [during this month] which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived [of something great].” [Ahmad, an-Nisa'i and al-Bayhaqi]

One who misses this blessed night then he has missed much good for no one misses it except one from whom it is withheld. Therefore it is recommended that the Muslim who is eager to be obedient to Allaah should stand in Prayer during this night out of Eemaan and hoping for the great reward, since if he does this, Allaah will forgive his previous sins (1).

What happens to the person who witnesses Laylatul-Qadr? and what should one do?

Abu Hurairah Radhiya Allahu `anhu reported that the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said : “Whoever stands (in prayer) in Lailatul-Qadr out of Eemaan (faith and sincerity) and seeking reward then his previous sins are forgiven.” [Bukhari]

It is recommended to supplicate a lot during this night, it is reported from our mother ‘Aishah radhiya Allahu `anha, that she said: “O Messenger of Allah! What if I knew which night Lailatul-Qadr was, then what should I say in it?” He said.- “Say.- (Allahumma innaka ‘affuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee.)”

“O Allaah You are The One Who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me.”. [at-Tirmithi and Ibn Majah with a Sahih Isnad]

When is Laylatul-Qadr?

It is preferred to seek this night during the last ten odd nights of Ramadan, as the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam,, strove his best in seeking it during that time. We have already mentioned that the Prophet would stay up during the last ten nights, would wake his wives, and then would remain apart from them to worship.

Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Look for the Night of Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramadan ,’ on the night when nine or seven or five nights remain out of the last ten nights of Ramadan.” (i.e. 21, 23, 25, respectively). [Bukhari]

`Aishah radhiya Allahu `anha said: “Allah’s Messenger used to practice I`itikaf in the last ten nights and say: ‘Seek out Lailatul-Qadr in the (odd nights) of the last ten of Ramadan.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

However if the servant is too weak or unable, then he should at least not let the last seven pass him by, due to what is reported from Ibn ‘Umar, who said: Allah’s Messenger said: “Seek it in the last ten, and if one of you is too weak or unable then let him not allow that to make him miss the final seven.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

This explains his saying: “I see that your dreams are in agreement (that it is in the last seven) so he who wishes to seek it out then let him seek it in the last seven.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

It is known from the Sunnah, that knowledge of the exact night upon which Lailatul-Qadr falls was taken up because the people argued, ‘Ubaadah ibn as- Saamit, radiyalloahu ‘anhu, said: The Prophet came out intending to tell us about Lailatul-Qadr, however two men were arguing and he said: “I come out to inform you about Lailatul-Qadr but so and so, and, so and so were arguing, so it was raised up, and perhaps that is better for you, so seek it on the (twenty) ninth and the (twenty) seventh and the (twenty) fifth.” [Bukhari]

Some of the ahadeeth indicate that Lailatul-Qadr is in the last ten nights, while others indicate that it is in the odd nights of the last ten, so the first are general and the second more particular, and the particular has to be given priority over the general. Other ahadeeth state that it is in the last seven – and these are restricted by mention of one who is too weak or unable. So there is no confusion, all the ahadeeth agree and are not contradictory.

In conclusion: The Muslim should seek out Lailatui-Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten: the night of the twenty-first, the twenty-third, the twenty-fifth, the twenty-seventh and the twenty-ninth. If he is too weak or unable to seek it out in all the odd nights, then let him seek it out in the odd nights of the of seven: the night of the twenty-fifth, the twenty-seventh and the twenty-ninth And Allah knows best. (1)

What are the signs of laylatul-Qadr?

Allaah’s Messenger , salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, described the morning after Lailatul-Qadr, so that the Muslim may know which day it is. From Ubayy, radhiya Allahu ‘anhu, who said: that he, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said: “On the morning following Lailatui-Qadr the sun rises not having any rays, as if it were a brass dish, until it rises up.”[Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmithi and Ibn Majah]

Abu Hurairah, radhiya Allahu ‘anhu, said : “We were discussing Lailatul-Qadr in the presence of Allah’s Messenger so he said : ‘Which of you remembers [the night] when the moon arose and was like half a plate?”… [Muslim]

Ibn ‘Abbaas, radhiya Allahu ‘anhuma, said: Allaah’s Messenger, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said: “Lailatul-Qadr is calm and pleasant, neither hot nor cold, the sun arises on its morning being feeble and red.” [at-Tayaalisee, Ibn Khuzaimah and al-Bazzaar with a Hasan Isnad]

We pray to Allah All Mighty Most Merciful to bless us this Ramadan by witnessing Laylatul-Qadr.

