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3 Ramadan Traditions at Risk of Extinction

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Ramadan2012 Posts

Over the course of the last 1400 years, Muslims have developed various traditions for the month of Ramaḍān. With the march of technology, some of these traditions are at risk of going extinct without us even realizing it. Here are just a few:

3. Giving the adhān at Ifṭār time

Ibn Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The muezzin will receive forgiveness to the extent the voice of his adhān reaches; every living and non-living thing that hears his voice will supplicate for his forgiveness.” [Musnad Ahmed]

Now, having just read that ḥadīth, the logical thing to do is to make sure that you’re the one giving the adhān at every single opportunity. I mean, who wants to miss out on the chance of even inanimate objects asking for your forgiveness simply because they were within earshot of your adhān? But despite the sweet rewards, Muslims seem to be delegating this aspect of our faith to alarm clocks, TV stations and even smartphone apps.

Here in the UK, many Muslim families sit down to ifṭār with the radio or TV set to a Muslim station and await the adhān. As time goes on, the only live adhān many of us (and our children) end up hearing is the one given at Friday prayers and many times that is only if we manage to get to the mosque on time.

2. The suḥūr alarm

Hard as it is to believe, alarm clocks are a relatively new invention. For centuries before they came along, Muslims have been woken up for suḥūr by pious beggars who march through the street banging on drums or something of the like. Where I’m from, they would go through the narrow alleys proclaiming “Suḥūr, Suḥūr. May Allah forgive you.” It’s almost as if they knew that the initial reaction (of some) was to mutter a few less than-holy responses, therefore they threw in the forgiveness part.

The Muslims would wake up and have their suḥūr and offer some to the beggar if they were able to. At the end of the month, each family may give some money to these beggars who were providing a social service as well as earning their daily bread.

Also, the pious beggar would wake everyone up – even those who weren’t planning on waking up for suḥūr or fasting. There was an element of social and peer pressure – a nightly reminder to do good and do it on time. Today, we prefer to have the annoying beep of a digital clock and a snooze button that we can hit repeatedly.

Ummmm – where’s the snooze button on this guy?
[Photo from Todays Zaman website]

 1. Sighting the moon

Without a doubt, the Ramaḍān tradition most at threat of extinction is the actual sighting of the moon. When was the last time you went out of your home and tried to physically see the moon for yourself rather than trawling through your twitter feed to see whether #Eid was trending?

Mabrook! The #Eid hashtag has been sighted on Twitter!
[Photo Mohammad Zubair AP]

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself would look for the new moon and supplicate when he sighted it. It was an honour for any Muslim to sight the moon and even to this day, in a couple of Muslim countries, the first person to physically sight the new moon and officially verify it is given new robes and a small gift. This can only be confirmed if the person is a known trustworthy Muslim who is well known to his local Imam as someone who attends prayers. Also, the person has to have good eyesight – as was hilariously demonstrated by the occasion when an elderly bedouin turned up to Caliph Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) claiming to have sighted the moon, only for the Caliph to realise that the “moon” in question was actually an overgrown eyelash in the Bedouins field of vision.

Today, we scan TV channels, wait for text messages, and trawl through Internet sites and Facebook status updates. From the comfort of our home, we debate whether or not the moon has actually been sighted without once taking the opportunity to go out and look for ourselves. We even miss out on the chance to organise a field trip with our children and other young Muslims to scan the horizon with telescopes and learn more about our faith. It was our love of looking at the heavens, of finding the age of the moon and the direction of Makkah that propelled us to become masters of astronomy. Today, we neglect these duties and others race to land on it, circle it and study it.

Keeping the sunnah of physical moonsighting alive – and looking like a don
[Photo by Muhammad Sabri AFP Getty Images]

Lesson from history?

This Ramaḍān, think about relying on technology a little less and your senses a little more. Islam isn’t against technological innovation, but they are supposed to aid the human experience – not replace it.

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Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter - Doctor, Medical Tutor (Social Media, History & Medicine) - Islamic Historian - Founder of, and current board member to Charity Week for Orphans and needy children. www.charityweek.com - Council member, British Islamic Medical Association

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mezba

    July 26, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    The advent of the “Calculators” (as I call them) has really caused a sharp division in the Muslim ummah. Usually the difference would be in cities (as to the start/end of the month). Now people in the same cities celebrate different dates because of the Fiqh Council of North America.

  2. Avatar

    Junaid Farooqi

    July 27, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    The only one I agree with is the Adhaan part. The rest just sounds like Nostalgia. Prophet (SAS) sighted the moon because that was the only way to know back then. Now we know exactly when the new moon will be … It’s called technology and knowledge of the Cosmos. Just because people back in the day used to pray fajr and isha in the dark doesn’t mean that is a tradition that needs to be revived.

    • Avatar

      aafreen

      July 29, 2012 at 7:44 AM

      What was available at the tym of our prophet peace be on him, was the best given to him by Allah in His Wisdom. If Allah wanted to, all the latest “technology” wud have been available to our prophet peace be on him. Do not go about proclaiming abt technology and knowledge of cosmos as if this generation is somewhat better off than those of our pious predecessors.

