In the Early Hours by Khurram Murad

In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self Development (Khurram Murad) Preface THE title of this book, In the Early Hours, has been carefully and specifically chosen to highlight that precious but often neglected time during the night that Allah is closest and most receptive to His servants. The Messenger of God said: Our Lord descends each night to the nearest Heaven when only the last third of the night remains, and says: `Is anyone praying that I may answer him? Is anyone seeking forgiveness, that I may forgive him? Is anyone asking, that I may give to him? ‘, and this continues until dawn. (Tirmidhi. The later part of each night is the most conducive period for reflection and self development. It is the occasion with the most potential for the heart to be present, alert and free of worldly concerns as the Quran declares: Lo! The vigil of the night is [a time] when impression is more keen and speech more certain. [al-Muzzammil 73:6. ] This book is a collection of inspirational advice by a dear and beloved teacher, Ustadh Khurram Murad on the subject of spiritual and self development. In it he sets out the goal of the Believer- the single-minded desire to seek the good pleasure of Allah and Paradise.
He then outlines the methods and instruments which must be used in the attainment of that ultimate goal. These spiritual exhortations that follow were originally delivered in those early hours of Summer 1993 just after Salat al-Fajr as part of a course entitled Self Development for Islamic Workers at The Islamic Foundation, Leicester. That course represented one of many similar courses Ustadh Khurram conducted for young Muslims, both male and female. He recognised that it was in the young generation’s eagerness, strength and enthusiasm that the future of the Muslim Umma lay.
Each of the seven sections in this book represents one Nasiha or Advice. Each Nasiha was delivered in a presentation of approximately 45 minutes. This time allotment was not, of course, sufficient for Ustadh Khurram to discuss the subjects in detail. I have therefore drawn material from several of his other speeches and works for `thoroughness’, coherence and to provide clarity on the topics discussed. I have also added Quran and hadith references wherever I felt they were relevant and added to the richness of the text.

Only Allah knows how close I have come to making clear the Message of the Quran and the Sunna as expressed by Ustadh Khurram. Let me emphasise that this book merely represents an introduction to spiritual and self development. I hope that each of the topics exposed here will lead you to further study so that you can continue to grow and progress along the path of attaining closeness to Allah, our Lord and Master. A selection of suggested readings is given at the end of this text to assist in further study. The task of preparing this text has certainly been a challenge for me, but one, which I have enjoyed and benefited from immensely.
I am grateful to Muhammad Abdul Aziz, Alyasa Abdullah, Asim Abdullah, Sharifa Abdullah, Fazeela Mollick, Wajid Mollick, Hashim Mohammed and Lucy Bushill-Matthews who all read the manuscript and offered valuable comments and advice during the initial phase of this text’s preparation. My deepest appreciation, however, goes to Abdul Wahid Hamid, whose literary skills, advice and motivation were instrumental in finalising this work Ultimately, though, any mistakes this book contains are my own – may Allah forgive me and have mercy on me.
Whatever good is derived from it, all praise is due to Him, for without His help and guidance, nothing is possible. I would like to end with a dua or supplication of the Prophet which epitomises the sole objective of this work and our goal in life: O Allah, You change hearts, so change our hearts to be obedient to You. (Muslim. ) Riza Mohammed Leicester, October 1999 CHAPTER ONE: The Process of Self Development THE path to God is only illuminated when a person recognises the central place of God in his life and strives to develop his self accordingly.
The Messenger of God said: If someone wants to know what position he enjoys in the eyes of God, he has only to look at what place he gives to God (in his heart and life. (Hakim) The term nearest in meaning to self development in the Quranic vocabulary is tazkiya. Tazkiya means purification and refers to the cleansing of the human self from all that is unwholesome, undesirable and unwelcome. It also refers to the nurturing and strengthening of all the qualities within the human self that are essential for growth and development, for blossoming and flowering. THE GOAL IN LIFE
Success and happiness in this world and the Hereafter depend on tazkiya, the purification and nurturing of our personality. The Quran states that true success is only reserved for those who seek to purify themselves: Successful indeed is the one who purifies his whole self [ash-Shams 91:9] Our personality comprises not only the physical body but also the mind and the heart, feelings and attitudes, character and behaviour. Proper nurturing and development of these elements of the personality will achieve desirable goals. When goals are desirable, the process of aspiring to, working towards and achieving them also become desirable.
This is part of human nature. It is critical, therefore, that we recognise and understand the true nature of our ultimate goal in life. For the Believer, the most coveted goal in life is to seek the good pleasure of Allah and Janna or Paradise. Our Creator has set this goal for us: And surely Paradise – it is the goal [an-Naziat 79: 41]; Indeed the Next abode – it is truly the life! [al-Ankabut 29: 64]; The companions of Paradise – they are the triumphant ones [al-Hashr 59: 20]. Know, however, that attaining the pleasure of Allah takes precedence over seeking Janna but the two are closely connected.
Paradise can only be attained through seeking Allah’s pleasure, and when Allah’s pleasure is gained, we will indeed be granted Paradise. Reflect upon the following two verses in the Quran: And there is a kind of person who would willingly give up personal interests, seeking Allah’s pleasure; and God is Most Compassionate towards His servants. [al-Baqara 2: 207. ] Indeed Allah has purchased from the Believers their lives and their possessions, promising them Paradise, in return. [at-Tawba 9: 111. ] The alternative to attaining Paradise in the Hereafter is to be placed in Jahannam or Hellfire and to receive its punishments.
The Quran states: But in the life to come: [it is either] severe suffering, or God’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance. [al-Hadid 57: 20. ] What is it that makes a person deserving of such a suffering? The answer is to be found in the second part of the same verse: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion [al-Hadid 57: 20. ] Jahannam therefore, is for those who seek as their ultimate goal in life, not the pleasure of Allah or Paradise, but the enjoyment of worldly gains. The pursuit of worldly gain is but a mirage. All worldly gains are left behind when you die.
