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Celebrating Valentine’s Day And Secular Holidays

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2009

Bismillah

Author: Sadaf Farooqi

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As every year ends and a new one begins, Muslims all over the world face the dilemma of whether or not to celebrate some international holidays and festivals that follow close on each other’s heels. Examples of these are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day. These are soon followed by Easter.

Muslims living in Western countries in particular, get overwhelmed by a rush of partying, decorations, greetings, school holidays, seasonal sales, and merry-making on a communal level, leaving them with little options about what to do. 

Although most progressive societies claim to offer individual freedom-of-choice to their dwellers, boasting multi-ethnic populations which exhibit mutual tolerance and respect, the fact remains that Muslims are seldom genuinely respected for their lack of integration into these societies.

Since Muslims are unflinching about their worship and Islamic obligations in any sphere of life — be it social interaction, dress code, dietary rules, or work ethics — they usually face silent antagonism from their communities; one that brims quietly under the surface, but is very much present.

As a Muslim, when you and your family are faced with the dilemma of how to spend the time during which everyone around you is preparing for, or celebrating, a holiday that is not part of Islam, how should you think, act and react in general, with other Muslims, as well non-Muslim peers and colleagues?

Educate yourself and your family in a mature manner:

You can consult original sources of knowledge about what a Muslim should and should not do during secular festivals and celebrations. What exactly is it about partaking in these festivities that is frowned upon in Islam? Is it the aspect of imitating non-Muslims? Is it the extravagance and spending involved? Or is it the support of the beliefs and concepts on which these celebrations are based, that is disliked?

You can refer to your local mosque, or Islamic QA sources on the Internet for your answers, so that you make an informed choice about your actions. After that, you may choose to educate your fellow Muslims – those who are willing and eager to listen – about what you have learned. However, please do not forcefully lecture or preach to those Muslims who are not interested in listening — those who want to celebrate the holidays, and are unconcerned about the Islamic viewpoint of this issue.

Click here for a video by Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, titled “The Truth About Holidays”, a lecture which he delivered at the University of Miami, regarding celebrations and holidays in Islam.

Enjoy the holidays alternatively:

Since the family might be getting a few days off any way, you should carefully plan some fruitful and fun outings to make the most of them. Visiting relatives in another town or in a different country is a good option. Going to parks, the zoo, on a lakeside picnic, or to a cabin in the mountains for the weekend, are other enjoyable options.

If on a budget, you can camp out in your own backyard, teaching your children how to set up camp and start a bonfire!

Once you get down to it, your creative ideas will start flowing. E.g. during Halloween, when all other children are trick-or-treating, or getting pumpkins from the pumpkin patch, you can buy your children some candy and a pumpkin anyway, explaining how Allah created it. Later on, after the holiday is gone, you can buy them a costume of their liking, if they feel too dismayed at not having one while other children do.

For older children, you can give them a short background about Halloween and why it is not celebrated in Islam. The same goes for Christmas – when your children ask you who Santa is, or why everyone is decorating a tree in their living room, you can give them the background of the whole celebration. But that will be possible only if you yourself know it first!

You should remember that unless you focus on providing fun alternative family entertainment and outings, your children will definitely want to join in with the international holiday celebrations, feeling left out and lonely. It is easy to deny them their joys, but more difficult to actually provide them with enjoyable alternatives. As Muslim parents, it is your duty to do the latter.

One of the questions many Muslims mothers have asked me is, “How do I not celebrate my child’s birthday? I give in to pressure from relatives, who say its just some harmless fun, but afterwards, I end up feeling bad about encouraging a celebration that has no basis in Islam.”

The answer to this question is: provide an alternative celebration to your child a month or so before their birthday comes up.

First of all, explain to them that their birth date keeps moving according to the lunar calendar, just like the annual ‘Eid celebrations move every year. Make them remember their lunar birth date and year (click here for a solar-to-lunar date converter), besides just the Gregorian one.

Because children should not be denied their fun and parties, organize a party every year for each of your children, before their birthday comes up, in which all their friends are invited for games, food and fun. That way, the child will not feel that his/her parents do not love him/her, when their birthday goes by uncelebrated; they will already feel special and thought of.

Instead of a cake, you can keep individual muffins. Leave out the birthday song, candle-blowing and the cake-cutting, but have the games, assorted party food, Islamic musical entertainment (such as duff-accompanied nasheeds) and colorful decorations, as part of the festivities. Instead of making your child expect gifts from guests, buy individual gifts that he or she can give to each friend when they leave. This will encourage your child to have a giving spirit.

