Spirituality

  • The Spiritual Retreat (i`tikaf)

    In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

    The Fiqh of I`tikaf (spiritual retreat)

    Based on Shurunbulali’s Imdad al-Fattah, and other Hanafi texts
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  • The Three Types of I’tikaf

    There are three types of spiritual retreats (I’tikaf) that a person may perform:

    1. necessary,

    2. emphasized sunna, and

    3. recommended.

    The necessary I’tikaf is an I’tikaf that one vowed to make.

    The emphasized sunna I’tikaf is the I’tikaf performed during the last 10 days and nights of Ramadan. It is a communal sunna. If an entire community left the emphasized sunna I’tikaf, then they are sinful. However, if a few people perform the emphasized sunna I’tikaf, then they raise the sin from the community.

    The recommended I’tikaf is any I’tikaf aside from the aforementioned. It has no minimum time length and fasting is not a stipulation for its validity. As such, it is recommended to intend to perform I’tikaf whenever one passes through the mosque during any time of the year in order to receive the reward.

    [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]

    Ruling on Performing An I’tikaf Of Less Than Ten Days in Ramadan

    If one intends to perform I’tikaf for less than ten days during the last ten days of Ramadan then he receives the reward of the recommended I’tikaf but not the full reward of the emphasized sunna I’tikaf.

    One should strive to perform whatever one can reasonably handle. Scholars say, “If one cannot do something completely, then one shouldn’t leave it completely.”

    If one can only perform a few days of I’tikaf due to external reasons, then the last ten days of Ramadan are better than the rest of the month. Also, the odd nights are better than the even nights.

  • Inwardly:

    1. Patience,

    2. Submission to the Divine Will,

    3. Reflection on the fleetingness of live,

    4. Taking admonition for one’s own situation.

    Shaddad ibn Aws reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The intelligent is one who controls his lower self and works for that which comes after death. The stupid is one who follows his caprice and vainly hopes that his desires will be fulfilled by Allah.” [al-Tirmidhi, Sunan]

    Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Race to good deeds! What do you await but delayed poverty, overbearing wealth, debilitating illness, senility, unexpected death or the Dajjal? Or are you waiting for unseen evil, or the Final Hour? And the Final Hour will be bitter indeed and terrible.” [ibid]

    Outwardly:

    1. Making sure the dead person’s estate is correctly divided according to the Shariah AFTER all debts have been cleared.

    2. If the person is expected to have missed fard fasts or prayers, their family (or friends) should make expiatory payments (fidya) to compensate for this, according to the rules of fiqh. [Can be explained upon request.]

    3. Reciting a lot of Qur’an oneself (and family and friends) and donating the reward to the deceased. One may not pay Qur’an reciters for this; it would be sinful and without reward.

    4. Making a lot of dua for them.

    There is agreement among the 4 Sunni schools that one may donate the reward of some or all one’s actions to some or all believers, living or dead. [Ibn al-Humam, Fath al-Qadir]

    Malik ibn Rabi’a al-Sa`idi said, “Once as we sat with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man from the Bani Salama came and asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, is there any goodness I can show my parents after they die?’ He said, ‘Yes . Praying for them, seeking forgiveness for them, fulfilling the pledges they made, keeping ties with their relatives, and honouring their friends.” [Abu Dawud, Sunan]

    Finally, we should learn the manners and ways of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) and live them:

    Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessing & peace) said, “My entire community will enter Janna except those who refuse.”

    He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who are those who refuse?

    He said, “Those who obey me will enter the Garden and those who disobey me refuse.” [al-Bukhari, Sahih]

  • In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

    The first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah are blessed days: Allah Most High Himself swore by them in the Qur’an:

    “By the Dawn,

    and the Ten Nights…”

    [Qur’an, Surat al-Fajr, 89.1-2]

    The Qur’anic commentators generally agree that the ten nights mentioned above refers to “the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah,” as one may find in Shaykh al-Islam Abu Su`ud’s Irshad al-`Aql al-Salim ila Mazaya al-Qur’an al-Karim [famous as Tafsir Abi al-Su`ud, 9.153] or in Tafsir al-Jalalayn.

    Imam Ahmad and Nasa’i report from Sayyida Hafsa (Allah be pleased with her) that, “The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) did not leave four matters: Fasting `Ashura (f: 10th of Muharram), [during] the ten days [of Dhu’l Hijja], and three days of each month.”

