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Ramadan Conference Call 2007 Transcript

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The following is a transcript of the Ramadan conference call (Audio can be downloaded here) that MM organized last year with Shaykh Yaser Birjas and Shaykh Yasir Qadhi. We would like to thank Sr. Ruth for taking the time to transcribe, jazakillahkhair!

Opening comments from Sh. Yasir Birjas:

People every year feel anxiety as Ramadan gets closer and so they reflect on prior Ramadans. And Ramadan is sometimes a time for people who may not even pray regularly do so. Taqwa is the objective of fasting during Ramadan, as stated in surah Baqara.

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Sh. Yasir goes on to discuss the “triangle of virtue” – fasting, Quran, and taqwa. How can we attain taqwa? The Quran helps more than anything else. How many times relationship between the Quran and taqwa repeated in Quran? Sh. Yasir studied this and found more than 237 ayat, and half of those ayahs came in the first third of the Quran. This connection can also be found in previous revelations such as taurat and injil.

So why was the Quran revealed in Ramadan? The best provision is fearing Allah (taqwa). Those who fear Allah truly, Allah will love them and people will love them.

Why should we achieve taqwa? Those who truly fear Allah among His servants are those who have knowledge. So we need to increase our knowledge. My advice this upcoming season is to achieve that triangle of virtue, in order to become among those who truly fear Allah.

Opening comments from Sh. Yasir Qadhi: There are certain ayat and hadith that we have heard before but need to ponder over. There are many that practicing Muslims have heard, but few we sit down and think about. We should take time out of our schedule to ponder them.

The verses pertaining to fasting are mentioned. The legislation for fasting occurred in the 2nd year of the hijra. As soon as they were physically capable of worshipping Allah in a fuller sense, the sahaba began to perform acts of worship. Among the first acts that were legislated was fasting. In these series of verses in surah Baqara the fast is prescribed so we may achieve taqwa. Fasting is not just symbolic. It has a spiritual, fulfilling goal, to achieve taqwa. Allah mentions the Quran right after fasting. The Quran is guidance for our bodies as well as our souls. The Quran leads to taqwa, as does fasting – so fasting and Quran are intertwined. Sh. Yasir mentioned a hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) said fasting and the Quran will intercede for the believer on the day of judgment; the fast will say oh Allah I deprived him from sleep and from rest in the daytime and the Quran will say oh Allah I deprived him from sleep at night.

Another act of worship mentioned in these verses on fasting is dua. Right after Allah mentions that Ramadan is the blessed month the Quran came down he says, If my servant asks you about Me, then I am close to them – I respond to the dua of the one who makes dua when he makes dua. So dua is one of the greatest acts of worship in Ramadan. The dua said just before iftar when you are fasting is guaranteed to be accepted. If you can take your mind off the food in front of you and turn to Allah and concentrate on him, your dua before iftar is guaranteed to be accepted. It’s notable that often people are chatting or in a rush to eat at this time but they are missing this time when Allah accepts dua. We should remind those around them to make dua at this time.

Dhikr is another act of worship mentioned in the context of Ramadan. Allah says He does not want to make things difficult, so finish the fast and praise Allah. Saying takbeer is similarly an act of worship. Thus, important acts of worship in Ramadan are: reading the Quran, dua, dhikr and takbeer.

Sh. Yaser then listed these 10 wisdoms and blessings of Ramadan:

  1. First and foremost, the greatest is wisdom of taqwa. This is mentioned explicitly in Quran. Taqwa is achieved by lessening our desires and appetites, by showing we are able to live without the most essential items. If we can do this, how about abstaining from sins?
  2. Remember the poor. Appreciate the blessings of Allah. We are reminded of those who must abstain and we appreciate what we take for granted.
  3. Fasting lessens our physical desires and increases our spiritual ones. More emphasis on soul and less on body.
  4. It increases attendance in the masajid.
  5. Blessing of brotherhood. Not just in masajid but also in iftar parties.
  6. Ramadan inculcates in us the guarding of the prayers and being attentive to the specific times of the prayers. At no other time are the timing for fajr and maghreb paid so much attention.
  7. Attachment is formed with the Quran.
  8. Ramadan increases our charity. If nothing else, we pay zakat al fitr.
  9. Dua, especially before iftar. All of us turn to Allah and increase in our remembrance of him.
  10. It affords us the opportunity to realize that we can be better Muslims.