Muslim parents should also plan special festivities on both ‘Eids, so that their children never feel that their family is “no-fun” or “boring”. If, in addition to annual children’s parties, picnics on the beach, trips to the park/playground, to the zoo, the museum, and to fun-fairs, in addition to swimming, cycling, archery, other sports and horse-riding, are a regular part of your children’s life, they will never, ever miss not having “birthday celebrations”, because their yearning for enjoyment will be more than satisfied.

You, as a Muslim parent, have to ensure that you provide healthy, Islamic alternatives for your children’s enjoyment, for this to be possible.

Respect others; abstain from preaching intolerance or judgmental behavior:

Just because you and your family are not celebrating a particular holiday, there’s no need to pass judgments on those who are. Allah alone is the Judge of mankind. You can pass the days calmly unaffected by the hearty festivities, and if asked about why they are being carried out, be factual and brief in your reply, for example, “They celebrate it because it is their cultural/religious tradition,” or “It is a special, festive day in their religious calendar.” 

Reflect upon your identity:

People do a lot of things in the heat of the moment just because everyone around them is doing it. This attitude is indicative of youth, immaturity and impulsiveness. Wise, mentally independent and intelligent people don’t just do something because the world tells them to do it. They think about who they are, what they believe in, and where they want to go in life before they do something.

As a Muslim, if you feel there is ‘nothing wrong’ with being part of a community celebration, even if it signifies, or is the result of, the belief-set of another religion; maybe you should ask yourself some key questions about your faith. What do you believe, and why? Why are you a Muslim? Because you were born one? Because your parents raised you as one? Or because you have chosen to be one, after serious study of Islam’s authentic sources? Are you akin to a leaf floating on a river, going where ever the flow takes it? Or are you a strong, confident individual; someone who knows who they are, what they want in life, and is not apologetic about it? 

Whether you choose to celebrate or not – there’s no need to be too vocal about your opinions:

So, maybe you are one of those Muslims who go ahead and celebrate every holiday under the sun with your entire eclectic group of friends. You pull out all the stops and don’t give two hoots about any kind of Islamic restrictions, when the time comes to eat, drink, and be merry. You, therefore, can not stand the sight, sound or company of Muslim men in thobes, wearing kufi’s and sporting beards, with their hijab-donning wives in tow, telling others about the reality of these holidays and how they are impermissible to celebrate in Islam. Whenever you get the chance, you snub, criticize and degrade these practicing Muslims, calling them demeaning names and rejecting their polite efforts at Islamic brotherly relations.
Be a little tolerant yourself; live and let live. If they make you feel guilty for some reason, causing you to go on the offensive to defend yourself, resist the urge to put them down in front of non-Muslims – it doesn’t look pretty. Just live and let live. Quietly.

Try not to get into arguments:

Your Muslim neighbor, sibling or friend might not be too keen about celebrating the New Year. They are not letting their children go to a New Year party. Your ‘weird’ cousin got no gift, chocolates, or flowers for his wife on Valentine’s Day, saying he “doesn’t believe in it”. Your married sister pulled her children out of a secular school when it held a Christmas celebration. Your parents refuse to buy a Christmas tree, presents or stockings for the living room on Christmas Eve; because, they insist, they are Muslims.

No matter how much you don’t understand, nor appreciate this apparent “extremism” or “narrow-mindedness”, try not to argue with them about their beliefs. They have their reasons for their actions, and maybe those reasons are genuine – to them. If you don’t mind your friends of other faiths making an effort to preserve their own cultures and traditions, don’t hate Muslims for intending to do the same thing. Ever wonder why Chinese restaurants are hued with red? Ever think why most Hindus do not eat beef? Ever criticize them for it? If not, treat your fellow Muslims with the same respect. 

If you are comfortable and confident about your faith in Islam, you won’t really be bothered about what the world thinks of you if you don’t participate in secular festivals and celebrations. However, if you are yourself inclined towards these celebrations, you will probably resort to complaining about, and criticizing, the restrictions of Islam, labeling those who adhere to them as extremists, bores, or fundamentalists. Whatever the case, try not to get into fights over each others’ choice of action, and remember that mutual respect and tolerance is preached by all religions of mankind; therefore, adhere to this universal law, especially with your own brothers and sisters in Islam, whenever pumpkins, fir trees, red hearts or Santa’s appear on the horizon.