All that is on earth is bound to perish while Allah and His good favour will remain forever. It is for this reason that the Queen advises: Vie with one another in seeking to attain to your Sustainer’s forgiveness; and to a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been readied for those who have attained to faith in God and His messengers: such is the bounty of Allah which He grants unto whomever He wills -for Allah is limitless in His great bounty. [al-Hadid 57: 21. ] All your efforts in this world should therefore be focused only on seeking Paradise. It is the Promise of the Almighty that:
You will only be rewarded fully for all your good deeds on the Day of Resurrection, and [on that Day] whoever will be drawn away from Hellfire, and admitted into Paradise, will indeed have triumphed [Ali Imran 3:185. ] THE FIRST STEP TO PARADISE The first step in self development, then, is to concentrate single-mindedly on Paradise. Indeed, the one who is unsure of his destiny in life, torn between this world and the Next, like one standing with his feet in two separate boats – will be thrown off balance. Many of the difficulties that we face are due to this lack of commitment and inability to focus on the real and ultimate goal.
If you can keep your focus on Janna, then everything else will be possible. The selection of the ultimate goal of Paradise must be made consciously and may involve an absolute break with the past. To choose this new goal as the ultimate goal in one’s life is in fact to choose a new life, to begin a new journey. Embark on this new journey by refreshing your wudu (ablution) and offering two rakas (units) of Salat or Prayer reminding yourself of all the punishment of Hellfire you have just resolved to avoid at all costs and all the rewards of Paradise that you will strive to achieve.
Remind yourself also of the important stations and landmarks on the journey; imagine death as near; imagine the moment when the Angel of Death will declare, `your time is over, now you must follow me’; imagine that moment when you will be made to stand in the presence of Allah, Most High, so that the final judgment of life may be passed on you and imagine the consequences of that judgment. When you have completed the two rakas then resolve once more that all efforts will be directed towards achieving Paradise, beseech Allah and pray with humility: O Allah, I ask for Your mercy and whatever brings me closer to it, in word and deed.
O Allah, I ask for a faith that will never vanish, a blessing that will never diminish, a pleasure that will never abate, and the most elevated position in Paradise distinguished by the companionship of Your Messenger, Muhammad. While improvement in your habits and actions is a life-long process, the desire to achieve it can thus be sparked in a moment. This desire will provide the momentum for attaining your goal – the good pleasure of Allah and Paradise. YOUR MISSION Having taken the fast step and resolved to attain Paradise, you may ask yourself, what does Allah require from me in order for me to succeed?
What Allah requires of you, in Quranic vocabulary, is for you to be a mumin and mujahid. A mumin is one who is true and firm in his faith in God. A mujahid is one who strives his utmost, with all the means at his disposal, to gain God’s pleasure. If you are a mumin and a mujahid, Allah, the Most Exalted in Power and yet the Most Compassionate, will assist you to rise to higher stations both in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah has promised this to those who possess the qualities of iman or faith and the active resolve for jihad or struggle.
The Quran states: The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Apostle then they doubt not and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah; they are the truthful ones. [al-Hujurat 49:15] You now have a mission: to become a mumin and mujahid. As you embark upon this mission you may come to feel that your knowledge of Islam is somewhat limited or perhaps that you are unable to attain those heights of submission and purification that you desire or others expect of you. This is only natural. You must not, however, allow these feelings of personal shortcomings to undermine your efforts to practise Islam.
Remember that Islam is a state of becoming not a state of being. Each day you must strive to improve and better yourself – and you will improve. Tazkiya or this new programme for self-improvement that you now find yourself in, is a process that unfolds itself step by step. You cannot expect to change all at once. This is against the laws of nature. The Prophet was always aware of this when he was dealing with his Companions. Whenever someone embraced Islam, the Prophet would not ask that person to do everything immediately.
Instead, he would teach and expect that person to start fulfilling his obligations only as much as he could bear at a time. This gradual process of change is also clearly reflected in the manner in which the Quran was revealed over a period of 23 years. In all your efforts towards becoming a better Believer, you must bear in mind this principle of gradualism, otherwise you may try to attain the impossible, and when you do not achieve it, you may become frustrated. At this stage, what matters most is that your bargain with Allah, iman, remains sound and firm.
This definition of iman is perhaps a little different from the definition you usually hear. It is, however, a definition that we find in the Quran [at-Tawba 9: 111]. Furthermore, attainment of such iman, allows you to be counted among the true and sincere servants in the eyes of your Lord. The Quran states: Behold, God has bought of the Believers their lives and their possessions, promising them Paradise in return, they fight in God’s cause, and slay, and are slain: a promise which in truth He has willed upon Himself in the Tawra, and the Injil, and the Quran.
And who could be more faithful to his covenant than God? [at-Tawba 9: 111] Once you have committed yourself to Allah, all that you have must be spent in His way. This is the ideal. Ideals, however, are always difficult to achieve – and this you must understand and accept. Ideals are always to be pursued; if they are easily and always achievable, they can hardly remain as ideals. Keeping to your side of the bargain then, is an ideal that you must always seek to maintain. It is this seeking and this striving to spend all that we have in the way of Allah that is known as jihad nd alternatively, in this instance, as tazkiya. PREREQUISITES OF TAZKIYA As you proceed on your journey along the new path, in quest of the ultimate goal of Paradise, you will encounter difficulties and hardships. These may often seem insurmountable. Overcoming them may be made easier by a good early grasp of the prerequisites of tazkiya. These are as follows: 1. Tazkiya -Your Personal Responsibility You must accept that tazkiya is a highly personal process and that it demands taking personal responsibility for carrying it forward.
You can only see the results of tazkiya through your own realisation, your own personal efforts and your own exertions. No one else can perform tazkiya for you. No organisation, no leader and no teacher can replace your own responsibility. God says: And no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden; and if one weighed down by his load calls upon [another] to help bear carry it nothing thereof may be carried [by that other], even if it be one’s near of kin. [al-Fatir;5:18 ] This sense of personal responsibility is basic to the whole purpose and approach of Islam.
