On Celebrating Mawlid/Milad

By Suheil  Laher

Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was a wonderful and exemplary human being who was concerned for the spiritual welfare of humankind, and endured great hardship to convey and explain God’s final message. Every Muslim loves him, and indeed love for him necessarily follows from belief in God. I have personally seen signs of deep love for him among various flavors of Muslim, across sectarian and ideological spectra: Sunni, Shi`i, Sufi, Salafi and others, and this is one of numerous central teachings that unite us as Muslims. I feel it is important to keep this in mind, at this time of year in which controversies emerge — sometimes even rage — over whether (and if so how) to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).  If we consider the situation carefully, I am confident we can greatly reduce, hopefully even eliminate, stereotyping and condemning other Muslims with whom we happen to disagree on this matter.

If you don’t celebrate, then realize that those celebrating the occasion are moved by love for the beloved Prophet, even if you disagree with some of the specifics of how they are celebrating. You might believe they are wrong or mistaken in those details, but you cannot cast aspersions on their sincerity. Give them the benefit of the doubt as far as possible if you see or hear something objectionable from them[1]. If you do celebrate, then avoid the temptation to think that those not celebrating are lacking in love for the beloved Prophet[2]. Whatever your view, realize that the Muslim holding the opposing view on Mawlid might be better than you (overall and in the final analysis), and perhaps even love the Prophet more. In our world, we need more dialogue, tolerance and unity between Muslims, and we positively want to avoid entrenching ourselves into narrow, exclusive moulds. We may note that when Hindus in India were objecting to Shi`ite Muharram processions (which are often considered a heretical practice by Sunnis), a prominent Sunni (Hanafi Deboandi) scholar, Moulana Asraf Ali Thanwi, told Sunni Muslims in India to support the Shi`ites right to perform them.[3]

 

There is no disagreement that the Prophet’s birthday was not celebrated as a festival until approximately 600 years after him[4], and therefore no Muslim would be so bold to claim that it is a religiously mandated festival on par with the Two Eids (al-Fitr and al-Adha). Yes, many scholars across history have found such celebration to be acceptable, within certain boundaries, but there is further difference of opinion on what precisely those boundaries are. Those who endorse the celebration resort to general texts and concepts that show the legitimacy of feeling joy for the coming of the Prophet, and the permissibility of giving lectures about his life and reciting poetry praising him[5]. e.g.

Those who object to celebrating the Mawlid do not deny these general concepts (and they certainly do not deny the necessity of loving the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him and his Household)). Rather, their objections are based on one or more of the following points:

i) The festival was not observed by the first generations of Muslims, and since it has a religious component, there is the danger of it being (or becoming) a heretical practice (bid`ah). While there is no objection, in principle, to lectures or poetry about the Prophet, nevertheless fixing a particular time of year for such acts, and/or a rigid format, are problematic, and over time may lead to people thinking that it is integral to Islam, or that there is special virtue in doing it on that day and/or in that specific way.[6] (This is aside from the uncertainty about the precise day on which the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was born[7].)

ii) Indeed, in some parts of the  Muslim world, some people effectively see the Mawlid as a required devotional act, such that those who choose not to attend are considered to be deficient in their Islam. Conversely, some ignorant  folk come to believe that by attending the Mawlid to show love for the Prophet, they are automatically good Muslims even if they neglect their daily prayers and other religious obligations.

iii) Information inaccuracy: it is not uncommon to find speakers at a Mawlid quoting narrations/hadith that are extremely weak in their transmission or even fabricated. Similarly, some people exaggerate in praising the Prophet, in ways that he himself may have disapproved of, and which in some cases can even be tantamount to (or at least close to) polytheism (shirk). The shaykh of some of our shuyukh, the Morocan Shadhili master `Abdullah al-Ghumari (Allah’s mercy be upon him) compiled a small booklet warning against some of these widely-quoted yet unreliable hadiths.[8]

iv) Sometimes, there are other objectionable aspects to Mawlid gatherings, such as unrestrained mixing between genders, or neglect of prayer-times during the celebration.

