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3 Ramadan Traditions at Risk of Extinction

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

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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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History and Seerah

Podcast: Five Historic Events That Rocked The World During Ramadan | Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter

We all know that Ramadan is the month of fasting, abstinence and reflection. Ramadan also just happens to be a month of awesome history defining events that shaped the world we live in today.

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Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting | Hadiths 9-12

 وعن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: “كان رسول الله ﷺ إذا دخل العشرُ أحيَى الليل، وأيقظ أهلهُ، وشدَّ المئزر” متفقٌ عليه().

 

ʿAʾishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported:

When the ten nights would begin, the Messenger of Allāh r would keep the night alive; he would also awaken his family and tighten his wrapper.

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Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“When the ten nights would begin”

What is meant is the last ten nights

“The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ would keep the night alive”

He would keep stay up at night and engage in various forms of worship such as ṣalāt, dhikr, and meditation/reflection. Or he kept himself alive by remaining awake, since sleep is death’s sibling. The metaphor refers to the night because when someone who is sleeping is woken-up and brought back to life, their night can be said to have been given life through them.

“He would also awaken his family”

He did so to draw their attention towards the time of goodness, so they may expose themselves to the gusts of goodness. A narration in Tirmidhī states, “When the last ten days of Ramaḍān would enter, the Messenger of Allāh r would not fail to wake up anyone who was capable of staying up in his household”. He would lead them towards the avenues of goodness, and help them attain it.

“And tighten his wrapper”

Al-Khaṭṭābī explains: “The meaning is likely to be earnestness in acts of worship. Just as one would say ‘I have tightened my wrapper for this matter’ i.e I have buckled down to it/rolled up my sleeves for it. It is also said that it may be a metaphor for buckling down and withdrawing from women. It is also said that it may have a literal meaning and a figurative meaning at the same time, i.e that he literally tighten his waist wrapper (izār) and also withdrew from women and buckled down for worship. However, the first explanation is more plausible because in another narration the following wording is found “He would tighten his wrapper and withdraw from women”. This leads us to conclude that the expression tightening his wrapper relates to earnestness in worship only.

– باب فضل السحور وتأخيره ما لم يخشَ طلوع الفجر

Chapter on the virtues of saḥūr, and of delaying it as long as one does fear the rising of dawn

 

 عن أنسٍ، رضي الله عنه، قال: قال رسول الله : “تسحروا؛ فإن في السحور بركةً” متفقٌ عليه .

Anas (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh said, “Eat suḥūr [or practice saḥūr] (predawn meal) because surely, there is baraka in suḥūr.”

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Saḥūr is the meal which is taken prior to the rise of dawn. Suḥūr on the other hand, is the act of partaking food at that time. This will have relevance in the ensuing commentary of the ḥadīth.

“The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, ‘Eat suḥūr [or practice saḥūr] (predawn meal)’ ”

This is considered mandūb i.e praiseworthy. The Sunna itself is fulfilled by having a little food even if it is only a sip of water. It is mentioned in a ḥadīth of ʿAbdullāh bin-Surāqa, traced back to the Nabī r: ‘Practice suḥūr, even if only with a sip of water’. It is narrated by Ibn-ʿAsākir[2]. The Sunna is likewise fulfilled by having a considerable quantity of food.

“Because surely, there is baraka in suḥūr [or saḥūr].”

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn-Ḥajar explains: ‘The use of both spellings is found in authentic narrations. If suḥūr is meant i.e the act of eating at that time, then by baraka is meant the reward and merit. If saḥūr is meant i.e the food which is eaten at that time, then by baraka is meant the fact that it strengthens one for fasting and makes one energetic for it. It also reduces the difficult involved in it’.

It is also said that the baraka lies in the fact of being awake at that time and engaging in duʿāʾ.
It is however more appropriate to say that the Baraka is attained through various avenues, namely: adherence to the Sunna, acting differently than the ahlul-kitāb (Christians and Jews), strengthening oneself for worship through it, its being a cause for one to engage in dhikr and duʿāʾ at a time when acceptance is highly likely, and it also allows for one who has forgotten to make the intention for fasting before sleeping to do so[3].

