10 conditions for a complete and accepted repentance. Infographic courtesy of our New Muslim Academy.
Droplets of water drip down slowly from the faces of the believers as they finish performing ablution. Sleepy eyes now wide open as minds are once more awakened and bodies are revitalised and ready. Whilst the rest of the world is seemingly asleep, the moon shines like a glorious lamp in the starlit sky, as feet are placed firmly on the ground, bodies turned in the direction of prayer and hands raised in surrender to their Lord. This is Qiyaam al-Layl.
Qiyaam al-layl is simply translated as ‘The standing at night.’ It is known to be similar to the Taraaweeh prayer, except that Qiyaam al-layl can be performed in any month and on any night, whilst Taraaweeh prayer is specifically performed in Ramadan. This voluntary prayer can be performed any time after the night prayer, Ishaa, until the break of dawn and is deeply beloved to God Almighty.
Shukr is a quality and characteristic that mankind as a whole have yet to master. It is often overlooked in the lives of many and is rarely given its due importance. This lack of having Shukr is recurrent in history and will continue till the end of time, and has brought many nations to their dreaded end. You are probably wondering by now what exactly Shukr is.
Shukr is an Arabic term that is often translated as ‘thankfulness’ and ‘gratitude’. Shukr has been defined by scholars of Islam as the mentioning of God’s blessings upon the slave’s tongue, the slave’s recognition of these blessings in his heart, and obedience of the limbs due to these blessings. Therefore, Shukr stems from acknowledgement of God’s blessings upon you, and this is then shown in the form of gratitude and appreciation through actions of the heart, tongue, and body, and sincere worship to God.
Shukr helps us to focus our minds on God, something that has unfortunately become so difficult in today’s day and age, with the hustle and bustle of life and the various distractions and attractions in this world. It helps to correct our perceptions and serves as a reminder to us that everything we have in life comes from God and will inevitably return to God. Our health, our wealth, our youth, our time, and our lives are all gifts granted to us by God Almighty and we must constantly remember Him and thank Him for the uncountable blessings showered upon us, and doing this will only increase us in more blessings as God Almighty tells us in the following verse:
وَإِذۡ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمۡ لَٮِٕن شَڪَرۡتُمۡ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمۡۖ وَلَٮِٕن ڪَفَرۡتُمۡ إِنَّ عَذَابِى لَشَدِيدٌ۬
“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: ‘If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but God Almighty), I will give you more (of My Blessings); but if you are thankless, verily, My punishment is indeed severe.” [Ibraheem 14:7]
How Merciful is God Almighty! From this verse, we learn that showing Shukr will increase us in even more blessings, and so even when we thank and praise God for His many blessings, He continues to increase us in them, and this is from the vast bounty of our Lord.
Amazingly, Ramadan is connected to Shukr as well. In fact, one of the main purposes for the fasting in Ramadan is so that we may learn to be grateful, and so that we may do Shukr.
In Islam, we are taught to not only show gratitude and appreciation to God, but also to the people, for their favours upon us as well. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would often stress on practicing Shukr and say: “He who does not thank people, does not thank God.”
Looking back into Islamic history, we see the examples and stories of the legends that came before us, our Prophets and pious predecessors, and can derive numerous lessons from their lives – including those of Shukr and Sabr.
Shukr and Sabr, the Arabic terms for gratitude and perseverance, often come hand in hand with one another. As Muslims, we are advised to show Shukr in times of good and Sabr in times of bad.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) explained this lesson to us eloquently in his saying:
“How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this characteristic is exclusively for him alone. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across some diversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.”
So, dear brothers and sisters, we must take care to be grateful and exert patience at all times, as we will continuously be put through tests in this world by God, and only through beautiful Shukr and Sabr will we be able to achieve the status of true believers.
We ask God Almighty to grant us a beautiful Shukr in this blessed month and the months to follow, to make us from those who show Shukr at all times, and to gift us with a beautiful reward in this world and the Hereafter.
Our beloved teacher and mentor; the best man to walk this earth, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said that no one has ever been given anything more excellent and more comprehensive than Sabr.
So what is Sabr you may ask? Well, Sabr is an Arabic term that is often translated as ‘patience’, ‘perseverance’, or ‘steadfastness’, and in actuality encompasses all three characteristics. It is a fundamental aspect of Islam and has been mentioned in the Qur’an over ninety times!
Sabr is one of the most beautiful characteristics that a believer can possess. It raises and elevates one’s rank in the eyes of God Almighty and is a quality often attributed to those most beloved to God Almighty.
In Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to increase in their good deeds and acts of worship. Now, there is a special prayer which has been prescribed for Muslims, specifically in this blessed month, which carries manifold rewards. This prayer is known as ‘Taraaweeh’ and is performed after the ‘Ishaa night prayer. The word Taraaweeh comes from an Arabic word which means to ‘relax’ or to ‘rest.’ This is something very beautiful as it illustrates to us the soothing and harmonious nature of this prayer.
The Night of Power, also known as the night of Decree and in Arabic known famously as ‘Laylatul Qadar’, is a significant night during the month of Ramadan for Muslims all over the world. For it was on this blessed night that the Qur’an was revealed over 1400 years ago, as a guiding light and mercy.
