Friday, 28 January 2011
Thursday, 27 January 2011
Once a year, Muslims of every ethnic group, colour, social status, and culture gather together in Mecca and stand before the Kaaba praising Allah together.
It is a ritual that is designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah.
The Hajj makes Muslims feel real importance of life here on earth, and the afterlife, by stripping away all markers of social status, wealth, and pride. In the Hajj all are truly equal.
The Hajjis or pilgrims wear simple white clothes called Ihram. During the Hajj the Pilgrims perform acts of worship and they renew their sense of purpose in the world.
Mecca is a place that is holy to all Muslims. It is so holy that no non-Muslim is allowed to enter.
For Muslims, the Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It occurs in the month of Dhul Hijjah which is the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is the journey that every sane adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able.
History of the Hajj
Four thousand years ago the valley of Mecca was a dry and uninhabited place.
Muslims believe the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was instructed to bring his wife, Hajira (Hagar) and their child Is'mail to Arabia from Palestine to protect them from the jealousy of Ibrahim's first wife Sarah.
Allah told the Prophet Ibrahim to leave them on their own, and he did so, with some supplies of food and water. However the supplies quickly ran out and within a few days Hajira and Is'mail were suffering from hunger and dehydration.
In her desperation Hajira ran up and down two hills called Safa and Marwa trying to see if she could spot any help in the distance. Finally she collapsed beside Is'mail and prayed to Allah for deliverance.
Is'mail struck his foot on the ground and this caused a spring of water to gush forth from the earth. Hajira and Is'mail were saved. Now they had a secure water supply they were able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.
After a while the Prophet Ibrahim returned from Palestine to check on his family and was amazed to see them running a profitable well.
The Prophet Ibrahim was told by Allah to build a shrine dedicated to him. Ibrahim and Is'mail constructed a small stone structure - the Kaaba or Cube - which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in Allah.
As the years passed Is'mail was blessed with Prophethood and he gave the nomads of the desert the message of surrender to Allah.
After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving city thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zam Zam.
Gradually, the people began to adopt polytheistic ideas, and worship spirits and many different gods. The shrine of the Prophet Ibrahim was used to store idols.
After many years, Allah told the Prophet Muhammad that he should restore the Kaaba to the worship of Allah only.
In the year 628 the Prophet Muhammad set out on a journey with 1400 of his followers. This was the first pilgrimage in Islam, and would re-establish the religious traditions of the Prophet Ibrahim.
Guide to going to Mecca
It's best to travel light, so only take essentials.
Many pilgrims fly to Jeddah, and then travel to Mecca by bus.
Once you get to Mecca, there are two rituals which you can perform; the lesser pilgrimage or Umra, and the main pilgrimage or Hajj.
The Umra is an extra, optional pilgrimage and does not count as the once-in-a-lifetime Hajj. Although it includes some of the rituals of the Hajj, they are shortened and there are fewer of them.
Most pilgrims who come for the Hajj arrive a few days before it actually starts and perform Umra first. Combining the Hajj with the Umrah is called a Hajji-Tamattu.
To carry out the pilgrimage rituals you need to be in a state of Ihram, which is a special state of ritual purity.
You do this by making a statement of intention, wearing special white clothes (which are also called ihram) and obeying the regulations below.
The person on the Hajj may not:
* Engage in marital relations
* Shave or cut their nails
* Use cologne or scented oils
* Kill or hunt anything
* Fight or argue.
* Women must not cover their faces, even if they would do so in their home country.
* Men may not wear clothes with stitching.
* Bathing is allowed but scented soaps are frowned upon.
The Hajj is a real pilgrimage - a journey, with rites and rituals to be done along the way.
You begin at a place just outside Mecca called the Miqat, or entry station to the Hajj.
There you bathe, put on the Ihram (the special white clothes), make the intention for Umra and begin reciting the Talbiya Du'a (prayer).
"Here I am at Your service, O Allah, here I am at your service! You have no partner. Here I am at your service. All praise and blessings belong to you. All dominion is yours and You have no partner."
Then you go to the Masjid al Haram and walk around the Ka'ba seven times repeating du'as and prayers. This is called the Tawaf. Afterwards you should sip some Zam Zam water.
Zam Zam water is water from the Zam Zam well, the sacred well which opened in the desert to save Hajira and Is'mail from dying of thirst.
Next you go to the walkway between the hills of Safa and Marwa and walk back and forth between them seven times.