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Ten Tips for Ramadan

Woman reads Quran

A Muslim woman reads a copy of the Quran at the Istiqlal mosque during the second day of ramadan in Jakarta, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, on September 2, 2008. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images) #

By Nabeel Khan of http://annoor.wordpress.com/

As the blessed month of Ramadhan approaches, we need to prepare for it in such a way that we can gain the maximum benefit of this month. For many, Ramadhan comes and goes. However, very few people actually benefit from this great month.

Our teachers advise us to live the whole year as if we are in the month of Ramadhan. This magnanimous achievement can only be attained when the actual month of Ramadhan is spent properly. In order to acquire a droplet of the reality mentioned above, Insha Allah, I hope to mention ten points that were given as form of advice to me and many others.

1. Discipline:

Most people already know to abstain from eating, drinking, and sexual relations from one’s spouse during the daytime of Ramadhan. However, a level of discipline must be developed to do righteous acts and abstain from those acts which would earn the displeasure of Allah. That was a basic form of discipline that needs to be developed but along with that, one needs to have discipline in following a particular routine or schedule for Ramadhan.

This will be the real life changing factor for an individual. They wake up for suhoor but also pray Tahajjud at that time. Recite some Qur’an. They eat. Make dua’ while waiting for Salah. They pray Fajr. Recite Qur’an and make zikr. Rest if they need to.

The idea is to make a schedule and act accordingly the whole month without sacrificing their schedule. This is the desired discipline that is required.One may ask, “Why did he not just put the first point as a ‘making a schedule’?” Well, the answer is very simple. Anyone can come up with a schedule, but it takes real discipline to abide by it.

2. Devotional life (‘Ibadah):

Ramadhan is the month where Allah allows us to really fulfill the purpose of our being, and the purpose of our creation. Allah created us all to worship Him, and Him alone.Here, I will not mention virtues of various acts or worship because those can be found in the many books on the merits of certain deeds.

However, since Ramadhan and Qur’an are closely connected, I will say that much of our devotional life should be focused on the Qur’an. Reciting at least the entire Qur’an once in this month. Understanding it from erudite scholarship of our community or from accepted commentaries and Tafaaseer.

I am not asking that a person recites the entire Qur’an and completes one entire commentary of it in one month. Perhaps it may be feasible to recite the entire Qur’an and start off a regimen of a Tafseer and try to finish it on an annual basis.

3. Identifying with the Ummah:

It is important that we feel our fast, i.e. feel hunger and thirst. Apart from that, we can use this to our benefit by making other people’s fast count for us as well. This means that if we feed or give to drink something to someone who fasts, we can get the reward of their fast as well.

Another aspect of identifying with the Ummah is to be grateful for whatever Allah has given us and realize that a little of that we need to give to others so that they may have a decent Ramadhan and wonderful ‘Eid. See what the Ummah is going through and see how we can actively participate to help the Ummah in any way possible.

4. Contact with the Qur’an:

Ramadhan is the month wherein the Qur’an was revealed. This is the month of the Qur’an. It is extremely essential to establish a relationship with the Qur’an. Without going into much detail, I will just mention something practical with regards to the Qur’an and Ramadhan.For the average person, i.e. one who is not scholar or is not a Hafiz, they should read at least one juz per day so that they finish at a minimum one entire Qur’an for the month of Ramadhan.

If one can do more, than Alhamdulillah, no one is stopping anyone.The next thing is to understand the Qur’an. So take the first volume of Ma’ariful Qur’an (for example) and read one section of the Arabic part (if one can) and then read the translation, then read the commentary. Do this every day without fail. Obviously the whole commentary will not be completed in one month, but at least a schedule to read a portion regularly will be developed and hopefully within a year it could be completed.

Also, one should try to memorize those chapters/surahs which are read often like Mulk, Kahf, Ya Seen, Waqi’ah, and Sajdah. Also memorize Surahs from the last juz at least and more if possible.

5. Mujahadah:

Ramadhan is a month of sacrifice and struggle. It is a month where Allah wants our time, our health, our wealth, and our whole being. We literally live the whole year for everything and anything. It is just one month…can we not live one month solely for our Creator?!

So what if we have to sacrifice our sleep, and random other luxuries that we can do without anyway. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” The amount of sacrifice and struggle we put into this month, Allah will reward us in this world and the next accordingly.Give yourself to Allah, and see what Allah has in store for you.