In summary, it is your decision to celebrate or not celebrate, depending on how comfortable your conscience is with the matter. If you do celebrate, avoid the pitfalls mentioned earlier. And whether or not you celebrate:

1)                 Make sure your regular daily conduct and behavior reflect your love for the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him).

2)                 Exercise wisdom in your dealings with those who disagree with you about the Mawlid. If you believe they are wrong/mistaken, then there are etiquettes for dealing with disagreements. Dialogue, based on acknowledgement of the other’s sincerity and meritorious deeds, along with a sincere desire for their (and your own) improvement will go much further than labelling, condemnation and polar isolationism.

Before closing this article, I must make some comments on a personal note[9]. I will say that I do have reservations about Mawlid gatherings that include the pitfalls mentioned earlier, and if I know for a fact that some of the more serious infractions will be present, I would decline participation. However, if (as I was recently called upon to do so), I am invited to give a lecture about some aspect of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him and his Household), then I don’t find myself obliged to decline, nor to interrogate the attendees and organizers on their beliefs about it, but I go in clear about my own intentions. We read that Imam Malik once entered the mosque after `Asr and directly sat down, for he believed the Tahiyyat al-Masjid prayer to be impermissible during this time.  But when a boy innocently told him to stand up perform the prayer, he obliged, later explaining, “I feared being one of those who ‘when they are told to bow, they do not  bow.’”[10] It is an honor for me to speak about the Prophet, and if my words can be of some benefit, then I am happy. However, my speaking at such a gathering should not be taken as an acceptance or endorsement of everything said and done there by others. I might very well disagree with some things, but even if the disagreement is not within what I would consider legitimate scholarly disagreement, I will try to give them the benefit of the doubt, with the hope that they are rewarded for their good intentions, and that – at some point – they come to realize where they had been going wrong. It is not always a priority (and sometimes more damaging than beneficial) to speak out against something one sees as wrong. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal disapproved of decorating pages of the Qur’an, but when he was asked about a man who had spent a lot of money adorning a Qur’an with pure gold, he did not call for condemnation, but rather made a remark indicating that there are worse uses to which the gold could have been put.[11]

I am acutely aware that we do have bigger and more pressing problems in our communities than discussing the Mawlid, but it is precisely because of this fact that I feel it is important for us to be able to properly contextualize the Mawlid and take it in stride as we (hopefully) continue in more lofty pursuits.

May Allah bless Muhammad and his Household and grant them peace.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Image of moon from http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/image/planetary/moon/clem_full_moon_strtrk.jpg, accessed 1/21/14, 10:46pm.


FOOTNOTES

[1] The Hanbali polymath, Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah insightfully observed that among those who are censuring heretical practices (bid`ah), we find many individuals who are themselves actually negligent in observing the sunnah, so much so that they might actually be in a worse spiritual condition than those who are performing those disputed acts of devotion that include some heretical aspect. Thus, even though Ibn Taymiyyah was opposed to celebration of the Mawlid, and considered it a bid`ah, he writes that there is great (spiritual) reward in it for some people, because of their good intention and veneration for the Prophet. [Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (Dar al-Fikr, s.d.) p. 297] Return to main text

[2] I remember one of my teachers, a devoted Sufi and Hanafi, remarking how one statement he came across in Shaykh Muhammad ibn `Abdil-Wahhab’s Kitab al-Tawhid convinced him that the man had deep love for the Prophet. This is one of several personal anecdotes I could share from my teachers to illustrate respect across sectarian boundaries. Return to main text

[3] See, e.g. `Allamah Zafar al-`Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan. Return to main text

[4] The Ayyubid governor Muzaffar al-Din Kawkabri (d. 630 H / 1232 C.E.) is typically credited as the first to institute the festival. [See, e.g. Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’] Return to main text

[5] See, for example, `Allamah Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti’s Husn al-Maqsid fi `Amal al-Mawlid. Return to main text

[6] Our shaykh, and shaykh of some of our shaykhs, Muhammad Hasan Dado al-Shinqiti, who identifies as Salafi, observes (in a clip available on youtube) that there is no objection to feeling happy when one recollects that the Prophet was born during this month. He criticizes both those who go beyond acceptable limits in celebrating, and those who go to the other extreme of trying to behave as if there is nothing joyful in the fact. It is not a festival (`Eid), but is nevertheless one of a number of happy occasions. Return to main text