It is inevitable that when Ramadan ends our iman will go back down. Its not possible to remain the same level. But that’s not our goal. Rather, our goal is to look at Ramadan as a ladder that we go up maybe 10, 20 steps, so when we go down we only go down 5 or 2 or 3. Go down to a level such that we are much higher than we started Ramadan.

Questions & Answers cover the following topics: Following community which uses calculations in lieu of moonsighting, pregnant & nursing sister and fasting, eid timing, zakat-ul-fitr in money, fasting during travel, Taraweeh rakah number, praying witr “Pakistani” way, imsaak time (is it 10 minutes before fajr?):

Question: If the most prominent Muslim organization in the city follows the moon calculations, should you follow the community or stick to the sunnah of moonsighting, and how do we reconcile unity of community with following the sunnah?

Sh. Yasir Birjas: Absolutely one objective of the sharia is to bring people together instead of creating any division. Many ayat of the Quran emphasize unity of the ummah. Allah warns us all from division. There are some areas where there is no room for ijtihad, like salah, fast of Ramadan, etc. But with no such decisive opinion, moonsighting is open for ijtihad.

If you want to start or break your fast on a particular day with the community, do so. The problem comes when someone thinks one method is an invalid ijtihad. The early ulema did not discuss it as one opinion.

Go by moonsighting if you choose to, but without creating controversy in the community.

Sh. Yasir Qadhi: We need to come to a happy and healthy means of compromise. When Muslim majority countries announce times to start and stop fasting, Muslims in those countries are obliged to follow that. Here in North America there is no such unified authority among Muslims. Each individual is capable of picking and choosing his own reference point.

From an Islamic view no one is in sin for following one or another view. Sh. Yasir suggests: first look at who you are. Are you a community leader or imam or on a masjid board, in a position of authority and power? If so, you have a great obligation to do more research than the average Muslim and then reach a decision you think is correct.

It seems the strongest opinion is that moonsighting needs to be used and not calculations. Then the issue is using local or international moonsighting. It seems that even the sahaba and tabiun differed about this issue. After research I have come to the conclusion that national sighting makes the most sense and seems to be the majority opinion of the ummah. The opinion I follow in my personal life is the first visual sighting of the moon that occurs on the North American continent. Last year I personally was checking ICNA and Zaytuna web sites for moonsighting information.

If you are not in a position of power, but rather are basically a member of the community, you should follow your local community if there is a clear cut majority. However, even if you disagree in your personal life, there is no sin in outwardly showing your solidarity with community. Don’t make an issue of it.

If you are living with your parents, there is no question you should not and must not cause friction. This is a sin by unanimous consensus. Do not argue with them. Do not under any circumstances cause any controversy in your community and especially in your household.

Question: If a sister is pregnant during Ramadan and unable to fast and then by the time the next Ramadan comes she is nursing, how is she to make up her fast? What about sisters who have pregnancies close together and miss Ramadan for a few years in a row? Does she have to make all those years up or is there an expiation like feeding a poor person, and is it different if it is just one pregnancy or is it a different ruling if it is continuous years that are missed?

Sh. Yasir Qadhi: Realize first that just because a sister is pregnant or nursing, it does not automatically exempt her from the fast. Rather, she should examine her situation and if fasting makes life very difficult for her or is harmful to the child. A nursing mother could express milk after iftar and then use that for the next day. Or if the child is older and can take other food, she really should examine such an option. If she can’t fast, some scholars say she only needs to feed a poor person, but the majority oppose that opinion and say if a woman does not fast, her position resembles someone who can’t fast because they are sick or traveling, who make up fasting days later. Pregnancy or nursing is a temporary problem. However, make-up fasts don’t have to be done continuously. Even if a woman didn’t fast for 4 or 6 years, she has to make it up but not continuously and no expiation at all necessary. This is the strongest position.

Question: What should you do if you are celebrating eid in a different community but not did not fast or celebrate eid on the same day as the community you were in when you started fasting?