The author writes for Hiba Magazine.

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Posted in Acting upon the Quran, Muslim Matters, Non Muslims, Quran, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Fasting In Ramadan: A Practical Guide

Posted by Admin on August 10, 2008


Sadaf Farooqi

Ramadan is one of the most blessed months in the Islamic Calendar. It is a month of worship, which requires a Muslim to fast from dawn to dusk, consecutively for twenty-nine or thirty days. Every Muslim knows that fasting in Ramadan is obligatory. Some have been doing it all their life, more as a cultural byproduct of being born in a Muslim household than as an expression of religious commitment; others start at a later stage in life, perhaps after converting to Islam. What stands true for all, however, is the fear of this form of worship being “difficult to do.” Below is a practical guide to how Muslims can make fasting in Ramadan both easier and more spiritually rewarding:

  1. Make your intention Allah’s pleasure: Fasting is not dieting! It is very important for the eventual acceptance of any act of worship to do it solely for the pleasure of Allah. If you want to fast sincerely for Him, He will make fasting easy for you during the entire month. Cleanse yourself of any desire to show off your piety during this month.
  2. Stock up on groceries a week in advance:Fasting requires two major meals each day during Ramadan. Depending on your geographical location, cultural factors, and family food preferences, take a trip to the grocery store and buy all the lentils, dairy, oil, rice, meat, spices, and flour (gram and wheat) you’ll need for the month. The reason for shopping beforehand is that time and energy is not wasted in shopping for these necessities during Ramadan.
  3. Prepare your family:This can be done by sitting at the dining table and reading out relevant educational material (from Islamic books) about the virtues of Ramadan, and what every Muslim should or should not do whilst fasting. For example, lying, backbiting and wasting time in frivolous activities are not allowed while fasting. A class held like this will serve as a reminder for everyone. Acquire a printed timetable of dawn and sunset timings in your area for the entire month. Local mosques usually distribute these a few days before the first fast.
  4. Retire early at night throughout Ramadan:  

    In order to wake up for Suhoor – the pre-dawn meal before the Fajr prayer every day – the entire family should go to bed early during Ramadan. Television viewing and unnecessary outdoor entertainment should be minimized. The whole family should instead go straight to bed after returning from the daily night prayers (explained below) at the mosque. 
     
  5. Wake up 2 hours before Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer:For the mother in the house, this applies especially. The rest of the family should chip in, too. It’s recommended to wake up early to perform at least two units of night prayer before helping Mama set the table for Suhoor. The family should start eating at least 45 minutes before dawn, and should stop eating five minutes before dawn breaks. The last few minutes should be spent in rinsing the mouth and performing ablution in preparation for Fajr prayer.Some Muslims automatically start eating even more when the end of Suhoor approaches – thinking, “this is my last chance to get as much food into myself as I can, before having to starve till sunset”. The wise and moderate Muslims, however, know that fasting is not akin to starving the body. They maintain a moderation in eating Suhoor.Other Muslims skip Suhoor altogether, since it necessitates waking up in the wee hours of the morning. They prefer to eat till well after midnight and sleep late, opting to relinquish Suhoor. This course of action is also not recommended. The best option is to sleep early after `Isha prayer, and awaken 2 hours before dawn, to get in some units of the night prayer (Qiyaam Al-Layl) in addition to a nutritious Suhoor meal.
  6. Spend the time from morning to afternoon going about your normal daily routine:Some people assume that since they can not eat or drink till sunset, they should “sleep off” the fast and awaken only a few hours before the evening meal. They draw their curtains, pull their comforters over their heads, put on the air conditioner, and sleep till the evening. These people stay awake the whole night (the time for eating and drinking during Ramadan), with relatives and friends, eating and chatting non-stop. After the pre-dawn prayer – Fajr – they dive back into their beds. This is not the aim or spirit of Ramadan. Fasting does not curb energy for productive work, except in the last two hours of the fast. It is encouraged to work or study as usual till 2 or 3 hours before sunset. After the second prayer of the day – Dhuhr – the fasting Muslim should lie down and rest for a while for his or her afternoon siesta.
  7. Recite the Qur’an as much as you can, preferrably the whole of it once, over the course of Ramadan: 

    • Reciting the Arabic text with perfect Tajweed in the state of ablution.
    • Understanding its meanings by pondering on it’s translation and exegesis, or attending a daily study circle of the Qur’an (that is, a dars or Qur’an class).
    • Reciting the verses of the Qur’an in the night prayer, which can be prayed with the last prayer of the day – `Isha – or as the tahajjud prayer a few hours before dawn.