Ultimately, we are judged individually for discharging our own responsibilities. If someone else fulfils your obligations, then it should be he that is rewarded, not you. To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself: Whoever strives hard in God’s cause does so only for his own good: for, verily, God does not stand in need of anything in all the worlds! And as for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly reward them in accordance with the best that they ever did. al-Ankabut 29: 6-7. ] Some people allow themselves to be dictated by others. The Quran states that the weak will say on the Day of judgment that they were coerced into following the dictates of others, but that Allah will reply that the excuse is not legitimate for the decision to deviate from the Straight Path was their own. [Qaf 50: 26-28]. Even Shaytan will stand up on the Day of Judgment saying: ‘I invited you and you responded to me, so don’t blame me, blame yourselves. [Ibrahim 14: 22] Ultimately, then, the blame and the reward will be yours, because the responsibility was yours: On that Day all people will come forward, cut off from one another, to be shown their deeds. And so, he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good, shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it. [az-Zalzala 99: 6-8. ] Taking charge of your own affairs may certainly seem a daunting task, but one which you will accomplish with distinction if you appreciate and take advantage of the tremendous human potential that Allah has blessed you with.
Allah says in the Quran: Verily, We created man in the best conformation, and thereafter We reduced him to the lowest of the low – excepting only such as attain to faith and do good works: and theirs shall be a reward unending! [at Tin 95: 4-6. ] Tazkiya does not consist simply of ideas, but of life, behaviour and conduct. The key to success, according to the Quran, lies in having true faith. To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam through a dedicated study of the Quran and Sunna.
You must then translate your knowledge into practice. For this to occur, you need to have firm resolve and determination. This, in turn, will produce amal salih or righteous conduct. To aid you in your task, you must seek the company of those who are also striving to please Allah. They will encourage you towards righteousness and correct you when you deviate from the true Path. Your company also includes your mental and psychological company- the ideas you entertain, the ambitions you nurture, the sensitivities and sensibilities you develop and the books you read.
All of these represent a form of company because they are your companions in solitude. 2. Genuine Effort In order to succeed, you must have a deep desire to make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim: But as for those who strive hard in Our cause – We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold God is indeed with the doers of good. [al-Ankabut 29: 69. ] With desire, of course, come actions. But know that it is not solely the results of your endeavours that count; what matters most is that you made your best effort.
This is a very important point to appreciate because without genuine effort nothing can happen. Those who think that Prayer alone can work miracles are not living in a realistic world. Prayers are part of the effort, but Prayers are not the whole answer. If you pray, `Allah! Guide me and make me good’, it is not going to bring you any benefit unless you are also determined to become good and make an effort towards becoming good. Once you have done the latter two things, then, of course, Prayer will be a source of baraka or Divine grace that will further inspire and strengthen your efforts.
The initial desire and the ensuing effort to do and become good, is part of the continuing process of self development, a process that may begin at any point in life that you choose and continue till your last breath: O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of Allah with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow, death to overtake you until you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. [Ali Imran 3: 102. ] There will never be a point when you will be able to say that you are now a perfect person or that you have achieved your full potential.
If at any point you feel so, then be sure that is the starting point of your downfall, On the other hand, you may find that the greater your desire to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim, the more you feel beset or plagued by frustration, despondency and despair in your heart and mind. All of us, whether young or old, have experienced these diseases, and often just give up. What we should try to remember at such times is that it is the intention and effort that matters, not the result. This effort must be a continuing process: Be not, then, faint of heart, and grieve not: for you are bound to rise high if you are believers. Ali Imran 3: 139] 3. Sustaining Willpower To achieve the ultimate goal in life requires a sustained determination to do so, a willpower that is forever responsive and strong. In Quranic terminology this is called irada. Irada is basic to all our efforts. Without willing to do something you cannot do anything. Irada is very different from desire. You always hear people reflecting upon unfulfilled aspirations. One of the main reasons why aspirations and dreams remain unfulfilled is that they are no more than desires which faded to assume the status of irada.
The Quran explains that one of the basic weaknesses in human nature which impedes self development is the weakness of will. While narrating the story of Adam, Allah informs: And, indeed, long ago We made Our covenant with Adam; but he forgot and We found no firmness of purpose in him. [Ta Ha 20:115] Irada requires strength and consistency and is indeed the antithesis of doubt, hesitation or lethargy. Once irada is firmly in place, then you must have no doubts and you must not hesitate. Now, what purpose should irada serve?
The Quran makes it clear that this will power must be a firm resolve to seek the pleasure of Allah because this is the part of the bargain that you must deliver: And whoever desires [arada] the Life to Come, and strive for it as it ought to be striven for, and are [true] Believers withal-they are the ones whose striving finds favour [with God]. [al-Isra 17: 19] 4. Reliance on Allah Self-confidence is borne from the Believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive and struggle in His way.
Self-confidence comes from depending upon Allah and knowing that He is there to help you, protect you and shower His mercies upon you: So he who gives [in charity] and fears [Allah] and [in all sincerity] testifies to the best- We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. [al-Layl 92: 5-7. ] Self-confidence also emanates from knowing that Allah in His infinite mercy has equipped you with all that you require to undertake the tasks set before you. It is not characteristic of the One that is Most Just and Most Merciful to prepare you for a duel without equipping you with the necessary tools.
Self-confidence is thus borne of total reliance and trust in Allah. It is knowing that at every step of your journey Allah is there assisting you. If you constantly hold yourself back believing that you are weak and incapable and blame your incompetence on minor inadequacies, then you are bound to fail. You must never allow yourself to believe or feel that Allah has treated you unfairly or that He has placed upon you a burden you cannot shoulder for on no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. [al-Baqara 2:286. ] Likewise, hope is central to your efforts and your success.
You must sincerely hope and believe that everything you do to earn the pleasure of Allah will lead you to fulfillment. A superiority complex negates the task of self development. An inferiority complex is derived from a lack of confidence in Allah and oneself. You should never allow yourself to believe that you cannot fulfill your obligations nor should you despair of the mercy of Allah. Confidence, hope and determination are all important ingredients for your success: Those unto whom men said: Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them. But it only increased them in faith and they cried..
Allah is sufficient for us! Most Excellent is He in Whom we trust! [Ali Imran 3: 173-174] You must be wary, however, of the kind of self-confidence that causes a person to proclaim himself self-sufficient. Modern concepts of self sufficiency are indeed an evil form of shirk or polytheism. To ascribe self-sufficiency to one’s self is to assume for oneself an attribute reserved only for Allah. For the Muslim, self-confidence is wholly dependent upon the trust one places in Allah; it is not an arrogant proclamation of complete independence from Allah. Allah alone is self-Sufficient.
