Make This Ramadhan Count
Blog Post 30
May 13, 2020
As Ramadhan coincides with stay-at-home orders, except for “essential” workers, because of what some are calling a “plandemic,” ulama, masajid and many of us are focusing on the self with online lectures, seminars and discussions on topics like: “Moral Excellence in Times of Trials,” “Spiritual Psychology in the Qur’an,”
“Should We Follow the Letter of the Law or the Spirit of the Law,” “Taqwa of Individual and Social Levels” and “Raindrops of Hope and Mercy in the Land of Despair.”
In most, it is not easy for the scholars to stick to spiritual upliftment and working on the self alone. This is because spiritual work on the self is not separate from social justice in the deen of Islam. We cannot focus on one at the expense of the other. This was nicely pointed out in the Shaheed Mutahhari Conference 2020: it is difficult to attain spiritual freedom when society is unjust and it is not easy for us to attain social freedom when we are not spiritually in tune with Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. The title of the conference, “Attaining Spiritual Freedom,” naturally veered off into social freedom in the lectures given by Syed Raza Mehdi and Shaykh Mansoor Leghaie as they discussed Shaheed Murtadha Mutahhari’s life and shahahdat of May 1, 1979. That is why Imam Mahdi (a.s.) will establish justice on Earth first so that people can become spiritually higher. Masjid al-Rasul Foundation (California, Illinois, Texas), in collaboration with the Muslim Community Center for Thaqalayn in the Washington, D.C. area, put together a 12-session seminar featuring three shaykhs combining the self directly with community and the Ummah. Their topics, under the umbrella of “It Takes a Village to Raise a Believer,” speak to “Our Faith Brings Us Together, Our Akhlaq Keeps Us Together,” “Building a Self-Sufficient Mindset in a Time of Uncertainty” and “Fostering Strong Bonds Through Spiritual Teamwork.”
Certainly, understanding our self is a number one priority and tackling our self is Jihad al-Akbar, the greatest jihad. And Ramadhan often allows us the opportunity to focus on our self since we’re already thinking about ourselves not eating, drinking, backbiting and engaging in actions that are not pleasing to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. Plus being at home, rather than going to the masajid every evening to break fast, make salat, listen to and read the Holy Qur’an and supplicate to Allah among our fellow believers, provides us more time to individualize these actions and complete them with sincerity with no one watching and expecting and judging except our Sustainer. That is if you’re doing these acts of worship all alone, which many of us are not since we live with our immediate and sometimes extended family. In that case, our family members are being exposed to the real selves this Ramadhan, something they may not have witnessed very often, especially across genders since in most masajid females and males are segregated, although the women may get to watch the men remotely. This makes for some up close and personal ibadat in Ramadhan and an opportunity to bond as a family in ways we may never have had time to do. So in any case, this Ramadhan is different for many Muslims.
As I listen to the lectures and discussions online, the idea of privilege keeps cropping up in my mind. Here we are sitting in our decked out homes, sipping tea or coffee, relaxing after a fine, nutritious and tasty meal or dreaming of that if iftar hasn’t arrived yet, contemplating on our self, our nafs (self, psyche, ego), trying to conquer our self, attempting to become more spiritually in tune with Allah Subhanahahu wa ta’ala, more whole, more sane, more real, more humanly upright. We learn about our aql (intellect, reason), our qalb (heart), our fitrah (human nature, natural disposition), our shahwah (desires, animalistic instincts, worldly allures), our hawa (emotions, inclinations, whims) and Shaitan’s waswas (whisperings, temptations).* We are privileged to be able to do that now during this “plandemic.” We are privileged to be able to do that now and eat cinnamon buns and ice cream and meat after dark.
A few nights ago I was in conversation with a Muslim in Chittagong. That’s the second largest city in Bangladesh. Their news is not exactly the same as ours. In the port city of more than 2.5 million people, money has run out. There is no work. Their family’s had the virus and mumps on top of it. People don’t have food. The nearest masjid is giving out some food for iftar to take home, but women and girls aren’t allowed to go to the masjid so they must share. A masjid where women can get their own food is too far away. It doesn’t matter how far it is, there’s no money to get there and there’s no way to walk there with the stay-at-home order. The government only gives food out to their party’s supporters. UN relief is only in the capital which is far away. There’s no one farming nearby. There’s no fruit trees to pick. There’s nothing, but Ramadhan, hope and duas amidst death, illness and fear. And they’re not even in a Rohingya refugee camp where conditions are seriously abysmal.
