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Al-Ghazāliī on the Secrets of Fasting

By Rami Koujah

To claim that the act of fasting is more than mere abstention from food, drink, and intimacy with one’s spouse is a cliché. Despite being aware of this, for many of us, the daylight hours of Ramadan remain drawn-out moments of thirst and hunger. Certainly many of us feel the spiritual ecstasy after satiating ourselves, whether it is by praying tarawīh (nightly Ramadan prayer) or enjoying qiyām (late-night prayer) at the masjid (mosque). The night has become the focal point for many, and, not to undermine its significance, most people do not appreciate the spirituality that can be enjoyed during the day. After all, it is doubtlessly easier to appreciate an act of worship when not burdened by the grueling fast. To remedy this issue who better to turn to than Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī.1

In his magnum opus, Ihyā’ ʿUlūm al-Dīn, al-Ghazālī discusses the “secrets” of fasting and the method by which one can attain them and fulfill the objectives of fasting. For the sake of space, we will limit ourselves to a few points he mentions. He begins by stating that the way by which the devil influences the hearts of people is through their desires (shahawāt). Our desires, namely, are food, drink, and intimacy. It is by overcoming one’s desires that one finds refuge from the devil and tranquility. Al-Ghazālī deems this point central to realizing the objectives of fasting.

Al-Ghazālī quotes the well known hadīth (tradition) in which the Prophet ﷺ  says that God, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exhalted is He), said:

“All of the actions of the son of Adam are for him, except for fasting. [Fasting] is for me and and I reward for it [what I please]…”2

Why does God (swt) say that fasting, to the exclusion of other acts of worship, is for Him? Is not our prayer and charity for His sake as well? Al-Ghazālī writes that God (swt) has given the action of fasting an extra degree of honor, by attributing it to Himself, in two ways

Firstly, fasting is a hidden act of worship; no one is actually able to see you fast. This fact guards one’s intention from being corrupted, unlike prayer, charity and, Hajj (pilgrimage).

Secondly, fasting is an act by which one subdues the devil. Recall, the devil’s capacity is only exercised via one’s desires. By abstaining from food, drink, and intimacy, a Muslim is able to control his desires and hinder the effects of the devil. By defeating the devil, one aids in bringing victory to God (swt), i.e., God’s religion:

“O you who have believed, if you support Allah , He will support you and plant firmly your feet” (Qu’ran 47:7).

In the commentary of al-Jalālayn, we find that bringing victory to God (swt) means bringing victory to His religion and Messenger ﷺ.

After elaborating on the merits of fasting, followed by rules of fasting, al-Ghazālī discusses the methodology by which we can realize the fruits of fasting.

Fasting is practiced at one of three levels:

(1)   the level of the lay people,

(2)   the level of the elect, and

(3)   the level of the elect of the elect.

The fasting of the laity, the lowest level of fasting, involves merely following the outward rulings of fasting. Fasting at the next level up involves fasting with one’s limbs (the present article will elaborate on this level as it is the most relevant). The third level of fasting involves being physically, spiritually, and intellectually occupied with one’s lord without breaking consciousness from this state for even a moment. This includes fasting with one’s heart and mind.

The second level of fasting involves six things:

1. Fasting with one’s sight.

One should abstain from looking at things that are disliked (makrūh) or illicit (harām). This includes things that distract one’s heart from the remembrance of God (swt).

2. Fasting with one’s tongue.

While fasting, one should not lie, backbite, slander, use obscene language, quarrel with others, speak insincerely, or engage in idle chatter. Rather, one should try to spend more time being silent, remembering their Lord, and reciting His book.

3. Fasting with one’s ears.

One should refrain from listening to things that are disliked (makrūh) or forbidden (harām). Al-Ghazālī mentions that anything which is forbidden to say is forbidden to listen to. In the Qur’ān, God juxtaposes those who engage in listening to lies with those who consume what is unlawful [5:42].

4. Keeping the remainder of one’s body parts (e.g. hands, feet) from engaging in blameworthy acts.

Hopefully this is not an issue for any of us, but speaking to such a wide audience, al-Ghazālī warns people of consuming from that which is unlawful. After all, doing so defeats the whole purpose of fasting.

5. Do not overeat.

Everyone knows they shouldn’t, but we all do. Al-Ghazālī advises against overeating when it comes to breaking one’s fast. After all, the point of fasting is to control one’s desires. What has one gained if they end up binging in one (or several) meals and make up for what they’ve managed to hold off on. Moreover, as al-Ghazālī mentions, many of us deck out our dining tables with such an assortment like we are trying to eat the food pyramids of Giza. And you know someone is going to get the wrath if the samosas run out. So much for keeping the devil at bay.

6. After breaking one’s fast, one should balance a feeling of hope and fear.

One should be hopeful that one’s fast has been accepted by God yet also be fearful that the fast may have been lacking. In short, one should not become overly confident because the quality of one’s fast will slowly dwindle.