6. Dua’:

The essence of worship is supplication to Allah. This whole month, Allah is willing and readily open to accept all that we ask of Him. It is only to our own loss and detriment that we lack in begging Allah for the things we need.

Prioritize your supplications. Ask firstly for yourself, then your family, community, then the Ummah at large. Within that, prioritize and ask for things pertaining to the hereafter, then ask for things pertaining to this world.Just remember one thing when it comes to dua’, the point of dua’ is not that we need something or we need protection or refuge from some other thing, the point is that Allah told us to supplicate to Him, and that is why one should make dua’ abundantly. There are certain things Allah loves to do, and one of them is to answer the supplications of His servants who call unto Him.

One final aspect regarding dua’ is crying or pretending to cry. Tears are something foreign to Allah and therefore He has immense value for tears. The whole year we become filthy and impure spiritually by sinning, Ramadhan is the month where we purify our spirits by bathing our spirits in our tears.

7. Good Company:

Ramadhan is a month to maximize on good deeds and keep bad deeds at zero. Being in the company of the righteous will allow one to attain this goal. I will keep this point short. The minimum benefit one gets by being in good company is that one will not sin which in turn will cause one to become the greatest worshiper.

There is a hadith reported in Tirmidhi wherein An-Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam) took Abu Hurayrah’s (Radhiyallahu ‘anhu) hand and said, “O Abu Hurayrah, abstain from all prohibitions and you will become the best worshiper.”The maximum benefit is that being with the people of Allah, Insha Allah; a person may just Attain Allah. What can be greater?!

8. Gratitude:

The secret to an increase in anything is to be thankful for it. To make sure that we see this month the next year, appreciate it this year. Be thankful for all that we have in every aspect, even the basic things we neglect and take for granted. We have Iman, we have Islam. Alhamdulillah, we are the best Ummah. We have been given the best book, i.e. the Qur’an.

The best way to appreciate a bounty is to use it for its purpose. Allah has blessed with infinite blessing and bounties. Ramadhan is one of those bounties, so to fully appreciate Ramadhan, we must spend it the way Allah would like us to spend it and attain out goal which is Taqwa.

9. Following the Sunnah:

Anything of the beloved is also beloved. That is a principle of love. Allah has proclaimed the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam) as His beloved. If we follow the Sunnah and show a resemblance, then we can also gain the focus of Allah. Particularly follow the Sunnah acts which the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam) performed in Ramadhan.

If we have to do something, might as well do it the best way possible. The best way for anything to be done is the way of the Sunnah. If by any chance it was some other way, Allah would have had His Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam) do it that way then.

10. Istiqamah:

Imam Junayd Al-Baghdadi (RA) said, “Steadfastness is greater than a thousand miracles.” Please do not tire one’s self out in the initial stages of Ramadhan, rather figure out a routine that works and stick to it regularly. The most beloved of actions to Allah are those that are done consistently even though they may seem minor.

We all need to be thankful for the good that we have done and also for the evil we are able to abstain from. We also need to be thankful for whatever level of steadfastness that we have. We want to make Ramadhan last beyond Ramadhan as well.

I’ll end with a quote from one of our mashaaikh, Shaykh In’aam-ul-Hasan Kandehlawi (RA) said, “Whoever lives their life as they do in Ramadhan, then death will come to that person just as the moon of ‘Eid comes for the fasting person.”

To conclude, we pray to Allah that He accepts all of our efforts and overlooks and forgives all of our shortcomings. Aameen.

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Ramadan Recipe: Fish Sayadiya

Ramadan recipe: Fish sayadiya

Ramadan recipe: Fish sayadiya

At the Silk Route restaurant at the Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi, comfortable couches are strewn with colourful satin pillows, and the setting is bright and airy, with a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

In the kitchen, head chef Abdul Salam Hamedi works to create nutritious and delicious recipes for Ramadan, utilizing the abundant seafood of the region.

The Asian-Arabic theme of the restaurant is apparent in one of his creations, Fish Sayadiya.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

500g white fish
250g basmati rice
50g onion
250g fish bones
15g cumin
15g cinnamon
25g salt
5g black pepper
5g pine nuts
15ml olive oil
150g carrots
150ml water

Method:

Wash the rice three times, then strain and set aside.

Heat the oven to 180C. Mix the fish bones with the salt, pepper, half the cinnamon and cumin, the carrots and leeks. Tip onto a baking tray and place in the oven for ten minutes.

Slice the onion and saute gently in olive oil until golden.