[7] It is popularly held, in the Sunni world (and among the Zaydi Shi`ah), that he was born on 12th Rabi` al-Awwal, but this is one view among several. The Shafi`I Sunni scholar Ibn Kathir considered 2nd Rabi al-Awwal as the strongest view, and listed the other possibilities as: 8th, 10th, 12th, Rabi` al-Awwal, and a fringe view (of al-Zubayr ibn Bakkar) that it was in the month of Ramadan. Another prominent view (again, among both Sunnis and Zaydis) is 9th Rabi` al-Awwal. The Imami Shi`ah typically prefer 17th Rabi` al-Awwal. [See: Hafiz Ibn Kathir, al-Fusul fi Sirat al-Rasul; Dr. Murtada al-Mahatwary al-Hasany, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah; Shaykh Safiyy al-Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar] Return to main text

[8] Its title is Irshad al-Talib al-Najib ila ma fil-Mawlid al-Nabawiyy min al-Akadhib. Return to main text

[9] I generally avoid speaking about myself and my personal views, but make an exception here because some people are apparently confused by my recent participation in a particular gathering. Return to main text

[10] See: Qurtubi, Al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, under the verse 77:48. Return to main text

[11] Ibn Taymiyyah, ibid. Return to main text

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Lost in Translation: Friendships with Non-Muslims

A closer analysis of Qur’an, 5:51

By Suheil Laher

Are Muslims allowed have non-Muslim friends? If not, then what should be our stance towards others?! Anyone who thinks that Muslims must take all non-Muslims as enemies is ignorant of the Qur’an and the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, and ignorant of the centuries of friendly co-existence between Muslims and others across history, not mention that such a person is blind to the decency and goodness to be found and appreciated in many other human beings. The Prophet’s own example clearly illustrates that the attitude of the Muslim toward the non-Muslim is not one of bigotry or unconditional animosity. For example, “when Makkah was in the grip of famine, [the Prophet Muhammad] personally went out to help his enemies. When non-Muslim prisoners of war were presented before him, he treated them with such tenderness [as] many cannot even claim to have done in respect to their children. A delegation from Banu Thaqif who had not yet embraced Islam upto that time came to visit him. They were given the honor of staying in the Mosque of the Prophet. Umar [the second Caliph] gave allowances to needy dhimmis (non-Muslim subjects) [rather than obliging them to pay the jizyah tax.” [see: Muhammad Shafi`’s (erstwhile Grand-Mufti of Pakistan) Ma`ariful-Qur’an, 2/57-58.]

Nor can it be that Muslims are supposed to just pretend to be nice to others while hating and cursing them among themselves in private, for the Prophet has denounced duplicity:

You will find the worst person to be the two-faced one, who comes to [one people] with one face, and to [another people] with another face.” [Bukhari]

In the Qur’an, the common origin (and hence essential oneness) of the human race is stressed:

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Qur’an, 49:13]

And basic values and decency are not to be reserved only for fellow Muslims:

God does not prohibit you from being kind and just to those who have not fought you on account of religion, nor expelled you from your homes. Allah loves those who are just.” Q[60:8]

We may note that the word used in the verse for ‘kindness’ (al-birr) is the same word used in some hadiths for loving, kind treatment of one’s parents.

Read more

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Perverted Priorities : Who Is and Isn't a Muslim?

concepts,courts,decisions,gavels,government,judgment,law,metaphors,silhouettesBy Suheil Laher

 

“If you don’t convert to (my sect) you might as well not convert to Islam!” exclaimed the ‘uncle’ to the young Christian lady. The lady’s husband, a Muslim, had requested his elder friend (despite his different school of thought in Islam) to come and help explain to her why Islam is so important to her husband, and why he’d like her, too, to share in its joy. The husband was startled by this narrow-minded bombshell. The shocking words of the ‘uncle’ highlight a lack of priorities plaguing some of those who profess themselves to be Muslim.

[….]