This completes the Umra portion of the Hajj rituals and some of the Ihram restrictions are relaxed.
Now make your intention for the Hajj and put on the Ihram garments again.
Travel to Mina on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah (a date in the Islamic calendar) and remain there until Fajr (dawn) next morning.
Then you travel to the valley of Arafat and stand in the open praising Allah. The heat of Arabia at midday provides a hint as to what the Day of Judgement will be like.
At the end of the day, travel to Muzdalifa for the night. Gather together 49 or 70 small stones together to use the next day.
In the morning you return to Mina and throw the stones at pillars called Jamraat. These represent the devil. Then a sacrifice called a Qurbani should be made in which a lamb or sheep is slaughtered and the meat distributed among the poor. After this, men's heads are shaved and women cut a lock of their hair.
Then return to Mecca and make a Tawaf (this is the ritual of walking around the Ka'aba seven times). Then it's back to Mina for 3 or 4 days, stoning the pillars each day.
Finally do a farewell Tawaf in Masjid-al Haram on the twelfth day of the month of Dhul Hijjah, ask Allah's forgiveness, make du'a and the Hajj is finished.
Many people then go to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, but this is optional.
A man who has completed the Hajj is called a Hajji, a woman who has completed it is called a Hajjah.
At the end of the Hajj, Muslims from all over the world celebrate the holiday known as the Eid ul Adha or Festival of the sacrifice.
This festival commemorates the obedience of the Prophet Ibrahim when he was ordered to sacrifice his son Is'mail.
Ibrahim proved his love and devotion to Allah by showing his willingness to kill his beloved son if Allah wished it. In the end Ibrahim did not have to kill his son as Allah gave him a ram to sacrifice instead.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Monday, 24 January 2011
In the Arabic language, the Creator of everything is called Allah, and in English He is called God. There are many languages in the world, each language calls the Creator by a different name. We better use the word Allah because it gives the best meaning.
Allah the Almighty has created and made all of us. He is the One we pray to, and He is the One to whom all belong. Allah made everything on earth and in the universe, He started its existence. He wants us to be good and pure people, and that is why, He the Almighty, wants us to be good Muslims.
IN THE BEGINNING
1. A long, long time ago, there used to be no earth and no people. There used to be no sun nor moon. Not even one twinkling star. Nothing whatsoever was there. Nothing was there except Almighty Allah by Himself.
2. Then, Allah (swt) created the angels. There were many, many of them. They all worshiped and prayed to Him. But Allah wanted to do more; much more.
3. What Allah did was to create the universe, including the stars and the sun. They twinkled in the sky making it look beautiful. Some stars were big and very bright; others were small and far apart. The sun was very bright, shiny and hot. But Allah wanted to do even more.
4. What Allah did was to create the earth and the moon. At first the earth did not have people, it was so quiet, very quiet. Now the earth had days coming and going, but there were no animals and no people. Yet, Allah wanted to do more.
5. What Allah did was to create plants, which grew here and there, covering the earth. It rained and rained, and the plants grew. Still, the earth did not have animals nor people. That was a long time ago. The earth had plants, the clouds, the rain and the snow, the seas and the oceans, yet, there were no people. Yet, Allah wanted to do more, much more.
6. Allah (God) wanted to be known, appreciated, and glorified. Allah wanted to do more. Do you know what Allah did? He created animals on the earth, the animal kingdom. There were numerous animals, but still no people.
7. So Allah (God) created man.
ALLAH CREATES MAN
Yes, Allah Almighty wanted to create something special. So, He created man. He created the very first man, whose name was Adam. Allah (God) created Adam from elements of the earth. Just imagine, Allah created a man from clay, no more! He created Adam, and graciously gave him eyes to see with, ears to hear with, a tongue to taste with, and skin to feel with. He made Adam from the elements of the earth, and Adam could think and talk, and he could move and hear, and he could become tired and sleepy. See how great Allah Almighty is!
Allah (swt) created all these wonderful things over long periods. It took six very long periods and only Allah Almighty knows how long those periods were. Allah thought of everything and He made them in the best way. Allah (God) wanted people to know about Him, to pray to Him, and to glorify Him. He wanted people to be good. He gave them guidance to be good through His religion. Allah's religion is Islam and through it Allah wants us to know more about Him, and to follow His religion. Allah has given us so very much. Aren't we lucky we are Muslims, learning about Allah, our Creator? Allah has attributes, of what He is.
