by Zainol A. Khan


by Zainol A. Khan

(being a series of six articles appearing in a local newspaper during the period Dec. 97/Jan 98)

There are five fundamental principles or pillars in Islam, namely:

  1. the declaration of faith, that is, to believe that there is no one worthy of worship but Allaah, The One God;

  2. to pray at the five prescribed times of each day;

  3. to pay the Zakaat or poor rate if one is in a certain financial position;

  4. to fast during the month of Ramadaan, except under certain circumstances; and

  5. to perform the Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in one's lifetime if one is in a certain financial position.

Fasting was made compulsory for Muslims in the second year of the Hijrah (migration of the Holy Prophet Muhammad - peace be on him - from Makkah to Madinah) as Allaah enjoins in the Holy Qur'aan:

"Ramadaan is the month in which was sent down the Qur'aan, as a Guide to mankind, also clear Signs for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up by days later. Allaah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you in difficulties. He wants you to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful."

Chapter 2 Verse 185).

The following Hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad - peace be on him) - emphasizes some of the duties of a Muslim during the month of Ramadaan: Salman (may Allaah be pleased with him) reports:

On the last day of Sha'baan (the month before Ramadaan) the Messenger of Allaah addressed us and said:
"O people, there comes over you now a great month, a most blessed month in which lies a night more greater in virtue than a thousand months. It is a month in which Allaah has made compulsory that the days should be observed by fasting. And he has made Sunnah (a practice) the Taraweeh (special additional prayer) by night. Whoever intends drawing nearer to Allaah by performing any virtuous deed, for him shall be the reward like him who had performed a fardh (compulsory act) in any other time. And whoever performs a fardh, for him shall be the reward of seventy fardh in any other time. This is indeed the month of patience, and the reward for true patience is Jannah (Paradise). It is the month of sympathy with one's fellowmen. It is the month wherein a true believer's rizq (sustenance) is increased. Whoever feeds another who fasted, in order to break the fast (at sunset), for him there shall be forgiveness for his sins and emancipation from the fire of Jahannam (Hell), and for him shall be the same reward as him (whom he fed) without that person's reward being decreased in the least."

Thereupon we said:
"O Messenger of Allaah, not all of us possess the means whereby
we can given a fasting person to break his fast."

The Messenger of Allaah replied:
"Allaah grants this same reward to him who gives a fasting person to break
the fast a mere date or a drink of water or a sip of milk."

This is a month, the first of which brings Allaah's Mercy, the middle of which brings His forgiveness and the last of which brings emancipation from the fire of Jahannam (Hell). Whoever lessens the burden of His servants (bondsmen) in this month, Allaah will forgive him and free him from the fire of Jahannam.
And in this month four things you should continue to perform in great number, two of which shall be to please your Lord while the other two shall be this without which you cannot do. Those which shall be to please your Lord, are that you should in great quantity bear witness that there is no deity to worship except Allaah (that is, to recite the Kalimah Tayyibah: Laa ilaaha il'lal Laah) and make much Istighfaar (beg Allaah's forgivness with Istighfarr). And as for those without which you cannot do, you should beg of Allaah entrance into Paradise and seek refuge in Him from Jahannam. And whoever gave a person who fasted water to drink, Allaah shall grant him to drink from my fountain, such a drink whereafter he shall never again feel thirsty until he enters Jannah."


by Zainol A. Khan

Looking for the New Moon

The month of Sha'baan will complete 29 days at sunset on Tuesday next (the 30th December). Muslims therefore will be looking with eager anticipation immediately after sunset on that day for the new moon. If the new moon is seen, that will mark the end of the month of Sha'baan and the beginning of the month of Ramadaan. In that event the first Taraweeh (special prayer in Ramadaan read after the Isha - night- prayer) will therefore be read that very night (Tuesday).

The first day of fast will accordingly commence on Wednesday 31st.