Yes, fulfilling the outward aspects of fasting will make one’s act valid. But we should be concerned with more than just that, as al-Ghazālī mentions. At a higher level, in consideration of the Hereafter, we should be concerned with the act being accepted and the objectives being fulfilled, in addition to it being valid. In al-Ghazālī’s understanding, the objective of the fast is embodying one of the attributes of God, al-Samadiyya, namely, being resistant, enduring, and mastering our desires. In this way we follow the example of the angels who are above having desires.

The beauty of Ramadan is not only to be found after the sun has set. The struggles of fasting have their own share of beauty and spirituality. As al-Shaykh Shabīr Ahmad al-ʿUthmānī writes in his renowned commentary of Sahīh Muslim, we bear the toils of fasting for the sole purpose of gaining God’s pleasure.3

Finally, al-Ghazālī leaves us by posing a question we should all ask ourselves. Fasting, and every act of worship included, has both an outward and inward realization. Will we be satisfied with fulfilling the outward, or will be strive towards realizing the inward beauty?

Source article: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/worship/fasting-ramadan/al-ghazalii-on-the-secrets-of-fasting/

2 months ago

Get married, free, on muzmatch.

Modesty in Modern Muslim Beauty

By Jennifer Dawson

Preparing for a date can end up being a stress inducing activity most of the time. Fixing up hair and makeup alone takes up nearly forty minutes of a woman's time on an average day. As new trends in fashion continue to pop up, it can seem overwhelming trying to maintain a consistent style and routine, while still being current with today’s fashion. Here are a few ways to enhance your beauty for contemporary styles, while remaining true to the fashion that makes Muslim culture one of the most beautiful.

Hijab and Fashion

Dating can be intimidating, and our own insecurities can creep up, preventing us from putting ourselves out there to meet someone special. But those fears can be overcome. We should take pride in the modesty of our culture and commitment to Allah, especially with how we wear our hijabs. It’s fine to cut loose and outfit your hijab in a way that expresses both your beauty and inner devotion. Muslim fashion continues to develop side by side with contemporary fashion, letting diverse appearance flourish within modern fashion.

Styles such as the “casual chic”, which involve letting both sides of your hijab hang loose over both shoulders, are great for pulling off an effortless look that emphasizes your natural elegance and modesty. As long as you stay true to the core principles of modesty found in the Quran, then the elegance of your fashion sense will also shine through.

Beauty in Makeup

Make-up is the most powerful way for a Muslim woman to express her beauty while staying true to her faith. Whether with or without a hijab, cosmetics offer the chance for women to emphasis the facial qualities that make them beautiful. Women like Asha Hussein are excellent examples of how beauty conventions of both contemporary culture and Muslim tradition can fuse to create a captivating and popular look. Taking the time to learn eye makeup application and trends, such as having bold colors or strong brows, can be completely complimentary to your visual appearance and upstand the Muslim code of Modesty.

Embrace Muslim Modernity

Modern culture is more than prepared for accommodating the belief that supports the styles that support and validate Muslim cultural practices. The fashion world is embracing the empowering virtue to be found in Muslim modesty. Whether through makeup or clothing, the diversity and energy put into your wardrobe should be expressed with pride and confidence. The principles found in our faith are wonderful and should be recognized as such. Claim your style as your own and embrace the beautiful principles that enchant your dress and appearance.

The world around us continues to diversify in ways that are supportive towards the beliefs and attire of our faith. There’s no need to place unnecessary restraint on your wardrobe, as long as you adhere to the principles of modesty which already come so naturally us Muslim women. Trust in your faith and your own uncompromising beauty.

2 days ago

Inspiration for Muslims Aged 50 And Above

Finding Love After Divorce

By Jennifer Dawson

‘Grey divorce’  has come to be a catchphrase of the millennium, largely because in contrast to general divorce rates (which are declining), the divorce rate among people over 50 is on the rise. Longer life expectancies mean that those who are in their 50s or even 60s can look forward to many decades ahead of a healthy and happy life and for many, this is a quest they would not like to undertake in their current situation.

As noted in a study by Z. Mohamed, Muslim divorce rates, particularly in Western countries, have been on the rise in recent years, with a dramatic increase in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.

Divorce can be liberating but also bring fear and anxiety. If you have been through a divorce and you are fearful about what the future holds, find inspiration in the Quran and consider online dating as a way to ensure those you date have the same life values as you. When you are ready, know that you can find love once again online and begin a new path in life.

Divorce Involves Going through Many Changes

Divorce is one of the highest entries on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. In a way, it involves saying goodbye to many things – including (in some cases) one’s home, extended family and social circle. The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross model on the different stages of loss are also applicable to divorce. You may have to go through many stages – including sadness, anger, and regret, before you are ready to move on.

Cuando quieras ponerte triste,sonrie,aunque sea con lágrimas en los ojos.
Photo by Luis Galvez / Unsplash

You will probably know you are ready when you feel that you need to be out and socialize. Positive ideas may pop in your head, such as the thought that you are young and have retired or have free time on your hands, you would love to try out a new hobby or sport, or you feel like dressing up in your finest garb and feeling appreciated as a man or woman once again. Check out what other singles are up to on muzmatch; what starts out as a friendship could develop into something very special.