ALLAH HAS ALWAYS BEEN
Allah Almighty has always existed. Allah (swt) has existed long, long before He created us. He existed long before He created the earth and all living things on it. Allah existed long before He created the sun and the moon, and before He created the stars and the Angels.
You see, Allah has always existed and He will always exist. Allah has no beginning and no end.
· There has always been Allah,
· there is always Allah, and
· there will always be Allah.
ALLAH HAS NO BEGINNING
When we are born, we begin our lives from that moment. So, as you can see, we have a beginning. Everything created by Allah Almighty has a beginning.
But Allah Himself does not have a beginning. Allah has always been, long before the universe was created by Him. Allah is constant, and He has always been and will always be.
ALLAH HAS NO END
When we grow old, we eventually die, and that is the end of us on earth. Some of us will die even before we get old. This also happens to the trees and the animals. There is an end to everything. But Allah Almighty is different from us and He has no end. Allah (swt) does not die. Allah continues as He is and as He has been, without any change. That is why Allah is constant. Allah is Eternal, He is the Creator, the Powerful, the Mighty. Allah Almighty never dies. He has no end.
WHAT DOES ALLAH LOOK LIKE?
No one knows how Allah Almighty looks. Allah is very different from us. He does not look like us and we don't look like Him. He created us to need eyesto see with, and ears to hear with. But He is very different from us, and none knows how He looks. Allah exists, and we know He sent us Islam, but we don't know how He looks.
- Allah does not have a face like ours,
- Allah does not have eyes like ours,
- Allah does not have ears like ours,
- Allah does not have hands and feet like ours,
- Allah does not breathe or eat like we do.
Allah Almighty can always see us, even though He does not have eyes like ours. He can always hear us, even though He does not have ears like ours.
DOES ALLAH NEED ANYTHING?
Allah (swt) does not need anything whatsoever. He is Self-Sufficient.
- Allah does not breathe air because He does not need to.
- Allah does not eat food because He does not need to.
- Allah does not drink water because He does not need to.
- Allah does not sleep because He does not need to.
- Allah does not rest because He does not need to.
- Allah is not in need because He is the way He is.
ALLAH IS ONE
Allah (swt) has always been One, and He will always be One. Allah confirmed His Oneness in His Holy Book, the Holy Quran, on numerous occasions. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has taught us about that point in detail too. The Oneness of Allah is the most fundamental point, it is called Tawhid. Islam is a strict Monotheistic Religion. This means we believe in One God and One God only.
- Allah (God) has no father whatsoever.
- Allah has no mother whatsoever.
- Allah has no children or a child whatsoever.
- Allah has no relatives whatsoever.
ALLAH IS ONE AND ONLY ONE
As we were created, Allah (God) made us in such a way that we have to have mothers and father. If we don't have mothers or fathers, we won't be born. As we grow up, we get married and we will have children of our own. This is the way Allah (God) made us.
But, Allah Almighty is fundamentally different from us. He is so Self-Sufficient that He has no mother or father, and He has no children.
See what Allah says in His Book, the Holy Quran in Surah 112: Ayahs 1-4:
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ
"SAY HE IS ALLAH THE ONE, ALLAH NEEDED BY ALL
HE BEGETS NOT NOR IS HE BEGOTTEN
AND THERE IS NONE THE LIKE OF HIM."Allah (swt) made us to have parents, brothers, and sisters so that we enjoy our family and learn from each other, to respond to each other's needs within the family. But Allah does not have a family and He does not need one.
Allah Almighty is very great. Allah (God) is the greatest by far. He is Supreme, and He can do anything He wishes to. As can be seen, Allah Almighty has already created all of us including everything on earth. Allah is very, very powerful. He is the most powerful Being ever. Everything lies at the mercy of His gentle hands and at His own wish.
Allah (swt) had made all the mountains as high as they are. He made all the oceans as huge as they are. He made the large animals, elephants, and He made the small ones, tiny worms and little bugs. All this comes through the Power of Allah Almighty and through His ability. Allah is able to do anything He wishes, and He has created as He wished. Also Allah maintains everything in His own superb way. He is constantly maintaining the universe.
It is through Allah's Will that the universe was created in such a perfect manner. When Allah Almighty wants to bring about something:
- First: Wills it,
- Then: Creates it,
- Then: Makes and Shapes it as He wishes.
We, as Muslims, accept the Will of Allah and bow to it. We as Muslims, go by the Will of Allah.