God Almighty describes the Night of Power in the Qur’an as:
“Verily, We have sent it (this Quran) down in the Night of Power. And what will make you know what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the Angels and the Spirit (Gabriel) by Allah’s permission with all Decrees. (All that night), there is peace (and goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.” (Surah Al-Qadr)
When Prophet Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) mistakenly ate from the tree in Jannah, he immediately turned to God Almighty in repentance. When Prophet Yunus (peace and blessings be upon him) was swallowed by the whale, he too turned to God in repentance. When Prophet Musa (peace and blessings be upon him) accidently killed a man, guilt caused him to turn back to God in penitence. In fact, all the Prophets of God and the pious predecessors that came after them would remind the people of the ample mercy and generosity of God Almighty. They would constantly be in a state of repentance, sincerely and humbly, for even the smallest of sins. They understood that their Lord was a Merciful one, who accepted their repentance over and over and over again.
So how does one repent in Islam? The word for repentance in Arabic is ‘’Tawbah” and linguistically means to turn. Repentance in Islam has several conditions attached to it and is not to be taken lightly. Firstly, one must feel remorse for the sin that they have committed, secondly they must make the firm intention not to return to the sin again, and should have an immediate renunciation of that sin, and finally if the sin took away the right of an individual, then the right must be given back to that individual, or they must compensate for it.
In Ramadan, many Muslims hold a very dangerous attitude. They believe that because the devils are locked away during this month, as told to us by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), then this indicates that we will commit no sins in the entire holy month. However, what happens when we do sin in Ramadan? Do we begin to disbelieve in this prophetic saying?
Brothers and sisters, it is important for us to understand that sinning in Ramadan is not like sinning in the other months. In other months for example, the devils are loose, they roam around and try to target believers, they come from behind them, in front of them, above them and below them to try and make them deter from worship and from the truth path. However, in Ramadan, God Almighty makes it easier for the believers to strive to excel in their worship and their remembrance of Him. He assists us by locking away the devils so that they do not become a distraction for us when we worship.
So why then do some people still sin in Ramadan?
The call to the evening prayer reverberates through the air, on radio channels and on television sets, in mosques dotted all across the world, as listening ears wait patiently in earnest, during the blessed month of Ramadan. Supplications are whispered hastily before hands dive towards food and water is gulped down swiftly; thirst and hunger finally quenched after a day-long fast. Parched mouths are relieved instantly and bodies energized and invigorated, for the much-anticipated time of Futoor has finally come.
Early in the morning, before the whistling and chirping of the birds can be heard and the warm glow of the sun can be seen radiating as far as the eye can see, lies a special time in the month of Ramadan. It is so early in fact that it precedes the breaking of dawn and is a time during most months of the year during which people sleep through. Yet as Muslims enter the month of Ramadan, hushed whispers can be heard at this time, the loud ringing of alarm clocks buzzing noisily only to be silenced swiftly, as eyes snap open and feet touch the ground, soft giggles from children as they jump out of their beds in glee and tired yawns from elders as they move sluggishly towards the kitchen. This is the special time of Suhoor; the early morning meal that Muslims eat in preparation for the long fast ahead.
Suhoor is an Arabic term that literally means ‘of the dawn’ and in Ramadan refers to the pre-dawn morning meal. It is somewhat considered a very early breakfast, which must be eaten before dawn and before the Fajr prayer. And so, Muslims from all over the world, living in different countries and at different time zones all unite in their efforts to wake up for Suhoor, a blessed time indeed as it prepares the body for the long fast until sunset and often abates crankiness and weakness during the fast.
For many Muslims, Suhoor signifies a time to cook some of the yummiest and most tantalizingly delicious breakfasts of the year and enjoy a large feast as a family together. Water is essential to drink at this time as it protects the body from dehydration and fatigue. Dates are also a good snack to eat as they contain loads of energy and many healthy sugars.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) advised Muslims to wake up for the Suhoor meal as there are blessings in it, and God’s mercy and forgiveness descends upon the believers at this time. And indeed, it is a blessed time as it also falls during the last third of the night which happens to be one of the best times to supplicate to God Almighty and make du’aa. So if one has the chance to pray 2 voluntary units of prayer, then what a rewarding deed this would be!
So, dear brothers and sisters, we hope you take delight in the unique and special time of Suhoor during the mornings of Ramadan, and fill and replenish your bodies with food to last you till sunset! Though take care to not fill yourselves too much!
We ask God Almighty to bless our partaking in this blessed prophetic practice that only comes once a year and to allow us to make the most of the Suhoor time.
1. Aim to wake up 15-20 minutes earlier than the time needed to eat, and pray 2-4 rak’ahs of Tahajjud prayer.
2. Make Du’aa! Indeed there are countless blessings in making du’aa during this time. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?’” [Bukhari]
3. Eat a balanced meal. Not too much and not too less. Make sure not to over eat, in fear of becoming hungry later on! God Almighty makes the Ramadan fasts easier than any other fast during the year.
4. Stay hydrated. Drink at least 2-3 glasses of water (or zamzam), to protect yourself from dehydration. The less you drink, the more your kidney will have to work, so give your kidney a break and drink enough!
5. Serve others food, help make breakfast, clean up the kitchen – to earn extra rewards and blessings during this time.