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The Beginning of Idolatry

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The Messenger Muhammad informed us that there were ten generations between the Prophets Adam and Noah. It seems likely that people during those times had extraordinarily long life spans, as the Prophet Noah spent 950 years as a Prophet. During these ten generations from the time of Prophet Adam, people used to worship God alone. However, with the passage of time, people began to become distanced from God.

Shortly before the time of Prophet Noah, there lived five righteous men who were known for their piety and goodness. They would remind others of God. Once they passed away and died, Satan inspired them to make idols in the images of the five righteous men. Initially this was done so that people would be reminded of piety when the saw these idols. This is often how Satan comes; in the guise of innocence of even apparent goodness.

However, after more time passed, people forgot the original reason for which the idols were first built. Satan then inspired people to worship them as gods besides the one true God. God mentions this in the Quran and relays to us the names of the five men who were turned into gods, “And they said, ‘Never leave you gods and never leave Wadd or Suwa or Yaguth or Ya’uq or Nasr.’” [71:23]

This is why in Islam we have no images of God, the angels, prophets or saints. They can all too easily be used as a means of worshiping other than God.

Prophet Noah’s Son

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One of the aspects mentioned in the Quran about the story of Noah is about his son. Noah’s son did not believe in God despite Noah’s best efforts. Ultimately we cannot control people’s hearts and it is only our duty to teach and preach towards God’s way. Once upon the Ark, God relays to us the conversation between Noah and his son, “…and Noah called out to his son who stayed behind, ‘Come aboard with us, my son, do not stay with the disbelievers.’ But he replied ‘I will seek refuge on a mountain to save me from the water.’ Noah said, ‘Today there is no refuge from God’s command except for those on whom He has mercy.’ The waves cut them off from each other and he was among the drowned.’” [11:42-43]

Noah called out to God for His help and to save his son, “Noah called out to his Lord, saying, ‘My Lord, my son was one of my family, though Your promise is true, and You are the most just of all judges.’” [11:45] God replied, “Noah, he was not one of your family. What he did was not right. Do not ask Me for things you know nothing about. I am warning you not to be foolish.” [11:46]

Noah immediately realised his error and that God is All-Wise in His decisions. Noah said, “My Lord, I take refuge with You from asking things I know nothing about. If You do not forgive me, and have mercy on me, I shall be of one of the losers.” [11:47] Even the Prophets of God must submit to Him. God places more importance on the bonds and ties of faith than blood, wealth or social status.

Misconceptions about Adam and Eve

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The story of Adam and Eve is also mentioned in Christian and Jewish traditions. However, there are some differences and certain misconceptions which Islam does not support:

 

1. Satan was a serpent – Satan came to Adam and Eve in Paradise and tempted them to eat from the tree. However, we don’t believe he came in the form of a snake or serpent.

 

2. Eve tempted Adam – Islam does not indicate that Eve was weaker than Adam or that she tempted him to disobey God. They were both responsible, were both rebuked by God and both repented to Him.

 

3. Childbirth pains are due to Eve’s sin – Islam does not hold that pains experienced by women during childbirth as a result of Eve tempting Adam to disobey God.

 

4. Original sin – Islam does not believe that due to this original sin committed by Adam and Eve, all their descendants are being punished. In Islam, no one bears the sins of another. God is fair and just, and He does not hold to account people who came millennia later for the actions and decisions of their ancestors.

 

5. God forgave Adam and Eve – The Quran is very explicit in that God forgave both Adam and Eve. Therefore, there would be no reason to hold them or their descendants responsible for eating from the forbidden tree.

The Rites of Pilgrimage from the Life of Prophet Abraham and His Family

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The Rites of Pilgrimage from the Life of Prophet Abraham and His Family

 

Each and every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca to perform the annual major pilgrimage. Much of what they do is taken from the story of Prophet Abraham and his family. Let us explore some of these major points.

  1. Circumambulation of the Kabah

Pilgrims circumambulate the Kabah seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. It was the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael who built the Kabah.

  1. Offering Ritual Devotions behind the Station of Abraham

The station of Abraham refers to the stone upon which Abraham stood in order to build the Kabah. God commands us to take it as a place of prayer. For this reason, after the circumambulation of the Kabah, pilgrims offer two units of ritual devotion as close as they can to this station.

  1. Running between the Hills of Safa and Marwah

When Ishmael and his mother were left in Mecca there was no water in that land. As Ishmael began to cry from thirst, his mother, Hajar began to search for water. In order to see the area better, she ran between the two hills of Safa and Marwah to look for water. Today pilgrims do the same.