    1. Fasting the First Nine Days, Especially the Day of `Arafah (9th)

    The scholars have concured that it is recommended to fast during the first nine days of Dhu’l Hijja. Note, however, that the tenth day is the day of Eid, and is prohibitively disliked and sinful to fast this day. [Buhuti, Kashshaf al-Qina`; Nawawi,Majmu`; Fatawa Hindiyya; Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar; Dardir,al-Sharh al-Saghir]

    Of these, it is particularly recommended to fast the Day of `Arafah (9th of Dhu’l Hijjah), even for the one on Hajj in the Hanafi school, if it does not weaken the pilgrim from spending the day busy in worship. [Haskafi, Durr; Kasani, Bada’i`]

    As for hadiths in which the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) commanded against fasting this day for the pilgrim at `Arafah, this was understood by the Hanafi imams to refer to those whom it would weaken or tire. This was explained by Imam Tahawi. [Sharh Ma`ani al-Athar, 2.82-83] This is because of the numerous hadiths that have come in praise of this day in particular and fasting in it. Among these is:

    Abu Qatada (Allah be pleased with him) related that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “Fasting the Day of `Arafah (f: 9th of Dhu’l Hijjah) expiates for two years, one prior and one forthcoming. And fasting the Day of `Ashura (f: 10th of Muharram) expiates for the past year.” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah]

    2. Increasing One’s Spiritual Works During these Ten Days

    Similarly, it is recommended to busy oneself these days with acts of worship. Imam Sharaf al-Din al-Hijjawi, the great Hanbali faqih, states in his primary text, al-Iqna`,:

    “It is recommend to exert oneself in good works during the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah, such as remembrance of Allah (dhikr), fasting, charity, and other righteous actions, because they are the best of days.” [Buhuti, Kashshaf al-Qina`, 2.60]

    This is confirmed by scholars of all the Sunni madhhabs. [Ibn Nujaym, al-Bahr al-Ra’iq; Haskafi/Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar; Nawawi, al-Majmu` and others]

    Many scholars even stated that daytimes of these ten days are more virtuous than the ten daytimes of the last ten days of Ramadan, because of the strength of the primary texts related to them.

    3. Spending the Nights of These Days In Prayer and Worship

    It is especially recommended to spend some part of each of the nights of these ten days in prayer and worship. [Nawawi, Majmu`; Ibn Qudama, Mughni; Dardir, al-Sharh al-Saghir; Ibn Nujaym, al-Bahr al-Ra’iq;al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya; Ibn Abidin/Haskafi, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar]

    This was deduced by clear primary texts, such as Prophet’s words (Allah bless him and give him peace) that, “There are no days in which good works are more beloved to Allah than these days – meaning the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah.” The Companions asked, ‘Not even jihad in the path of Allah, O Messenger of Allah?’ He said (Allah bless him & give him peace), “Not even jihad in the path of Allah, except for the one who goes forth with his person and wealth and does not return with any of it.” [Bukhari and others]

    May Allah give us success in these blessed days and nights, and in every moment of our lives, to follow the path of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), and may He make us of those whom He loves and who love Him.

    Walaikum assalam,

  • The first legal maxim that Ibn Nujaym mentioned in his Ashbah wa’l Nadha’ir is: “There is no reward without intention.” This is one of the most repeated and well-known of legal maxims.

    It is taken from the well-known hadith in which the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Verily actions are by their intentions, and one shall only have that which one intended.” [Bukhari & Muslim] The scholars stated that there is something implicit in this hadith, namely: “Verily actions are [rewarded] by their intentions, and one shall only have [the reward] for that which one intended.”

    Therefore, if one’s habits or whims are in conformity to the sunna of the Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), one should strive to have an intention in it for Allah. Otherwise, it remains a habit. The scholars say, “Through intentions habits become worship.” ( bi’l niyyaat tanqalibul `aadaat `ibaadaat)

    Abd Allah ibn Mubarak (Allah be pleased with him), said, “How often it is that a small action becomes great by its intention. And how often it is that a great action becomes small by its intention.” [Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’, 8: 400]

  • The place of the intention is the heart, such that one has the firm determination and resolve when one is about to start (or before it) such that if asked one could reply without hesitation, “I am praying, such and such…” As the fuqaha note, it is rare that one’s actions can be bereft of this minimal intention.

    Ibn `Abidin mentions that, linguistically, the intention is for the heart to resolve to do something. Formally, it is to firmly resolve to perform an action and to draw closer to Allāh, when initiating the action. [Radd al-Muhtar, Sunan al-Wudu, quoting Allama al-Quhustani and from al-Talwih of Imam al-Taftazani]

    It should be noted, then, that there are three aspects to the intention: 1) the minimum legally valid intention, which is to firmly resolve to perform an action; 2) intention needed for reward, which is to also intend to draw closer to Allāh; 3) the time: it is a condition that the intention be made as one initiated the action, or just before it.