However, if the moon is not seen then, in accordance with Shariah (Muslim Law, the present month of Sha'baan will have to complete thirty days. In that event the month of Ramadaan will commence on Wednesday night. The first Taraweeh prayer will therefore be read on that night (Wednesday) and the first day of fast will be on Thursday 1st January. The following Ahadith are relevant:

"Ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allaah said

"Don't fast until you see the new moon" and don't break it until you see it.
If then there is cloud over you, count in full."

In a narration he said:
The month is of twenty nine nights. So don't fast until you see it; if then
there is cloud over you, wait and complete the number thirty.
"Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadaan), and
give up fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwal),
and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it),
complete thirty days of Sha'baan."

It must be point out that if the new moon is not seen at the end of the 29th of Sha'baan, one cannot fast the next day unless one has been accustomed to performing Nafl (voluntary) fast and one's voluntary day for fasting coincides with that particular day (in this case Wednesday). Muslims follow a lunar calendar, thus a month can be either 29 or 30 days. The Islamic calendar has twelve months, thus it is eleven days (twelve in a leap year) shorter than the solar year. Thus the month of Ramadaan rotates over a period of thirty two and one half years through all the seasons: wet and dry in the tropics; and spring, autumn and winter in the temperate.

Ramadaan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is the month in which fasting (the fourth of the five fundamental pillars of Islam) has been prescribed for Muslims except under certain circumstances. While mankind has been known to fast for various reasons and in different ways from time immemorial, the fast in Islam however involves abstaining from food and drink immediately before the break of day (about 80 minutes before sunrise) until immediately after the sun has set. It has been specifically prescribed by Allaah,

       "that ye may learn self-restraint." (Holy Qur'aan Chapter 2 Verse 183).

The Islamic fast consists of abstaining from food and drink from the break of dawn until the sun sets. The lesson is this: if a person can abstain from food and drink, which are essential for life, then surely that person can also keep away from doing, seeing, hearing and thinking evil. In this connection the following sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (p.b.o.h.) are relevant: "Fasting is a shield, so let the man who fasts not indulge in any foul speech or do any evil deed, and if any one fights or quarrels with him or abuses him, he should say: 'I am fasting.'

"By Him who holds my soul in His Hand, the breath of the faster
is more pleasant with Allaah than the scent of musk."

"Many are the ones who fast, attaining nothing by such fasting except hunger, and many are the ones performing salaat (prayer) by night attaining nothing by it, except the discomfort of staying awake at night."

The Muslim philosopher, Imam Al Ghazzali, has defined fasting as being of three kinds, namely:

1. The fasting of the public - those who abstain from food, drink and martial relations.
2. The fasting of the few - those who, while fasting, keep"the ears, the eyes, the tongue,
     the hands and the feet as well as the other senses free from sin
", and
3. The fasting of the select among the few - that is "The fast of the heart from mean thoughts
     and worldly worries, and its complete unconcern with anything but God

As we look forward with eager anticipation to fulfilling one of the major duties to our Creator let us resolve that our fasting during the coming month will fall within the last-mentioned category.


by Zainol A. Khan

The new moon which marked the end of the month of Sha'baan and the beginning of the holy month of Ramadaan was seen shortly after sunset on Tuesday last. The month of compulsory fasting for Muslims had therefore started. This month is expected to have thirty days so that Eid-ul-Fitr should be celebrated on Friday 30th January, Inshaa Allaah (God willing). The Muslim fast consists of abstaining from food and drink from the break of dawn (about eighty minutes before sunrise) and ends just after the sun sets. Unfortunately, there is a misconception on the part of many non-Muslims that Muslims eat gluttonously during the night in order to make up for food missed during the day. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as the month of Ramadaan progresses one's stomach keeps contracting more and more and so one eats less and less. In addition, according to Shariah (Islamic law) a Muslim should eat in such a manner that one third of his stomach is filled with food, one third with water, and one third with air. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said:

"The month of Ramadaan, the month of blessings, has come to you, wherein Allaah turns towards you and sends down to you His special Mercy, forgives faults, accepts prayers, looks at your competition for the greatest good and boasts to the Malaa’ikah (angels) over you. So show unto Allaah righteousness from yourselves. For verily the most pitiable and unfortunate one is he who is deprived of Allaah's Mercy in this month."