  1. The Water of Zamzam

As Ishmael’s mother was searching for water, a well began to sprout by the feet of baby Ishmael. This water became a well with plentiful and blessed water. This water is known as Zamzam.

  1. Stoning the Pillars

As part of the rites of pilgrimage, pilgrims throw pebbles at a pillar in a place close to Mecca called Mina. This signifies the times Satan came to Abraham to try to dissuade him from sacrificing his son Ishmael. Abraham threw stones at Satan to ward him off.

  1. The Sacrifice

Pilgrims offer a sacrifice of a sheep during the pilgrimage just as God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. It is also recommended for Muslims not performing pilgrimage to offer a sacrifice at the time of the second annual festival of Eid.

Lessons from the Life of Prophet Abraham

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Lessons from the Life of Prophet Abraham

The story of Abraham is one which is repeated many times in the Quran. There are many lessons we can learn from this story. In this post, we will highlight some of the main lessons.

1. Dedication to God

The story of Abraham is a story of dedication and submission to God. Each time God issued a commandment to Abraham, he immediately and willingly submitted himself. God says about Abraham, “His Lord said to him, ‘Devote yourself to Me.’ Abraham replied, ‘I devote myself to the Lord of the Universe.’” 2:131 No matter how difficult the command seemed from abandoning his family in the desert to sacrificing his son with his own hand, Abraham trusted in God and his love for God over all else was enough faith. In return, God honoured Abraham for his devoutness.

As Muslims, we must learn to devote ourselves to God. This means to love God above all else including ourselves, and by extension to carry out God’s commands even if they clash with our own preferences and desires.

2. Challenging the Status Quo

Abraham’s love, faith and dedication to God meant that he did not just accept things without thinking. He wasn’t willing to follow his forefathers in idol worship simply because they were his relatives or ancestors. He challenged his people to think about God and the attributes of God. When the answers his people gave him were unsatisfactory, Abraham was willing to search for the truth, even if that risked displeasing them.

Abraham teaches us the importance of learning and knowledge. We found Islam by searching for the truth and God helped us. Now we must continue to learn more so that we can please God in our worship of Him.

3. Following the Truth All Alone

Abraham was opposed by his whole people, including his father. He was alone, but his lack of support did not faze him as he had the help of God. When his people threatened to burn him alive, Abraham remained steadfast. Once again, he trusted in God. His people carried out their threat but God made the fire cool for him.

Sometimes we feel alone, our family and friends may not agree with our devotion to God. Yet in reality we are not alone, we have God with us. Abraham would continuously turn to God for help.

4. Serving God as Much as Possible

Some Prophets had vast nations and others were kings. Abraham was neither. Much of his life is about his personal struggles and his personal dedication to God. Abraham served God as best he could. Sometimes that meant migrating from his home in search of a place where he could worship God better. At other times, it meant leaving his family behind or building a place of worship for God. In all of this and more, Abraham never wavered.

We must also strive to worship God as best we can. This is what God wants from us. God tells us in the Quran that he does not hold us accountable for what is beyond our capabilities.

5. A Family of Faith

Abraham started off alone. However, by the end of his life. God rewarded his sincerity by making his two sons prophets, and then his grandson and great grandson. All subsequent prophets were from Abraham’s descendants. Abraham dedicated his family to serving God and dedicating their lives to Him.

Sincerity Applied

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Sometimes we may doubt our own sincerity or the validity of our good deeds. This is often due to misunderstanding sincerity. In this blog post we will look at a few principles regarding this issue.

  1. Sincerity comes from the heart

No one can tell us that we are being sincere or insincere. Sincerity is a private action emanating from the heart. Only we can begin to gauge our own sincerity. For most ritual acts of worship, we do not have to utter our sincerity or verbalise it. It is sufficient to have sincerity in the heart. Whenever we intend to worship God, we must look into our hearts and ensure we are only doing the action to please God.

  1. We ask God for acceptance

Once we have performed the act of worship as sincerely as possible, we should not fret over it. Instead, we ask God for acceptance. God informs us in the Quran that when the Prophets Abraham and Ishmael were building the Kabah, they asked God to accept their efforts. Once we’ve done our best, our worship is out of our hands. We trust in God’s mercy and compassion. Even if there were unintentional deficiencies in our worship, God will overlook them.