It was through Allah's Will that He wanted to create the universe. He did not have to, but it was Allah Himself who wished to do so, and so He did.
We, as Muslims, accept the Will of Allah and bow to it. We as Muslims, go by the Will of Allah.
It was through Allah's Will that He wanted to create the universe. He did not have to, but it was Allah Himself who wished to do so, and so He did.
Allah Almighty knows everything, and His knowledge involves everything. Allah's knowledge is so vast that He created us all. That was easy for Him. Allah knows much more than all of us put together.
When Allah (swt) wishes to create something, He is able to do it because He knows how to. Allah is able to make whatever He wants because His knowledge is so very, very great.
If we compare all of what we know to what Allah Almighty knows, our knowledge will be: only like a drop of water in the oceans. Allah's knowledge is the size of the oceans put together and more if we compare it to ours which is like a drop. Just imagine!
Allah (swt) not only knows how to create so many things but He also knows all about us, everyone of us, all the time. He knows where we go, how we think, how we feel and what we do. He knows everything that goes on in the world all the time. See how supreme He is, and how limitless His knowledge is?
We cannot hide anything from Allah Almighty because He knows all about our secrets, including what we think. Allah knows what is in our minds, our thoughts, and anything we hide!
ALLAH HEARS US ALL THE TIME
Allah (swt) does not have any ears like our ears, yet He can hear all of us, at the same time, all the time. He can hear everyone, all over the world, all at the same time. Allah can hear everything happening in the world, all at the same time. See how great Allah Almighty is! Imagine He can hear everyone, at the same time, all over the world. He knows how everyone feels, and He also knows the secret thoughts in our minds and people's minds all at the same time.
Our creator can do all that, yet He has no ears like ours, because He is very different from us.
ALLAH SEES US ALL THE TIME
Not only can Allah hear us all the time, but He can see us all the time too. Allah (swt) can see all that we do, all the time. Allah can also see everything in the world at the same time.
Allah can see us wherever we go, wherever we hide. He can see whatever we do. So, we cannot be sneaky or cheat because Allah can see it. That is one reason to be sincere, do good, and be good, because Allah can see everything. We cannot hide anything from Him, and we ought to have that in mind.
Allah can see us, but we cannot see Him. He is always by us all the time, yet we cannot see Him. Allah is just too powerful for anyone to be able to see. Prophet Musa (Moses) once wanted to see Allah. When Allah showed the reflection of His glory, Prophet Musa fell down immediately, faint. It was too much for Musa to see Allah. Allah, through His mercy, made us know about Him indirectly, through His religion, and we know He is with us and around us all of the time.
ALLAH ALSO SPEAKS TO US
Allah speaks to us too, but He does not have a tongue like ours, and unlike us He does not have a mouth to speak with. He Himself is vastly different from us, so He speaks without any need for a mouth or tongue. Allah (swt) spoke to Prophet Musa on Mount Toor. He sent Angel Jubra'eel (Gabriel) to speak to the Prophets, delivering His Message. Angel Jubra'eel taught all the Prophets the guidance (directives) of Allah.
Allah is merciful, and He made us able to talk, and express our minds. He gives us everything we need. He loves us a great deal. He does not speak to us directly, but He makes us feel Him. If we want to speak to Him, He can always hear us. If we pray to Him, He will always hear us and see us, and He will respond to our prayers if He wishes to. Our communication with Him is indirect.
ALLAH'S ATTRIBUTES IN BRIEF
Allah Almighty has always existed. Without Allah nothing would have been created.
Allah is extremely good to us, He is very loving. He is Just and He is Fair. His judgment is just and fair. Allah has special attributes. These attributes are:
1. Allah exists
2. Allah has no beginning
3. Allah has no end
4. Allah is different from anything we know
5. Allah is self‑sustaining and He has no needs
6. Allah is One and only One. He is without a father, mother, son, daughter or family
7. Allah is Mighty
8. Allah does everything through His Will
9. Allah is Knowing
10. Allah is constantly living
11. Allah hears
12. Allah sees
13. Allah speaks
(The Muslim world is divided into many Schools of Thought. The above is the categorization of Shafi'i and Hanafi (Sunni) thoughts. The Shi'a categorization is essentially similar, though slightly different (see book: Way of Ahlul Bayt).
WHAT DOES ALLAH WANT FROM US?