Sh. Yasir Birjas: This question brings us back to the first question, regarding announcing the beginning and end of Ramadan. The same issues apply, but you should take extra precautions before leaving an ibadah such as fasting. If a person comes into a community and he has fasted 29 days and the community announces eid a day later, he should break his fast with them and it’s fine. Whether he’s visiting or going to reside in that area it doesn’t matter. If he has fasted 30 days, he does not fast that extra day because 30 days is the maximum number fasting days for Ramadan. He does not fast that extra day, but breaks his fact privately and goes out with the community the next day to celebrate eid.

Question: I have always been of the opinion that zakat al fitr should be given in food, but with most masajid here in the US taking it in money, and more refusing to take it in food, a smaller and smaller number of brothers have been burdened with distributing it in food every year. They often receive hundreds of pounds of food with the community taking for granted that just a few brothers will distribute it. The poor in this country often have food stamps and government assistance and often want money, not food. Some brothers may be stuck with hundreds of pounds of rice after eid. What is the validity of opinion that zakat al fitr can be distributed in other ways and can we start before eid?

Sh. Yasir Qadhi: It is authentically reported that the Prophet (SAW) allowed paying zakat al fitr a day or two before eid. Perfection of the sunnah is to pay it on the way to eid prayer, but the reality of a situation dictates what you need to do. Masajid need to organize that. From a purely theoretical fiqh point of view, my opinion is that it should be staple food items. The real or practical situation tells us otherwise. On an individual or community level, necessity dictates to look at the minority opinion, which allow zakat in money. This is a legitimate classical opinion. It is not realistic to give thousands of bags of grains in any American city.

Question: Once in a while I had an opportunity at work where I had to travel Monday through Thursday for the next eight weeks. Ramadan will fall within that time frame. Is it okay to fast during these periods since it’s a short plane ride in the same time zone? There is a masjid nearby when I can pray taraweeh. My conscience is telling me to refuse this opportunity but if I stay back I will have a similar work load without travel.

Sh. Yasir Birjas: The Prophet (SAW) made it clear it’s no problem to not take the concession. Allah would love to see you take the concession, but on the other hand there is no harm in not doing so. He did this himself. Some scholars say combining salat when traveling is not the same level of necessity as shortening. What is considered to be a traveler? In my opinion as long as you’re not in your residence and you’re gone one month in a temporary situation, you are, but recommends to join Muslims in masjid for prayer.

Question: What is preferred to pray for taraweeh? 8 rakat or 20? How do we deal with people who make division over this issue – on both sides?

Sh. Yasir Qadhi: There should be no controversy about this at all. It is the position of one person that to pray more than eight is innovation – this has not been stated by a single scholar in the history of the ummah of Islam. It goes against the consensus of scholars. Taraweeh is voluntary, thus unrestricted in number. To pray 0, 2, or even 200 rakats is fine. Prophet said pray in units of 2 for witr, taraweeh, tahajjud, qiyam ul lail. What is mustahhab? Some say 8, some 20, some even 36. Umar Ibn Khattab prayed 20 as is widely authenticated as a fact. There is also authentic narration where he told them to pray 8. The numbers 8 and 20 have some “extra sanction” in the text of the sunnah. As for prophet himself, Aisha said his night prayer was never more than 11 rakat (8+3).

Sh. Yasir Birjas: Just to add to that, taraweeh is naafil so it’s not an obligation. When it comes to Umar ibn Khattab who instructed Muslims to pray 20, there are no reports he ever did it in congregation. Umar himself would go in and see people praying individually or in small groups. Origin of taraweeh – did it for three consecutive nights, then Prophet for fear of making it an obligation stopped praying that in congregation. So it was left for them like any other qiyam ul lail . When time of Umar people started praying in small groups he thought better they come all together. My recommendation is if for any reason too fast too slow you cant pray in masjid do it in the house. The issue of the number – only 8 rakat – hold this opinion in way completely different from how it was done in time of prophet. Its not just the number. He would pray 4, rest, 4 more and include the beauty and length of those rakats, not just number.

Question: Is it legitimate to pray witr the way it’s traditionally done in Pakistani masajid? They pray three rakats together with tashahud after the second, as done in maghreb, then after the third rakat the imam recites fatiha and a surah out loud and then makes takbeer and all raise hands and make “qunut” quietly. Or is this bidah?