  1. Sincerity does not mean perfection

Some people think that sincerity means they have to be perfect. For example, a person is making their ritual ablution, but they keep thinking that they did not do it properly or did not have the required sincerity, and therefore repeat it multiple times. We must avoid thinking like this. Islam commands us to have sincerity and carry out our worship to the best of our human ability.

  1. Ask for God’s help

We should supplicate to God for His assistance. We should ask Him to grant us sincerity and seek God’s protection from Satan and his devices. Sometimes Satan attempts to turn us away from worship by placing obstacles before us or giving us negative thoughts. We have to try our best to dismiss such thoughts and seek God’s help in doing so.

  1. Seek professional help

If you constantly racked with negative thoughts and require someone to speak to, do not be afraid to seek professional help or speak to a therapist. If you have access to an imam who has therapy training, they may also be able to help you. Therapists and imams who have expertise in this area may be able to provide you with certain techniques to help with these issues.

6 Reasons Why the New Muslim Should Eat the Pre-Dawn Meal

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No, you don’t have to get up early to eat before fasting.

But you should.

Messenger Muhammad told us that there is blessing in it, and if someone wants to fast, they should eat that pre-dawn meal.

Here are some main benefits to eating the pre-dawn meal.

 

Boost

Eating that early meal will give you some more energy. Not eating it will make it much harder for you to find the energy you need all day.

Even if all you can take is water, that will help you and give you energy to read Quran, do your daily tasks, and offer devotions.

 

Mood

Eating the pre-dawn meal will help you have a better attitude towards others. We all know the word ‘hangry’. Relying on your previous night’s dinner will make you hangry, quicker.

Eating the pre-dawn meal will help with your mood, and make it easier for you to control your temper.

 

Ease

 

The fasting people who do wake up and eat the pre-dawn meal find fasting easier. You will see it, too.

Eating in the early morning and drinking water right before fasting helps fasting become easier. If it’s easier, then it’s more motivational to fast each day.

 

Prophetic

 

The most important reason to eat the pre-dawn meal is that Messenger Muhammad used to do so. And he recommended it himself.

Our practice of Islam depends on imitating the Messenger. We will get rewards for eating that pre-dawn meal, especially if we do it out of imitation of Messenger Muhammad.

 

Supplication

The golden time to supplicate to God is that last third of the night before the dawn devotion time.

If you sleep in until devotion time, you will miss that beautiful time in the morning that Messenger Muhammad told us that God answers supplications.

 

Punctuality

 

If you’re already up to eat the pre-dawn meal, then you’re wide awake for the dawn devotion time.

You don’t have to worry about not waking up on time, and eating the pre-dawn meal can give your sleepy mind more of an argument on why to wake up in the first place.

 

May God bless us all with the time-management and motivation to include eating the blessed pre-dawn meal to our mornings in Ramadan.

6 Ramadan Pitfalls every New Muslim Should Avoid

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Without a family and community around us, sometimes new Muslims will fall into mistakes during Ramadan.

These mistakes are not uncommon among those born Muslim, either.

They might seem natural to do, but they are harmful and will not help us fast. They will make it hard for us to enjoy Ramadan and get the most out of it.

Let’s take a look at what we can avoid, and why, in order to have a successful and not a regretful Ramadan:

Skipping Eating

So easy to just reach over and turn off the alarm…

Just a few more moments of sleep is all we need…or is it?

Does it really make a difference to our whole sleep time to add that few moments before the Pre-dawn (Fajr) devotion time?

Not really.

Missing out on the early meal (suhoor) is not worth it. You don’t know how that small meal can help you!

The Messenger of God said, “Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing.”

So get up out of bed and prepare something simple. Even if the only reason you’re doing it is because of the advice of the Messenger, there is blessing in it for you.

Stuffing yourself

When it’s finally time to eat in the evening, it’s really tempting to just dive in.

Our minds are in survival mode, as if there is a food shortage. We have an urge to eat like there’s no tomorrow, because we haven’t eaten all day.

Without checking ourselves, we will fill our bellies.

Not only is stuffing yourself harmful to your body, your digestive system, and the success of your next fasting day, it has an affect on your soul, too.

The self-restraint that we show when we avoid food, drink, and sexual relations has a direct effect on our priorities.

If we can hold ourselves back for a full month, then we can develop self-restraint. Even after Ramadan is over, this will keep us from sins and vices.

