Cleaning Month: Ramadan & Purifying One’s Heart

In the name of Allah, the Lord and Giver of Mercy.

I pray that Allah (SWT) provides me with the hikmah (wisdom) to communicate this, ameen. I think it’s timely that this post came after the previous post discussing ways to effectively spend our Ramadan this year.

Every Ramadan, we want to be better. Every year, we tell ourselves the same thing — “In shaa Allah, I am going to put x hours of my day to reading Qur’an. Every day I am going to watch an hour of Sheikh x’s lecture series on YouTube while taking notes.” And the list goes on, ma shaa Allah.We are going strong for like a day or two — next thing you know, laziness kicks in, and all we do is fast in food and drink then proceed to nap. Why is that?

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Jannah are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained. (Sahih Bukhari & Muslim)”

With the aforementioned hadith in mind, I have come to the realization that the devils being locked up during Ramadan hasn’t really hindered my tendency in shortcomings. What that reveals to me, and problem to us all is — rather than focusing on Shaytan’s absence, realize that the battle is not over — for it is our nafs (our desires) that needs to be locked up and contained.

I was taught by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda that man is composed of two entities — the nafs (our desires) and the ruh (our soul); the nafs is our animal-like side and the ruh is composed of divine light from Allah (SWT) which is similar to the angels. Depending on our habits and routines, these components of our being can overpower the other. Therefore, when you develop good habits and you dedicate yourself to self-improvement — you increase your ruh, which overpowers the nafs, which makes you more wary and in control of your behavior. Keep this in mind, if the nafs is more similar to the animal, who is not in much rational control of what it does — then realize that when we allow the nafs to be at the forefront, gradually, we will weaken our imaan to the point that we are basically submitting wholly to our desires. May Allah (SWT) protect us from this terrible mental condition, and keep us amongst the rightly guided, ameen.

So how does one go about eliminating the nafs this Ramadan? The “Proof of Islam” Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali says in the Introduction of his book, The Beginning of Guidance, which I highly recommend everyone reading — that the beginning of guidance is the outward reality of God-Consciousness (Taqwa), and the ending of guidance is the inward reality of God-Consciousness. He defines taqwa as “carrying out the commands of Allah Most High and turning away from that which He has forbidden.” To summarize and to put it simply, the way to purify your heart and minimize your nafs is to do two things — live a life of obedience and avoid a life of disobedience. How does one simply do that? Keep Allah (SWT) in constant remembrance. We must make time for worship and from morning to evening! However, worship is not simply the obligatory prayers. Worship comes in the form of a healthy diet, the usage of good speech, and dressing properly! When one is making their intention to follow the tradition of the Beloved of Allah (ﷺ) and pleasing Allah (SWT); acting upon that intention is worshiping Allah, the Most Merciful! To wrap this reflection and reminder up, I would like to provide three tips of advice bi idhinillah to us all based on previous personal advice from my mentors.

Repentance

Before we get into the specifics, we must realize before even ASKING to be guided, before even WORKING towards improving ourselves — we have to ask Allah sincerely for His forgiveness regarding our shortcomings. We have to make the effort to clean our records with Allah (SWT) before we can ask Him for something. We need to humble ourselves and admit our flaws to our Most Merciful Lord. From there, we can continue on the path of self-improvement.

Read Qur’an

Well, I mean, it is the month where the Qur’an was revealed! Wissam Sharrief puts it beautifully by saying, “The Qur’an is Allah’s Love Letter to you.” Imagine an author writing a book, and this book is a gift of love to His reader? Well, that’s how we should value the Qur’an and its Most Merciful author! Try to learn Arabic and read the Qur’an in its pure, preserved form but also, if you’re not proficient in Arabic — read to understand by reading the Qur’an translation in the language you know best. For English speakers, a recommended text would be The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics)

Allah says in Suratul Hashr, Ayah 21:

“If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah . And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.”

Bone-chilling! Reflect on that.

Develop Noble Character

None of us are perfect, we all have something to work on — some more than others. Nevertheless, Allah (SWT) cares more about effort, because we all have different trials in our lives that make us who we are. But as Muslims, we have to work on attaining characteristics that pleasing to Allah (Azza Wa Jal). Some examples could be forgiving your fellow brother/sister of a debt they owe you; keeping touch with loved ones; being lenient and empathetic with people; giving charity; the list can go on.