Sh. Yasir Qadhi: 99% of these differences don’t come under bidah. Personally I believe this is not the strongest way of doing witr as evidences indicate other ways are more appropriate. However, if you are praying in a Hanafi masjid and they do it that way, it’s completely permissible and no problem to follow. It is an accepted position in one of the four schools of thought. If I were leading it I would do if in a different way. However, I would not ever choose a masjid or another based on how they pray witr.

Question: Everybody says to stop eating approximately 10 minutes before the fajr adhan. However, one is recommended to delay suhoor as much as possible. Thus when should one stop eating in the morning? Also, regarding iftar time should we use the time on the calendars or visually check when the sun has set?

Sh. Yasir Birjas: The most classic and traditional position is to leave a grace period, a time for certainty before the actual adhan – 10 or 15 minutes. It is highly recommended to delay suhoor as much as possible. It is a mercy from Allah that fasting is not about torturing, making ourselves hungry, etc. Some of the ulema know that most people wouldn’t be able to hear the adhan, as now in urban areas where it is almost impossible to go to the roof to check the horizon. So they say go by the calendar and take 10-15 minutes as a precaution. If someone is in a position to hear the adhan, they should go by the adhan, the second if you live where they have two fajr adhans. Regarding iftar, if you can visually recognize sunset, then go by sunset. But if you cannot then go by calendar. Don’t forget if you leave the city and go to the country, don’t forget you need to go by the sunset.

See Also: MM’s Ramadan Coverage

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Sana K

    September 5, 2008 at 10:43 AM

    Assalaamu Alaykum,

    JazakAllahu Khayr for posting this. May Allah SWT reward sister Ruth immensely!! Ameen.

    I didnt get a chance to attend the last call so this was a good treat :) I pray inshaAllah you all have something like this prepared for this Ramadan.

    Wasalaam
    Umm Zayna

  2. Muhammad

    September 7, 2008 at 1:46 AM

    What was the number of rak’ahs in Taraweeh prayer at the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allaah be pleased with him)?

    What is narrated from ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) is that he ordered that Taraweeh prayer should be twenty rak’ahs. Is that saheeh or da’eef? Or is there no basis for it?.

    Praise be to Allaah.

    Firstly:

    The report that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab ordered that Taraweeh prayer should be twenty rak’ahs came from four of the Taabi’een. These are their reports:

    1 – It was narrated that Saa’ib ibn Yazeed said: ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) gathered the people together in Ramadaan to be led by Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Tameem al-Daari in praying twenty-one rak’ahs, and they used to recite hundreds of verses, and they dispersed before dawn broke.

    A number of narrators narrated it from al-Saa’ib, some of whom mentioned twenty rak’ahs or twenty-one or twenty-three. They were:

    Muhammad ibn Yoosuf, the son of the sister of al-Saa’ib, from al-Saa’ib, as was narrated by ‘Abd al-Razzaaq in al-Musannaf (4/260) from the report of Dawood ibn Qays and others.

    Yazeed ibn Khusayfah. This was narrated by Ibn al-Majd in al-Musnad (1/413), and via him by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan (2/496).

    Al-Haarith ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Abi Dhubaab. This was narrated by ‘Abd al-Razzaaq in al-Musannaf (4/261).

    These reports are saheeh reports narrated by trustworthy narrators from al-Saa’ib ibn Yazeed. They mention twenty rak’ahs at the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him). The extra amount mentioned – twenty-one or twenty-three, refers to Taraweeh plus Witr.

    2 – It was narrated that Yazeed ibn Rumaan said: At the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab the people used to pray twenty-three rak’ahs of qiyaam in Ramadaan.

    This was narrated from him by Maalik in al-Muwatta’ (1/115). Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’ (4/33: It is mursal, because Yazeed ibn Rumaan did not live at the same time as ‘Umar. End quote.

    3 – It was narrated from Yahya ibn Sa’eed al-Qattaan that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) ordered a man to lead them in twenty rak’ahs of prayer. This was narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah in al-Musannaaf (2/163) from Wakee’ from Maalik. But Yahya ibn Sa’eed did not live at the same time as ‘Umar.

    4 – It was narrated that ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Rafee’ said: Ubayy ibn Ka’b used to lead the people in praying twenty rak’ahs during Ramadaan in Madeenah, and he would pray Witr with three rak’ahs.

    This was narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah in al-Musannaf (2/163).