All else is reliant upon Him for existence. 5. The Best Use of Time Time is not money or gold; it is life and it is limited. You must begin to appreciate every moment of your life and always strive to make the best use of it. With all the demands of worldly life on your time, you will yet need to find time for self-development and maximise its potential. The better route towards self-development is, of course, to integrate all your efforts into a structured daily life. Imam al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him, in his great work, Ihya Ulum ad Din, gives the following dvice: You should structure your time, arrange your regular devotions and assign to each function a set period of time during which it is given first priority but which it does not overstep. For if you abandon yourself to neglect and purposelessness, as cattle do, and just do anything that may occur to you at any time it happens to occur to you, most of your time will be wasted. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital; it is the basis of your transactions [with God], and the means to attain to everlasting felicity, in the proximity of God the Exalted.
Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, and when it passes away it never returns. Remember also that `the deeds most loved by Allah [are those] done regularly, even if they are few. ‘ (Bukhari, Muslim. ) While you must always strive to make the best use of your time, you must always aim for excellence in everything you undertake, whether at school, at home, at work or at play. Indeed, the Prophet has said, `Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (proficiency and excellence) in all things. (Muslim. ) 6. Tazkiya -All-embracing Process.
Islam does not subscribe to the type of asceticism where we purify our hearts and yet remain immersed in political, economic or social corruption. Tazkiya must encompass our entire life – the privacy of our thoughts as well as their social manifestations in our daily life. Everything must be in conformity with Allah’s will. This will of God also requires you to seek and maintain a delicate balance between the various obligations that demand your attention; between your obligations to Allah, your obligations towards others and your obligations towards yourself The Prophet advised us against extremism of any kind.
It is reported that he said to Abdullah ibn Amr: `Have I heard right that you fast everyday and stand in prayer all night? ‘ Abdullah replied, `Yes, O Messenger of God. ‘ The Prophet said, `Do not do that. Fast, as well as eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as sleep. For your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you. ‘ (Bukhari, Muslim. ) Unless you approach tazkiya as an all-embracing process, you will find that your life is compartmentalized, certain parts impeding the development of others.
This can only result in a life of disharmony and unhappiness. Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, however, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part. This should, God willing, make your struggle on the path to God and Janna, easier and full of grace. As you struggle to make headway on the path to God, always remember that you have an excellent example before you. This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace.
Often we would like to emulate our sports heroes, our parents, our teachers, our friends or others who attract our attention. For your spiritual development, however, the most beautiful example is that of the Prophet. Allah says in the Quran: You have, indeed, in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar, whoever places his hopes in God and the Final Days and who remembers Allah much. [al-Ahzab 33: 21] BLESSINGS AND BENEFITS The decision to purify and develop yourself requires that you clearly define the path and consider the ways and means to achieve Paradise.
This whole process will not only purify your heart, but also affect your entire life and the will of Allah will become so much easier for you to follow. Following the Divine Will is, of course, tazkiya itself, Soon, all your efforts will be directed towards the ultimate goal – the pleasure of Allah and Paradise. Know that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness, and forgiveness is a sure way to Paradise. As you strive to better yourself, then, simultaneously and continuously pray for forgiveness for all your shortcomings.
God says: And whoever repents and believes and works righteous deeds, God changes evil deeds into good ones, and God is Ever-Forgiving, Merciful. [al-Furqan 25:70] It is a misconception to believe that simply by setting up Paradise as the ultimate goal, one can get there without any further effort. It is also a misconception that Paradise can solely be achieved by concentrating only on certain aspects of life, the `religious and the spiritual’. The very fact that Paradise is the ultimate objective means that tazkiya must be pursued in all aspects of life, and in life as a whole.
Consider, for example, the following: -Is not honesty a means to enter Paradise? -Will not a sense of responsibility enable me to enter Paradise? -Will not striving to fulfill the needs of fellow human beings make me deserve Paradise? -Will not abstaining from vain talk and aimless actions, bring me closer to Paradise? -Is not consciousness of the best use of my time a key to Paradise? -Will not keeping promises and offering Salat on time, which are distinguishing traits of the righteous, put me on the highway to Paradise? -Must not all of the above be sought to attain Paradise?
Every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiya Insha Allah (God-willing), if you take heed of all the prerequisites, blessings and benefits of tazkiya, you will surely find the right environment, the true companionship and brotherhood and the most appropriate training programmes to make the task of self development easier and more rewarding. So give the good news to My servants who listen to the word [of God], then follow the beauty in it. Such are they whom God has guided And such are they who are endowed with understanding. azZumar 39: 17-18. ] SUMMARY The most comprehensive goal for a Muslim is the single-minded desire to attain Paradise. This desire to seek Paradise is a life-long process which can be sparked in a moment- and this desire will provide the means and the momentum to reach the goal. Your model for self-development is that of the Prophet Muhammad. In your quest for Paradise, you must personally take charge of your responsibilities, develop the willpower to perform and make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations, ensure that you make the best use of your time and adopt a balanced approach to life.
Remember that every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiya and that every sin can be effaced through forgii&H§ss – and that forgiveness is the sure way to Paradise. And as for the one who fears to stand before his Lord and who restrains himself from base desires, the Garden is surely the abode. [an-Naziat 79: 40-41] May Allah enable us to be among those who purify themselves for it is God Who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity; and none shall be wronged by as much as a hair’s breath [an-Nisa 4: 49].
Were it not for God’s favour upon you and His grace, not one of you would ever have remained pure. For it is God who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity: for God is all-Hearing all-Knowing [anNur 24: 21. ] CHAPTER TWO: A Life of Remembrance IN a verse of the Quran that I love very much, Allah, Most Gracious and Loving, commends: Remember Me and I shall remember you. Be grateful unto Me and deny Me not. [al-Baqara 2:152. ] Can you imagine a more gratifying state than this, where, when you remember Allah, the Creator, Sustainer and Lord of the Universe, He remembers you in return?
