Strange in Ramadhan?

July 18, 2012 § 2 Comments


Not strange, if we do more zikir in Ramadhan

Not strange, if we read the Qur’an more in Ramadhan

Not strange, if we rarely miss the Fajr solah in Ramadhan

Not strange, if we are more patient (Sabr) in Ramadhan

Not strange, if we are more kind in Ramadhan

Not strange, if we frequent the masjids more in Ramadhan

More than in other months, strangely

For it is through the Grace and Blessings of Allah SWT, that is NOT STRANGE.

Roses of Islam: Fatima al-Fihri

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment


Fatima al-Fihri (? – 880) (nicknamed Oum al Banine, meaning the mother of the kids) was the daughter of Mohammed al-Fihri, with whom she migrated to Fes, Morocco from Qairawan, located in present-day Tunisia and came earlier from west Arabia of Fihrids family origin. Fatima and her sister Mariam inherited a great deal of money from their father, and Fatima vowed to spend all of it on a suitable mosque for the Tunisian community in Fes.

In 859, Fatima founded the world’s first academic degree-granting university existing today, the University of Qarawiyyin, with money inherited from her father, a wealthy businessman. She is said to have fasted in order to become closer to Allah during the building of the university. She intended the Mosque to serve the Tunisian community in Fes. Her sister Mariam is said to have been responsible for the construction of the Al-Andalus (Andalusian) Mosque in Fes.

Kairaouine Mosque

Exquisite carvings around the courtyard. Photo Creative Commons License Pierre Metivier

The Kairaouine Mosque (Djemaa el Kairaouine) in Fes is the second-largest mosque in Morocco (after the new Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca) and gives Al-Azhar in Cairo a run for its money as the world’s oldest university. Its minaret dates from 956 and is the oldest Islamic monument in Fes.

The University of Al-Kairaouine was highly regarded back then as one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim world. Today, The Al-Kairaouine institution is considered by the Guinness book, the UNESCO and many historians as the oldest continuously operating academic degree-granting university in the world.

Al-Kairaouine gained the patronage of politically powerful sultans. It compiled a large selection of manuscripts that were kept at a library founded by the Marinid Sultan Abu Inan Faris in 1349. Among the most precious manuscripts currently housed in the library are volumes from the famous Al-Muwatta of Malik written on gazelle parchment, the Sirat Ibn Ishaq, a copy of the Qur’an given by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in 1602, and the original copy of Ibn Khaldun’s book Al-‘Ibar. Among the subjects taught, alongside the Qur’an and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), are grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography and music.

Al-Kairaouine played, in medieval times, a leading role in the cultural exchange and transfer of knowledge between Muslims and Europeans. Pioneer scholars such as Ibn Maimun (Maimonides), (1135–1204), Al-Idrissi (d.1166 AD), Ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240 AD), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1395 AD), Ibn al-Khatib, Al-Bitruji (Alpetragius), Ibn Hirzihim, and Al-Wazzan were all connected with the University either as students or lecturers. Among Christian scholars visiting Al-Kairaouine were the Belgian Nicolas Cleynaerts and the Dutchman Golius.

Kairaouine Mosque

Glimpse of the Kairaouine’s courtyard. Photo Creative Commons License Shawn Allen.

The Kairaouine is also the holiest mosque in Morocco and governs the timing of all Islamic festivals across the country. The present form of the mosque is the result of a long historical evolution over the course of more than 1,000 years. Originally the mosque was about 30 meters long with a courtyard and four transverse aisles. The first expansion was undertaken in 956, by Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, Abd-ar-Rahman III. The prayer hall was extended and the minaret was relocated, taking on a square form that served as a model for countless North African minarets. At this time it became a tradition that other mosques of Fes would make the call to prayer only after they heard Al-Kairaouine. In the minaret of the Al-Kairaouine mosque there is a special room, the Dar al-Muwaqqit, where the times of prayer are established.

The most extensive reconstruction was carried out in 1135 under the patronage of the Almoravid ruler sultan Ali Ibn Yusuf who ordered the extension of the mosque from 18 to 21 aisles, expanding the structure to more than 3,000 square meters. The mosque acquired its present appearance at this time, featuring horseshoe arches and ijmiz frames decorated with beautiful geometrical and floral Andalusian art, bordered with Kufic calligraphy.

The Qur’an and the Hadith (teachings of the Prophet) inspires every man and woman to seek knowledge. This unique story of Fatima Al-Fihri has shed some light on the role and contribution of Muslim women to Islamic civilization. It is this role which will hopefully denounce the narrow-mindedness of the western mind of Muslim women. Fatima has shown to us that even in the early centuries that women who are shrouded with the veil are just as willful and intelligent as those of us today.

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Two Words

June 3, 2012 § Leave a comment


He had never prayed two rak`ah (units of prayer) in his adult life. Born and raised in Egypt, he had continuously heard the athan (call to prayer) and the iqama (second call to prayer) rolling through the streets, calling the believers to prayer, but he had never voluntarily accepted the call. This included refusing to pray at the masjidon the first floor of the apartment building in which he lived; he passed by it day and night, on his way to work, on his way to spend hours at the local Hookah Café with his friends, and on his way home to his wife and children, only to start the routine of neglecting his prayers again the following day.