    Ramadan is the month in which Prophet Muhammad [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] started receiving Revelation of the Qur’an. It is the month in which each voluntary good deed reaps the reward of an obligatory one. Therefore, it is a month in which the Muslim should try to enrich his soul with the Qur’an, which can be done in three ways:

  8. Prepare the Iftar or evening meal to break the fast: This meal is the highest point of the day for every Muslim during Ramadan! Spirits are high and there is chirpy chatter throughout Muslim neighborhoods as people hustle and bustle about preparing their favorite foods for Iftar. This meal, unfortunately, is also the cause of most of the excess and extravagance that takes place during this month. Here is how:People spend the last few minutes before sunset – the time for earnest du’a or prayers – in laying the table and putting fresh food on their platters. The last few minutes are witness to the maximum hunger and thirst that a fasting Muslim experiences for the sake of His Creator; therefore, Allah is the most attentive and loving towards him or her at this time. Supplications made in earnest in these few minutes are accepted by Allah. Most Muslims forego this chance by chatting and talking at the table, while the women spend it in the kitchen, frying the last few fritters or pakoras.

    After eating Iftar, Muslims neglect praying the fourth prayer of the day – maghrib. It is permissible to delay it for a few minutes to break the fast, but one should rush to offer it as soon as one’s hunger and thirst are quenched. The best way to do that is to break the fast in the state of ablution by eating one, three or five dates with a glass of water, then rinsing the mouth, doing siwak, and offering maghrib prayers with a light stomach and a thankful, attentive heart. After prayers, one can return to the table to eat in moderation. This course of action prevents the hungry fasting person from overeating as soon as the fast breaks.In stark contrast, most families focus on piling their plates high with fried food beforehand and waiting to gorge on it as soon as the sun sets. They continue eating and chatting till half an hour or so, following the fried food items with a heavy dinner, tea and dessert. The result is a full belly and a heavy-headedness that takes away the concentration from their night prayers. I cringe to point out how disgusting belches break the soothing effect of the night prayer because people have overeaten at Iftar.Iftar parties: There is a trend among some Muslims to host huge Iftar parties intermittently during this month. Some people invite several families at a time, preparing lavish spreads for their guests. A lot of food is seen going to waste, as the guests forego praying maghrib and `Isha after breaking the fast, and enjoy themselves by eating and drinking amid live music and free mixing. This goes against the intended spirit of Ramadan. Whilst it is highly recommended to distribute food to break other people’s fast, including one’s neighbors, relatives and especially the poor and needy, one should strive to ensure that preparation and distribution of this food does not adversely affect one’s schedule of worship.

  9. Sadaqah, or regular spending in the way of Allah:Ramadan is the month in which one should give as much sadaqah or charity as one can. It is better to give smaller amounts of money, clothes or food regularly throughout Ramadan, than to give a very big amount just once or twice. Most Muslims choose to discharge their yearly obligatory charity – Zakaah – during Ramadan.
  10. Pray regular Qiyaam Al-Layl or the Night prayer:  A portion of the nights of Ramadan are to be spent in devoted, supererogatory salaah. This can be done in congregation after the `Isha prayer, by praying Taraweeh behind an imam, especially by those men and women who cannot recite the Qur’an very well. The better option, though, is to pray this prayer alone, a couple of hours before dawn (in the wee hours of the morning), by reciting as much of the Qur’an as one remembers by heart, in prayer; it is at this time that one can fully concentrate in prayer, and when Allah is the most attentive and forgiving towards His slaves. Muslims should, therefore, use this time at night to earnestly ask Allah for forgiveness for their sins.
  11. Conserve energy for the last ten days of Ramadan:It is observed that most Muslims start off the month of Ramadan with zealous worship, but lose steam after 2 weeks or so. They pressurize those giving a daily Qur’an lesson or the imam’s leading night prayers, to finish off the Qur’an before the last week of Ramadan. This is because in those last few days, they want to rest more, prepare for the coming `Eid festival/holiday, shop for clothes and shoes, and catch flights to spend `Eid with relatives in other places. Most people spend the last three nights of Ramadan fervently shopping for `Eid.
    The correct course of action, though, is to perform worship in moderation during the first 20 days of Ramadan, and to build up the fervour during the last 10 days. The first 2 weeks of fasting settle the body very well into fasting mode: by the 15th of the month, most Muslims are well-adjusted to a fast-by-day, pray-by-night routine. The last 10 days are intended for the Muslims to increase their focus on worship, recitation and night-prayers. Shopping for `Eid is best done before Ramadan. However, since consistent fasting does take its toll on the body by the time the last ten days of the month arrive, it is better to spend a portion of these last few days sleeping or resting.