More specifically, some Muslims are sometimes (and any frequency is too often for something this important) too quick to declare someone to be outside the fold of Islam due to (i) imperfect practice, or (ii) disagreement on a non-core belief (e.g. whether and when capital punishment is mandated for apostasy, or stoning for adultery)

Read full article on MuslimMatters.orgMuslimmatters.org

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Actions for Laylatul-Qadr

Islamic man praying at night

These are nights for increasing one’s worship to Allah, and seeking closeness to Him.

“The Messenger of Allah, when the [Last] Ten [Nights of Ramadan] entered, kept the night alive, awoke his family, and tightened his belt.” [Bukhari and others]
Ibn Rajab said, “The optimal worship (`ibadah) is to combine prayer (salah), recitation [of Qur’an], supplication (du`a) and meditation.”

The specific deeds listed (below) can be observed. But make a plan for yourself, whereby you:

1. Supplicate using these words:

اللَهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ العَفوَ فاعفُ عَنّي

“O Allah You are pardoning, and love to pardon, so pardon me.” [Narrated by Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’I, Ibn Majah]

2. Pray `Isha’, as well as Maghrib and Fajr, in congregation.

Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib said: “Whoever caught `isha’ [in jama`ah] on Laylatul-Qadr has taken his share of [the night].” [Malik]

“One who performs `Isha’ prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat for half of the night. And one who performs the Fajr prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat the whole night.” [Muslim]

3. Pray Tarawih

“Whoever stands [in prayer] on Laylatul-Qadr, with faith and expectation [of reward], his previous sins are forgiven him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

4. Pray Tahajjud

The last part of the night is especially valuable for supplicating for forgiveness, and for your needs (of this world and the Hereafter), as is indicated by numerous sayings of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace).

5. Do I`tikaf – for the entire 10 days, or for one or more nights

Spending the night in the mosque, is a way to earn credit even during the time you sleep.

6. Wash yourself, and wear good clothes.

The early Muslims (salaf ) used to consider it recommended to perform ghusl for this night and to wear good clothes for it. [Ibn Jareer].

Thabit al-Bunani and Humayd al-Taweel used to dress up, apply perfume, and perfume the mosques. Tameem al-Dari had a costly (1,000 dirham) garment only worn on this night, and similar was the case with Anas ibn Malik. [Ghumari, Ghayat al-Ihsan]

And Allah knows best.

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Completing the Qur’an in Tarawih

Image of Quran (book)

Completing recitation of the Qur’an at least once in Tarawih can be shown to be recommended (mustahabb). This article discusses the basis for this ruling, and concludes with some practical notes and advice.

[Note: this article does not discuss the preferred number of rak`ah of tarawih, nor the ruling on offering tarawih in jama`ah.]

Ramadan is the month of revelation of the Qur’an [Qur’an, 2:185], and a month for more intensive recitation and study of the Qur’an. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) used to meet Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) every night, and they would study the Qur’an [Bukhari]. Another narration tells us that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would go over the entire Qur’an with him once every Ramadan, and that in the last Ramadan of the Prophet’s life, they reviewed the entire Qur’an twice [Bukhari, Muslim]. Hence, it is sunnah to recite or listen to the recitation of the entire Qur’an at least once during the month. Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq is reported to have allowed finishing the Qur’an only once a month outside of Ramadan, but once every three days in Ramadan. [Wasa’il].

Recitation does not necessarily have to be in tarawih, although recitation in salah is generally held to be more meritorious than recitation outside of salah.
[This can be supported by the logical reasoning that recitation in salah is necessarily accompanied by additional good deeds: wudu’, ruku`, sujud, etc. A hadith in Mishkat al-Masabih states explicitly that, “Recitation of Qur’an in salah is more virtuous that recitation of Qur’an not in salah”, but its chain of transmision is weak.]
Nevertheless, tarawih itself could be performed even with recitation of short surahs, even every day, if need be. It is reported that Caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib led the tarawih reciting 5 verses in each rak`ah. [Yahya ibn Hamzah in al-Intisar], which would mean approximately half a juz’ was recited per night.
[Twenty rak`ah were performed each night during Caliph `Ali’s time, as we find in the Musnad of Imam Zayd ibn `Ali and elsewhere].
Rabi`ah, the famous teacher of Imam Malik, observed that in the past, not all the imams of tarawih had memorized the entire Qur’an [Mudawwanah]. Certainly, if there are time constraints, whether on the community (such as during summer tarawih in extremely northern latitudes, where the night is extremely short) or on the individual (who has work commitments, for example, or who is praying alone and has not memorized long surahs), then it is valid to shorten the tarawih recitation in this manner, and the sunnah of finishing the Qur’an could be accomplished outside of salah. In the absence of such constraints, the preference is for prolonged recitation in the optional night prayer.
“Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little – Half of it – or subtract from it a little. Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation. Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy word. Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence [of heart and tongue] and more suitable for words.” [Qur’an, 73:2-6]