It will keep us from filling our stomachs the rest of the year, God willing, as is mentioned in this report from the Messenger:

Remember the report of the Messenger on eating habits: “The son of Adam cannot fill a vessel worse than his stomach, as it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. If he cannot do it, then he may fill it with a third of his food, a third of his drink, and a third of his breath.”

 

Playing Dead

So you’re not eating or drinking all day.

One way to make it through the day is to try to sleep as much as possible.

Sure, sleep helps use up some of the long hours in the day. But you know what works even better?

Being busy.

You can lay around all Ramadan, or you can really make a change in your life and the lives of others.

You can prepare a meal for only yourself and eat it alone, or you can invite others to eat with you, or volunteer your time at a soup kitchen.

You can waste your time until you eat your evening meal, or your can use the time wisely. You can read the Quran, listen to Islamic lectures and lessons, and you can help a neighbor.

You can do any of these things during the day in Ramadan, but the choice is yours. It has to do with where you want to be at the end of the month.

If you want to have fasted Ramadan, you’ll get there.

Do you want to really change for the better and live the spirit of the month? Then you’ll choose the active, engaged activities that can make the difference between just not eating, and really living Ramadan.

 

Thinking Negatively

Some fasting people get the idea that it’s the lack of food that’s making them grumpy.

Not so.

You are in control of your emotions. If you’re a little tired, or a little grumpy, it’s time for you to ramp up your cheerfulness and energy.

It is humanly possible to get through a day without eating and drinking. It’s even possible to do it without being miserable the whole time.

Having a snack in our hands does not create a good mood, nor does it increase our motivation.

It’s just sustenance. It keeps us alive. It does not define who we are, nor how grumpy or happy we are going to be.

Part of the test of fasting in Ramadan is how we behave. It’s not enough to just get through the day, we have try to do it with grace.

 

Mouthing Off

Wait, didn’t I already mention about avoiding grumpiness?

Yes, but this part of the blog is about lying. Backbiting. It’s about not changing our ugly speaking habits while fasting.

Talking about others is something that is so natural to do. It’s something that is very common, too.

Before Ramadan, we may have been prone to lying. We may have had no problem insulting people.

That has to stop. And we should use the chance in Ramadan to stop it.

You see, we have to hold ourselves back from all kinds of desires. The desire to have people laugh, the desire for attention. The reasons people lie or backbite are varied.

If we can hold back from eating and drinking, and then in the evening hold back from stuffing ourselves, then we can hold our tongues, too.

Because the Messenger of God advised us, “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, God has no need of him giving up his food and drink.”

That means it’s just as important to hold your tongue from lying and behaving badly as it is to avoid eating and drinking in Ramadan.

 

Training Ground

Ramadan is supposed to be a time when we establish good deeds that we can keep doing all year.

It’s a motivation to change what we do, get rid of bad habits and establish good ones.

We should never think that Ramadan is the time for good deeds and we stop once Eid comes.

All these things listed, and more than that, are preventing us from success on many levels of life.

May God bless us with the guidance and motivation to make these changes for good during, and after Ramadan.

Fasting is Mine : Rewards associated with fasting by God

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Unimaginable. When no clear descriptions are offered, that means it could be anything.

Limitless. When no limit is given to something, that means that we can’t imagine it ending.

Undefined. A hidden reward…something that we will only discover later…

This is the reward for fasting.

God says, “Fasting is Mine and it is I who give reward for it. [A man] gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for My sake. Fasting is like a shield, and he who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The change in the breath of the mouth of him who fasts is better in God’s estimation than the smell of musk.”

Let’s take a look at each of these beautiful reminders about fasting:

 

In the open and in secret

 

The first thing God mentions about fasting in this report is that when people fast, they are doing it for His sake.

People who fast for the sake of God, and those that don’t can look just the same. One is fasting for the sake of God, and another one is fasting so that people will think he’s religious.

They are both giving up their passion, food and drink all day long.

The difference is the sincerity. How aware the fasting person is of God! He or she will not even take a sip of water, because of the sure knowledge God is watching!

What prevents you from eating, when no one’s around? You know you can’t hide from God, or trick Him. You actually have to do it.

So fasting people avoid food and drink when they are by themselves, or when they are in public where people can see them.

Because they know that God can see them. And that makes all the difference.

 

A challenge and a shield

 

The great, mysterious reward that God has decided not to describe for us looms just ahead of us as we make our way through each day of fasting.

