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Leading Through Crisis: 10 Critical Questions That Must Be Answered Before You Re-Open The Masjid

Disclaimers

I’m not a public health expert, medical expert, or infectious disease expert. Neither are most of the people who will end up making the decision to reopen our local masjids. With that said, this article is meant to explore the decision-making process of reopening the masjid through a leadership lens. How do you, in a time of crisis, evaluate the available information decisively in a way that provides the most benefit to your community?

Background

At the time of this article, today marks the 8th consecutive Friday without a congregational Juma prayer in my local community. Friday is a major source of donation revenue for most Islamic centers.

There is a natural urge on the side of masjid administration to re-open quickly so services can resume and finances recover. There is a natural urge on the side of congregants to get back to the masjid – especially when they see significantly less important venues like movie theaters reopening.

The Guidelines

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I’m going to share here the guidelines given for the State of Texas in reopening houses of worship. This is both because I am in Texas and because it is one of the first states embracing a re-open policy.

Decision Making Process

The role of leadership is to make the best possible decision given the information available to them. A good example of this is how the NBA is currently handling the decision to resume the basketball season. This includes a process of consulting experts and developing multi-level contingency plans.

The role of masjid leadership is to eliminate as many blind spots as possible, mitigate cognitive and emotional biases, conduct shura with relevant experts, and making istikharah to seek Divine assistance with the decision.

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Taking the assumed guidelines from the State of Texas into account, these are critical questions leadership must answer before deciding to reopen a masjid.

Questions

These are meant to be a guide to help shape the decision-making process by leadership. This is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list by any measure.

1. What are public health experts advising?

We live in a time where policy decisions can be driven by business interests or politics. How are you ensuring the decision is driven by the interest of safety?

One easy data point to consider – whether reported cases still increasing or decreasing.

2. Who is screening people, and how?

At-risk populations (such as those over the age of 65) are still advised to stay home even with a reopen policy. Who is responsible for:

  • Checking temperatures at the door (and do you have non-contact thermometers to do so?)
  • Listening for coughs and sneezes
  • Watching for people shaking hands
  • Seeing if masks are being worn properly
  • Asking each congregant if they have any symptoms, or been in contact with someone who tested positive
  • Monitoring restroom and wudu areas

Be clear. Name exactly who is responsible for these items, and how they are validating these conditions are met.

3. Who gets to attend?

Are you allowing people over the age of 65 to attend? Why or why not – and can you explain that decision to the community?

Are you allowing women to attend? Again, why or why not – and can you explain that decision to the community?

Is it first come, first serve? Are you sending out a questionnaire to screen people? Who is processing that information and on what basis?

4. Who is enforcing the standards at the door?

If your 25% capacity is 50 people, who exactly is going to turn back the 51st person and tell them they cannot attend? And if that person refuses to listen, what is the contingency?

Who is turning people back for not bringing their own prayer mat?

Is your masjid staff ready for that person berate you and threaten you with spiritual blackmail about holding you accountable on the Day of Judgment for preventing them from the masjid?

Are you ready for that person to create a WhatsApp group in the community calling you a hypocrite preventing people from attending the masjid?

5. Who is enforcing standards inside?

Who is going to ask people to leave the masjid if they cough or wear a mask improperly?

If you do have an area set aside for at-risk population (as the Texas guidelines state) – who is enforcing that inside?

6. If your answer to the above is law enforcement, what other contingencies are needed?

Does the law enforcement count towards your limit of people? How many law enforcement officers are needed? And is this even the best use of their time during a pandemic, or is the masjid creating an unnecessary strain on the local community? And if that happens, how will you deal with the PR fallout?

What is the cost of adding law enforcement? And what if they say no? What’s the back-up plan for enforcement?

7. How are you managing traffic flow?

It’s easy to social-distance in the prayer hall spread out. When prayer ends, everyone goes to the shoe area and the same entrance/exit. What is the plan for managing that traffic flow, and setting the expectation for people that they may have to wait in order to leave?

8. What is the sanitization process, and how are you paying for it?

Who is going to come and clean the masjid before and after each prayer? What type of disinfectant are they using? Who is responsible for the quality control of the cleaning process?

Keep in mind this is not a simple custodial service. Every surface that had the potential to be touched must be sanitized.

This is an additional cost to cleaning before and after each event. A masjid open only for juma only needs to be cleaned twice. A masjid open for every prayer every day will need the cleaning staff at least 70 times a week.