    From all these reports it is clear that twenty rak’ahs was the way that Taraweeh was usually done at the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him). A matter such as Taraweeh prayer is something that is well known among all people, and is transmitted from one generation to another. The report of Yazeed ibn Rumaan and Yahya al-Qattaan is to be taken into account even if they did not live at the same time as ‘Umar, because undoubtedly they learned it from a number of people who had been alive at the time of ‘Umar, and this is something that does not need and isnaad, rather all the people of Madeenah are its isnaad.

    Imam al-Tirmidhi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his Sunan (3/169):

    Most of the scholars are of the view that what is narrated from ‘Umar, ‘Ali and other companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is twenty rak’ahs. This is the view of al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubaarak and al-Shaafa’i.

    Al-Shaafa’i said: This is what I learned in our land, in Makkah they pray twenty rak’ahs.

    Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr said in al-Istidhkaar (2/69):

    Twenty rak’ahs was narrated from ‘Ali, Shateer ibn Shakl, Ibn Abi Mulaykah, al-Haarith al-Hamadaani and Abu’l-Bakhtari. It is the view of the majority of scholars and it is the view of the Kufis, the Shaafa’is and most of the fuqaha’. It was narrated in saheeh reports from Ubayy ibn Ka’b, and there was no difference of opinion among the Sahaabah. ‘Ata’ said: I grew up at a time when the people prayed twenty-three rak’ahs including Witr.

    See that in Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah (2/163).

    Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (23/112):

    It is proven that Ubayy ibn Ka’b used to lead the people in praying twenty rak’ahs in qiyaam in Ramadaan, and he used to pray Witr with three rak’ahs. Many scholars think that this is the Sunnah, because he established that among the Muhaajireen and Ansaar and no one objected to that. Others regarded it as mustahabb to pray thirty-nine rak’ahs, based on the fact that this was the practice of the people of Madeenah in the past. End quote.

    With regard to what it says in the report of Imam Maalik, Yahya al-Qattaan and others from Muhammad ibn Yoosuf from al-Saa’ib ibn Yazeed in al-Muwatta’ (1/115) and in Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah (2/162) “eleven rak’ahs” – this is to be understood as referring to what was done at first, then it was reduced after that, then ‘Umar increased the number to twenty to make the recitation in qiyaam easier for the people.

    Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr said in al-Istidhkaar (2/68):

    It may be understood as meaning that at first qiyaam at the time of ‘Umar was eleven rak’ahs, then he reduced the length of qiyaam for them and made it twenty-one rak’ahs, to make the recitation lighter for them and so that they would bow and prostrate more. But it seems most likely to me that the report about eleven rak’ahs is a mistake. And Allaah knows best. End quote.

    Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (23/113):

    When Ubayy ibn Ka’b led them in praying qiyaam in a single congregation, he could not make them stand for too long, so he increased the number of rak’ahs to make up for the long standing. So they doubled the number of rak’ahs. He used to pray eleven or thirteen rak’ahs of qiyaam al-layl, then it seems that after that the people of Madeenah found it difficult to stand for so long during the recitation, so they increased the number of rak’ahs until it reached thirty-nine. End quote.

    Secondly:

    Night prayers are broad in scope, and there is no set number. Whoever wants to pray eleven rak’ahs may do so, and whoever wants to pray more or less than that may do so. The same applies to Taraweeh prayers in Ramadaan.

    Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (23/113):

    One group said that it is proven in al-Saheeh from ‘Aa’ishah that the Prophet did not pray more than thirteen rak’ahs in Ramadaan or at any other time, and some people were uncertain about this report, because they thought that it contradicted the saheeh hadeeth and because of the practice of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and the actions of the Muslims.

    But the correct view is that all of that is good, as was stated by Imam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him). There is no set number of rak’ahs for qiyaam during Ramadaan, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not set a number. End quote.

    Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (11/322):

    It is proven that ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) told the one whom he appointed among the Sahaabah to pray eleven rak’ahs, and it is proven that they prayed twenty-three rak’ahs based on his command. This indicates that the matter is broad in scope and that the matter was flexible according to the Sahaabah. That is also indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “The night prayers are two by two.” End quote.

    See also the answer to question no. 9036 and 38021.

    And Allaah knows best.

  3. Pingback: Open Thread 9-7-08: MM Ramadan Recap | MuslimMatters.org

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