The same exhortation has been beautifully conveyed in a hadith qudsi: I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My `heart’; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering far better than that gathering; if he draws near to Me a hand’s p, I draw near to him an arm’s length; if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running. Bukhari, Muslim) Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining and who reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth are highly commended in the Noble Quran. They are wise in that they fill their hearts with the remembrance of God in every, moment, in every circumstance and in every posture of their lives. [Ali Imran 3: 191] The exhortation to remember Allah at all times is a reflection of Allah’s all-embracing and overwhelming love for us. The door to Allah is always open to us: Remember Me and 1 will remember you.
We need only find our way to and through that door. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DHIKR Regarding the significance of dhikrullah or the remembrance of God, Allah says in the Quran, itself the ultimate reminder (dhikr) to all the worlds [Sad 38: 87], the following: Remember Allah. for He has guided you. [al-Baqara 2:198. ] O you who believe! Remember Allah often with much remembrance. And glorify Him morning and evening. [Luqman 31: 41-42. ] And men who remember God much and women who remember – God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. [al-Ahzab 33: 35 ]
Hadith literature is similarly replete with references to the remembrance of Allah: The servant cannot perform a better deed which will save him from God’s punishment than the remembrance of God. (Malik. ) Whoever wishes to feast in the gardens of Paradise, let him remember God often. (Tirmidhi. ) Indeed, with regard to dhikr, the Quran concludes: And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest deed without doubt. [al-Ankabut 29:45] The significance of dhikr lies in the fact that it is God’s own chosen and recommended mode by which the muminun or Believers show gratitude for having been shown the straight path.
In addition, it is indeed the surest way of attaining God’s forgiveness and achieving the ultimate reward of Paradise. The importance of dhikr then is not difficult to understand. It is dhikr that purifies your qalb or heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having a pure and sound heart. The qalb or `heart’ referred to here is not the pump in your breast that pushes blood around your body but rather the centre or locus of your personality which pumps out your desires and motivations and which makes you conduct yourself as you do.
It is this qalb that lies at your centre and dictates your actions which is the key to your ultimate success. Thus, with reference to the Day of Judgment, the Quran declares: [It will be a Day) when neither wealth nor children shall profit [and when] only he [will be saved] who comes before God with a sound heart [free of evil]. [ash-Shuara 26:88-89. ] This point is more elaborately made in a hadith in which the Prophet says: Listen [to me] carefully. There is a lump of flesh in the body – if it is set right and made good, the entire body becomes good and healthy; but if it becomes diseased, the entire body becomes diseased.
Remember well – it is the Heart. (Bukhari. ) If the heart is the key to ultimate salvation and success, it may, likewise, be the seat of much corruption and open doors to many evils. It may facilitate the corruption of political and economic activities and ultimately the social institutions of a society. Where such a state prevails, the Quran suggests that it is because people, individually, have become diseased in their hearts. [al-Baqara 2:10. ] In this state, people stop seeing and doing what is right. The Quran explains that this is not because they have become blind in their eyes but because their hearts have become blind. al-Hajj 22: 46. ] This blindness only draws them nearer to the ultimate chastisement. It is the heart, as the decider of our ultimate fate, that must then be the starting point of any tazkiya programme, to purify this heart and then summon it to the service of mankind. Ibn al-Qayyim, one of the great scholars of Islam, states in his Kitab al Adhkar (The Book of Remembrance), that ‘the heart which is devoid of the remembrance of Allah is a heart that is dead’; it is dead even and long before the body carrying the heart reaches its grave. Indeed, this living body that carries the heart is the heart’s grave.
Ibn al-Qayyim’s statement is reminiscent of the hadith of tire Prophet which states: `The difference between someone who remembers His Lord and someone who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead. ‘ (Bukhari. ) The statement is also reminiscent of the following verse of the Quran: Do not become like those who forget Allah and Allah makes them forget themselves. It is they who are truly deprived. [al-Hashr 59:19. ] The purpose of tazkiya is to ensure that the heart never falls into a sorry state of being and that it is always alive with the remembrance of God.
Prosperous indeed is one who purifies himself and remembers the name of His Guardian-Lord, and prays [unto Him]. [al-Ala 87: 14-15. ] The Prophet further emphasised the importance of dhikr when he said to his Companions: ‘Shall I not inform you of the best of your actions, the purest in the sight of your Lord, which raises your rank to the highest, which is better for you than spending gold and silver, better than meeting your enemy so that you strike at their necks and they strike at yours? ‘ They replied: ‘Yes, indeed,’ and he said: ‘It is the remembrance of Allah. ‘ (Tirmidhi. )
Strive then, to fill all your moments, all your thoughts and all your actions with His remembrance. Recite tasbih or words of glorification and praise to punctuate all your actions and achievements. THE MEANING OF DHIKR What is the precise meaning of ‘dhikr’? What is its scope and what does it entail? Does it simply involve certain utterances of the tongue, like Subhanallah (I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection), Alhamdu lillah (All praise be to Allah), Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), La ilaha illallah (There is no god but Allah) and the recitation of some other selected verses of the Quran, or is there more to it?
Of course, such utterances of the tongue and recitation of verses of the Quran are important. In fact they are very important forms of dhikr for, indeed, the best forms of remembrance are those that involve both the heart and the tongue. You must understand, however, that the scope of dhikr is considerably wider. Dhikr must not only be felt by the heart and uttered with the tongue, but must also affect and effect amal salih, or good deeds.
Significantly, Ibn al-Qayyim suggests that dhikr encompasses `any and every particular moment when you are thinking, saying or doing things which Allah likes: Hence, if your conversation is filled with the words of God, this is dhikr and if all your actions are in accordance with His will, this is dhikr. Indeed Allah commends that we remember Him while standing, sitting and even while reclining. This is only possible if dhikr embraces every single aspect of life. Consider for example the following verse of the Quran where dhikr is emphasised in both Prayer and business activity:
O Believers, when the call to Payer is sounded on the Day of Congregation, hasten to Allah’s remembrance and leave all worldly commerce. This a for your own good, if you but knew . And when the Prayer it finished then disperse through the land, and seek of the bounty of Allah; and remember Allah frequently that you may prosper. [al-Jumua 62:9-10] Attending the Salat al-jumua, listening to the khutba or sermon and performing the congregational Prayer are all well known as forms of dhikr. But in our worldly pursuits as well we are urged to remember Allah even more often.