This ḥadīth was also narrated by Aḥmad, Al-Tirmidhī, Al-Nasāʾī, and Ibn-Māja all through Anas. Al-Nasāʾī has already narrated it through Abū-Hurayra and Ibn-Masʿūd. Aḥmad has also narrated it through Ibn-Masʿūd. This has all been mentioned in Al-Jāmiʿul-Ṣaghīr.

 وعن زيد بن ثابتٍ، رضي الله عنه، قال: تسحرنا مع رسول الله ثم قمنا إلى الصلاة. قيل: كم كان بينهما؟ قال: قدر خمسين آية. متفقٌ عليه

Zaid bin Thābit (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

We took suḥūr (predawn meal) with the Messenger of Allāh r and then we stood up for ṣalāt (prayer). It was asked: ‘How long was the gap between the two?’ He replied: ‘The time required for the recitation of fifty verses.’

[Al-Bukhārī and Muslim].

Zaid bin-Thābit was from the Anṣār of Madīna, and he was 11 years old when the Nabī r emigrated from Makka to Madīna. His father passed away when he was 6 years old, and the Nabī r considered him too young to participate in the battle of Badr (~13 years old). He however allowed him to participate in Uḥud. It is also said that he in fact did not participate in Uḥud but rather in Khandaq and the following expeditions with Rasūlullāh r. He used to write revelation for the Nabī r and he was one of the three people who compiled the Qurʾān by gathering its various verses and chapters and verifying their authenticity. The effort to compile the Qurʾān after the demise of the Nabī r was ordered by Abū-Bakr and ʿUmar.
ʿUmar and ʿUthmān would both designate him as imām in Madīna when they traveled for Ḥajj. Ibn Abī-Dāwūd explains: ‘Zaid bin-Thābit was the most knowledgeable of the rules of inheritance among the Ṣaḥābah, and he was among those firmly grounded in knowledge.
A total of 92 ḥadīth from Rasūlullāh r have been narrated by him, 10 of which are found in the collections of Bukhārī or Muslim. He passed away in Madīna in the year 54 A.H.

“We took suḥūr (predawn meal) with the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ”

One can notice a subtle indication of etiquette in the choice of words, rather than saying ‘Us and Rasūlullāh took suḥūr’ he used wording which emphasizes the fact that they followed his example r.

“And then we stood up for ṣalāt (prayer)”

The morning ṣalāt i.e ṣubḥ.

“It was asked: ‘How long was the gap between the two?’ He replied: ‘The time required for the recitation of fifty verses.’ ”

Anas is the one who asked the question. Imām Aḥmad also narrated a ḥadīth where Qatāda asks Anas the same question.
The verses referred to are of moderate length. They were neither long nor short, and were read neither fast nor slow. The ʿArab had the habit of estimating time through physical actions, such as saying ‘As long as it takes to milk a goat’. Zaid however chose to estimate the time through the action of reading the Qurʾān to indicate that it was a time fit for worship through recitation of the Qurʾān. Ibn Abī-Jamra explains: ‘The ḥadīth is an indication of the fact that the vast majority of their time was immersed in ʿibāda (worship)’.

The ḥadīth also indicates that suḥūr was done as late as possible, as it is more befitting for the intent behind it. Also because it was the Nabī r’s habit to look for that which was most gentle for his Umma and apply it. If he did not take suḥūr that would prove difficult for some of them, just as taking suḥūr in the middle of the night would be difficult for those overtaken by sleep. That could lead to leaving suḥūr altogether or in it being a tiresome process.

 وعن عمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله r قال: “فَصْلُ ما بين صيامنا وصيام أهل الكتاب أكلةُ السحر” رواه مسلم .