These are not insignificant costs. And I mention the importance of cost only because this seems to be a driving factor in some places rushing to reopen – making up for lost donation revenue.

9. Can we defend the decision we make?

Did you even involve the right people? Are all the relevant experts involved? What about a diverse cross-segment of your congregation? What are other organizations in your community doing? What about places of worship of other faiths – have you consulted with them as well?

There’s an idea in the decision-making book Decisive (Click here to see my short video series explaining the book) about doing a pre-mortem of what went wrong before making a decision.

Let’s assume the masjid reopens, and someone who is positive for Covid-19 infects 25 congregants. Those 25 take it back to their families, and eventually, a few community members pass away and their deaths are all traced back to the asymptomatic individual who came to the masjid.

What additional steps must have been taken to prevent that scenario, and are you implementing those?

Further, what is the liability the masjid itself faces? What is the liability on the board?

10. Did you make istikharah?

Perhaps the most critical and most neglected part of the decision making process.

 

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

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Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting | Hadiths 3-6

– وعنه أن رسول الله ﷺ قال: “من أنفق زوجين في سبيل الله نُودي من أبواب الجنة: يا عبدالله هذا خيرٌ، فمن كان من أهل الصلاة دُعيَ من باب الصلاة، ومن كان من أهل الجهاد دُعيَ من باب الجهاد، ومن كان من أهل الصيام دُعيَ من باب الريان، ومن كان من أهل الصدقة [480] دُعيَ من باب الصدقة” قال أبو بكر رضي الله عنه، بأبي أنت وأُمي يا رسول الله! ما على من دُعيَ من تلك الأبواب من ضرورةٍ، فهل يدعى أحدٌ من تلك الأبواب كلها؟ قال: “نعم وأرجو أن تكون منهم” متفقٌ عليه().

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

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, “He who spends a pair in the way of Allāh will be called from the gates of paradise: ‘O slave of Allāh! This is goodness’ and one who is among the people of ṣalāt (prayer), will be called from the gate of ṣalāt; and whoever is eager in fighting in the cause of Allāh, will be called from the gate of jihād; and one who is regular in fasting will be called from the gate Ar-Rayyān. The one who is a charitable person will be called from the gate of charity.” Abū-Bakr (May Allāh be pleased with him) said: “O Messenger of Allāh ﷺ ! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you! Those who are called from these gates will stand in need of nothing. However, will anybody be called from all of those gates?” He replied, “Yes, and I hope that you will be one of them.” ”.

Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“ The Messenger of Allāh said, “He who spends a pair in the way of Allāh will be called from the gates of paradise: ‘O slave of Allāh! This is goodness’ ”

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In some narrations of this ḥadīth it is added: “It was said: what is a pair? He ﷺ said: two horses, two cows, or two mules”.

It is possible that his ḥadīth applies to all virtuous actions, be it two ṣalāt, fasting two days, or two acts of charity. That is substantiated by the wording of the rest of the ḥadīth, which enumerates those different actions.

In the way of Allāh applies to all acts of goodness [i.e for Allāh’s sake]. It is also said that it is specific to jihād, but the first interpretation is more correct and apparent. That is Imām Al-Nawawī’s position.

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Goodness here is said to mean reward and delight. It is also said that it means this is better i.e we think that this is better for you than the rest of the doors, due to the abundance of its reward and bounties. Come and enter through it.

Ḥāfiẓ Ibn-Ḥajar however contends in Fatḥul-Bārī: “The meaning of goodness is virtue, not superiority, although the wording may lead to think so. The intent of the statement is to provide additional encouragement to the individual for entering through that door”.

“And one who is among the people of ṣalāt (prayer), will be called from the gate of ṣalāt; and whoever is eager in fighting in the cause of Allāh, will be called from the gate of jihād; and one who is regular in fasting will be called from the gate Al-Rayyān.”

Al Qurṭubī explains: to be among the people of ṣalāt means that one performs abundant optional prayers to the point that it represents the most common of his optional actions. The obligatory ṣalāt is not meant, because all people are equal in that respect.

The same reasoning applies to fasting and ṣadaqa.

The door is called Al-Rayyān i.e the one who is satiated/quenched, as opposed to the one who is thirsty i.e the person fasting. This is to signify that he is rewarded for his thirst through a permanent satiation in paradise.

“The one who is a charitable person will be called from the gate of charity.”

