In Praise of a Simple Ramadan

All praise and thanks are due to Allah alone, the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and earth, the Turner of our hearts, and the One who has knowledge of our every heartbeat, breath, thought and action.

Ramadan is a blessed month of fasting and devotion, good deeds and charity, and increased communal bonding.

In this month, the rewards of good deeds are multiplied even more than usual so we are often exhorted to exert ourselves to reap as much benefit as possible. Ostensibly, this is a good thing.

Yet, I am reminded of the hadith of the Bedouin that came to the Prophet (s) to ask about Islam:

Bedouin: Muhammad, your messenger came to tell us you claim that Allah sent you as a Prophet.

Prophet: He has spoken the truth.

Bedouin: Who created the heavens?

Prophet: Allah.

Bedouin: Who created the earth?

Prophet: Allah.

Bedouin: Who created and raised the mountains?

Prophet: Allah.

Bedouin: By the one who created the heavens, earth, and raised the mountains, has Allah sent you (as a Prophet)?

Prophet: Yes

Bedouin: Your messenger also told us five prayers in the day and night have been made obligatory on us.

Prophet: He has spoken the truth.

Bedouin: Your messenger told us charity is due from our wealth.

Prophet: He has spoken the truth.

Bedouin: Your messenger told us that fasting in the month of Ramadan has been made obligatory on us.

Prophet: He has spoken the truth.

Bedouin: Your messenger told us that a pilgrimage to the Kabah has been made obligatory on the one able to undertake the journey.

Prophet: Yes.

The Bedouin then set off and said, “By Him who sent you with the truth, I will neither make any addition to them nor diminish anything from them.”

The Prophet (s) replied, “If he is truthful, he will enter paradise.”

Before the month of Ramadan, many Muslims make fervent prayers that we be allowed to live to see this blessed month. We make resolutions about how much Quran we will read or how many extra prayers we will pray, or how much will give up of tv, movies, social media, and other distractions.

But as the month wears on, our resolve may weaken and we may begin to feel guilty that we weren’t able to achieve our goals. The hadith above gives us hope, Islam is simple, even in doing the bare minimum there is a guarantee from the Prophet of God of a good outcome in the hereafter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for being a slacker in Ramadan, on the contrary, I believe in taking Ramadan seriously to reap as much benefit as possible. But along with that level of seriousness must be an element of pragmatism. Not all of us will be able to finish the Quran in this month, or pray every night prayer, or even spend a lot of extra time in devotional acts so give yourself a break and appreciate the blessings in what you are able to do.

There’s also hope in the hadith, that “the most beloved of all acts with God are those done most consistently even if they appear small.” Let’s implement this hadith by utilizing this Ramadan to find one deed, which we can do consistently for a lifetime to seek the pleasure of Allah. Can you do it?

This Ramadan, I have chosen to emphasize a single small deed, which I am working to build into my daily life so that, God willing, I can continue it throughout the year and I hope throughout my life.

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Ramadan Reflection | I Cannot Read the Quran

‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) relates that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم said:

Indeed, the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have TWICE that reward.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

When I became Muslim, I typed and printed up my own salah manual. I included the transliteration and the meaning in English underneath. A simple two rakat of fajr might take me half an hour reading and fumbling through, trying hard to remember and not make any mistakes. Now with practice, the time is shorter but I’m not sure the baraka is greater. May Allah increase us in our steadfastness and khushu, ameen.

My first experience with the Quran was through reading English translations then through transliteration, and eventually through reading the Arabic script. While on a trip to New York, I purchased my first Arabic Quran. It was a red-letter version with each mention of Allah’s name or variation of it highlighted in red.

I carried that Quran back with me on the flight home. Once settled in my seat, I opened the mushaf and began “reading” as I flipped through the pages even though the only word I could identify was the word “Allah,” highlighted in red.  I was so happy to be able to read or rather recognize that one word.

My very first Quran was a red-letter version

When Jibreel recited the first revelation to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), “Read,” the Prophet (s) said, I cannot read. The Prophet (s) persisted and did not give up and neither should we if we struggle to read or recite the Quran fluently.

Once, I was in a Quran class and we were trying to come up with a set amount of Quran to read each day. So our teacher asked us how long it took us to read one page of Quran and I said, “half an hour.” She looked at me incredulously and said, “half an hour, thirty minutes, why?”

I can read what I’ve memorized very quickly. I can probably read all of Juz Amma in less than 30 minutes. But for sections of Quran that I’m unfamiliar with, I read the Arabic, verse by verse, trying to implement the rules of tajwid to the best of my ability. After each verse, I turn to my Dr. Muhammad Mohar Ali word-for-word translation so that I can learn the meaning and improve my vocab and then I might re-read the verse or spend some time reflecting on it. So after one blessed hour, I might have only made it through two pages, somewhat exhausted by the effort.

When we struggle to read the book of Allah or perfect our tajwid or get up for our after-fajr tajwid classes at Ilm Summit or be patient with our Quran teachers, let’s remember the great reward promised to us for that struggle.

If you feel shy or embarrassed by your reading or memorization skills, use that emotion to your advantage along with the hadith mentioned above to motivate yourself to learn, ask for help, and read more even if it’s only one verse a day. It will get easier.

Tips: 

Make dua that Allah will open a way for you to understand his words.

Be consistent. Read each day, even if it’s only one line or one verse.

Be humble and open to learning and correction. We don’t like to admit to our own ignorance or weakness. In order to grow and reach new heights, we have to admit we’re at a state below where we want to be.

Know what you’re reciting, reading with understanding will humble you as you apply the verses to your own life.

Get a teacher and recite to them, anyone who knows a bit more Quran or tajwid can help you.