To conclude, I sincerely pray that we all accomplish this goal of minimizing our nafs and empowering our ruh by purifying our hearts this upcoming Ramadan. Don’t let this Ramadan be like last Ramadan, blow last Ramadan out of the waters with this Ramadan! Tell yourself, “You thought last Ramadan was life-changing? Man, wait for this one in shaa Allah!”. Be strong, be patient and most importantly — understand that you will feel the struggle. So, be conscious of Allah the Most High, seek His guidance, and stay true to your commitment of being a better Muslim brother or sister. Change the world y’all.

And Allah Knows Best, and solely in Allah do we seek aid. JazakumAllahu Khairan.

(This article is a reflection inspired by Imam Al-Ghazali’s Bidayatul Hidaya, Qur’an Intensive 2014 by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda of Bayyinah Institute and last night’s “Towards A Nabawi Ramadan” lecture by Ustadh Nuh Saunders of the Imam Al-Ghazali Institute. If anything I said was good, indeed all praise is due to Allah, the Most Wise. If anything I said was wrong or offensive, indeed that is my own fault and I pray to Allah that I am amongst the forgiven, ameen.)

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Shukr (2014)

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

I am grateful because He gave me gratitude

I am feeling blessed that I can recognize blessings

I am tranquil knowing that if I remember Him

He will remember me, and that’s all that I need to succeed.

Some breathe, or feel a breeze, and some rest in the shade of a tree

Some live in beautiful abodes, some walk in the finest of clothes

Some don’t know how it feels to feel low, so inconveniences ruin their glow

Some don’t care about the price in a store, they got what’s needed, matter of fact they got more.

But despite all that, some choose to ignore, some choose to see but through blindfolds.

Some can see, but choose to have their eyes closed.

So all they see is, nothing.

Walking in the store, but nothing. Resting, watching TV but nothing.

Man I really wish that I was bluffing, because what are two eyes if you see nothing.

Meanwhile the brother in section 8 prays daily, man his world is so crazy

Providing for his wife and 3 babies, but what he sees truly amazes me.

He said, “Society sees me and hold on to their purses, on TV spitting the filthiest of verses. Police beat me till I exit in hearses, where I am from it’s a norm to hear curses.

But my Lord blessed me to see through the surface, He chose me and gave me value when I was perceived worthless. And to Him is my unconditional service, I may not be infallible but I strive to make my efforts perfect.

Cuz He’s undeniably worth it, you hear that young man? My older brother got shot, selling rocks in the wrong block, cuz he got caught up in the wrong for too long.

We’ve been poor for too long, but I became an akh and made bigger moves. Realized that to live for money, you deserve ridicule. Cuz Allah provides you with what you need. And whether you agree, or disbelieve – being rich in this life doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed.

Shaytan never sleeps, he’s awake, and he deceives.

Like what he did to our dear father Adam and our dear mother Eve.

So please, leave with this final note. Love Allah above all. 

We’re all from the earth, we’re all just kin. The best amongst us are those who are conscious.

Al-Muttaqeen. Al-Muhsineen. Al-Mu’mineen. Al-Saliheen.

So before you leave, please remember one thing.

He gave you everything, so don’t you dare forget to bow to your King.

Ameen.

 

 

5 Ways to Effectively Spend Your Ramadan Online

In the name of Allah, the Lord and Giver of Mercy.

SubhanAllah, Ramadan is coming up pretty soon! We are passing the 2 week mark! When the Holy Month of Ramadan begins, we usually start with the intentions of making it a transformative experience. Every Muslim that observes the Ramadan, young and old, healthy and sick, rich and poor — the main objective through Ramadan is becoming a better servant of Allah (SWT). Even Muslims who may have not been the best at practicing Islam the rest of the year, they want to make a change in their lives as well, and none of us has the right to judge them for their efforts.

Nevertheless, the world that we live in, in the environment we are exposed to — we are extremely distracted from this noble objective. Not to be the bearer of bad news but, the Holiest month observed in the faith tradition of Islam is being capitalized off of by businesses and the entertainment industry! Even in our predominantly Muslim societies, such as the Middle East and the Subcontinent, did you ever notice that the BEST television shows are premiered in the month of Ramadan? Ramadan is the Month of Qur’an, Forgiveness, Mercy, Patience, Charity and Submission to Allah — but unfortunately, a lot of us who have recent and direct roots overseas have been sucked in by brand-new, action-packed, well-orchestrated dramas! This article is not here to complain and slam Muslims who are engaged in this! Not at all, this is an article addressing the issue, because it seems to have sneaked up behind us by surprise. Moreover, this article will provide the reader with several solutions on how one can productively utilize the internet, and television this Ramadan. By the Mercy of Allah, outlets such as the television and the internet have their benefits and their harms. By the permission of Allah, this article will help the reader seek out the benefits — in order to optimize their experience this upcoming Ramadan!