After the mention of this door, four of the five pillars of Islām have been included, leaving the pillar of Ḥajj. There is no doubt that there is a door for [those who performed] Ḥajj [abundantly]. That leaves a remainder of three doors to complete the number of eight doors.

One of those doors is the door for ﴾ الْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ﴿ “those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind” (s. Āl-ʿImrān, v. 134). Imām Aḥmad bin-Ḥanbal narrates from Al-Ḥasan [in a ḥadīth mursal] “Certainly Allāh has a door in paradise which none except those who forgive injustice will enter through”.

Another one of those doors is “the door of the right side.” That is the door of the mutawakkilīn i.e those who used to put their entire trust in Allāh, through which will enter those who will not go through any reckoning nor will they be subject to any punishment.

As for the third door, it may be the door of the remembrance of Allāh, as a ḥadīth in Tirmidhī alludes to it. It is also possible that it is the door of knowledge.

Considering the fact that the types of virtuous actions number much more than eight in total, it is then possible that the doors through which people will be called are in fact internal doors which are located beyond the eight main doors of paradise.

Al-Suyūṭī explains in Al-Dībāj: “Al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ explains: the remaining doors are mentioned in other aḥādīth: the door of repentance, the door of “those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind”, the door of those who are content, the door of the right side from which will enter those who will not undergo any reckoning”.

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn-Ḥajar explains in Fatḥul-Bārī: for one to spend in the way of Allāh in ṣadaqa, jihād, knowledge and ḥajj is obvious. It is however not so obvious for other actions.
Spending in ṣalāt may refer to acquiring its tools such as the water to purify oneself, and one’s suitable garments or the like thereof.
As for spending while fasting it would be on those things which strengthen one to do such as suḥūr [pre-dawn meal] and fuṭūr [meal after sunset].
Spending to forgive others would mean that one forsakes those rights which he is entitled to from them.
Spending in tawakkul would be that which one spends during a sickness which prevents them for earning a living, while exerting patience in one’s affliction. It can also be that which one spends on someone else who is afflicted by the same, seeking thereby reward.
Spending for dhikr would be along the same lines.

It is also possible that what is meant by spending on ṣalāt and fasting is for one to exert their person in those acts. In the language of the ʿArab, exertion of one’s person is called expenditure [nafaqa]. They will for instance say, “I have expended my life on it” when referring to a trade which one has learnt. Exerting one’s body in fasting and ṣalāt would therefore be considered expenditure.

“Abū-Bakr  (May Allāh be pleased with him) said: “O Messenger of Allāh ﷺ ! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you! Those who are called from these gates will stand in need of nothing. However, will anybody be called from all of those gates?” ”

He means that one being called by anyone of these doors would certainly not suffer any diminution or loss. This statement brings alertness to the fact that very few people will be called from all those gates.

The one who has all those actions to his account is called from all the doors is an expression of merit, but entrance will nevertheless occur from only one door . That door is likely to be the one corresponding to the action which was most dominant for that person.

In this same context, one should not be confused by the ḥadīth of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim which says “Whoever performs ablution and does so most adequately, and then says I bear witness that there is no deity but Allāh…” and then it mentions “then the eight doors of paradise will open and he may enter from whichever one he choses”. The takeaway from this ḥadīth is that the doors are opened in this instance as a sign of esteem. One will nonetheless only enter through the door corresponding to their most abundant action.

Al-Zarkashī explains: “It is possible that the paradise is a fortress with embedded walls, and each wall would have its own door. Some will be called from the first door only, while others will be made to skip to the first door and taken to the interior door. So on and so forth…”.

“He replied, “Yes, and I hope that you will be one of them.” ”

The ʿulamāʾ explain: “Hope from Allāh and His Nabī ﷺ unequivocally comes to realization”.

The author-Imām Nawawī-explains: among the things which are inferred from this ḥadīth is the virtue of Abū-Bakar , and the permissibility of praising a person in their presence as long as a tribulation is not feared for them such as them becoming fond of themselves.

 وعن سهل بن سعدٍ رضي الله عنه عن النبي ﷺ، قال: “إن في الجنة باباً يُقالُ له: الريانُ، يدخلُ منه الصائمون يوم القيامة، لا يدخلُ منه أحدٌ غيرهم، يقالُ: أين الصائمون؟ فيقومون لا يدخل منه أحدٌ غيرهم، فإذا دخلوا أُغلق فلم يدخل منه أحدٌ” متفقٌ عليه().