It’s not just people in Bangladesh who’re suffering. All over the world the poor, the majority of the world’s population, are undergoing extreme and frightening conditions. Without money, people are unable to purchase. Without work, food shortages are occurring. There’s nowhere to run to except to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. Even in Canada and the US, the poor are suffering and dying at high rates often all alone. Minority groups, including black people, Latino/a people and Native people are seeing large numbers of sickness and deaths. The elderly, mainly in nursing and retirement homes, are hard hit with so many people dying every day. Prisoners are especially vulnerable, cooped up as they are. Children who depend on breakfast and lunch programs at school go hungry while growers and dairy farmers dump vegetables, fruits, grains and milk due to lack of and faulty distribution networks and business closures. People bury their loved ones in minimized funerals with only immediate family allowed. The elderly and disabled people can’t get out to get food. If you get sick, the hospitals don’t want you. Basically, you’re told to stay home and recover all by yourself. The rural population has become even more isolated and the city population has become even more lonely. Access to family and friends, religious institutions, social outings, home visits, recreation and hugs is cancelled. And no one knows for how long. Domestic abuse and mental health issues are escalating. The “essential” workers take huge risks daily. Government doles out money to keep people home away from the virus, making us more and more susceptible to illness when we go out to grab groceries, cleaning products and medications. The money encourages people to stay home and collect rather than work where services are needed. And all the people aren’t receiving that money. People are worried, scared and lonely.
While we fast this Ramadhan, we must realize that everyone is not privileged. Everyone does not have a bunch of money in the bank that they can access with bank cards or credit cards they can pay back later. Everyone is not working from home. Everyone is not getting paid. Everyone does not have food. Everyone does not have other people living with them. Everyone does not have health care. While we fast this Ramadhan, we must focus on the people who are in need. We must organize ourselves to help them. We must come up with ways to provide money to the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the unclothed, relieve the suffering, help travellers get home, show the prisoners they aren’t alone, heal the sick, take care of our elderly, ease the difficulty… We must help them understand the Words of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala:
“And do not despair of receiving comfort from Allah.
Only the unbelievers’ despair of receiving comfort from Him.”
- Holy Qur’an 12:87
While we fast this Ramadhan, don’t let your privilege cast a shadow over your heart so that you only work on yourself and forget about the rest of humanity. We must remember that people are passing their “days and nights in the agony of death,” oftentimes all alone and scared. We must remember that people are passing their “days and nights in sickness and pain, groaning and moaning, turning from side to side, sorrowfully, finding no attendant, and enjoying not the taste of food or drink.” We must remember that people are passing their “nights and days in terror, frightened, panic-stricken, feeling homeless, hiding in nooks and corners, the wide world having become too small for them to hide in, and they know neither any excuse, nor escape, nor refuge.” We must remember that people are passing their “nights and days fettered in iron chains by the hands of their enemies who show them no pity, and out of touch with their spouse and children, separated from their brethren and their native town, apprehensive and not knowing in what manner they will be put to death, and by what way they will be tortured.” We must remember that people are passing their “nights and days poor, destitute, naked, miserable, perplexed, forsaken, hungry and thirsty, waiting and watching as to who would turn towards them with sympathy.”**
For isn’t it Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family, who advised us about our actions in Ramadhan, saying to “give alms to the poor and needy,” “pay respect to your elders,” “have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinspeople,” “be kind to orphans…respect and treat orphans with kindness” and “arrange for the iftars of any believers though it may consist of only half a date or even a glass of water if you have nothing else”?***
For isn’t this what we ask Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala every Thursday night? To be always in remembrance of Allah and to be always engaged in works in Allah’s service so that our works and supplications and dhikrs are one continuous stream of consciousness?
Ya Rabbi, Ya Rabbi, Ya Rabb.
I ask You by Your Truth and Your Holiness
And the greatest of Your Attributes and Names,
That You make my times in the night and the day
inhabited by Your remembrance,
And joined to Your service
And my works acceptable to You,
So that my works and my litanies may all be a single litany
And my occupation with Your service everlasting.****
Ayatullah Ali Khamenei said in his April 29, 2020 speech:
So the blessings of Ramadan include fasting, reading the Holy Qur’an,
engaging in dua and dhikr and avoiding sins. A combination of these
things brings individuals close to achieving the things that Islam wants.
When all of these things are done, then our hearts become empty of grudges,
the spirit of sacrifice is revived and helping the poor and the underprivileged
people becomes easy for us. It becomes easy for us to act to the advantage
of the others and to the disadvantage of ourselves in materialistic issues.*****
If you do these acts, when thoughts enter your mind this Ramadhan, inshallah, you will know if they are from your aql and/or fitrah and/or qalb or from your shahwah and/or hawa and/or waswas* if they do not cause you to say and/or do something that is harmful to yourself and/or others, but instead cause you to say and/or do something that is pleasing to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala and beneficial to yourself and/or others.