Accordingly, Muslims endeavour to spend as much time as possible in offering ibadaat (acts of worship to Allaah such as reading the Qur'aan, performing voluntary prayers etc.) during this month of mercy. In this article therefore an attempt will be made to show how a Muslim spends the day during the month of Ramadaan.

The fast commences with preferably having a meal before the break of dawn, which is about eighty minutes before sunrise. One therefore has to rise at least two hours before sunrise in order to prepare and have the meal.

After taking the morning meal one would engage in acts of ibadaat (worship) until it is time to perform the Fajr (morning) prayer. This has to be read before the sun rises. One may continue to make ibadaat after the morning prayer or rest until it is time to go to work.

One's lunch hour is taken up in going to the masjid to perform the Zuhr (early afternoon) prayer, which one normally may perform at home when one goes for lunch. When one reaches home after work in the afternoon it is time to perform the Asr (late afternoon) prayer. The fast must be broken immediately after the sun sets. Those who are fortunate to live near a masjid will most likely go to the masjid, along with others similarly fortunate, to break the fast together. Each will bring some light refreshment and share whatever he brings with the others. Immediately after the fast is broken one must perform the Maghrib (sunset) prayer so one cannot really socialize while breaking the fast.

Dinner is then taken immediately after the Maghrib prayer. Again, one cannot delay unnecessarily because one has to go to the masjid for the Isha (nigh) prayer which is followed immediately after by the special Taraweeh prayer read during the month of Ramadaan. These prayers start in the various masjids anywhere between seven thirty and seven forty five and jointly taken about one hour. By the time one reaches home therefore the time is around nine thirty.

One may then have a snack and after engage in various acts of ibadaat until one is ready to go to bed. Many persons try to read one Para (one-thirtieth part) of the Holy Qur'aan every day. This may in itself take thirty minutes to one hour. If this is done one can complete reading of the whole book by the end of the month. One then goes to bed to rise the next morning to prepare for the fast. There are those however who rise for the special Tahajjud prayer which can be said anytime between one and four o’clock in the morning. The prayer is not one of the five compulsory daily prayers for a Muslim. However, there is great spiritual merit in it and there are those who make it a practice to perform it every morning. During the month of Ramadaan many others also perform this prayer.

From the above alone it will be clearly seen that Ramadaan is a month of special devotion of the Creator. In addition to the above daily routine, however, there are the observances of 'Iti'kaaf (seclusion in the masjid for the last ten days and nights) and Laila-tul-Qadr (the Night of Power) which will be dealt with in the next article.


by Zainol A. Khan

The Night of Power

Ramadaan is the month in which, among other important events, the first verses of the Holy Qur'aan were revealed by Allaah, through the Angel Gabriel, to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The Holy Qur'aan is the book of guidance for Muslims and is the last revealed book of Allaah, with Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) as the last prophet.

The word "Qur'aan" is an Arabic word and comes from root word "Qara'a", which means "to recite", "to read". The word literally means "reading" or "recitation".

It was one night during the month of Ramadaan in the year 610 C.E. that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad (p.b.o.h), then forty years of age, while he was meditating, as he often did, in the Cave of Hira in Makkah, Arabia. The Angel said to him: "Read". The Prophet (p.b.o.h), being unlettered, said he could not read. The Angel hugged the Prophet (p.b.o.h) and again told him: "Read". The Prophet (p.b.o.h) again replied that he could not read. The Angel then hugged the Prophet (p.b.o.h) a second time to the limit of his endurance. Then the Angel again told him yet again: "Read". When the Prophet replied that he could not read the Angel hugged him a third time, again to the limit of his endurance. Then the Angel said:

"Proclaim! (or Read) in the name of Thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created - Created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And Thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen - taught man that which he knew not". (Holy Qur'aan Chapter 96 Verses 1-5.)