We may thus conclude, that attending to your personal needs, earning a livelihood and spending on your family are all forms of dhikr. But of course, they can only be dhikr if, alongside with the relevant adhkar or supplications in the heart and on the tongue, they are done in obedience to Allah, for His pleasure, to attain Janna. Otherwise, as the Quran warns us, far from being dhikr, they may have the opposite effect: Let not your worldly possessions and your children make you neglectful of Allah’s remembrance. But spend in the way of Allah. [al-Munafiqun 63:9-10. THE METHODS OF DHIKR We have thus far discussed the significance, meaning and scope of dhikr. Let us now turn to the various forms and methods of dhikr. How do we remember Allah in the morning and evening, during the day and at night and while standing, sitting or reclining. ‘ There are basically two forms of dhikr. The first involves continuous and sustained inner awareness of Allah in all that we say and do in our daily lives. The second involves mechanisms, whether performed individually or collectively, that help to develop the first. 1.
Sustained Awareness of Allah Let us begin with a discussion of the first form and its methods. How can you remember Allah throughout the normal course of your day without withdrawing from the routine of your daily worldly life? How can you ensure that your personal life, family life, professional life and other activities all continue in full swing, and yet, at the same time, ensure that your life as a whole – every moment of it – is permeated with remembrance of Allah? Such an all-pervading dhikr can be an onerous task, but one you can accomplish – with some ease.
Let me remind you of four states of consciousness that you must strive to develop by remembering certain things, absorbing them and reminding yourself of them often. ONE: Say to yourself: I am in Allah’s presence; He is watching me. : Say to yourself: I am in Allah’s presence; He is watching me. If ever you are alone, He is the second and that if you are two, He is the third. He is with you wherever you are. [al-Mujadala 58: 7. ] He is nearer to you than your-jugular vein. [Qaf 50: 16-18. ] He is watching everything that you do and hearing everything that you say. He is ever present and His knowledge is all encompassing.
Remind yourself of this as often as you can, and throughout the day- every time you begin a new task, and every time you speak. Indeed, your aim should be to impress this on your heart in such a way that it ultimately becomes your very breath. When the Prophet was asked by a Companion about the best method of purifying himself, he replied: `You should always remember that Allah is with you wherever you are. ‘ (Tirmidhi. ) TWO: Say to yourself: Everything I have has been given to me by Allah. All that there is – surrounding you, on you and in you – comes from Allah alone.
There is none that creates or gives anything but Allah. [an-Nahl 16:78; Ya Sin 36:33-35. ] Therefore, reflect upon all the baraka or blessing that He has created you with and be thankful to Him. In all the adhkar that the Prophet has taught us, hamd or gratefulness to Allah is a constant theme. Many of these adhkar are simple to learn, and indeed, it was the most simple of his adhkar that he used most frequently. When the Prophet rose in the morning, he would say Alhamdu lillah; whenever he ate or drank he would say Alhamdu lillah; and even when he relieved himself he would give thanks to Allah.
Learn as many of the adhkar as you can, and throughout the day, as you witness all that Allah has blessed you with, punctuate your day with these adhkar. If ever you appear to be short of things to be thankful for, recall the hadith of the Prophet: `There are 360 joints in the body and for each joint you must give a sadaqa [thanks or charity] each day. ‘ (Bukhari. ) You must give a sadaqa for each one of them because without any one of them you will be incomplete and handicapped. You must do this on a daily basis for should any one of them become damaged one day, you will similarly become incapacitated.
Additionally, you may remind yourself that, as we now know from our knowledge of human physiology, your heart beats 72 times a minute. Every time it beats, it does so with the permission of Allah. The moment He withdraws that permission, the heart will stop beating and your life will certainly come to an end. If you feel that there is nothing else to thank Allah for, then thank him for the life that He has given you – for, so long as there is life, there is hope. THREE: Say to yourself: Nothing in this world can happen without His permission. Everything lies in the hands of Allah.
No harm can befall you and no benefit can reach you except as Allah ordains. It is as the Quran informs us: If God should touch you with misfortune, none can remove it but He, and if He should touch you with good fortune, He has power over all things. He alone holds sway over His creatures; He is the All-wise, the All-aware. [al-Anam 6: 17-18. ] The Prophet Muhammad would supplicate to Allah after each Prayer: O Allah, whatever You want to give me, no one can stop it from coming to me and whatever You want to prevent from coming to me, nobody can give to me.
Prayer after Prayer, you should recite these beautiful words. And beyond that, remind yourself as much as you can and throughout the day, especially as you expect something to happen, or not to happen, that everything happens only as He commands, and by His permission. FOUR: Say to yourself: I am going to return to Allah one day and that day could be today. You do not know when you will leave this world. It may be that the coming morning is your last morning, or perhaps the coming evening is your last evening. Indeed, it may be that this hour is your last hour, or even, that this moment is your last moment.
Such an uncertainty does not, of course, justify a complete withdrawal from this life so as to prepare for the Next in some monastic fashion. It is important, however, that you are always conscious of this uncertainty, to the extent that it motivates you to spend every moment of your remaining life seriously, considering it as a gift from Allah and spending the resources He has blessed you with – time, ability and energy – as He has advised. Then, and only then, will your life have achieved what is required of it, and your return will achieve what is required of it.
To help you attain this state of consciousness, recall and reflect upon the following Quranic verse as much as you can and throughout the day: from Allah we came and to Him we shall return. [al-Baqara 2:156] These are the four states of consciousness that can help us achieve a life completely devoted to the remembrance of Allah. To try to reach these four states simultaneously, and with sincerity, can only purify you. To try in a determined fashion to reach these four states will lead you inevitably to Paradise. 2. Specific Methods of Dhikr For us to achieve a continuous and sustained awareness of Him, Allah, in His Wisdom and Mercy, has aught us some very specific mechanisms of dhikr. These include: the formal ibada-Salat, Sawm, Zakat and Hajj; tilawa of the Quran, dua, istighfar and tawba, seeking the company of the righteous and dawa. Together these mechanisms or methods constitute what we have classified above as the second form of dhikr, but here we may sub-divide them into two groups: those that can be performed individually and those that are performed collectively. 3. Methods of Individual Dhikr The foremost of the specific methods pertaining to individual dhikr include the fard or obligatory ibada. Allah has said in a hadith qudsi:
My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than what I have made obligatory. (Bukhari. ) Each specific formal ibada or act of servitude to God, has been ordained as an instrument of self development. When we observe our Salat regularly at the proper times, together in congregation whenever possible, with clear intentions and sincerity; when we fast in the month of Ramadan with awareness and resolve; when we give Zakat as soon as it falls due with a generous heart; and when we fulfill the obligations of Hajj as soon as we have the means, we will gain that special closeness to Allah that He has promised.
