Children’s Column

Your Ramadan: Accepted or Rejected?
By Mohannad Hakim

 

Every Muslim claims to receive certain messages from God, guiding him to a certain deed, suggesting to him to do, or not to do, an action, or giving him moral support and strength in moments of weakness.

This message does not have to be a dream or some kind of a mystical interaction, and those who wait for such messages are either watching too many movies or assuming that they will be the next prophet. (Are we expecting another prophet? I don’t think so; I thought we were living in a time where the next guy with supernatural powers would be the Dajjal, right?)

Whether we say it or not, we tend to interpret any unusual happenings as either a punishment or a reward from Allah (swt). “I had a bad day because I did so and so…,” “Maybe I shouldn’t come here again! Look what happened to my car!” Many times we misinterpret those messages; maybe there is no message at all, and what happened to you is mere coincidence. Sometimes we assume that a day is good or bad based on worldly superficial standards.

A lady called me the other day telling me about the experience of her friend, who was doing some community service work in a rough neighborhood in Detroit (in Chicago, USA). On her way back home, feeling good about helping those people, she was surprised by this crazy woman who got offended somehow and started chasing her, wanting to hit her car.

Panicking, the sister drove out of that neighborhood and had to cross a red light in order to get rid of her. Of course, the first question the lady asked me was: “Was that a sign that I shouldn’t go there anymore? Did I do something wrong and is God punishing me for it?”

Before I answer her question, please allow me to share with you the message that I received one morning, and what I believe to be the interpretation or the ‘decoding’ of it. That morning was the third day of `Eid al-Fitr. After a long day of Eid activities, we decided to watch a movie at home, which was our way out of the routine of Ramadan and preparation for another tedious Monday morning. The movie took too long, and we ended up going to bed at 3:00 AM, accompanied with a big feeling of guilt that we are about to miss Fajr prayer (the morning prayer before sunrise).

Knowing myself and my relationship with Allah (swt) before Ramadan, I would definitely miss the prayer. I have this open appetite for sleeping all the time, and I tend to believe Satan when he says (as recorded in an authentic hadith): “You have a long night ahead of you, so just enjoy your sleep.” [This hadith is mentioned in the context of those who sleep and miss the Qiyam al-Layl prayer (optional prayer in the night), so you can imagine Satan using the same trick over and over for people missing Fajr].

But this time, it was totally different. I woke up at exactly 6:15 AM. Startled and worried, like someone who is about to miss a job interview, I made my Wudu’ (ablutions) and rushed to the Masjid (which is literally two minutes away from my home). My Masjid has a long history of making the call to prayer before its appointed time, and for someone like myself who always comes late, this is really annoying. To my great surprise, I was there standing in the lines and catching Takbeerat al-Ihram with the Imam – the same Takbeerat that the Sahaba used to mourn and grieve over for days if they happened to come late to Salat and miss hearing the beloved voice of Prophet Mohammad (saws) saying, “Straighten your lines […] Allahu Akbar (God is Greater).”

With a mind full of thoughts and a heart full of thanks, I realized an important fact: I shouldn’t be there. I didn’t deserve to be in that prayer with those blessed people who slept early and prepared themselves mentally and physically for Salat al-Fajr. If it had been before Ramadan, I would definitely have been hitting the snooze button more than ten times, deluded by ‘the Masjid is only two minutes away,’ only to wake up and make up my prayer after sunrise.

What was the difference? It was Him. It was His mercy that He bestows on His servants in order to pave their way towards Him, despite their sins. The message, as I read it, was: maybe Ramadan this year was different. Maybe it was the long-awaited one, the “acceptance letter” to the graduate program of “لعلكم تتقون” [“…so that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the God-conscious).” Maybe it is an offer to join the “True God Worshippers” club and leave the “Ramadan worshippers” gang.

Some might say it is your “biological clock,” or the hormones, or the habit of waking up. If it was a habit, then it was coming from Him. If it was hormones, let it be; in the end, it is Him and His miraculous ways. It is that gentle tap coming from Him to the hearts that HE chooses to wake up at that special moment and in that private meeting. They might forget to set the alarm, or they might be very tired, but when He sends the signal, they wake up, and they rush to respond to His call.

I don’t claim that I am one of these special Fajr prayer people, that my deeds were accepted this Ramadan, that I was freed from hell-fire and that I became a Muttaqqi (a God-conscious person) – but the message that I received that morning was a much needed glimpse of light. The only definite answer that we will get is when we—insha’ Allah (God willing)—take our books in our right hands, and at that moment, we will be told:

“Eat and drink at ease for that which you have sent on before you in days past!” (Qur’an, 69:24)

Some scholars mentioned that those “days past” refer to the days of fasting, as Allah (swt) will tell the believers to enjoy eating and drinking in Paradise, in reward of their good deeds in general, and their fasting in particular.

Please, look for those gentle messages in your life. Maybe you are not even checking your inbox. Maybe you treat messages from your Creator as you treat spam coming from those who want you to buy their products. We always expect the wake-up call to be a harsh one—the death of a beloved one or a disaster in the family—but that’s not true at all.

That harsh message was not your first one, but rather it was the first one YOU paid attention to. Allah (swt) has decreed for Himself Mercy (Qur’an 6:12), Allah (swt) wishes to turn to you (Qur’an 4: 27), and He (swt) wants to lighten your difficulties because man was created weak (Qur’an 4: 28).