Add the roasted fish bones to a large pan, cover with water and boil for 30 minutes.

Strain the stock into a new pan and place over a medium heat. Add the rice, season with salt and black pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 20 minutes.

Marinate the fish with the remaining spices and and roast for 12 minutes at 200C.

Serve the fish and rice with the fried onions and pine nuts scattered over the top.

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Ramadan Announcement 2012 / 1433 AH – Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Announcement by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

First day of Ramadan will be Friday, July 20, 2012
and Eid ul-Fitr on Sunday, August 19, insha’Allah.

“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” Qur’an 2:183

The Fiqh Council of North America recognizes astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’i method for determining the beginning of lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. FCNA uses Makkah al-Mukarrama as a conventional point and takes the position that the conjunction must take place before sunset in Makkah and moon must set after sunset in Makkah.

On the basis of this method the dates of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr for the year 1433 AH are established as follows:

1st of Ramadan will be on Friday, July 20, 2012

1st of Shawwal will be on Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ramadan 1433 AH:
The Astronomical New Moon is on July 19, 2011 (Thursday) at 4:24 Universal Time (7:24 a.m. Makkah time). Sunset at Makkah on July 19 is at 7:05 p.m., while moonset is at 7:11 p.m. Moon is born before sunset in Makkah and moonset is after sunset. Therefore first day of Ramadan is Friday, July 20, insha’Allah. First Tarawih prayer will be on Thursday night.

Eid al-Fitr 1433 AH:
The Astronomical New Moon is on August 17, 2011 (Friday) at 15:54 Universal Time (6:54 p.m. Makkah time). On Friday, August 17, sunset at Makkah is 6:49 p.m. and moonset is 6:30 p.m. Moon is born after sunset in Makkah and moon sets before sunset. On Saturday, August 18, sunset at Makkah is 6:49 p.m. and moonset is at 7:11 p.m. Moon is born 24 hours before sunset, while moonset is after sunset. Therefore, first day of Shawwal, i.e., Eid al-Fitr is Sunday, August 19, insha’Allah.

May Allah (swt) keep us on the right path, and accept our fasting and prayers. Ameen. For more detailed information, please visit: www.fiqhcouncil.org  or www.moonsighting.com

Sincerely,

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi
Chairman, Fiqh Council of North America

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The Importance of Making a Good Space for Women in the Masjid

Muslim students praying at CSU Sacramento

Imam Umar Aboul Sharif
Adilah S. Sharif

Challenges of Women Space in Masjids

Last Friday, I was all set to give a Khutba about the need for Muslims to plan ahead on an individual and community level. My notes were ready and I was in full “Khutba mode”. But before sermon time, I decided to change the topic completely — to talk about the exclusion of Muslim women from the mosque and community life.

It wasn’t an earth-shattering event that made me change the topic. It was an email. And it proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was one of five emails I received last week about Islamic events with a clear “brothers only” statement. One notice for a regional conference even stated categorically that there was no space for women and children under 15 at the event.

But the emails were only part of the story. A week before, I had given a Khutba in another, brand-new mosque in the heart of Chicago. After the prayer, while in the elevator, I overheard four Muslim sisters speaking angrily about their experience in the Masjid.

“If I wanted to watch TV, I’d stay home,” said one of the women, disgusted. I asked them what was wrong, and they told me how they could only see the Imam through a TV system set up in the women’s section. Moreover, the space was inconvenient, uncomfortable and was changed twice that day. This was despite the fact that months ago, the leadership of this mosque had promised me that they would involve sisters in decision-making about how the women’s space would be set up.

The Khutba

I was speaking in Chicago’s oldest mosque where the main prayer hall accommodates about a thousand people. It has a small, curtained off space in the corner for about 40 or so women. Due to the sensitive nature of my topic, it did occur to me before the Khutba that I might not be invited to give a Friday sermon there in the future. Nonetheless, I made the following points and asked these questions:

Who decides how women’s space in the mosque is allocated and organized?

How many women sit on the Board of Directors of our mosques?

If women are part of the Board of Directors, are they elected, chosen by women, selected by both men and women or are they simply the wives of male board members?

I also reminded the audience that in the Prophet’s mosque, women could hear and see the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings are upon him, and later, the leaders of the Muslims (Khulafa) when they spoke from the pulpit. Actually there are reports of interaction with the Prophet when women raised questions. Caliph Omar even went back to give another sermon to withdraw his opinion when a women from the audience gave him critical feedback after his Khutba.