Finally, once the Muslim has fasted throughout the month of Ramadan, he or she should pray that Allah accepts all their acts of worship performed therein. It is Allah’s blessing that every year, He brings Ramadan upon us and thereby, gives us a chance to refurbish our faith and renew our desire to perform good deeds. It’s no wonder, then, that Ramadan is termed as the “spring season” of the Islamic calendar!

This article was first published on the website howtodothings.com

Posted in Allah, Islam, Muslim Matters, Quran, Ramadan Fasting, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

How To Guard Your Husband’s Honor As Allah Has Commanded

Posted by Admin on July 26, 2008

By Sadaf Farooqi

Traditionally, occupations such as cooking, sewing, fashion designing and interior decorating were considered the exclusive terrain of women. Today, however, they have all witnessed incursions by men, to some extent. One domain, though, still remains predominantly women’s-only, and that is home-making. This is because it is woman’s innate nature to be the master of her home. As manager, guard and coordinator, she happily does the household chores and caters to her family’s needs, while the husband, more often than not the chief breadwinner, remains absent throughout the day at work.

Allah has acknowledged this aspect of the functional family unit, by instructing women to be “guards” of their husband’s property and honour in the latter’s absence:

Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to the husband), and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard…

[Qur’an – Surah Al-Nisaa: 34]

Guarding “what Allah would have them guard” implies that a Muslim wife should guard:

  • Her husband’s property (house, money, belongings, and anything which he leaves behind),
  • Her own modesty and chastity, and finally,
  • Her husband’s honour and reputation.

Guarding her husband’s honour would mean not mentioning him, his character, or his deeds to any third person in a derogatory or defaming manner – ever. Although the world generally frowns upon an untidy home in disarray, or a cheating wife flirting with other men, this aspect of a wife’s loyalty – her maintaining her husband’s honour behind his back – is something even many “good” wives fail to accomplish. Women generally speak well of their husbands to people they are not close to. It’s the close relatives and friends, however, who unwittingly cause slips.

  1. Be careful of unintentional slips in conversations with other women:

    “The plumber came, and I had to rush back home to supervise his work, as [my husband] is totally useless; on Saturdays, he lies in bed all day and does absolutely nothing…”
    “My husband snores so loudly, it could scare anyone who hears him in the middle of the night.”
    “He offers to cook, but his dishes turn out horrible, so I’d rather not eat what he makes…”
    “He never takes me shopping; he’s always involved in his work.”
    During the gush of such ‘girly’ conversations, their husbands’ potent faults are unintentionally revealed. The listeners/on-lookers chuckle knowingly, nodding their heads in compassionate comprehension. What they enjoy is the pleasure of knowing that this supposedly “happy” and perfect Muslim couple too, have the usual marital differences; that even seemingly “righteous” couples cannot always live in harmony. And last but not least, it gives them fodder for gossip.
    Even if there is no major argument between the couple, how often we see Muslim women casually commenting to each other about their husband’s shortcomings. Whether on the phone, or during a visit, it is common to hear them complaining about their husbands to their mother, sister, cousin, or best friend. Even if they discuss their husband lovingly, some hidden aspect of the comment, or merely the tone of voice, sometimes carries disdain or derision.

  2. Remember that mentioning your husband’s weaknesses might initiate gossip about you:

    The gossip-mongers in any social circle dwell on the “juicy” tidbits regarding other couples’ marital discord, for which they fish around in conversation and hearsay. We have all heard the stories about the in-law hovering outside the bedroom door while the husband and wife argued, or the “sincere” friend giving a frustrated wife her shoulder to cry on, only to discuss the account with her other friends later.