Sahl bin-Saʿd  (May Allāh be pleased with him) narrates:

The Prophet ﷺ said, “In paradise there is a gate which is called Al-Rayyān through which only those who observe fasting will enter on the Day of Resurrection. No one else will enter through it. It will be called out, “Where are those who observe fasting?” so they will stand up and no one else will enter through it. When the last of them will have entered, the gate will be closed and then no one will enter through that gate.”

Narrated by Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Prophet ﷺ said, “In paradise there is a gate which is called Al-Rayyān”

The significance of the name Rayyān i.e the one who is satiated/quenched has been explained earlier. One may add here that being satiated has been used to also signify that one’s hunger is satisfied, because they clearly go hand-in-hand.

“Through which only those who observe fasting will enter on the Day of Resurrection”

The mention of the day of resurrection is because that is when this will occur. It can also be said that it’s to differentiate from the souls of the martyrs and those of the believers which enter paradise during the duration of this lowly world, without it being contingent upon the action of fasting.

“No one else will enter through it. It will be called out, “Where are those who observe fasting?” so they will stand up and no one else will enter through it. When they have entered, the gate will be closed and then no one will enter through that gate. ”

The narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim mentions “when the last one of them will have entered”.

The repetition of the fact that no one else will enter through it is done for emphasis. The wording of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim is also narrated by Ibn Abī-Shayba in his Musnad, Abū-Nuʿaym in his Mustakhraj, Ibn-Khuzayma, and Al-Nasāʾī. Al-Nasāʾī added: “Whoever enters will never ever experience thirst again”.

Both Bukhārī and Muslim narrated this ḥadīth in the chapter of fasting.

وعن أبي سعيد الخدري، رضي الله عنه، قال: قال رسول الله ﷺ: “ما من عبدٍ يصومُ يوماً في سبيل الله إلا باعد الله بذلك اليوم وجههُ عن النار سبعين خريفاً()” متفقٌ عليه().

Abu Saʿīd Al-Khudrī  (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, “There is no slave of Allāh who observes fasting for one day in the way of Allāh, except that Allah will detach his face from hell-fire to the extent of a distance to be covered in seventy years. ”

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, “There is no slave of Allāh”

Meaning no legally responsible individual, and what will be mentioned next is true for both men and women. This is substantiated by the fact that a narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim does not specify a gender “Whoever fasts a day in the way of Allāh, He detaches their face from the hell-fire for a distance of seventy years”.

“Who observes fasting for one day in the way of Allāh”

Meaning in the obedience of Allāh.

“Except that Allāh will detach his face from hell-fire to the extent of a distance to be covered in seventy years.”

Meaning for the duration of a journey lasting seventy years.

وعن أبي هريرة، رضي الله عنه، عن النبي ﷺ، قال: “من صام رمضان إيماناً واحتساباً، غفر له ما تقدم من ذنبه” متفقٌ عليه().

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

The Prophet ﷺ said, “He who observes the fast of the month of Ramaḍān with faith and reflecting upon its reward, will have his past sins forgiven.”

Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Prophet ﷺ said, “He who observes the fast of the month of Ramaḍan with faith”

Meaning in a mental state where one affirms the truth of the reward related regarding it.

“And reflecting upon its reward”

Reflecting upon it and seeking thereby Allāh’s countenance [i.e His pleasure].

“Will have his past sins forgiven.”

Al-Nasāʾī and Aḥmad both add in a fine [ḥadīth ḥasan] narration, “and future sins”.
The sins which are forgiven on account of acts of obedience are those minor sins which relate to Allāh’s rights.

Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting. Hadiths 1-2

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#Islam

Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

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Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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#Current Affairs

The Best Ramadan in the Worst of Times

As Covid-19 started to spread its tentacles across the U.S. in late February, we began to have a small inkling of a possible disturbance in our daily lives. Living here in Dallas, Texas, close to the East Plano Islamic Center (EPIC), our lives have primarily centered on the masjid and its activities. Our mosque is one of the largest and the most active in the DFW area, and as engaged members of the community, my family and I have also been involved in weekly community activities. The first time we realized that this virus might have a direct effect on us was during a Friday khutbah in February when our Resident Scholar, Sh. Yasir Qadhi cautioned the community to follow the mandates of the state should we be unable to have a jumu’ah. He emphasized the Islamic rulings of following the law in these situations, while quoting several examples of similar situations in history.