ʿAmr bin Al-ʿĀṣ (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, ‘The difference between our observance of fasting and that of the people of the scriptures (ahlul-kitāb) is suḥūr (predawn meal)’

[Narrated by Muslim].

ʿAmr bin Al-ʿĀṣ accepted Islām in the year of Khaybar, i.e the beginning of the 7th year A.H. Him, Khālid Ibnul-Walīd and ʿUthmān bin-Ṭalḥa came to the Nabī and accepted Islām together. He was made the commander of the 17th expedition, called sariyatu dhātil-salāsil and which had 300 men. It was then reinforced through another regiment in which were Abū-Bakr and ʿUmar, and whose commander was Abū-ʿUbayda bin-Jarrāh. The Nabī r told the latter ‘Do not be at odds with eachother’. ʿAmr used to lead the ṣalāt of the combined regiments until they returned to Madīna (notwithstanding the illustrious personalities who joined them). He was designated as an ambassador to Omān where he remained until the death of the Nabī r. Abū-Bakr t then sent him as governor to Shām and he was present in the various conquests of its territory. He then governed Palestine for ʿUmar t for some time after which he was sent with a regiment to Egypt, which he conquered. He remained its governor until the death of ʿUmar. ʿUthmān left him in his position for another 4 years, and he then removed him. ʿAmr then settled away in Palestine from which he would occasionally visit Madīna. Muʿāwiya t eventually designated him governor of Egypt, where he remained as governor until his death and was buried there. He passed away on the eve of ʿIdul-Fiṭr the year 43 A.H at the age of 70 years. His son ʿAbdullāh led his funeral prayer. He was among the heroes and intellectuals of the ʿArab, and was known to be a leader with a great vision.
When the time of his death dawned upon him he said: ‘O Allāh you have ordered me and I was not compliant, you prohibited me and I did not refrain, I am not strong so I seek assistance, neither am I free of blame so I apologize, and I am not arrogant but rather I am repentant; there is no deity except You’. He kept repeating these words until he passed away.

“The difference between our observance of fasting and that of the people of the scriptures (ahlul-kitāb)”

The ahlul-kitāb are the Jews and Christians. They were given revealed scriptures, hence the name ahlul-kitāb.

“Is suḥūr (predawn meal)”

This is an unequivocal statement to the fact that taking suḥūr is a special trait for us, and that Allāh has made it a favor and distinction for this Umma. This favor and distinction were not granted to the previous nations.

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Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting. Hadiths 7-8

– وعنه، رضي الله عنه، أن رسول الله ﷺ، قال: “إذا جاء رمضانُ، فُتحتْ أبواب الجنة، وغُلقت أبواب النار، وصُفدت() الشياطين” متفقٌ عليه().

Abū-Hurayra (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh said, “When Ramaḍān begins, the gates of paradise are opened, the gates of the fire of hell are closed, and the devils are chained.”

Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

The Messenger of Allāh said, “When Ramaḍān begins, the gates of paradise are opened”

The most apparent meaning is that this is a literal opening of the doors of paradise for a person who passes away during Ramaḍān, or for a person who performs good actions which are accepted. It is also said that the meaning is figurative, meaning that performing good actions in Ramaḍān will lead to the gates of paradise being opened in the hereafter. Another figurative meaning may also be the abundance of mercy and forgiveness, as can be inferred by a narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim “The doors of mercy are opened”.

“The gates of the fire of hell are closed”

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The same observation can be made about this statement as has just been said regarding the gates of paradise.

It is also said that this is a metaphor to express the fact that the egos of the fasting persons are pure from the impurities of shameful actions, and they are liberated from the things which lead to sinful acts by means of their tamed based desires.
Al-Ṭībī explains: ‘The benefit of this is two-fold: the angels are clearly made aware that the action of those fasting is highly revered in front of Allāh. The fact that the truthful Nabī is the one informing about this matter also serves to increase the eagerness of the Muslim individual’.