  3. Remember that protecting the husband’s honor is one of Allah’s commands for a Muslim wife:

    What Muslim women should be wise enough to understand is that, by revealing their husband’s faults to anyone else, they are disobeying Allah and thus putting themselves at risk of His wrath. They alone, are to lose out by this action.
    Even though Islam allows a woman to seek help for major problems in her marriage, it enjoins her to bear all trivial marital problems with patience and discretion.
    A woman does not get as much respect anywhere in the world as she does in her husband’s home: there, she’s the queen of her throne, elegant and ethereal. When she defames her husband in any way to a third person, she lowers herself from this high pedestal.
    She gives people a chance to mock her and discuss her with others, becoming the topic of coffee-table repartee.

  4. Beware of the concern of even your biological mothers and sisters – it can sometimes be the cause of your marital troubles:

    Narrated by Ibn Abbas, Prophet Muhammad [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] said:
    The best woman (wife) is the one who, when you look at her she pleases you, when you command her she obeys you, and when you are not in her presence, she safeguards herself and your belongings.”
    [Ibn Majah 1861]
    Muslim women should be careful about this matter even with their biological sisters and mothers. At the end of the day, no one wants a woman to come and live with them if she gets divorced or estranged from her husband. They, however, do enjoy listening to her incessantly complain of the problems in her husband’s home: how low the finances are, how untidy her husband is, how much he eats, or how he neglects her rights. They might throw bygone incidents in her face even months after she has moved on and forgotten them, so that she starts brimming with indignation all over again, at their mention.
    Muslim women should try not to fall prey to the instigations of such “well-wishing” people, who laugh when she mocks her husband, who relish her marital dissensions, who thrive on getting to know other women’s domestic troubles. They are devils in disguise, preying on the tranquility of others’ homes, seeking juicy coffee-party gossip. Muslim women should beware of disobeying Allah in this regard.

  5. Make only righteous, Allah-fearing woman your close confidantes and ‘shoulders to cry on’:

    Even if you have a fight with your husband and you feel you must mention it to someone to feel better, do it with someone who has high taqwa [consciousness of Allah], who will never divulge your story to anyone else. Even your own mother might mention it to her sister, who might tell her daughter, and in this way, the whole family might be discussing your household troubles and commenting about them, weeks or months after the whole thing has blown over.

Remember that in every command of Allah lies a potent hikmah, a hidden wisdom that is beneficial for you. He loves you seventy times more than your well-wishing mother. Run to Him – in salah [regular Islamic prayer], dua [praying to Him], dhikr [His remembrance by the tongue and heart], and istighfar [seeking His forgiveness for sins] – whenever you have a bone to pick with your husband. For the solution and the solace after the storm, trust in Allah. If you keep your duty to Him, He will never relinquish you – rather, He will fill your home with unbridled peace, harmony and tranquility.

This article was first published on the website howtodothings.com.

Posted in Acting upon the Quran, Allah, Islam, Muslim Matters, Prophet Muhammad (saw), Quran, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

The Looming Food Crisis And Our Actions

Posted by Admin on June 12, 2008

Sadaf Farooqi

“A new crisis is emerging, a global food catastrophe that will reach further and be more crippling than anything the world has ever seen. The credit crunch and the reverberations of soaring oil prices around the world will pale in comparison to what is about to transpire…” (The Financial Post)

More than 73 million people in 78 countries that depend on food handouts from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are facing reduced rations this year. The increasing scarcity of food is the biggest crisis looming for the world”, according to WFP officials.” (Sunday Herald)

As Muslims, we are faced with a situation this year that can help many starving people in the world, and our own selves in the Hereafter: the golden chance to donate food to millions of the world’s hungry, homeless and indigent people.

Perhaps there have been very few times in history that circumstances were so ripe for giving sadaqah. After Nargis recently struck in Burma, and last month’s massive earthquake in China, we should not only be thanking Allah for having spared us so far, but we should also be reflecting upon what we can be doing, each of us, in his or her limited scope of influence, to fulfill the dues of the millions of the world’s hungry and homeless upon us.

Is it that we are better than those afflicted by these larger-than-life calamaties, just because our bellies are full, and their’s are not? Do we think that we will be been forgiven our sins because we are still dwelling peacefully in our homes, amid the plasma television-sets and whooshing air-conditioners, while their homes have been swept away or demolished by a single, non-discriminating blast or shudder? Do we ever wonder, why it was them and not us? Is it because Allah is pleased with us, and not with them? Or could it be that such utter and complete destruction of thousands of lives in one single moment is a harsh reminder for the rest of us?