As I listened to the sermon, I remember looking around the crowded women’s area and wondering how every single person felt listening to this khutbah. Not coming to jumu’ah was unheard of and the very thought of it was disconcerting. It was unnatural, and I remember making dua’ that it should not come to this. On that day I think every single one of us probably felt that discomfort and then shrugged it off because there had been no precedence for such a situation in even our parents’ or grandparents’ lifetimes. Surely, it would not come to this.

Less than 8 weeks after that khutbah we were preparing for a Ramadan in isolation. There was genuine grief within my community as we grappled with a Ramadan without our taraweeh prayers, without the qiyams, without the Quran classes, without the community iftars, without the smiles and hugs of fellow sisters who would embrace each other out of the sheer joy of being blessed with this holy month. The news outside our homes was grim. COVID-19 was rampaging through the country, leaving thousands dead and many more suffering. We were isolated within our homes in the holiest of months. It was a rough start to a month that we look forward to throughout the year. Social media was flooded with Muslims bemoaning the loss of community worship and a challenging Ramadan.

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As a mother of 4, my biggest challenge was to uplift my own emotions so that I could bring some semblance of festivity within my home. I was struggling with a number of things. My work had shifted fully online, so I was busy teaching my classes virtually and trying to maintain a positive outlook for my students, while simultaneously trying to keep the family upbeat about the upcoming month. It was overwhelming. But I slowly trudged on by prepping meals, setting up a routine with the family for suhoor, taraweeh, and Quran study. And then the auspicious evening arrived as we stepped out of our homes to search for the sliver of moon in the darkening sky. We couldn’t find the moon ourselves, but Ramadan had arrived.

That evening, my son led the taraweeh prayers standing shoulder to shoulder with my husband, while my three daughters and I stood behind them. There was a calm that descended on my tense shoulders during those taraweeh prayers. It was the sakina of Ramadan. It enveloped me like a mother’s warm hug, and after weeks of restlessness and uncertainty I was finally relaxed. That same night we sat together as a family to watch Sh. Yasir Qadhi begin his cover-to-cover brief tafsir of the Quran on our masjid’s YouTube channel. The next day was jumu’ah, and as a family we gathered before the television to watch the virtual khutbah being delivered to an empty mosque. It was a heartbreaking moment and I know I wept several times through the khutbah as must have all those whose hearts are attached to our beautiful masjid and were watching the empty musallah. But this weeping was cathartic. It was uplifting because it was bringing my heart closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). It was no longer a despairing crying, but a yearning for that closeness and connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that being in the masjid facilitated for me.

Within a couple of days our lives settled in, and suddenly there were unexpected blessings and joy at every turn of the day. The congregational prayers within my home were allowing me to experience the sweetness of salah in the masjid. The daily iftars and suhoors at home were prepared together as a family with each of us contributing to something on the table. The daily live Quran tafsir from Sh. Yasir Qadhi on YouTube was part of the new routine, as all of us would settle in with our teas and coffees to listen. There was no hustle and bustle of previous Ramadans as we were no longer rushing to go out or trying to cater to extended family and friends’ obligations. The outside world continued to be ravaged by the pandemic, but we were protected within our homes and surrounded by the blessings of Ramadan.

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As we reach the midway mark of this holy month, I have to step back and reflect on how I felt coming into this month and the state of my heart now. There is a newfound peace, stability, and joy in this Ramadan that I had not experienced before. The striving is no longer for anything outward but is now focused inward. My worship is now entirely between Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and myself. And my family is now the community whom I have to smile at, hug, serve, and appreciate. In a Sahih Muslim hadith, Abu Huraira raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and Abu Sa’id raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as saying:

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the Exalted and Majestic, said: Fast (is exclusively) meant for Me and I would give its reward. There are two (occasions) of joy for the observer of fast. He feels joy when he breaks the fast and he is happy when he meets Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). By Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, the breath of the observer of fast is sweeter to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) than the fragrance of musk.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says that fasting is exclusively for Him and that He will give the reward for it. This was something I had learned a long time ago, but it is only this Ramadan that I have begun to internalize it. Just as my fasting is exclusively for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), then my worship needed to be only for Him as well, and this Ramadan Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) removed all the crutches that I would use to boost my imaan. I had to self-reflect and view the state of my faith in its raw form, without any external influences, and without any distractions. And I realized that I was my biggest distraction from my faith. The striving (jihad) had to be internal, and as I began to strive to boost my own imaan, to create my own community, to build my own masjid, I realized that alhamdullilah, this was becoming the best Ramadan of my life.

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