Indeed, we may get even closer to God through additional observance of these specific formal acts of servitude, for Allah continues in the hadith qudsi: My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with additional devotions until I love him. When I love him, I become the hearing with which he hears, the sight with which he sees, the hand with which he strikes and the foot with which he walks. Were he to ask for something I would surely give it, and were he to ask for refuge, I would surely grant him refuge. (Bukhari. ) For each specific fard ibada, there is an additional nafl or superogatory equivalent.
These are as follows: -The Sunna Salat – these include the additional Prayers before and after the five obligatory ones, but just as importantly the Tahajjud Prayer. -The Sunna Fasts – as recommended by the Prophet and to be practised on Mondays and Thursdays of each week, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth day of each lunar calendar month, and other recommended days in the Islamic year. -Sadaqa fi Sabilillah – the giving of voluntary charity, however much and whenever one can afford, for the pleasure of Allah. -The Umra – performance of the voluntary short pilgrimage.
In addition to the fard and their related nafl ibada, there are two further specific methods of individual dhikr: the first is the daily recitation of the Quran, and the second, frequent dua or supplications to Allah for forgiveness, guidance and fulfillment of needs. Let us explore each of these specific methods pertaining to individual dhikr in more detail, particularly as instruments of tazkiya and dhikr A. Salat Salat is the foremost form of ibada that Allah Himself has prescribed for us. In His own words He commands: Establish regular Prayer that you may remember
Me. [Ta Ha 20:14. ] The whole purpose of Salat is to be ever conscious of Allah, the Creator, Lord and Sustainer of all things. When we perform Salat we involve our tongue, our heart, our mind and indeed our whole body. In this sense, Salat is indeed, one of the most comprehensive forms of dhikr. It is perhaps for this reason that Allah states in a hadith qudsi: `Out of all the ways through which My servant gets closer to Me, Salat is the dearest to Me. ‘ (Bukhari. ) It is unfortunate, therefore, that we do not always take full advantage of this gift.
We may pray five times each day but few of us remain conscious for long that in Prayer we have the best means to develop a strong connection with Allah. We may compare the obligatory Salat to bathing five times a day. If after such frequent bathing, your body remains dirty, then we may question the usefulness and efficacy of such bathing. Similarly, if after regular observance of Prayer your heart remains unmoved, your morals remain corrupt and your conduct remains unaffected, we may question the usefulness and efficacy of your Prayer?
If you enter into Salat and come out of it the same person, then you have missed something, and you may have missed a golden opportunity to achieve something great. Remember, though, Salat is an obligation. Whether your heart is attentive or not, it must be performed. You cannot give up Prayer because to you it appears useless. Don’t give up the obligation but try to infuse it with the purpose it seeks to serve – remembrance of Allah. How can you improve the quality of your Salat?
Remember, first and foremost, that as soon as you commence your Salat, Shaytan makes it his duty to fill your mind with anything and everything but thoughts of Allah. [al-Araf 7: 16-17. ] For, Shaytan is aware that your remembrance of Allah will draw you closer to Him, so he tries ceaselessly to disengage your mind and heart from such remembrance, so that you may never achieve that closeness. The most important hurdle to overcome from the outset, therefore, is absentmindedness. It is this that destroys the quality of your Prayer, for Allah does not accept the Prayers of a wandering mind.
The Prophet Muhammad said: God does not accept the Prayers of an individual until his heart achieves in it what his body has achieved. [Al-Ghazali in Ihya. See Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, p. 29. ] The ability to concentrate in Prayer may be improved by undertaking adequate psychological, mental and physical preparation before the Prayer and by utilising certain techniques whilst performing the Prayer. Below we discuss some of them. i. Psychological and Mental Preparation -The planning of your daily activities should revolve around the five daily Salat. al-Ma’arij 70: 22-23. ] Do not plan everything else and then try to fit Prayer into your busy schedule. -Ensure that you are conversant with all the rules and regulations governing your Prayer. Research in depth the Quranic verses and ahadith relating to the virtues of Salat. -Be punctual with your Prayer. [an-Nisa 4:103] Get into the habit of praying at the earliest hour. Do not procrastinate. The Prophet said, `the deed most loved by Allah is Prayer performed on time. ‘ (Muslim. ) -Pray as much of your fard Salat in jama’a or congregation as is possible. al-Baqara 2: 43. ] -Avoid praying in a state in which you are mentally and physically fatigued. [an-Nisa 4: 43] -Rid your mind of all evil thoughts and ideas. [al-Maun 107: 4-6. ] -Keep your mind free of worldly worries and engagements. -Plan what ayat / duas you are going to recite. -If you do not understand Arabic learn the meaning of what you recite in your Prayer. -Remind yourself that engaging in Prayer offers you an opportunity to release yourself from the pressures and tensions of this world. The Prophet has said that in Prayer was placed the comfort of his eyes.
Therefore cherish the opportunity to remove the shackles and burdens of this world from your shoulders. [al-Baqara 2: 45. ] -Use your Prayer to remain focused on your mission in life to bring your entire being to serve only Allah. -Use your Prayer as a source of strength, inspiration and enthusiasm for your life and activities. ii. Physical Preparation -Fulfill all your personal needs before you commence your Prayer, for example, thirst, hunger and calls of nature. -Pray in a pure physical state. Perform your wudu with care and perfection. [al-Maida 5: 6. -Although the whole earth is a masjid or a place of worship, choose a place that is clean. -Pray in an environment free of noise and one where there is no distraction. -Adorn yourself with clean and respectable clothes for Allah has said: O Children of Adam, wear your best clothes at every place of worship. [al-Araf 7:31. ] iii. Performing Your Prayer -Assess your mental readiness for Prayer before its commencement, during the various postures with its attendant recitations, after each raka and ultimately at the end- Try to make improvements at each stage Pray with humility both in your mental state and in your physical manner. Pray with hope and awe, asking Allah for His mercy and forgiveness. -Remind yourself continually that you are talking to the most important `Being’ in your life – your Creator and Sustainer. He is in front of you. You are facing Him and you are involved in a dialogue with Him. [al-Alaq 96: 19. ] -Commence your Prayer by seeking Allah’s help and protection from the influences of Shaytan. [an-Nahl 16: 98. ] -Lower your gaze while praying and do not allow the physical environment to distract you.