There’s a bit of a personal victory at the end of each day, too, isn’t there? You hoped you could do it, then as the day went on you doubted yourself, but then, at the end of the day, you did it.

We challenge ourselves every day, and the more days we finish, the more confident we feel about the next day, and the rest of the month.

We can also begin feeling confident about the next life, too.

God calls fasting a shield. What it is shielding us from?

It is a shield from the hellfire.

We may think we are adding to a list of days during the month, but we are also adding layers to that shield as we fast.

 

Joy in this life and the next

Everybody’s happy when they break their fast. A little food in the stomach can do wonders for a fasting person’s mood!

When the time is coming soon, we get excited, and the food we break our fast with tastes delicious, even if it’s just dates and water.

That’s one type of joy.

The other type of joy is reserved for the next life.

On the Day of Resurrection, God will settle accounts with everyone. A man who used to fast might have nothing left in his account of good deeds.

Except fasting.

God will then allow the man into Paradise because of it.

He’ll even have a special door, which the Messenger called ‘Ar-Rayyan’ which is a VIP door for fasting persons only.

Imagine the joy.

 

What we smell and the scent of musk

 

We’ve noticed ourselves in the middle of the fasting day. The breath. It changes.

We avoid offending people in many different ways, like brushing our teeth or avoiding facing people.

It’s inescapable and to be expected…but God loves the smell.

He loves it so much, He mentions in this report that it is better to Him than the smell of musk. Perfume. Cologne.

That goes against our senses, doesn’t it? But we are not like God. And there’s nothing like Him.

It is to show that God loves fasting so much, and He honors someone who fasts in a great way.

 

May God bless us to be able to fast during this Ramadan, and help us to make it a regular habit throughout the year.

These 6 Things Happen to You When You Fast

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Follow the prescription. That’s how to do it.

God has prescribed fasting for us, and for those before us. For our own good.
So what’s good about fasting, aside from the great feeling you get when you made it to the end of the day?

Plenty. There are all kinds of good changes that are happening inside your body that you might not be aware of.

Here we list those hidden, behind-the-scenes benefits that take place when you fast.

You’ve got guts

Did you know that your digestive system works on what you eat up to 40 hours after you’ve had a meal?

That being said, it only takes between 6-8 hours for your food to pass through your stomach. So when you do not eat for a while, your digestive system takes a break.

The digestive system can end up taking energy that the body needs to heal and maintain the rest of the body.

So giving it a rest means more energy for the other good things your body needs to do to keep you healthy.

Mind

How are you feeling? When you fast, the hormones that make you feel excited and happy are at higher levels in your bloodstream. So fasting improves your mood!

Your mind becomes sharper because digesting your food is not robbing your body from energy. The physical act of eating and drinking also distracts the mind.

Studies have shown that your ability to think clearly is a side effect of fasting. Your memory even improves.

While fasting, we experience just a taste of what it must be like for someone who is often hungry, and not by choice. This thought makes us more sympathetic towards the poorest of the world.

Fasting is the only way we can really understand hunger.

Heart

When I first started fasting, I was worried because I tended to have low blood sugar. I was worried that I might faint while fasting.
I was advised to at least give it a try. So I did.

What amazed me is that I did not faint, and was not weak. And at the end of the month, I realized that I had no more problems with my blood sugar!

Scientists have noted that fasting helps stabilize blood sugar. Not only that, but fasting helps your heart stay healthy by attacking cholesterol.

Because your body uses up the energy taken from your food, it then goes after the fat stores in your body.

Cholesterol passes into your bloodstream and instead of clinging to your arteries and veins, it is eliminated by your body.

 

Fat

 

When the food that your body uses for fuel is used up, then the body starts using your fat stores as fuel. This happens after the 12-hour mark.

It might seem like a no-brainer that you would lose weight fasting. But it’s a good kind of weight loss that is not harsh.

It’s possible to lose a half a pound of body fat for each day that you are able to fast! The weight loss is steady and slow, but this is one of the more noticeable benefits of fasting.

 

Your Skin

If you struggle with acne or skin problems, then you may have already noticed that your skin is clearer!

This comes from the obvious: whatever you were eating that was giving you blemishes has been avoided, so your skin has a nice, healthy glow.

Processes in your body that react to fasting allow the body to regenerate cells, and discard old cells.

The skin being the largest organ in the body, it shows signs when your body is in poor health. So during Ramadan, your skin improves because the rest of your body is in such good health.

 

May God allow us to experience the blessings of fasting Ramadan in our bodies and our health.