Allah (swt) wants us to be pure and good. If we are good Muslims, we do good deeds and stop evil, and we therefore become good pious people. Allah wants us to know about Him accurately. That is why He has a religion called Islam. Through Islam, Allah taught us to purify ourselves and become good people. Through Islam, Allah wants us to remember Him at all times. Through Islam, Allah taught us to pray to Him and worship Him.
Before Allah (God) created Adam, He had created Angels and Jinns. One of the Jinns was called Iblees (Sheitan, or Satan). When Allah created Adam He ordered the angels and Iblees to bow down to him. (To be subservient to him.)
When so ordered, all the angels obeyed and bowed (prostrated). But Iblees (Sheitan) refused. Sheitan, not being an angel, decided to defy Allah, and he willfully and defiantly disobeyed the order of Allah. Iblees (Sheitan) decided to become disdainful, bad, and arrogant. Sheitan (Satan) thought he was too powerful to bow to Adam.
Allah did not like what Iblees (Sheitan) did, and for this willful defiance He wanted to punish him. But Iblees asked a favor from Allah. The favor was to give Iblees time until the Day of Judgment so he could freely do whatever he wished. Iblees (Sheitan) wanted to make mischief and do evil deeds. And to tempt Adam and his descendants to do evil things.
As a result, Sheitan has been misleading mankind for a long time. He tempts us to be sneaky and do evil things. Sheitan also wishes us to have nasty thoughts, to be mean to other people. His temptation is powerful and he makes it attractive in sneaky ways.
But Allah, on the other hand, wants us to be kind, pure-hearted and doer of good deeds. He wants us to speak the truth, not to cheat, and to be straightforward. Allah wants us to be trustworthy and to keep our word. He wants us to be kind to people, to be loving to our parents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and all other people. That is one reason why Allah taught the Prophets, and Muhammad (pbuh) in particular, all about Islam.
If we follow Islam, Allah will be pleased with us, and He will reward us accordingly. If we follow Sheitan, Allah will not like it and He will be displeased or even angry with us. Allah's punishment can be severe.
If we follow Islam sincerely, Allah will grant us contentment on earth, and He will reward us with Paradise (Heaven) after we die. We will live peacefully forever in Heaven and be very happy there.
WE LOVE ALLAH AND FOLLOW ISLAM
We should fear Allah and no one else. We should avoid the anger of Allah or His displeasure with us. We please Allah a great deal when we are good Muslims. But Allah (swt) will not be pleased with us if we follow Iblees (Sheitan) because Iblees will lead us the wrong way and Allah knows that Sheitan is our worst enemy.
Let us remember that:
1. Allah does not change;
2. Allah does not forget;
3. Allah does not neglect;
4. Allah does not make mistakes;
5. Allah is perfect,
6. Allah is All‑Powerful; and
7. Everything belongs to Allah.
ALLAH HAS NINETY-NINE NAMES: SUBLIME, DESCRIPTIVE
Allah (swt) has ninety-nine majestic names, all are Sublime and Descriptive. Each of these names describes one aspect of the Almighty. For example: Allah is Kind. He is Merciful. Forgiving. Mighty. Just. Fair.
See the end of this chapter for the Ninety-Nine Names in Arabic, the meaning and transliteration.
MORE ABOUT ALLAH'S JUSTICE
Allah's justice is perfect and absolute. He is Fair in His judgment. This means He is never unjust to anyone. The Justice of Allah is an extremely important attribute. Let us see how the Almighty describes Himself in His Book, the Holy Quran in Surah 4: Ayah 40
إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَاعِفْهَا
وَيُؤْتِ مِن لَّدُنْهُ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
"ALLAH CAUSES NOT ANY INJUSTICE, EVEN TO THE SLIGHTEST EXTENT.
IF A GOOD DEED IS DONE, ALLAH WILL DOUBLE ITS MERIT,
AND HE WILL GIVE OF HIS OWN A GREAT REWARD."Because Allah is very just, the following points are important:
1. He never asks us to do things beyond our capacity. He says in the Holy Quran in Surah 2, Ayah 286
لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ
وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ
"ALLAH WILL NOT PLACE A BURDEN ON A PERSON UNLESS HE IS ABLE TO BEAR IT......."
2. He will only hold us responsible for our actions, and nothing else.
3. He will not hold us responsible for actions of other people before us or after us.
4. He will forgive us if we do something wrong and we truly ask for His forgiveness.
Thursday, 13 January 2011
Wednesday, 12 January 2011