Moreover, when the Prophet felt that the women were too far away to hear or he had specific points to make, he would walk over to their section and present a Khutba for them.

Examples from Islamic history

Women in early Islamic history were active not just as “mothers and wives” but contributed as individual Muslim women in all aspects of the community.

On a scholarly level, there was Aisha, may God be pleased with her. She is credited with disseminating the knowledge of Islam and information about almost all aspects of Islamic life. Today, nearly half of the Islamic jurisprudence of the Hanafi school of thought (which is followed by about 70 percent of the Muslim world) comes through the students of Aisha alone.

On a political level, there was Umm Salama. During the signing of the Treaty of Hudaibiya, when none of the Muslim men agreed to forego Hajj due to the demands of the pagan Meccans, the Prophet consulted Umm Salama. Her advice to him was to perform the rituals indicating that they would not be performing the pilgrimage, and the Muslims would follow. He heeded her advice, and as she suggested, the Muslims accepted this.

After the death of the Prophet, one major issue was how to preserve the authenticity of the Quran. Although the Quran had always been committed to memory and writing, the written pages were scattered. When a master copy was put together at the time of the first Khalifa, Abu Bakr, that copy was not kept with him or any other Muslim man. It was kept with a woman — Hafsa (may God be pleased with her).

Finally, in Madina during the leadership of Omar (may God be pleased with him) Al Shifa Bint Abdullah was made in charge of trade and commerce in the city.

These are just a few examples of the dynamic role women played in early Islamic history. But they are of no use if the inclusion of Muslim women in the mosque and community is reflected only in theory.

“Men’s Islam” or Islam for All

While sisters are a full part of the community, many mosques are run as though Islam is just for men. This is evident by looking at women’s spaces, their decoration, their uncomfortable size and design, the absence of women from the Board of Directors of most mosques and the relegation of their activism and ideas to a “women’s committee”.

Muslim women in North America are as professional as Muslim men and contribute as generously. I remember fundraising in a New Jersey Masjid. Five Muslim women contributed $25,000 each within the first 12 minutes. It inspired me to ask the audience: is there a man who can match these donations?

And that’s how women’s participation is. They know they will not get to Jannah because of the good deeds of their husbands. Each man and women has to find his or her own way to success in this world and next, knowing that God’s promise is this:

“I will deny no man or woman among you the reward of their labors. You are the offspring of one another.” (Quran 3:195).

“Each person shall reap the fruits of his/her own deeds: no soul shall bear another’s burden.” (Quran 6:164)

The Reaction to the Khutba

Normally, two or three people will approach me after a Khutba to thank and compliment me for it. This time, ten times more people came over, appreciating what I had said, Alhamdu lillah. That’s one of the most positive instances of feedback I’ve ever gotten in years of giving Khutbas! Although I have yet to hear the response from the leadership of the Masjid, this gives me hope that the community is ready for change.

A few board members also spoke very positively about the points I raised, including one of the founding members. The question is, who is stopping the change?

Current Chicago Masjid Spaces for Women

In Chicago, I estimate that in about ten percent of the Friday prayer locations, there is proper space for sisters’ participation. In these places men and women are in the same location without a curtain or wall separating them. In terms of the remaining 80 percent of mosques that do have a space for women, these are often cramped and inconvenient. By inconvenient, I mean that women cannot see the Imam or do not know what is happening in the congregational prayer. In about 10 percent of the Chicago-area mosques there are no spaces for women.

One Muslim sister in the city related to me her experience after visiting one of the largest mosques in Chicago that had an inconvenient room for women. When she entered the women’s area, a group of sisters was standing in line, thinking prayer had started because the recitation of the Quran could be heard. Taking Quran recitation as a cue for congregational prayer, the sister joined the others in line. After several minutes, when the man ended his recitation without calling for the next step of prayer, Ruku, the women learned that it was not a prayer. Needless to say, the women were humiliated and upset about this confusing situation. This is just an example of the practical problems this segregation in prayer places causes.

An additional problem in mosques where women cannot see the Imam is the fact that the noise level often becomes unacceptable. This tends to be because most men dump the responsibility for taking care of their active children on their wives when they go to the men’s section of mosque. Also, since women can’t see what’s going on, they end up talking to each other. This leads to the Imam asking women to “be quiet please,” furthering tension and exclusion.