There are further textual indications that make a case for completion of the Qur’an in tarawih being a sunnah. We know that in general, throughout the year, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) used to stand in prolonged prayer by night, to the extent that his feet would become swollen [Bukhari], or torn [Tirmidhi]. The Mother of the Believers, Aishah, was asked about his prayer by night, and she replied that he would offer 8 rak`ah every night – but do not ask about how long and beautiful they were [Bukhari]. There are also narrations that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would exert himself even harder in the last ten nights of Ramadan [Muslim], when he might stay awake all night [Bukhari]. Given these descriptions of the Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) night prayer, we can easily conclude that he must have completed recitation of the Qur’an at least once during the month in his night prayer. In addition to this enacted sunnah of the Prophet, we also find an authentic hadith of verbal encouragement for long recitation in salah.
“Whoever stands [in prayer] with 10 verses will not be written among the negligent. Whoever stands [in prayer] with 100 verses will be written among the devoted. Whoever stands [in prayer] with 1000 verses will be written among those amassing a treasure.” [Narrated by Abu Dawud.]

A narration recorded by Bayhaqi might provide further support for this practice:
“The Messenger of Allah came out one night in Ramadan, and saw people in a corner of the mosque praying, whereupon he asked, “What are these [people] doing?” Someone replied, “O Messenger of Allah, these are people who do not have the Qur’an [memorized], so Ubayy ibn Ka`b is reciting and they are following him in salah.” He said, “They are doing good,” or “They are correct,” and he did not disapprove of that.”
[There is disagreement over the authenticity of this hadith. It was narrated by Abu Dawud, who graded it weak on account of one of its narrators (Muslim ibn Khalid). Al-`Ala’i judged it acceptable (salih) in his fatawa, and Nimawi graded it as good (jayyid) in Athar al-Sunan; vide I`la al-Sunan, 7/69]
If authentic then this indicates that they were praying with the specific aim of hearing the entire Qur’an, for Ubayy had memorized the Qur’an, whereas not all of the other Companions had.

The precedent set by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) was continued by his Companions and subequent generations after him. In every generation, there are many Muslims who have not memorized large portions of the Qur’an, and who therefore seek to benefit from hearing it being recited by others. Hence, the Companions would gather in small groups in the masjid, each group praying behind a reciter/memorizer. This was the state of affairs that motivated Caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattab to gather people in a single congregation, reviving and institutionalizing the congregational aspect of the prayer that had only been performed on a couple of nights by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) himself [Bukhari, Malik]. `Umar appointed Ubayy ibn Ka`b to lead the men and (according to one narration) Tamim al-Dari to lead the woman in salah, because they were both memorizers of the Qur’an. The more authentic narrations tell us that the Companions would perform 20 rak`ah every night. Some narrations also point out that the recitation was long, to the extent that people would even tend to support themselves with sticks towards the end, due to the length of standing. [Recorded by Bayhaqi, and authenticated by Nawawi and others] Bayhaqi has also recorded a narration [I have not found discussion of, nor looked into, its authenticity yet] which states that Caliph `Umar summoned three reciters, and had them recite before him. Then, he told the fastest one to recite 30 ayat in each rak`ah, the medium-paced to recite 25 ayat in each rak`ah, and the slowest to recite 20. Even with 20 ayat per rak`ah, and 20 rak`ah, the Qur’an would actually be finished twice over a month. In the face of all of this, it is inevitable that they would be completing recitation of the Qur’an at least once during the month.