    Ibn Abidin said:

    “Making one’s worship sincerely for Allah alone is obligatory, and showing off in good works (riya’), which is to desire from it other than Allah, is prohibited by scholarly consensus (ijma`) because of the decisive texts that have been transmitted about this. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) called showing off in good works (riya’) the lesser shirk (polytheism). This intention [of drawing closer to Allah] is for achieving reward, not mere validity, for validity related to fulfilling the conditions (shurut) and performing the integrals (arkan), and the intention that relates to validity is to know in one’s heart which prayer one is performing. In Mukhtarat al-Nawazil [a fatwa collection] is says, ‘As for reward, it is related to the soundness of one’s resolve, which is through ikhlas (making one’s worship sincerely for Allah alone).’” [Radd al-Muhtar, 6: 425-426, Kitab al-Hadhr wa’l Ibaha, Bab al-Bay`, abbreviated.]

    Sayyidi Ibn al-Arabi says in his What the Seeker Needs:

    “Do everything you do in order to come close to your Lord in your worship and prayers. Think that each deed may be your last act, each prayer your last prostration, that you may not have another chance. If you do this, it will be another motivation for becoming heedful and also for becoming sincere and truthful. Allah does not accept good deeds done unconsciously and insincerely as readily as deeds done in consciousness and sincerity.”

    Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak said, “How often it is that a small action is made great by its intention, and a great action is made small by its intention.”

    Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali mentioned that the great Sufi, Fudayl ibn al-`Iyad explained Allah’s words,  “That He may test which of you is best in action” (Qur’an, 67:2) by saying,

    “That is, who is sincere in it and correct in it. And the action that is sincere but incorrect is not accepted. And if it is correct and insincere then it is also not accepted. It is only accepted when it is both sincere and correct. And it is only sincere when it is for the sake of Allah Most High, and correct when it is done according to the sunnah.”

    Ibn Rajab then said, “And the proof of what Fudayl said lies in the verse, “So whosoever hopes for the meeting with His Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of His Lord ” (Qur’an, 18:110) [Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Jami` al-Ulum wa’l Hikam, Hadith al-Niyya] May Allah grant us the success to seek Him, and Him alone.

    To close, Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi said in his Mathnawi (6: 4302-3):

    Passion makes the old medicine new:
    Passion lops off the bough of weariness.
    Passion is the elixir that renews:
    how can there be weariness
    when passion is present?
    Oh, don’t sigh heavily from fatigue:
    seek passion, seek passion, seek passion!

    And Allah knows best.

  • Question: When is Laylat al-Qadr?

    Answer: Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever prays on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and sincerity, shall have all their past sins forgiven.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

    Abu Sa`id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said, “Seek it in the last ten days, on the odd nights.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

    The scholars have affirmed that it is the best of nights, [al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya, 1.216] because of Allah Most High’s words,

    “Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power.

    Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is!

    The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.

    The angels and the Spirit [Jibril] descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, will all decrees.

    (That night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn.”

    (Qur’an, Surat al-Qadr: 97)

    Imam Nawawi and others explain that the verse, ‘The Night of Power is better than a thousand months,’ means that it is better than a thousand months without it.

    Given the tremendousness of this night, it is recommended to seek it out, and to worship Allah in it, with prayer, supplications (du`a), remembrance of Allah (dhikr), and other acts of worship. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya; Nawawi, al-Majmu`] Because obligatory acts are more beloved to Allah than supererogatory ones, the most important thing for men is to pray both Isha and Fajr at the mosque.

    When is Laylat al-Qadr?

    There is a long standing difference of opinion about when Laylat al-Qadr is, because it is of those matters whose certain knowledge has been lifted by Allah Most High from this Ummah, for the wisdom that people strive to seek it:

    The scholars generally agreed that it is most likely to be in the last ten nights of Ramadan, with the odd nights being more likely, and the 27th night the most likely out of the odd nights. Imam Shafi`i said that it is most likely to be the 21st, then the 23rd, then the 27th. Imam Nawawi followed the position of Imam Muzani and Imam Ibn Khuzayma that it moves around within the last ten nights. [Nawawi, al-Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, 6.488]

    However, it could also be outside the last ten nights within Ramadan. It may even fall outside Ramadan altogether according to both early and late scholars. This has been transmitted from many of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), including Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) as mentioned by Buhuti in his Kashshaf al-Qina`. It is also one of the positions reported from Imam Abu Hanifa, and also of many of the great knowers of Allah, including Ibn Arabi (whose position is quoted by Ibn Abidin with support), Abu’l Hasan al-Shadhili, Sha`rani, and many others.

    May Allah give us the success of following in the footsteps of the inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), outwardly and inwardly, and may He make us of those whom He loves.