Why the Internet?

Online dating has been a big boom for singles who may not have a huge social circle. Muslim men and women who do work and have a good professional network may not necessarily have a wide social one. This is especially true if most of your friends are couples that you only saw when you went out with your ex. As noted by the BBC, online dating is big, especially among Western Muslims.

In Islam, marriage is considered equal to half your religion. It holds great importance, so it is important to make the right decision. Online dating allows you to ‘test the waters’ beforehand, so to speak. For instance, if you are a Muslim woman with a firm believe in feminism, you can ensure the people you date think along the same lines. Because devout Muslims of a mature age may be reticent to go to bars and other establishments were others enjoy meeting,

online dating gives them the safety, choice, and discretion that is unique in the dating sphere.

Inspiration from Scripture

You are indeed never too old to love or be loved. Muslim scripture espouses the importance of love and marriage in many passages.

“We not see for those who love one another anything like marriage,”

says Sunan Ibn Majah 1847, while Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 1322 notes: “When you love someone, you become infatuated like a child.” These and other words may inspire you to experience the beauty of love and marriage once again.

If you are a Muslim who is aged 50+ and who has just been divorced, you certainly are not alone. So-called ‘gray divorce’ is rising in numbers the world over, but that does not mean you need to be lonely.

Internet dating is booming for Muslims, especially those who don’t want to have to seek love in clubs and other establishments that can seem more about casual encounters than long-lasting ones. If you’ve never been online, sign up on muzmatch and go into it with a view to simply meet others. In time, friendships can unexpectedly bloom and you may find the love of your life.

21 days ago

muzmatch x My Big Fat Halal Blog

Hey everyone, it’s Ayesha from My Big Fat Halal Blog (MBFHB)! MBFHB is one of the UK’s biggest halal food platforms where I share halal restaurant reviews, recipes and travel guides! You can find out more about what I do on my website or Instagram.

Today, I’m collaborating with muzmatch to share some of my top Ramadan recipes. We hope you try them out and we would love to see any of your recreations.

DATE SUHOOR SMOOTHIE BOWL:

Here’s a simple recipe for this delicious, filling smoothie bowl packed with nutritious dates… the only dates you should be having this Ramadan! ;)

Suhoor Smoothie Bowl

INGREDIENTS

1 banana, plus extra slices to garnish

5 pitted medjool dates, plus extra, chopped, to garnish

250ml semi-skimmed milk

2 tsp cocoa powder

1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground nuts, to decorate

METHOD

Simply put all the ingredients in a blender, and whizz until smooth. Pour into a bowl, over ice, if you like, then arrange the nuts, extra banana and dates over the top to serve.

POTATO CUTLETS:

Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be Ramadan without fried treats! Below is a recipe for my spicy, moreish potato cutlets.  They’re always a hit with everyone!

Potato Cutlets

INGREDIENTS

750g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

11⁄2 tbsp garam masala

2 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp ground coriander

Handful of coriander, roughly chopped

2 tbsp plain flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

60g breadcrumbs

3 tbsp vegetable oil

Chutney/spicy salsa, to serve

METHOD

1.Put the potatoes in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then cook for 18-20 mins, until tender. Drain and set aside for 15-20 mins, until cool enough to handle.

2. Add the garam masala, chilli powder, ground coriander and fresh coriander to the potatoes. Season, then mash until smooth.

3. Wet your hands, then shape the mixture into 10 round patties, about 1cm thick.

4. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs onto separate plates, then dip each patty first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs to coat.

5. Heat the oil to medium-high, then fry the patties in batches for 2-3 mins on each side, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with a chutney/ spicy salsa for dipping.

UM ALI:

A feast would not be complete without dessert! Try out this delicious Egyptian bread pudding known as Um Ali. It’s made with croissants, nuts and condensed milk and it’s absolutely delicious!

Um Ali

INGREDIENTS

850ml semi-skimmed milk

1⁄2 x 397g can condensed milk

1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom

1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to serve

1 tsp vanilla extract

100ml double cream

1 tsp unsalted butter

4 all butter croissants, roughly torn

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

2 tbsp flaked almonds

2 tbsp unsalted pistachios, chopped

2 tbsp seedless raisins

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4.

2. Stir the milk, condensed milk, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla extract together in a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2mins, stirring occasionally. Add the cream and carefully bring back to the boil, then remove from the heat.

3. Using the butter, grease a round baking dish, roughly 22cm in diameter and 5cm deep, and cover the base with half the croissant pieces.

4. Sprinkle over half each of the coconut, almonds, pistachios and raisins, then pour over the milk mixture.

5. Top with the remaining croissants, nuts and raisins, plus an extra pinch of cinnamon.

6. Bake in the oven for 20-25mins until golden and bubbling, then leave to stand for 10 mins before serving.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and will try them out! You can find more of my recipes at mybigfathalalblog.com.

29 days ago