On one Friday, he was suddenly hit by a novel idea. “Why don’t I just try Friday prayer today? Just to see what it’s like? I’ll just try it,” the man thought. He came in late to the masjid; the Khatib (speaker) was already speaking. As the man was looking for a place to sit, he heard the words of the Khatib, “The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’” (Bukhari)

The man, preoccupied with having just entered and finding a place to sit, only heard a few of the Khatib’s words. He sat, perplexed, turning the fragmented words over and over in his mind, “Kalimatan (two words)… habibatan (both beloved)… lil-Rahman (to The Merciful)… Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi (Glory be to Allah and by His praise)… Subhan Allah il-`atheem (Glory be to Allah, the Immense).” He had lost complete focus on the rest of the khutbah (sermon), overtaken by these words he had heard in passing, working hard to make sense of what the words could possibly mean.

After the prayer, he approached the Khatib directly. “Is all what you’ve said in the khutbah today true?” he questioned. Surprised, the Khatib responded, “I’ve said quite a bit in the khutbah today. To what specifically are you referring?” The man replied, “You said some words… Kalimatanhabibatan… lil-RahmanSubhan Allahi wa bi hamdih, subhan Allah il-`atheem.”

The Khatib smiled in recognition. “Yes, those are in fact from a blessed hadith (narration) from The Truthful himself ﷺ. He told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

The man stood, overwhelmed, awestruck, in a daze. The words had penetrated through his heart and embraced his soul. Captivated, he continued to repeat the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ over and over to himself:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

He walked out of the masjid in a trance and left for his home. Upon entering, he gathered his wife and children. “Have you heard,” he began to tell them, “the words of the Prophet ﷺ? He has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

From that moment, the man transformed. From his home, he would leave to work, from his work, he would go straight to the Masjid, and from the Masjid, he would immediately go back home to his wife and children. All the while, two words kept his lips moving and his tongue wet with remembrance, “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi, Subhan Allah il-`atheem.”

Soon, his friends from the Hookah Café noticed his continued absence. They came to his apartment one day. “Where have you been?” they asked. “We haven’t seen you smokin’ hookah with us for a while.”

A beautiful, wistful look came over the man’s face. “Haven’t you heard?” He replied to his old crew from the café, “The Prophet ﷺ has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

And this is how he spent his days; reminding his family, his friends, those in the masjid and those who passed by in the streets, about the beloved words to Allah, those heavy words on the scale, those words light on the tongue, “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi, subhan Allah il-`atheem.” The man had gone from a person who never prayed, spent little time with family and frequented the house of hookah instead of the House of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), to a person who longed for Allah (swt), whose eyes were filled with tears, whose tongue, heart, and soul burned with the inscription:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

Soon, he fell ill. It had only been a few months since he had gone to the masjid, since he had first heard the beloved words of the Prophet ﷺ by the Khatib in a Jumu`ah (Friday) khutbah. He told his son to go and to ask the Masjid administration to call upon that very Khatib to come visit him in his illness.

When he was informed, the Khatib remembered the man immediately and rushed to his apartment. Upon being let in, he saw the man, sleeping in his bed, the doctor sitting at his side. The Khatib sat at the foot of the bed and waited for the man to awaken. Finally, the man stirred and he noticed, at the foot of his bed, the very Khatib who had related the beloved, noble words of the Prophet ﷺ.

The man looked at the Khatib. He then asked him, “Have you heard? The Prophet ﷺ has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

With that, the man passed away.

The Khatib in this story is the teacher of my Arabic teacher. My Arabic teacher related this incident to me and continued to stress that it wasn’t a story from books of the past, it wasn’t a story coined to tug hearts, it was the true story of a man who was completely disconnected from Allah (swt), but to whom Allah (swt) gave a passing thought to enter the masjid, and who Allah (swt) blessed with hearing the words of the Prophet ﷺ at a time and in a way which truly impacted his soul and final actions in life.

My teacher then told me, “The Prophet ﷺ has said: ‘Convey from me, even if it’s just one ayah [verse]…’” (Bukhari).

We never know what word or action, done with a sincere intention, will truly be a means of impacting another person’s life to come back to Allah (swt).

Let’s stop judging people; let’s stop driving people out of mosques because “we” deem their dress, their swagger, their accessories, or language as something “unsuitable” to the House of God. Let’s stop assuming they’ll never be guided to “our righteous path” (since we’re so righteous, we guided our own selves, right?) and thus resolve to harsh words or disapproving stares. Perhaps those who “we” think are far from Allah (swt) will pass in a more honorable, beloved state to the One Who guides.

Let us be the first to cling to the beloved words to Allah (swt), “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdih, subhan Allah il-`atheem,” and let us warmly, sincerely and smile-fully be a means of helping ourselves and others come back to Allah (swt)—with His Power and Mercy—through relating the beautiful words of Allah (swt) and His Prophet ﷺ, through action and speech. We never know what small, miniscule act, may be a means of guidance for ourselves and another, and a means of possibly entering jannatul firdose al `alaa bi ghayri hisaab—The Highest Paradise, without any reckoning.

May Allah (swt) bless this man’s soul. Subhan Allah—if he had died like any other person who knows about the obligation of prayer and lazily defies praying, we would never know his story—he’d just be another person who passed away in another country, a person we may have never even known existed..

But perhaps because of his repentance and his sincere coming back to Allah (swt), Allah has blessed us with coming to know of him—so that his actions will continue to be rewarded even while he’s in his grave, every single time any one of us, because of his story, even across the world, remember to say, “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi, subhan Allah il-`atheem.”

What will you do—so sincerely—that Allah (swt) will bless people with being transformed because of you, even after you’ve passed on?

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