Prophet Muhammad (p.b.o.h) repeated the words and felt as if he could never forget them. This was the first revelation of the Holy Qur'aan to mankind from Allaah. Revelations continued to come for the next twenty-three years and until shortly before the Prophet's death at the age of sixty-three.

The night on which the first revelation of the Holy Qur'aan was received by the Holy Prophet (p.b.o.h) has great religious significance and spiritual blessings for Muslims in view of, among other things, the following verses of the Holy Qur'aan:

"We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allaah's permission, on every errand. Peace!... This until the rise of Morn." (Holy Qur'aan Chapter 97).

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (p.b.o.h.) also stressed the significance of this night when he said, among other things, that:

"Whoever stands in prayer and ibadaah (worship) on the Night of Power with sincere faith and with sincere hope of gaining reward, his previous sins are forgiven." "A month has verily dawned over you wherein lies a night better than one thousands months. Whoever is deprived of its blessing has indeed been deprived of (almost) all good. And none is deprived of its good except him who is completely unfortunate."

The exact night in which the first revelation of the Qur'aan was received by the Prophet was given by him at first as one of the last ten nights in the month. When questioned further the Prophet (p.b.o.h.) narrowed it down to one of the odd nights in the last ten. In light of this there are those (males) who perform Itikaaf (seclusion) in the masjid during the last ten days of Ramadaan, devoting themselves during that period entirely to acts of ibadaah (worship) such as reading the Qur'aan, performing voluntary prayers and so on. They leave the masjid proper only in certain circumstances. (In the case of females Itikaaf is performed in a part of the home specified for that purpose.)

However many of the scholars and pious persons have stated that the Night of Power is the 27th night of Ramadaan. Accordingly, the masjids are full on that night with devotees. Many stay later than usual, or all night, in the masjid while there are those who spend the entire night in it or at home devoting themselves to the worship of Allaah.

Whether one performs Itikaaf or one spends only the 27th night of Ramadaan in ibadaah, the object for all is the same: to be engaged in acts of devotion so that they benefit from a night greater in blessedness and spiritual value than a lifetime.

Itikaaf will commence this year from sunset on the 19th to sunset on the 29th January while Laila-tul Qadr (the Night of Power) will fall on the night of Sunday 25th January.

May Allaah accept the devotions and supplications of the faithful during these nights and all others.


by Zainol A. Khan

A Month of Charity

Zakaat, or the poor-rate, is the third fundamental pillar or principle of Islam. It is preceded by:

(i) the declaration of faith: there is no one worthy of worship but the One God and Prophet Muhammad (p.b.o.h.)
     is His final messenger, and

(ii) Salaat: the compulsory prayers at five prescribed times each day.

It is followed by fasting during the month of Ramadaan and performing the pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in one's lifetime under certain circumstances.

Zakaat is payable by Muslims who are in possession of a certain minimum amount of money (including gold, silver and jewellery) over a period of one year. This minimum amount is called the Nisaab. Zakaat is also payable on agricultural produce and animals.

Zakaat is a tax to be used for the following specific purposes: the needy, the indigent, the Zakaat collectors, assisting debtors, for religious or educational scholarships, and to assist travellers who may be in temporary need. It cannot be used otherwise. It is not to be confused with income tax or any other tax. Payment of the last-mentioned taxes does not exempt a Muslim from paying Zakaat as long as the person is in possession of the Nisaab.

As mentioned above, Zakaat is calculated yearly. While there is no fixed month for calculating one's Zakaat many persons use the month of Ramadaan for that purpose and distribute their payments during that month.