Anas related that the Prophet said: `My dear son, be sure to avoid being distracted during Prayer, for, to become distracted while praying is a disaster. ‘ (Tabarani. ) -Use a variety of Quranic verses and duas in your Prayer to achieve greater concentration and awareness. -Adopt a whispering technique in your recitation. This will increase your ability to remain focused on what you are saying. [alIsra 17:110. ] -As you recite the Quran, translate it into your own language so that your attention is held. As you concentrate upon the meaning and implications of the words, insha Allah, all thoughts of worldly ideas will disappear. On each occasion that you recite the Sifat or attributes of Allah in ruku and sajda, consider how indebted you are and how grateful you should be to Allah and express your true emotions. -Utilise the occasion of sajda to make additional dua to Allah. The Prophet said: ‘ A servant is nearest to his Lord when he is in sajda, so increase your supplication when in sajda. ‘ (Muslim. ) -Make your Prayer of moderate duration so that you do not become physically and mentally tired but be aware that while in Prayer you must take your time praying. -Give due regard to the proper performance of all the physical postures. Pray as if it is your last Prayer. The Messenger of God said: `When you stand up to pray, perform your prayer as if it were your last, do not say anything you will have to make excuses for tomorrow, and resolve to place no hope in what is in the hands of men. ‘ (Ahmad. ) Performing your prayer in a satisfactory manner should lead to a radical change in the way you lead your daily life. Salat must be as the Quran states: Surely, Salat prevents indecency and evil [alAnkabut 29: 45. ] Your improved and more disciplined life will in turn help the quality of your Prayer to increase even more.
The two should feed one another and continuously reinforce each other. Note that there is punishment for a Prayer not performed satisfactorily. It will be a witness against you rather than a witness for you on the Day of Judgment. However, the reward for a Prayer well performed is immeasurable. The Prophet said: `If a man performs two rakas of Salat without the distraction of any worldly thought, all his previous sins will be forgiven. ‘ (Bukhari. ) iv. Tahajjud Salat Even though it is not obligatory, try to establish Tahajjud Salat as part of our nightly activities. The Prophet said: `The best Prayer after the fard Prayer is the night Prayer. ‘ (Muslim. ) One of the characteristics of the Ibadur Rahman or Servants of the Most Merciful, is that they get up at night and perform Tahajjud Salat. [al-Furqan 25: 64] Qiyam al-layl or night vigil is a source of great spiritual energy. The Prophet has said: Keep up qiyam al-layl. It was the way of the virtuous who came before you, it draws you nearer to your Lord, atones for your sins, forbids you from evil and protects the body from sickness. (Tirmidhi. )
When a man wakes up his wife at night and they pray two rakas (units) together, they are written down among the men and women who remember Allah. (Abu Dawud) The Quran also commends the one who utilizes the early hours of each day to engage in remembrance of Allah: Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of night prostrating himself or standing [in adoration] and who places his hope in the mercy of His Lord – [like one who does not]? Say: ‘Are those equal – those who know and those who do not know? ’ It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition. [Az-Zumar 39:9]
B. Sawm Sawm or fasting is another important instrument of tazkiya. It holds a unique status among all other forms of ibada. In a hadith qudsi we are told: Every good deed of a man is granted manifold increase, ten to seven hundred times. But Allah says: Fasting is an exception; it is exclusively for Me, and I will give reward for it as much as I wish. (Bukhari, Muslim. ) The fruit of fasting ought to be that rich inner quality which the Quran calls taqwa: O Believers! Fasting is ordained for you, even as it was ordained for those before you, that you might attain taqwa. [al-Baqara 2:183]
Taqwa is the most basic prerequisite for being guided by Allah. It entails God-consciousness, a sense of responsibility, accountability, dedication and awe. It is that which prompts and inspires us to fulfill our responsibilities towards the Creator. Taqwa is the main criterion by which Allah values the deeds of a Muslim. The Quran states: Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most Godfearing of you. Verily God is all-Knowing and all-Wise. [al-Hujurat 49: 13. ] We must strive to the utmost to inculcate taqwa in our lives as Allah has ordained: Take provisions with you, but the best of provisions is taqwa.
So remain conscious of Me, O you who are endowed with insight. [al-Baqara 2:197] Fasting teaches us to remember Allah. It helps to instill in us certain attributes and qualities which develop our taqwa. We discuss some of these below. i. Fulfilling Allah’s Wishes While fasting, the most basic physical needs – Food, water and sleep – are readily and joyfully sacrificed. Hunger and thirst are no longer harmful; Allah’s displeasure is harmful. Physical pleasures no longer hold any lure; Allah’s rewards do. The scale of values is turned upside down. The measures of comfort and pain, success and failure are radically changed.
However, whatever the physical discomfort, the mortification of the flesh is certainly not the desired object. The gifts of Allah are there to be enjoyed but limits by Him must also be strictly observed. Once the sun has set, the fast must be broken and the sooner the better. All that was forbidden during the fasting hours, at His command, becomes permissible again, at His command. Similarly, eating before dawn is strongly encouraged even though the hour is early for it provides the necessary strength for the rigours of the day ahead. Fasting and praying are obvious acts of worship but eating also constitutes a form of worship. i. Willpower Fasting strengthens our willpower. The Prophet has said: ‘Sawm is a shield [or a screen or a shelter from the Hell-fire]. ‘ (Bukhari. ) The regime of dawn-to-sunset abstinence from food, drink and sex, for the sake of Allah alone, internalises the lesson that we must never en

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