Inflation and high prices have softened the blow on our conscience when we spend money on our transgressions and extravagance. We blame it on inflation, making ourselves feel better by claiming that “everything is so expensive these days,” when we blow Rs. 600 on a meal at a posh restaurant, or Rs. 1100 on a set of fancy, diamonte-studded slippers for a wedding.

The fact remains that, no matter what our income or budget, exceeding the limits of moderation in spending money is something about which we will be answerable to Allah. If the global food crisis will not make us sit up and make an effort to channelize and thwart our spending binges, nothing else will. This is because, experts are claiming that now, for the first time in history, even the developed nations will be affected by the scarcity of food. The ever-present, multiple media channels bombard us with reminders of the pathetic living conditions of the hungry and homeless people in every corner of the world, 24 hours a day, via text, images, live videos and extensive coverage. Will we be able to escape account-taking before Allah in any way? By feigning ignorance of the affected people’s plight?

Nor do you encourage one another to feed the poor!” [Quran 89:18]

When we hear or read the headlines about these catastrophes and crises, beholding photographs of long, unrelenting queues of poor people standing in front of utility stores, in the quest of one sack of rice or flour; of a wailing woman held by her relatives as she mourns the passing away of her only child; do we quench our guilt and pass on with our day as if nothing touched our hearts? Do we thank Allah with all our heart the next time we bite a fresh roti or chunk of meat?

But he would not attempt the uphill road. And what will make you comprehend what the uphill road is? (It is) the setting free of a slave, or the giving of food in a day of hunger. To the orphan with claims of relationship; Or to the indigent person (down) in the dust.” [Quran 90; 12-16]

As the month of Ramadan approaches, most of us will be worrying about where to give our zakaat. Since it can only be given to Muslims, we should concentrate this year on using our zakaat money to provide food rations to hungry people. We could buy flour, rice, sugar, milk, and cooking oil in bulk, and distribute these foodstuffs among colony dwellers in the colony nearest to our homes. Most of us – those living in developing countries, at least – need to just look outside our windows to spot little rag-picking children sporting torn rags for clothes and battered feet without shoes. Will we be excusable before Allah?

There are other things we can do to ease our accountability before Allah:

  • Spend less on junk food and on very expensive meals at restaurants, even if we earn well and can afford them. Set aside a portion of that saved money to feed hungry people.
  • Never let any food rot in the refrigerator. Don’t keep procastinating by thinking, “Oh, I’ll eat it later, let it be”. No; give away any leftovers – be it meat or vegetables – to poor, hungry people on the same day as they are cooked and eaten. Loosen your giving hand, and widen your heart for others. 
    Narrated Hakim bin Hizam: The Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The upper hand is better than the lower hand (i.e. he who gives in charity is better than him who takes it). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money which is left after his expenses). And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from asking others, Allah will make him self-sufficient.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhari]
  • Every month, buy one sack of flour for one different poor household (look for households other than just that of your maid).
  • When eating a good meal, think of those who are hungry, and thank Allah profusely and sincerely for blessing you and sparing you from the turmoil which they are in. Pray for every hungry person’s belly to be filled with food, just as yours is.
  • Encourage others to do all of the above too – be they your relatives, coffee-party friends, teen buddies, or corporate think-tanks at work. This is because encouraging others to feed the poor is also a sign of faith:
    “Have you considered him who calls the judgment a lie?
    That is the one who treats the orphan with harshness,
    And does not urge (others) to feed the poor
    ” [Qur’an, 107:1-3]

As Muslims we need to feel, with all our heart, the pain of the affliction of hunger and malnutrition being faced by our brothers and sisters in Islam, and also by non-Muslims, worldwide. We need to feel it so profoundly within ourselves, that it makes it impossible for us to spend oodles of money on splurges, satisfaction of personal desires, and all kinds of other unnecessary expenditure. Which group do we want to be included in, the Muhsineen (i.e those who do utmost good, who give more than what’s due on them) or the ‘Mubadh-dhireen‘?

“Squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, spendthrifts are the brothers of the evil ones (the Satan).” [Qur’an 17, 26-27]

Last but not least, if you have done some sadaqah, refrain from bragging about it to others, or seeking the approval or praise of people for it in any other way. Muslims need to keep their intentions in check and beware of riya (seeking recognition for good deeds among people) – the hidden, lesser polytheism – after having done a good deed. This is because the Muslim always does acts of charity for the pleasure of Allah only:

And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive,-
(Saying),”We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.
” [Qur’an, 76:8,9] 

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