Those who are liable to pay Zakaat must also pay the special charity called Sadaqa-tul-Fitr. Such persons, if the head of a household, must pay this special charity not only on their own behalf, but also on behalf of each member of their household, including servants and children born on the very morning of Eid-ul-Fitr.

The Sadaqa-tul-Fitr is a special charity which must be given to the poor in the community. It ha a two-fold purpose, namely, to assist the poor in having the means to appropriately celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr and, to purify any mistakes a person may have made during the period of fasting.

Accordingly the Sadaqa-tul-Fitr should preferably be given during the month of Ramadaan or, at the latest, before one performs the special Eid-ul-Fitr prayer. If for some reason one is unable to give the Sadaqa-tul-Fitr before the Eid prayer one must have in mind the person to whom it is to be given and donation should be made as early as possible thereafter. Otherwise, it falls in the category of charity, ordinary charity.

The Sadaqa-tul-Fitr is based on the staple grain used by a person and can be given in either cash or kind. In Trinidad and Tobago flour is used as the staple grain and the amount has been fixed at three and three quarters pounds. In cash, this is translated to fifteen dollars ($15.00) per person at present.

The management committee of most of the masjids in the country collect the Sadaqa-tul-Fitr during the month of Ramadaan and distribute it to the needy, who would have been previously identified before the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. In this way the objective of the charity is satisfied.

Charity during the month of Ramadaan is further emphasised as those who for some reason are permanently unable to keep the fast must feed a poor person for each day of the fast missed. From the above it will be seen that Islam lays a great deal of stress on the giving of charity. One may ask however what about those persons who, due to their financial situation, are unable to give money to assist their needy brothers and sisters. The answer lies in the broad meaning of the word "charity" given by Islam. In this connection the Holy Prophet Muhammad (p.b.o.h.) amplifies the above statement:

"Thy smiling in thy brother's face is charity; thy bidding what is good is charity; the forbidding what is wrong is charity: thy putting a man in an unknown land in the right road is charity for thee; thy assisting a man who has a defect in the eye is charity for thee; thy removing stones and thorns and bones from the road is charity for thee; and thy emptying the bucket into the bucket of thy brother is charity for thee."

"Enjoined upon every joint of a man is charity, every day in which the sun rises is charity; doing justice between two people is charity; and assisting a man upon his beast, and loading upon it, or lifting up to it his baggage, is charity; and a good word is charity; and every step which is taken towards prayer is charity: and removing hurtful things from the road is charity."

Finally, mention must be made of "Khairaat", which is charity over and above the compulsory taxes of Zakaat and Sadaqa-tul-Fitr. Many Muslims give "khairaat" in order to gain additional pleasure of their Creator. This is especially so during the month of Ramadaan when the rewards for good acts, compulsory and optional, are increased manifold.


by Zainol A. Khan

The Reward

The month of Ramadaan is drawing to a close. Sunset this evening will see the end of the twenty sixth day of the fast. Tonight will be the twenty-seventh night of the month. It will be Laila-tul-Qadr, the Night of Power, the spiritual benefits of which have been described in a previous article. (The day in Islam begins with the setting of the sun and ends the same way the following day). Tonight will see all the masjids filled with devotees. Some will spend the whole night either in their respective masjids or in their homes in devotion: for this night is "better than a thousand months".

Wednesday sunset will see the end of the twenty ninth day of the month. In keeping with Shariah. (Islamic law) Muslims will have to look out for the new moon which, if seen, will mark the end of the month of Ramadaan. The new moon is very unlikely to be seen that evening however as it will be only about sixteen hours old. If it is not seen then, in accordance with Shariah., the month will have to complete thirty days. There will accordingly be no need to look out for the new moon on Thursday. However, many will still do so and, on seeing it, say "Assalaam U Alaikum" (peace be with you). That will mark the end of the month of Ramadaan and the first day of the new month, Shawaal., which is the day of Eid-ul-Fitr..