“And the devils are chained”

This statement can also be considered to be in a literal sense. It may also figuratively mean that they are prevented from causing excessive nuisance to the believers and from provoking them. That makes them seem as they are chained. It may also mean that the Muslims refrain from involving themselves in the acts of disobedience which the devils annoy them with.

– باب الجود وفعل المعروف والإكثار من الخير في شهر رمضان

والزيادة من ذلك في العشر الأواخر منه

Chapter on generosity, performing good actions, increasing in goodness during Ramaḍān and augmenting in that during its last 10 days

1/1222- وعن ابن عباس، رضي الله عنهما، قال: كان رسول الله ﷺ، أجود الناس، وكان أجود() ما يكونُ في رمضان حين يلقاهُ جبريلُ، وكان جبريلُ يلقاهُ في كل ليلةٍ من رمضان فيدارسهُ القرآن، فلرسولُ الله ﷺ، حين يلقاهُ جبريلُ أجودُ بالخير من الريح المرسلة” متفقٌ عليه().

Ibn ʿAbbās (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was the most generous of men; and he would be the most generous during the month of Ramaḍān when Jibrīl visited him. Jibrīl would meet him every night of Ramaḍān and he would review the Qurʾān with him. As a result, at the time Jibrīl met him the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was more generous with goodness than the free wind.

What is meant by good actions in the title are obligatory and recommended actions alike. Increasing such actions in Ramaḍān is mandūb (i.e commendable) as the reward will be multiplied on virtue of the distinction of this time. This particularity in Ramaḍān is because it is the best of the months, so it is commendable to keep it alive with such actions and see their reward multiplied as a result.

The last ten days start on the eve of the 21st day of fasting, and they end on the last day whether the month ends in 29 days or 30 days.

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) was the most generous of men”

He was the man endowed with the most generosity. Indeed it is a fact that that which has been narrated of his generosity has not been narrated regarding anyone else.

“And he would be the most generous during the month of Ramaḍān when Jibrīl visited him.”

His state of generosity in Ramaḍān was superior to that outside of Ramaḍān, but he was nevertheless the most generous man in an absolute sense.

“Jibrīl would meet him every night of Ramaḍān and he would review the Qurʾān with him”

It is said that the wisdom in reviewing the Qurʾān is that it renews the pledge of having a content ego. Contentment in turns breeds generosity. Ramaḍān is also the season of goodness because Allāh’s bounties on his servants are increased therein. It was the habit of Nabī to give preference to follow the example of the sunna of Allāh (i.e his customary practice) in dealing with His servants. The combination of what has been mentioned i.e the time, the one who came down (Jibrīl), what he descended with (the Qurʾān) and the learning were all obtained through the hand of generosity. And Allāh knows best.

“As a result, at the time Jibrīl met him the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) was more generous with goodness than the free wind”

He was, in the speed of his generosity faster than the wind. The free wind indicates the wind which continuously blows with mercy. His generosity was all-encompassing in its benefit just as the free wind fully encompasses anything it blows on.

A narration of Imām-Aḥmad includes the following wording at the end of this ḥadīth: “He was never asked anything except that he gave it”[1].

Imām Al-Nawawī explains:

“This ḥadīth contains many fine lessons: encouragement towards generosity at all times, and increasing it during Ramaḍān as well as when meeting righteous people (analogy with the meeting of Jibrīl). It also indicates the virtue of visiting the pious and noble folk, and to do so repeatedly as long as the person being visited does not mind. It also points to the laudable nature of abundantly reading Qurʾān during Ramaḍān and the fact that it is superior to all forms of remembrance of Allāh [dhikr/adhkār]. Indeed, if dhikr was superior or equivalent to it then they would have done it (the Nabī and Jibrīl). Some commentators have said that these were tajwīd sessions. This is however objectionable as memorization of the Nabī was a given, and anything beyond memorization could be achieved through a few sessions. It is therefore clear that the intent in Jibrīl’s coming was an increase in the amount of recitation.

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