  3. Avatar

    Tiger

    July 27, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    What about covering the head? Is that also at risk of extinction?

  4. Avatar

    AnonyMouse Al-Majnoonah

    July 27, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    Definitely agree with this – just because clocks and calculations have made life “easier” for us, it doesn’t mean that we need to abandon our roots (especially not those practices which have ajr attached to them!).

    Despite living in a Muslim country, I find it extremely annoying that many families choose to switch on the TV to wait for the adhaan rather than listening for the one right outside their windows.

  5. Avatar

    Kamran

    July 29, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    I do agree with the nostalgic part of this article and even though we have advanced technology and means to predict the moon rising and time changing, still in USA, people do follow the Farmers Almanac, or rather use it as a backup!

    I miss the most is moon sighting, its an important tradition as well as an essential aspect of proclamation of the new month.

    Good article Wajid !!

  6. Avatar

    Habeebullah

    July 30, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Yeah dude, it’s called being more modern. I don’t get your logic here. Rasulullah (SAW) regularly traveled on dromedaries, as the automobile had not yet been invented. I do not see you lamenting on the tragedy of this trajectory from our roots as well. Technology ain’t bad, son.

    • WAJiD

      WAJiD

      July 30, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      Clearly there’s a difference between technological innovation and how we use it.

      An example: At the time of the Prophet (SAW) there were no tape recorders. Now that we are technologically advanced enough to have them, is it fine to just set one up in a non-Muslim butchers playing the bismillah looped and thereby making all the meat halaal?

      Or how about now that we have very accurate pregnancy tests and ultrasound scans, can we just scrap the whole iddah period after a divorce when a woman should not remarry?

      How different is that to tapping into a calculator and saying that there will be no way to see the moon on such and such day, when Allah controls the heavens and the earth and we can barely calculate the weather with any accuracy 2 days in advance?

      Like I said. Technology in itself isn’t bad, but maybe we need to think about how we use it when it comes to Islam.

  7. Pingback: WAJiD (wajid) | Pearltrees

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#Islam

Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman

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Iblees was no ordinary worshipper. He worshipped Allah for thousands of years with thousands of prayers. He ascended the ranks until he accompanied the angels with his noteworthy worship. Performing good deeds was no issue for him. He thanked Allah with his prayers, and Allah rewarded him with a lofty station in Paradise. But when Adam was created and given the station that he was, suddenly Iblees was overcome by pride. He couldn’t bear to see this new creation occupy the place that he did. And as he was commanded to prostrate to him, his pride would overcome him and doom him for eternity. Alas, swallowing his pride for one prostration of respect to Adam was more difficult to him than thousands of prostrations of worship to Allah.

In that is a cautionary lesson for us especially in moments of intense worship. When we exert ourselves in worship, we eventually start to enjoy it and seek peace in it. But sometimes we become deluded by that worship. We may define our religiosity exclusively in accordance with it, become self-righteous as a result of it, and abuse people we deem lesser in the name of it. The worst case scenario of this is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one who comes on the day of judgment with all of their prayers, fasting, and charity only to have it all taken away because of an abusive tongue.

But what makes Iblees’s struggle so relevant to ours? The point of worship is to humble you to your Creator and set your affairs right with His creation in accordance with that humility. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that whoever has an atom’s worth of pride in their heart would not enter paradise. The most obvious manifestation of that pride is rejecting the truth and belittling someone else. But other subtle manifestations of that pride include the refusal to leave off argumentation, abandon grudges, and humble yourself to the creation in pursuit of the pleasure of the Creator.

Yaqeen

Hence a person would rather spend several Ramadan’s observing the last 10 nights in intense prayer seeking forgiveness for their sins from Allah, rather then humble themselves for a moment to one of Allah’s servants by seeking forgiveness for their transgressions against him, even if they too have a claim.

Jumah is our weekly Eid, and Monday’s and Thursday’s are our weekly semblances of Ramadan as the Prophet (s) used to fast them since our deeds are presented to Allah on those days. He said about them, “The doors of Heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday, and Allah pardons in these days every individual servant who is not a polytheist, except those who have enmity between them; Allah Says: ‘Delay them until they reconcile with each other”

In Ramadan, the doors of Heaven are opened throughout the month and the deeds ascend to Allah. But imagine if every day as your fasting, Quran recitation, etc. is presented to Allah this month, He responds to the angels to delay your pardon until you reconcile with your brother. Ramadan is the best opportunity to write that email or text message to that lost family member or friend and say “it’s not worth it to lose Allah’s forgiveness over this” and “IM SORRY.”

Compare these two statements:

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “He who boycotts his brother for more than three days and dies during this period will be from the people of hellfire.”

He also said:

“I guarantee a house in the suburbs of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right.”

Swallowing your pride is bitter, while prayer is sweet. Your ego is more precious to you than your sleep. But above all, Allah’s pleasure is more precious than it all.