`Umar ibn `Abdil-`Aziz told the Taraweh leaders to recite 10 ayat in each rak`ah (which would lead to completion of the Qur’an once over a month) [Mudawwanah]. Imam al-Bukhari used to lead his companions in tarawih reciting 20 ayat in each rak`ah until they completed the Qur’an [Reported by al-Hakim]. Some of the imams of fiqh (Malik and Ahmad) permitted reading from the mushaf in tarawih, even if they did not normally permit it, due to the importance they saw in completing recitation of the Qur’an in tarawih. This emphasis actually can be traced back to the Companions. The wife of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) Ummul-Mu’mineen Aishah (who would have her servant Dhakwan lead her in tarawih from the mushaf) [Cited by Bukhari as ta`liq]. Imam al-Zuhri of the Tabi`in said, “[Some of] the best of us used to recite from the mushaf [in Ramadan].” These scholars would not have conceded permissibility of reading from the mushaf had completing the recitation of the Qur’an in tarawih not been a sunnah.

In summary then: Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would go through the entire Qur’an during Ramadan with Gabriel (peace be upon him), and we also know he would stand in prolonged salah by night. The Companions continued upon his path, and the practice of completing the Qur’an at least once in tarawih every year continued to be handed down through the generations. This practice has played an important role in the oral preservation of the Qur’an.

Practical Notes / Advice

Without detracting from the above strong desirability and importance, we may nevertheless observe that:

1) It is not necessary to complete the Qur’an inside tarawih, so if it is a personal or communal hardship to do so, then the tarawih can be made shorter.

2) Completion of the Qur’an is not the sole aim of tarawih. Some mosques hold ‘marathon’ tarawih sessions in which the Qur’an is completed within the first ten nights or less (3 juz’ per night). This is well and good, but those who attend should not be doing so with the aim of ‘getting the khatm done’ and then neglecting tarawih (or performing it with extremely short recitation) for the rest of the month. Nor should the recitation ever be so fast that the letters and words are not properly pronounced.

Those who complete the tarawih khatm a few nights before the end of Ramadan are encouraged to avoid the temptation to thereafter perform tarawih with only the last 10 surahs each night (especially if they are able to recite other verses). There is no harm in shortening the duration of the tarawih if circumstances call for it, but the sunnah is actually to increase the volume of worship in the last ten nights, in search of Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Destiny / Value). Even the 27th night of Ramadan, although considered very likely by many scholars is not guaranteed to be Laylat al-Qadr.

And Allah knows best.


Photo credit: Afshad Subair,
https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2016/07/19/16/17/holy-quran-1528446_960_720.jpg

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Tarawih Alone or In Masjid?

Islamic mosque sunset silhouetteSilhouette of Muslim man praying

Is it ok to pray tarawih alone at home? Is it better to pray it in the masjid?

The short answer is: it depends, but if you do pray it at home, make sure you are not just being lazy. Read on for more.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and his Household) performed tarawih in congregation on two or three nights, and then discontinued the jama`ah for it, out of fear that it might become obligatory. [Narrated by Bukhari and others] Later, in the caliphate of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `Umar found people performing tarawih in small groups (gathered around individuals who had memorized Qur’an), and thought it a good idea to gather them under a single imam.(We may note that the earlier danger, of the prayer becoming obligatory, had now passed, since after the death of the Prophet, religious rulings could not be changed.) `Umar thus established a single, regular jama`ah for tarawih [Narrated by Bukhari, Malik and others], and this practice was continued by Caliph `Uthman [as narrated by Ibn Sa`d, Malik and others] and Caliph `Ali [as narrated in the Musnad of Imam Zayd ibn `Ali his great-grandson, and by others]. Thus, Sunni scholars in general maintain (and it is a minority view among the Zaydis)  that it is recommended to hold congregational tarawih prayers regularly in Ramadan, as a sunnah of 3 of the 4 Rightly-Guided Caliphs with its basis in Prophetic practice. This has played an important role in the public preservation of the Qur’an, as it has been customary to complete its recitation from memory at least once per Ramadan during these congregational tarawih prayers.