1.) Qur’an Weekly

Quran Weekly

Ramadan is the Month of Qur’an right? What’s a better way to spend your Ramadan committing at least 30 minutes of your day to watch our prominent scholars such as Nouman Ali Khan, Abdul Nasir Jangda, Omar Suleiman, Hussain Kamani and many more who share short, and powerful videos discussing gems in the Qur’an! I started doing this last Ramadan, and man, this project is run by some very devoted volunteers that work really hard to benefit a mass amount of us! To say this page changed my life is an understatement. As you spend your Ramadan watching their videos, please keep the volunteers and their families in your prayers! It is not easy!

2.) The Ramadan Tafseer Series w/ Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda (via MuslimMatters.org)

Abdul Nasir Jangda

Personally, being blessed with studying under this brilliant teacher last summer at the Bayyinah Institute Qur’an Intensive 2014 program — this by far, is one of the biggest gifts I could share with you all on the internet. Every Ramadan, our generous and knowledgeable scholar releases a WHOLE surah of tafseer through Muslim Matters, another project established by beautiful and humble servants of the Most Merciful. This year in shaa Allah, our Shaykh will be releasing my year’s surah’s tafseer — Suratul Hajj. All I can say is, that surah made our class shake in fear with tears in our eyes and also made us smile in hope as well. A very powerful surah. In addition, as aforementioned this happens every Ramadan, meaning that there have been other surahs completely covered such as: Al-Anbiya, Ta-Ha, Maryam, and Ya-Sin! So after you’re done with Surah Al-Hajj this Ramadan, or after you are done covering another surah this Ramadan — dedicate some time in your week to cover the other surahs. Our Shaykh, along with other instructors from Bayyinah Institute have truly mastered the skill of analyzing and explaining the Qur’an. Even as regular laymen, we can truly comprehend the Qur’an thanks to their beautiful, selfless contributions! May Allah continue to accept and bless them for their efforts, ameen! Once again, in shaa Allah, look out for Suratul Hajj this Ramadan (it will be in https://www.MuslimMatters.org/tag/RamadanTafsir15).

3.) Arabic with Husna (Bayyinah TV)

Since this is the third Bayyinah plug-in I may seem biased, but hear me out — Bayyinah Institute is one of the most effective institutes when it comes to learning Qur’an. They do not simply give you Tafseer and use fancy technical terms — they want YOU to learn the Arabic grammar required to develop a long-lasting connection with the Qur’an as well. And the Introductory Video Series, “Arabic with Husna” is your best route to accomplishing this important, life-changing objective. Watch the introduction video above, and if you’re interested, subscribe to Bayyinah TV to get access to all the beautiful material that will help you develop a better understanding of the Arabic language. A better understanding of the Arabic language equates to a better understanding of the Qur’an, and a better understanding of the Qur’an is a deeper connection with the One who loves you and cares for you more than anything existent, our Most Merciful Lord, Allah (SWT).

Learn in this very cute and informative way — where Nouman Ali Khan is teaching his baby daughter Arabic, but at the same time, you are learning with Husna step-by-step the grammar of the language of the Qur’an — Arabic.

4.) Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (S) by Dr. Yasir Qadhi

You want a close connection with the Qur’an right? Well, Umm-ul Mu’mineen Aisha (RA) referred to our Beloved Prophet (S) as the Qur’an walking. Rasulullah (S) is the most beloved figure in our faith tradition, and it is highly recommended that we send salutations upon his noble being and pray for peace and blessings upon him. Dr. Yasir Qadhi, one of America’s most prominent scholars has provided us with a long, and thorough series on the Life and Times of our Beloved Master — Rasulullah (S). Another way to connect to the Qur’an, is studying the life and stories of the individual who lived the Qur’an. As Muslims, we are required to love Rasulullah (S) more than our own selves (referring to this hadith) — how can we truly love our Beloved Prophet (S) if we do not know his life? Above is a playlist of 104 videos solely dedicated to the comprehensive, detailed and biographical story of the most perfect human being that walked on the earth, sayyidna Muhammad (S).

5.) Towards A #Nabawi Ramadan

Free Webinar IGI

Being affiliated with the Imam Ghazali Institute, I felt obliged to plug-in the institution I love by informing you all of an upcoming seminar that will be mostly targeting young Muslims going to college! RSVP here and make sure to take good notes, we are providing you with a good roster of scholars and teachers to equip you with the tools to optimize your Ramadan experience!