    This is one of the many reasons why one should strive to establish the night vigil prayer (tahajjud), daily.

    Explanation:

    It has been reported that, “Once the last ten [days of Ramadan] started, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) used to spend the nights in worship, wake his family, strive, and tighten his belt.” [Bukhari and Muslim] Tighten his belt refers to determination.

    The established position of Abu Hanifa and his two main companions, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (Allah have mercy on them) is that it is specific to Ramadan. Abu Hanifa, however, said that it moves around in the month and is not fixed to a specific date. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, from al-Bahr and al-Kafi] As for the hadiths about it being the night of the 27th, Ibn Abidin mentions that Abu Hanifa explained them as refering to a particular year.

    Ibn Abidin quotes Ibn Nujaym’s Bahr al-Ra’iq that this is one transmitted position of Abu Hanifa. Another, mentioned in Qadikhan’s Fatawa al-Khaniyya, one of the most important works for fatwa in the school, is that the famous transmission from Imam Abu Hanifa is that it moves around the entire year; it could be in Ramadan, and it could be in a month outside of Ramadan.

    Ibn Abidin said,

    “This is supported by what the Master of the Knowers of Allah Sayyidi Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi mentioned in his Futuhat al-Makkiyya,

    ‘People differed about Laylat al-Qadr. Some said it moves around the entire year. This is my position, for I have seen it in the month of Sha`ban, and in Rabi`, and in Ramadan. I have seen it most, though, in the month of Ramadan, and, specifically, in the last nights. I saw it once in the second third of Ramadan, on an even night, and once on an odd night. Therefore, I am certain that it moves around the entire year, on both odd and even nights.’

    And there are many opinions regarding this, which reach 46 different positions.” [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

    Imam al-Nafrawi al-Maliki mentions in his al-Fawakih al-Dawani fi Sharh Risalat Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani that the position of Imam Malik, Imam Shafi`i and Imam Ahmad, and the majority of the scholars is that Laylat al-Qadr is not a specific night. Rather, it moves around.

    Imam Sarakhsi mentions in his Mabsut, a 30-volume masterpiece of Hanafi legal reasoning, proofs, and comparative fiqh that was mainly authored by dictation to students while unjustly imprisoned in a pot well, that the position of most of the Companions (Allah be pleased with him) was that it is on the night of the 27th. (3.127) This, others explain, means that its most likely night is the night of the 27th of Ramadan. [As in Ruhaybani’s Matalib Uli’n Nuha Sharh Ghayat al-Muntaha 2.225 in Hanbali fiqh]

    And Allah alone gives success.

  • Fighting the Ego (Jihad an-Nafs)
    By Imam Nawawi (may Allah be pleased with him)

    Imam Shafi`i said, may God have mercy on him:

    “Only the sincere one (mukhlis) knows hypocrisy (riya’).”
    Read more


  • The Vision of Allah

    in the World and the Hereafter

    by Shaykh Gibril Haddad

    “Allah Most High made our Prophet – Allah bless and greet him peace  – hear His Speech without intermediary on the Night of Ascension, and of Musa – upon him peace – also He took the Covenant without intermediary, but our Prophet Muhammad Allah bless and greet him – enjoyed an additional state: in addition to hearing the words addressed to him, an unveiling of vision.”
    Read more

  • Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

    It is a given fact that our worship is not perfect. This is among the wisdoms of the prophetic practice of saying Astaghfirullah (‘I seek the forgiveness of Allah’) three times right after completing the prayer: one realizes one’s shortcomings in fulfilling the rights of Allah.

    At the same time, Allah has informed us that, “Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bear.” [2: 286]

    Among the things scholars mention about presence of heart in prayer are:

    The way of attaining presence of heart during prayer is to realize that having presence of heart with Allah is something sought during every moment in one’s life, and that the means to it is doing as much dhikr as one can. This is not to churn up the reward alone, but in order to be thankful of Allah, to express one’s love of Allah, to attain unto closeness with Allah, and in order to strive to fulfill the duties of slavehood to Allah Most High. Keep a small prayer bead with you and keep making dhikr, such as “La Ilaha Illa Allah” or “Allahumma Salli `ala Sayyidina Muhammadin wa Aalihi wa Sallim…”

    This, coupled with avoiding the haram, outwardly and inwardly, are keys to presence of heart with Allah.

    Also, don’t just “jump” into prayer. Rather, take out a moment to focus your heart on Allah before starting, and then start. Before starting, make a quick heart-felt dua that Allah grant you love, thankfulness, sincerity…

    Allah has promised us in the Qur’an:

    “As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good. [29: 69]

    Muhtar Holland’s translation of Imam Ghazali’s Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship is excellent.

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