 

After agreeing on the meritoriousness of a congregation being established for tarawih, the same scholars nevertheless differed (amongst themselves) as to how much it is stressed for every individual to participate in the congregational tarawih. According to the dominant view in the Hanafi school, the jama`ah for tarawih is sunnah `ala al-kifayah, i.e. it is enough (i.e. the sunnah is considered to be fulfilled) if a congregation for tarawih is established in the community [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar], but if a person prays it on his own (at home or elsewhere) he is not considered to be sinful or remiss.

 

There has been disagreement, since the early generations, about whether it is better for an individual to join the jama`ah for tarawih, or to pray on his own. While there were a number of prominent Sahabah and Tabi`in who are reported to have prayed tarawih in jama`ah, there were others who did not. In Madinah, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, the Sahabi, would pray tarawih on his own, and would advise/give fatwa similarly. After him, Salim (his son) as well as al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr and `Urwah ibn al-Zubayr (two of the Seven Great Jurists of Madinah) similarly would pray tarawih alone. In Kufah, Ibrahim al-Nakha`i, `Alqamah and al-Aswad would each lead their congregations in `Isha’ but then leave and do Tarawih on their own. Ishaq ibn Suwayd relates that there would be a row of people (called saff al-qurra’ – the Reciters’ Row) praying tarawih individually in the mosque while the jama`ah was in progress [See: Ibn Abi Shaybah, Musannaf; Tahawi, Sharh Ma`ani al-Athar].

 

Two key narrations that relate to this issue are:
1. On one of the nights in which the Prophet led tarawih, someone expressed the desire for him to continue until the end of the night. The Prophet replied, “Whoever stood with the imam until he left, the standing of an [entire] night [of prayer] is written for him.” [Narrated by Tirmidhi (who judged it sahih), Abu Dawud, Nasai, Ibn Majah]

 

2. After the Prophet had led tarawih on some nights, and people were waiting for him the next night, he did not come out. Rather, he told them thereafter, “I was afraid that the night prayer would be made obligatory for you, and if it were made obligatory you would not [be able to] observe it. So, pray in your homes, for indeed the best prayer of a person is that [he offers] in his home, except for the obligatory prayer [which should be offered in congregation in the mosque].” [Narrated by Bukhari and others]

 

Scholars disagreed about how to reconcile or prioritize these narrations. The famous Hanafi scholar, Abu Ja`far al-Tahawi, reconciled them by concluding that since the second hadith explicitly says that voluntary prayer offered at home is superior, therefore, in light of the first hadith, we can expect that the one who prays tarawih at home gets more than the reward of praying the entire night.

 

A man, who was able to recite Qur’an for himself, asked Hasan al-Basri whether to pray tarawih alone or to join the jama`ah. Hasan told him to choose whichever option is better for him, in terms of being more conducive to awareness and a fearful heart [Narrated by Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi]. This astute reply brings out the fact that for different people, in different circumstances, one or the other option might be better.

 

Possible Reasons to Favor Praying Tarawih in Jama`ah
  • Benefitting from listening to the recitation of the imam of tarawih, especially for those who have not memorized large portions of the Qur’an themselves.
  • Getting encouragement and motivation from seeing others praying, particularly for someone who might get lazy (and thus not pray at all, or not pray as much) if they were to be alone at home.

 

Possible Reasons to Favor Praying Tarawih Alone
  • Greater sincerity, and reducing the risk of ostentation (praying to show off)
  • Practicing one’s own recitation
  • (Potentially) earning more spiritual reward by praying for longer, and/or in a later portion of the night
  • (For some people): being able to attend to other important business which they might not be able to do if the tarawih in the masjid lasts a long time. This might include getting enough sleep to be able to function effectively at work, depending on the person’s physical stamina and type of job. It is up to you to be honest with yourself.