Make this Ramadhan count, inshallah. If you only take care of yourself, if you only take care of yourself and your family, it may not be enough in the eyes of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. Let your good deeds shine in the darkness. Take advantage of the Lailat al-Qadr nights to make a difference. This is a Ramadhan you and your loved ones, indeed the whole Ummah, the whole world, will remember for the rest of our lives, inshallah.
Suggestions for Giving
I could give a list of Muslim and non-Muslim charities and organizations you can donate money to or volunteer at, but rather than put myself out of a limb and provide names of charities that may not be reputable, please do your own homework and donate to and volunteer at charities you believe are doing the best work, inshallah. Check with your masjid, imam, ulama, mujtahid etc. for clarity. See also Muslim Link’s Chelby Daigle’s interview, “Zakat and Spiritual Abuse: Challenging Manipulative Fund-Raising in Muslim Communities,” with “In Shaykh’s Clothing” @ https://muslimlink.ca/stories/zakat-ramadan-spiritual-abuse-challenging-manipulative-fundraising-in-muslim-communities and Sound Vision’s “Things to Consider Before Donating to Muslim Charities” @ https://www.soundvision.com/article/things-to-consider-before-donating-to-muslim-charities.
We can individually, as a couple and family, with our children and grandchildren, inshallah:
Give sadaqa, zakat, khums, kaffarah, fidya, etc. to the needy through masjids, Muslim organizations, food banks, shelters, individuals, etc. Check with your ulama for details.
Give a book to someone.
Post positive comments.
Pay for the next person in line’s coffee and food order at a drive-through.
Text someone good morning or good night.
Chat with a senior about their younger days.
Pick up garbage in your neighbourhood.
Send an encouraging email.
Paint positive messages and pictures on boards (cover in plastic sheeting to protect from rain) and/or rocks and place at park and trail entrances.
Make a meal for someone.
Buy groceries for someone.
Telephone and/or video chat with a person who lives alone.
Buy or make a gift for someone.
Send a card or e-card to someone.
Write to prisoners. See Believers Bail Out @ https://believersbailout.org/become-a-penpal.
Help post a prisoner's bond. See Believers Bail Out @ https://believersbailout.org/.
Exercise outdoors with a next door neighbour in your backyards.
Exercise with someone via video.
Mail a handwritten/typed letter to someone.
Help a student with their schoolwork via phone, texting, video chat, etc.
Read to someone even over the phone or video chat.
Share positive news with people.
Help someone learn to read the Holy Qur’an.
Befriend a new Muslim.
Befriend a senior in your neighbourhood or masjid.
Support coworkers through encouragement and understanding.
Help support ulama through participating in online webinars, conferences, lectures, etc. and donating to fund them.
Drop off food, gift and/or care packages to ulamas’ homes.
Purchase extra food items when you shop for a relative, friend and/or neighbour and drop the packages off at their home.
Tip restaurant, drivers and other essential workers.
Give essential workers a gift, a gift card, a thank-you card, etc.
Call in positive reviews of employees to their managers, human resources department, etc.
Mail a care package to a relative or friend.
Send a gift card to someone.
Send a thank-you card to someone.
Make and send handmade cards.
Give away your parking spot.
Be courteous while on the road and in lines.
Donate clothing, shoes, towels, blankets, etc. to a shelter.
Leave a surprise in your mailbox for the mail carrier.
Run an errand for someone.
Run an online class.
Join with a relative or friend to take an online class. Pay for them if it’s not free.
Donate money to a charity.
Donate food and/or clothing to a charity, shelter, drop-in centre, etc.
Donate money to a masjid.
Donate money to a Muslim and/or non-Muslim organization, including medical ones like Imamia Medics International, Doctors Without Borders, etc.
Join in to help an organization, group, masjid, church, etc. provide relief in your vicinity.
Donate to a foodbank, food pantry, restaurant that’s supporting foodbanks, people, etc.
Call or video chat with a relative or friend in a nursing and/or retirement home.
Have a meal delivered to someone.
Buy a drink and/or food for a person who’s homeless.
Pay someone’s debt at a local store.
Pay someone’s phone, electricity, gas, fuel, grocery, etc. bill.
Pay for a ride for someone to go to the store, doctor, etc.