For that lady who thought God was ‘punishing’ her because of the trouble she faced in Downtown Detroit, I tried to answer her from the Qur’an, where Allah (swt) says:

“As for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, ‘My Lord has honored me.’ But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says: ‘My Lord has humiliated me.’ Nay! But you do not honor the orphan and you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.” (Qur’an, 89:15-18)

Everything that happens to us is a test from Allah (swt), and the people who are tried the most are the Prophets, then the like, then the like, meaning that after the Prophets, those with the most faith are put through great trial, then believers with a degree less of faith, then less, etc.

The more faithful one is, the more he or she will be tried. Interpreting hardship as a punishment might make us assume that the life of Prophet Ibrahim (asws), for example, was the easiest and smoothest life ever. We all know it is not the case, and we all know how much Allah (swt) loves his beloved Prophet.

“[…] And Allah did take Ibrahim as an intimate friend.”(Qur’an, 4:125)

What you should look at, after doing a good deed, is not the level of hardship you encounter, but how much this deed brought your heart closer to Allah (swt).

Do you feel more humbled? Are you motivated to do more community service? Do you feel the urge to pray more Qiyam al-Layl even if Ramadan is over?

If you have noticed these little signs in your heart and your actions—by the way, feeling alone is not enough, they have to be reflected by noticeable actions, no matter how small the actions—then hopefully you are on the right track.

We ask Allah (swt) to accept our deeds, give us sincerity, and guide us to find and stay on the straight path.

Notable Quotes

  • ‘The candle is not there to illuminate itself.’ ~ Nawab Jan-Fishan Khan
  • ‘A page digested is better than a volume hurriedly read.’ ~ B. Macaulay
  • ‘To open a shop is easy; to keep it open is an art.’ ~ Confucius
  • ‘A man is to go about his business as if he had not a friend in the world to help him at it.’ ~ Lord Halifax
  • ‘Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do.’ ~ Lin Yutang
  • ‘When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost!’ ~ Anonymous
  • ‘City Life: Millions of people being lonesome together.’ ~ Henry David Thoreau
  • ‘God made the countryside, man the town.’ ~ Cowper: The Task

Who First Used Keys

The first known form of lock and key was used by the Assyrians in the Middle East about 4000 years ago. This was revealed by the discovery of such a lock in the ruins of the palace of the Assyrian kings at Khorsabad, near the site of the city of Nineveh in modern Iraq.

The lock was made of wood with the bolt held in a closed position by several loose wooden pins. The lock could be operated by inserting a long wooden key also fitted with pins, which would raise the loose pins enough to allow the bolt to be withdrawn. This type of lock was apparently known to the Egyptians. It has also been found in Japan, the Farroe Islands and Norway. The long keys were carried on the shoulder.

Another ancient type of lock known to the Chinese and the ancient Egyptians was the tumbler lock, improved versions of which are still in use today. The lock has small movable levers or tumblers and is opened with a key whose indentations will raise each tumbler exactly to the proper height.

Metal locks and keys were invented by the Romans. They designed a lock with a number of ridges or ‘wards’ on the inside. These prevent the turning of the key unless the grooves on it coincide with the wards.

The Water Melon Hunter

Once upon a time, there was a man who strayed from his own country, into the world known as the Land of the Fools.

He soon saw a number of people flying in terror from a field where they had been trying to reap wheat. ‘There is a monster in that field,’ they told him. He looked and saw that it was a watermelon.

He offered to kill the ‘monster’ for them. When he had cut the melon from its stalk, he took a slice and began to eat it. The people became even more terrified of him than they had been of the melon. They drove him away with pitchforks, crying: ‘He will kill us next unless, we get rid of him.’

It so happened that, at another time, another man also strayed into the land of the fools and the same thing started to happen to him. But instead of offering to help them with the ‘monster’, he agreed with them that it must be dangerous, and by tiptoeing away from it with them he gained their confidence.

He spent a long time with them in their houses until he could teach them, little by little, the basic facts, which would enable them not only to lose their fear of melons, but even to cultivate them themselves.

Did You Know That…?

  • Frederick William, King of Prussia, gave the 30,000 soldiers in his army a treat in 1730. He ordered a 24-foot square cake, which needed eight horses to deliver it. The recipe included a ton of butter, 5000 eggs and 200 gallons of milk.
  • The first person to invent sign language for the deaf and dumb was a French monk who opened a special school to teach ‘hand language’ in the 18th century.
  • Blood normally accounts for one-thirteenth of a person’s total body weight.
  • In the 1920s they were so popular that trains in America were supplied with puzzles and dictionaries in each compartment.
  • When the Japanese General Nagoaka shaved of his nineteen-inch moustache in 1933, it was given a special funeral service.
  • When the puss moth caterpillar is disturbed, it lifts up its red face, and two long red ‘whips’ flick out of its tail. It also produces a smelly fluid, which it can even spray at its attacker.
  • Kangaroos hop across the grassy plains of Australia at high speed. They cruise at 40 kph and reach 60kph for short bursts, using their long tail to help them balance. One red kangaroo made a record-breaking long-jump of almost thirteen metres!

An Interesting Muslim Place

Aceh: This is a province of Indonesia in northern Sumatra. Some historians believe that Islam first came to Indonesia through Aceh in the ninth century and that Aceh was the site of the first Muslim Sultanate in the islands. It became a regional power in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but was conquered by the Dutch at the beginning of the twentieth century after a lengthy war.

After Indonesia declared its independence in 1945, the Acehnese frequently challenged the republics legitimacy and continue to demand independence. Approximately 98% of Acehnese are Muslims and are known for their strong devotion to Islam.