 

It is also worthwhile to bear in mind that praying `Isha’ in jama`ah is (by consensus) more important and meritorious that praying tarawih in jama`ah.
“Whoever prays `isha in jama`ah, it is like standing half the night [in prayer], and whoever prays fajr in jama`ah it is like standing an [entire] night in [prayer].” [Narrated by Ahmad and others]
Of course, this is a general hadith, and should not be used as an excuse not to perform any tarawih/tahajjud prayer. Ramadan is a month where extra worship is strongly encouraged.
“Whoever stands [in extra prayer] in Ramadan, with faith and expectation [of reward], his previous sins are forgiven him.” [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim]
And Allah knows best.

Photo credits:
Sulyaman Karakas, https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2017/03/21/23/03/suleymaniye-mosque-2163541_960_720.jpg
Mucahit Yildiz, https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2015/09/29/12/36/prayer-963859__340.jpg
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Islamic Prayer Times

sundialISLAMIC PRAYER TIMES

By Suheil Laher

“Surely, salah is prescribed upon the believers at fixed times.” [Qur’an, 4:103 ]

The timings of the five daily, obligatory ritual prayers in Islam are determined with reference to natural phenomena easily accessible to everyone; this knowledge is not confined to an elite or exclusive group of people. This connection to the wondrous signs of nature can also help keep the Muslim in tune with the natural world and its changing cycles.

What follows is a summary of the empirical bases for the prayer times, along with some evidence from the sunnah. Hadiths are cited illustratively, not exhaustively. Some prominent scholarly disagreements are also mentioned, without categorically preferring one view over another, but rather to foster awareness and tolerance of such disagreements. I conclude with brief comments on the use of astronomical calculations to find out the prayer times.

1. FAJR
There is agreement that fajr begins when the true dawn appears (the true dawn is that which rises laterally and broad, whereas the false one appears vertically and then disappears), and ends when the sun rises.
“The time for fajr salah is [lasts] long as the first horn of the sun has not risen.” [Muslim] Read more

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Islamic Rulings on Dissection

dissection-clipart

DISSECTION

By Suheil Laher

(abridged from Dr. Muhammad `Ali al-Barr, al-Tabeeb: Adabuhu wa-Fiqhuhu (The Physician: his Etiquettes and Jurisprudence), co-authored with Dr Zuhayr Ahmad al-Siba`i, Dar al-Qalam / al-Dar al-Shamiyyah, Damascus / Beirut, 1413 / 1993, pp. 165-183.)

  1. Islam considers the human being to be noble, and the human body as subject to respect and sanctity.

“Verily, We have honored the Children of Adam…” [Qur’an, 17:70]

The Prophet has said, “Breaking the bone of a dead person is like breaking it when he is alive.” [Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Bayhaqi. Malik (who reported it as a saying of Ummul-Mu’mineen `A’ishah). Sh. Shu`ayb Arna’ut authenticated it (Sharh al-Sunnah (5/393)]

The Prophet also prohibited mutilation. [Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Nasa’I, Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Darimi] Read more

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Justice : A Taxonomy

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Justice involves putting everything in its appropriate place, and giving each his/her/its due right.

“God commands you that you restore deposits to their owners, and, when you judge between mankind, that you judge justly. How excellent is the teaching that God gives you! Surely, God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” [Qur’an 4:58]

“The just ones will be, before God, on pulpits of light….those who are just in their judgment, their families, and what they are in charge of.’ [Muslim]

For convenience, we can subdivide justice into the following categories:

1.      Justice to God

“I hate ingratitude more in a person; than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or, any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.” [Shakespeare, Twelfth Night] Read more

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On Justice

Below are some brief notes on Justice in Islam. Neither the list of points, nor the scriptural texts quoted, are intended to be exhaustive. The topic is clearly more vast than to be encompassed in a brief note such as this.

·                     Justice is a central value – if not the central value – in Islam

“Verily, Allah commands justice, kindness and giving to relatives, and prohibits shamefulness, wrong and transgression. He instructs you that you might take heed.” [Qur’an, 16:90]

`Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, the Companion, held this verse to the most comprehensive verse of the Qur’an.

The themes of divine justice, particularly in the Hereafter, and of the imperative for human justice, can be found in a large number of verses.

·                     Justice is also one of the attributes of Allah

“Allah does not do injustice [even to the extent] of an atom’s weight.” [Qur’an, 4:40] Read more

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