Purchase toilet paper, sanitizer, paper towels, soap, etc. and leave on neighbours’ doorsteps.
Donate to relief funds.
Donate to programs that are feeding school children.
Give used books to neighbourhood children.
Give art supplies to others.
Pass out contact cards to the elderly and others who are self-isolating so they can get in touch if they need assistance. See Lisa Walden’s article in Country Living, “Coronavirus: Printable postcards offering help to elderly neighbours in self-isolation are brilliant” @ https://www.countryliving.com/uk/news/a31654244/printable-postcard-self-isolation-coronavirus/.
Be kind to essential workers and thank them for their service.
Organize a scavenger hunt that children can participate in from their walk or car window through the neighbourhood; for example, a teddy bear or stuffed animal in the front window of homes.
Set up a free food and drink stand on your lawn.
Set up a sharing table with toilet paper, books, toys, toiletries, cleaning products, art supplies, non-perishable items, etc. on your lawn.
Donate food, snacks, drinks, etc. to hospital staff.
Post handmade signs of encouragement in your windows.
Make and share art work with family and friends.
Write and share your writing with family and friends.
Forgive someone’s debt.
Help someone to understand and/or fill out government, school, official, etc. paperwork.
Go for a walk with a relative or friend, maintaining social distancing if necessary.
“Moral Excellence in Times of Trials” by Shaykh Usama Abdulghani, Ramadhan 2020. Light of Guidance. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTLkhB2gwtsbIJNqr_nGhgA.
“Spiritual Psychology in the Qur’an” by Ustadhah Fatemah Meghji, Ramadhan 2020 Sisters Only Halaqa by Ustadhah Fatemah Meghji, April 29, 2020. Mizan Institute. www.mizaninstitute.org.
“Should We Follow the Letter of the Law or the Spirit of the Law” by Shaykh Husayn El-Mekki. May 1, 2020. Towheed Center of Denver. https://www.facebook.com/TawheedCenterDenver/videos/166865784655771/.
“Taqwa of Individual and Social Levels” by Hujjatulislam Agha Mehdi Ali & Hujjatulislam Syed Abbas Ayleya. Muslim Congress. May 1 & 8, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgJpsr2IPl8DjkWl78BTYCQ.
“Raindrops of Hope and Mercy in the Land of Despair” by Ustadh Ibrahim Abdul-Jabbar. Islamic Spiritual Awakening. May 3, 2020. https://www.crowdcast.io/bashia313.
“Attaining Spiritual Freedom” with Shaykh Mansoor Leghaie & Syed Raza Mehdi. Shaheed Mutahhari Conference 2020. May 2, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcBBf9qQjMQ.
“It Takes a Village to Raise a Believer” - “Our Faith Brings Us Together, Our Akhlaq Keeps Us Together” by Sheikh Ayub Rashid, “Building a Self-Sufficient Mindset in a Time of Uncertainty” by Sheikh Nurudeen Ali and “Fostering Strong Bonds Through Spiritual Teamwork” by Sheikh Jafar Muhibullah. Masjid al-Rasul Foundation (California, Illinois, Texas), in collaboration with the Muslim Community Center for Thaqalayn in the Washington, D.C. area. Ramadhan 2020. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010581124771&lst= 100012081009027%3A100010581124771%3A1588400790&sk=timeline & https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10216830169282028&set=a.10203242790686055&type=3& theater&ifg=1& https://www.facebook.com/pg/MARChicago/posts/?ref=page_internal & https://www.masjidalrasul.com/who-are-we/history/.
*Taken from Spiritual Psychology in the Qur’an slides, Ramadhan 2020 Sisters Only Halaqa by Ustadhah Fatemah Meghji. April 29, 2020. Mizan Institute. www.mizaninstitute.org.
**Taken from Dua-e Jaushan-e Sageer (A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Safety). Ramazan the Month of Glory? compiled by Yousuf N. Lalljee. Bombay, India. Also available@ http://www.duas.org/jsagheer_alt.htm.
*** Taken from A Sermon of the Holy Prophet on the Month of Ramadhan related by Imam Ali (a.s.). Ramazan the Month of Glory compiled by Yousuf N. Lalljee. Bombay, India.
****Taken from Dua Kumayl related by Imam Ali (a.s.). Accessed from Duas.org @ https://www.duas.org/kumayl.htm.
*****Taken from Ayatullah Ali Khamenei’s speech “What are the best deeds during the month of Ramadan?” Khamenei.ir. April 29, 2020. @ https://english.khamenei.ir/news/7515/What-are-the-best-deeds-during-the-month-of-Ramadan.