Mixed feelings of sadness and joy will run through one's mind when the month of Ramadaan ends. Sadness, because during the month of Ramadaan the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the male and the female, the strong and the weak, the employer and the employee, would have all felt the pangs of hunger and would have stood side by side in devotion each night in the masjid. As a result a strong bond of love and friendship would have developed between many of them. Now that the month is completed visits to the masjid will not be so regular by many and that bond will thus be weakened.

The feeling of joy and hope will prevail because one will pray that Almighty Allaah, in His Infinite Grace and Mercy, will accept one's prayers and fasts and other acts of devotion during the month; that He will forgive one's sins; and will favour one with a place in Paradise in the Hereafter.

As mentioned above, Thursday night is expected to be the first night in the month of Shawwal and also the night of Eid-ul-Fitr. That night will have special significance for two reasons. Firstly, the first night in the month of Shawwal (the night of Eid) is one of the five sacred nights in Islam during which a Muslim’s prayer is accepted. Secondly, Thursday is regarded as a special night for offering Ibadaat (devotion). Thus many will spend the night, or much of it, in voluntary devotions. On the morning of Eid-ul-Fitr most of the household will go to the masjid to perform the special Eid-ul-Fitr prayer. The following Hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad - p.b.o.h.) allows one to fully understand the nature and significance of the occasion:

On the morning of Eid, Allaah sends down the Malaa'ikah (Angels) to all the lands of the earth
where they take their positions, calling out (with a voice that is heard by all except men and jinns)
"O Ummaah (followers) of Muhammad (p.b.o.h.) come forth
from your houses towards a Lord that is Noble and Gracious,
who grants much and pardons major sins."

And when the followers of Muhammad (p.b.o.h.) proceed forward towards the places for their Eid prayers,

Allaah says again to the Angels:
'What indeed is the reward for that servant (employee) who has rendered his services?'

The Angels then reply:
"O, our Lord and Master, it is only right that he should receive his reward in (full) measure."

Allaah then says

"I call you to witness, O Malaa'ikah, that for their having fasted for Me during the month of Ramadaan, and for their having stood before Me in prayer by night, I have granted to them as reward My Pleasure, and have granted them forgiveness. My servant, ask now of Me and I swear by My Honour and Greatness, that whatsoever you shall beg of Me this day in this assembly of yours for the needs of your Hereafter, I shall grant you; and whatsoever you shall ask for your worldly needs, I shall look at you favourably. By my Honour, do I swear, as long as you obey my commands, I shall never disgrace you among evil-doers and dis-believers. Depart now from here; you are forgiven; You have indeed pleased Me and I am pleased with you."

'The Malaa'ikaah, on seeing this great reward bestowed on the Ummah of Muhammad, become greatly pleased and happy.'

All the masjids will be full to overcrowding for the special Eid prayer. Those who do not arrive early will have to try and squeeze in wherever possible. Most will be happy but there will be those who would have lost dear and beloved ones since the last Eid and so their hearts will be filled with grief. The announcement for the commencement of the service, which will last about an hour or an hour and a half, will be given. The congregational prayer will be performed, then the Imaam will give Khutbah (sermon). There will be a few short talks and possibly some appropriate songs, then the final Du’aa (supplication). That will be the signal for the congregation to start greeting each other in the Islamic way (hugs on the shoulders). It will be impossible to greet all: there will be so many.

The congregation will then return to their respective homes, there to be busily engaged in finalising arrangements for the many family and friends who will visit that day. Some would have been specially invited. Others would have been invited on a previous occasion and would know that the invitation was open for each year. Still others would come uninvited in the knowledge that it is Eid-ul-Fitr and all are welcome. The spirit of the occasion must be shared. The day will be a short one because so many people will be coming to visit, and so many friends and relatives have to be visited. Fortunately, Eid falls on a long weekend this year so that much more can be done.

We pray that Almighty Allaah will accept our devotions and fast. We pray that He will guide us on the Straight Path. We pray that He will grant us good in this life and in the Hereafter.






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