Conclusion

To end this article, I gave you five beautiful, long-lasting tools to optimize your Ramadan this year and even the Ramadans to come in shaa Allah (may Allah allow us to observe many more, ameen!). I pray you find these materials provided to be life-changing for you and a means to our ultimate goal — Al-Jannah! May Allah make this information beneficial to us, and remember — when seeking knowledge, take notes, digest the knowledge and pray for more! Imam Al-Ghazali always encouraged his students and readers to pray for knowledge that benefits, and for a heart that’s God-conscious. What is non-beneficial knowledge? A knowledge we don’t implement, and a knowledge we don’t follow after being taught. Oh Allah make our newly acquired knowledge a witness for us on the Day of Judgment and not a witness against us, ameen. May Allah preserve you all, and please keep the Beloved of Allah (S) in your prayers — Peace and Blessings be upon him and his righteous, and noble companions! Ameen!

The Fog of War (2014)

In the name of Allah, the Lord and Giver of Mercy.

The fog of war,

Flashbacks of snapbacks on the heads of the cool kids in my high school
The War known as the “Class of 2012”
Many lost their souls, I knew few individuals with great goals,
Lose their identities in lunch tables and classrooms,
In basketball gyms and bathrooms, I ask you to ponder.
 
Graduated from Islamic School, first day of high school was an interesting one
I still remember the gasp I made in 9th grade when that classmate yelled a profane word,
My head turned, hand covered my mouth as I thought
Authobillah! This is unbelievable!
Then the kid that was being cursed at said it back, putting arrest in my cardiac
Organs like wow this place is trash…
And here’s where something profane led to a realization that was profound
Few weeks went down and even I… became desensitized by the sound… Ponder
 
I saw a brother in the halls that I knew from the mosque
When I tried to say salaam, he ignored me and ran across
If you saw how fast he left… you’d think he played lacrosse,
To my football fans, he ran like Randy Moss subhanAllah…
 
The fog of war,
Memories of teachers teaching Islamic history wrong
And when I rose my hand to correct them they try to argue that I’m wrong
The fight’s on, arguments in classrooms
Kids in the class stay quiet,
Watching the slander
Making my people look violent
I remember having to talk after class with teachers,
They used to ask why do I always incite riots
“Be a good student, please remain silent.”
 
These are the memoirs of my high school experiences…
Taught me a lot, this environment taught people to act like something they’re not
Young teens can’t handle adversity with ease so they drink or smoke pot
They call themselves cool but really it’s less fact and more thought.
 
Islam, the lifestyle of the Muslim has protected me from the temptations
Because I understand that we’re all headed to another destination
And we need to act accordingly but our young generation is in a world
Where we worship man-made creations, ponder…
 
We know more about celebrity biographies, discographies, filmographies,
But don’t know much about the prophets and companions and their philosophies.
And honestly, our people are either acute, obtuse, or Isosceles
Some have a lot of knowledge, but not a lot of patience or akhlaq you see
 
The fog of war, life has its good and its bad
But I take notes, when I mess up, the pen hits the pad
When I mess up, I sit down, reflect and feel sad
But it’s back to standing up and being a strong Muslim man
 
I had a dream, maybe not like Martin Luther King
Here’s the story, I had a dream of a young man who was missing his pair of wings
He was sitting all alone at the college, he was thinking of many things
Then he met a polite brother, and asked if he could accompany him
In dreams, time goes quick, a few months went by
And that young man met the whole MSA group of guys
And then when they went to go pray, the brother wept, he cried
And the brothers consoled him, what’s wrong they replied
And he said, “I can’t lie! I haven’t prayed since I was 9!”
I woke up, his confession echoing in my mind
I got out of bed, because the azaan came. It was Fajr time
A few days later at school, I was about to go pray with the guys
And one of the new brothers pulled me to the side, and said
I wanted to say this for the longest time.
I don’t remember the last time I prayed, Felt like my heart died
Watching you all made me realize that in Allah I rely
If it weren’t for your examples though, I would have probably sat at that table and sighed
And then I interrupted him and said only Allah can guide
And as the day ended, I saw the fog clearing up
The battlefield just paused, as my eyes began tearing up
If you place your forehead to the ground, know that Allah is hearing us
So pray and make supplication, pray that Allah is steering us.
 
So to the brothers and sisters struggling with their faith,
Y’all are constantly in my thoughts
It’s hard out here, the shaytan on our blocks
It’s never too late to change, if you’re alive you’re not lost
We’re here for you, the first step is coming back to the mosque
My request is for all of us to ponder…
 

© 2015 Khalafalla Osman