When women are out of sight, it’s also more likely that they will be out of mind. That means their discourse and participation are ignored on a Masjid and community level. Moreover, few women have easy access to the Imam, which worsens the problem, since the Imam is the one man who can make a significant difference in bringing women’s issues and problems to the attention of other Muslim men in the community. This perhaps explains why you don’t normally hear many Khutbas on women’s challenges here in America or abroad.

Negative Dawa

The situation becomes worse when non- Muslims visit. They see there are hardly any women present in the mosque. Or, if there are a few, they are confined to a small and less ceremonious corner. What kind of Dawa is this? What kind of impression does this give in our current context, where the battle against stereotypes is ten times harder than it was pre-9/11 America? This visual impact is far greater and far more lasting then tens of books lauding the status of women in Islam. Since Shahadah (witnessing) is the first pillar of Islam, this obstacle to outreach must be dealt with.

Of course, women, unlike men, are given a choice by the Prophet to pray at home or in the mosque. But the Prophet was categorical in telling men “do not stop women from coming to the Masjid.” Friday prayers are also optional for women. But considering that Friday sermons are the only Islamic educational opportunity available to most women in the North America Muslim women should attend Friday prayers. This is especially important because we do not yet have a widespread tradition of female teachers, as is the case in the Muslim world. I am pretty sure Caliph Omar would have encouraged Friday prayer attendance by women if he was alive today in the United States, may God be pleased with him.

Who is stopping women from the Masjid

Knowing both of these Masjids, their volunteer leadership, and the fact that women are on their boards, I don’t think either of them stops women from attending and participating. The first Masjid’s president did make an announcement twice in front of me inviting women to visit the new location to help determine the sisters’ space. I think, perhaps, need sisters taking these issues more seriously instead of accepting the current situation.

In the second Masjid, I learned that some sisters prefer to pray behind a curtain. An easy solution could be to make a larger area where women who do not want a curtain between the men and women, as was the practice in the mosque of the Prophet, can pray. Behind them, women who are comfortable praying behind a curtain can do this.

With lower donations as a result of donor chasing by the FBI, extra expenses for security and legal battles, which six or seven Masjids in the Chicago-area are going through, the last thing on the mind of Muslim leadership is women’s space. About 80 percent of the Masjids in the Chicago area do not have any permanent Imam. Volunteers like me are asked to offer the Friday sermon on a rotational basis. Almost all of these Masjids’ leaders are busy professionals who volunteer their time to run the community centers, schools and Masjids. Unless someone is pushing for something, things will continue as they have been.

This is why I have come to the conclusion that the agenda of women’s space will not come to the forefront unless Muslim women take it upon themselves.

Establishing a Muslim Women’s Caucus

It is time that sisters come together and provide leadership in clearly defining a Muslim women’s manifesto for change in mosques in North America. If these sisters are practicing Muslims, they will have a far higher level of success in demanding change and leading it.

I would like to make a plea to leading Muslim women in North America who are respected and honored by the community to call a national women’s caucus on these issues. In this conference, the following things need to be discussed and tackled:

1. An agenda outlining change in the Muslim community centers and Masjids in which

* Each Masjid should formally declare that it is unIslamic to stop women from attending a mosque

* The need to restore women’s space in the mosque as it was at the Prophet’s time (i.e. without a curtain or a wall separating men and women) is stressed

* Develop a welcoming space where they have a clear view of the Imam

2. One-third of Masjids’ Board of Directors should be composed of sisters, one-third of brothers, and one-third of people born in North America.

3. A mechanism for an ongoing Muslim Women’s Caucus needs to be developed

On the issue of women’s exclusion from the mosque, this Muslim Women’s Caucus may want to do the following:

1. Invite the leadership of major mosques, as well as national and continental Muslim organizations to a closed-door dialogue with an equal number of Muslim women leaders present.

2. Give a deadline to all Masjids that do not have a space for women to allocate one in consultation with women.

3. If space is extremely limited and there is no cultural and ideological objection to it, then allocate time for additional congregational prayer for women lead by women as was done by Umm Waraqa with the Prophet’s permission when she lead her staff regularly in prayers in her own home as reported by Sahih Abu Dawud. (If thousands of women lead other women in prayers throughout Pakistan, it can be done in a mosque here as well).

Shura (consultation) has been a way of life for Muslims (42:38). If our families and our communities are not run on Shura, open communication and proper representation, how will we grow?

“The true believers, both men and women, are friends to each other. They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil; they attend to their prayers and pay the alms and obey God and His apostle. On these God will have mercy. He is Mighty and Wise.” (Quran 7:71)

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