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#Life

Fall Apart: Be Weak to Find Strength in Allah

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Growing up in Jeddah, every evening in Ramadan, we would pile into our car and whiz off to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers to Shoaibi Mosque and spend a few spell-bound hours under the reassuring baritones of Sheikh Abdullah Basfar. His beautiful voice became the anthem of my childhood in many ways but more than his voice, it was the building of tradition and memory that became ingrained in my system. By doing the same thing, day in, day out, year in, year out, my parents gave us a sense of stability and predictability that set the tone for our entire adolescence.

How that rhythm seeped into the very bones of who I am is something I am still discovering well into adulthood.

Last night, standing in my grandmother’s garden in Karachi, I experienced my first Taraweeh Khatam-e-Quran since leaving my parents home in Jeddah so many years ago. It is also, incidentally, my first Ramadan without both my parents, who last year seemingly decided they would much rather be together in Jannah than spend more time in this rubbish world and in quick succession, returned to their Maker, leaving me understandably grieving, awash in memories, struggling to steer my ship.

And so it was, that by the time the imam reached Surah Qadr, I was chokey. By Surah Kawthar, I had tears streaming down my face. And by the time the last three surahs, the comforting Quls, began, I was openly sobbing. Probably more openly than what is considered socially appropriate…but honestly, I was restraining myself. Because what I actually felt like doing was throwing my head back and howling up at the sky. Thankfully, I was flanked by women who knew, who understood, who with tears in their own eyes, let me be with my heaving shoulders and a chest that felt it would crack open under the weight of my emotions.

As the imam had recited surah after surah and the end of the Quran had approached, the ghosts of Ramadan Past had flooded into me and my body had remembered. It had remembered years and years of experiencing that same excitement, that same sense of weight as Sheikh Abdullah Basfar gently and methodically guided us over the course of the month through the Book of all books, that same uplifting, heartbreaking, momentous trepidation of offering something up to Him with the hope that He would bestow something shining in return.

Had this Book been revealed to a mountain, the mountain would have crumbled. You get a tiny glimpse of that weight when you complete a khatam. Here I am, Allah, here I am, in my little hole-y dinghy, with my itty bitty crumbs of ibaadah. Pliss to accept?

Back in Jeddah, after the khatam, we would pile back in the car and go for ice cream. Last night in Karachi, after the khatam, the Imam gave a short talk and in it he mentioned how we are encouraged to cry when conversing with Allah. We should beg and plead and insist and argue and tantrum with Him because He loves to be asked again and again. We live in a world of appropriateness, political correctness, carefully curated social media feeds and the necessity of putting our best, most polished face forwards at all times. How freeing then, that when we turn to our Lord, we are specifically instructed to abandon our sense of control. All the facades and the curtains are encouraged to be dropped away and we stand stripped to our souls in front of Him. In other words, He loves it when we fall apart. Which is exactly what I had just done. 

Last night, I found myself wondering what exactly had I cried so hard over. Which tears were for Him and the desperate desire for His mercy? Which were for the loveliness of the Quran, the steadying rhythm of it, not just verse to verse but also, cover to cover? Which tears were for the already achey yearning of yet another Ramadan gone past? Which were for my breaking heart that has to soon face my first Eid day and all the days of my life without my beloved Mumma and Baba? Which tears were of gratitude that I get to stand on an odd night of the best time of the year, alongside some of my dearest people, in the courtyard of a house full of childhood memories, under the vast, inky, starry sky and standing there, I get to fall apart, freely, wholly, soul-satisfyingly?

And which tears were of a searingly humbling recognition, that I am so wildly privileged to have this faith of mine – the faith that promises if we navigate the choppy dunya waters right, we will be reunited with our loved ones in a beautiful, eternal place, that if we purposely, and repeatedly crumble under the weight of our belief in Him and His plans, our future is bright?

Today, I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter why I cried. Because here is what I do know:

1. “If Allah knows good in your hearts, He will give you better than what was taken from you…” (8:70)


2. “If Allah intends good for someone, then he afflicts him with trials.” Prophet Muhammad

3. “Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.” Prophet Muhammad

In losing my parents, I have drawn closer to Allah. And though I miss them dizzyingly, I am so thankful that through the childhood they gave me, through the anchoring to the Quran they gifted me with, through their own tears that I witnessed during those long-ago khatams in the Shoaibi Mosque in Jeddah, they left me with the knowledge that if in losing them, I have gained even an atom’s worth more of His pleasure, then that’s a pretty great bargain.

 

As a parent of three young ones myself, I’ve spent my days teaching my children: be strong, be strong, be strong. Stand tall, stay firm, be sturdy in the face of the distracting, crashing waves of the world. But now I know something just as important to teach them: be weak, be weak, be weak.

Crumble in front of Him, fall apart, break open so that His Light may enter and be the only thing to fill you. It’s not easy but it will be essential for your survival in the face of any loss, grief, trial and despair this world throws your way. It will help you, finger to tongue, always know which way the wind is blowing and which way to steer your ship. Straight in to the sun, always. To Jannah. Because how wondrous are the affairs of us Muslims that when it comes to our sorrows and our hopes, out there on the horizon of Allah’s wise plans, it all shimmers as one – The grief of what is, the memory of what was and brighter than both, the glittering, iridescent promise of what will be.

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Ramadan

Heart Soothers: Shaykh Ibrahim Osman

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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