July 31st, 2012

The divine dimension of fasting

The Arabic terms for fasting – sawm or siyam – basically means self-restraint (kaff or imsak), involving at its most rudimentary level the restraining of oneself from eating, drinking, and sexual congress with one’s spouse, the three essentials of the worldly life.

THE blessed month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, has been more than a week already.

And Muslims worldwide are observing one of the five pillars of Islam, the obligatory fasting throughout the days of this month.

The Arabic terms for fasting – sawm or siyam – basically means self-restraint (kaff or imsak), involving at its most rudimentary level the restraining of oneself from eating, drinking, and sexual congress with one’s spouse, the three essentials of the worldly life.

Apart from positive health factors for one who is fasting, fasting first and foremost pertains to the spiritual and moral uplift of oneself.

This self-improvement, as observ­ed by a number of prominent Muslim scholars, is in turn intimately related to the theological and metaphysical dimension of fasting.

Such a relation actually stems from an established moral teaching in Islam, grounded in a number of Quranic verses and numerous sayings of the Prophet, that man has to emulate such Divine Names and Attributes as befit man according to his real ability.

For in truth, the names and attributes of Allah constitute the benchmark of good character and praiseworthy deeds for Muslims.

And in attempting to fast sincerely and correctly, a Muslim is actually trying to emulate an important Name and Attribute of Allah, al-Samad.

According to voluminous, authoritative Arabic lexicons such as al-Qamus al-Muhit, Lisan al-Arab and Taj al-Arus, the term al-samad means among others “the one who does not eat”.

The term is thus employed at times to signify an individual who neither thirsts nor starves in a battle.

It also signifies “an obeyed master without whom none shall be executed (al-sayyid al-muta’ alladhi la yuqda dunahu amr); the one a person will walk up to when the person is in need (alladhi yuqsad ilayhi fi al-hawa’ij); one who prevails, staying through it all (al-da’im)”; as well as “the lofty and sublime one (al-rafi)”.

It is perfectly logical and in line with valid inference from human experience that one who does not eat, yet being neither thirsty nor hungry, is better qualified to be the one who can last out forever and, thus, become a Lord who rules over us, mortals, and everything evanescent and to whom we turn whenever we are in need.

In truth, the aforementioned significations as a whole and in an absolute sense apply solely to Allah.

Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali (d. 505AH/1111CE), in his famous work on the Divine Names and Attributes, Al-Maqsad al-Asna fiSharh Asma’ Allah al-Husna, clarified that al-Samad essentially means “the one to whom one turns in need and the one who is intended in our desires” and, as such, ultimate dominion culminates in him.

And Allah, being the absolutely eternal, is indeed the only one to whom one turns in every need.

In this respect, Imam Abdul Wahhab al-Sharani (d. 973AH) had made an interesting observation in his work, Al-Fath al-Mubin fi Jumlah min Asrar al-Din.

“Fasting (al-sawm) is an attribute from among the Divine Attributes which none is entirely possessed of except Allah who nourishes but is Himself not fed (alladhi yut im wa la yat am).

“For He said in a Hadith Qudsi ‘FASTING BELONGS TO ME AND I WILL REWARD FOR IT,’ attributing it to Himself, hence meaning that none is characterised by it save Allah since

“He is from eternity not in need of nourishment (al-akl) while other than He, whether angel or not, has to depend on nourishment and daily stuff ... God has called on His servants to emulate His Attributes and devote themselves to His service by means of such Attributes as far as possible and in accordance with their capacity.

“Fasting is among His Attributes and is among the hardest acts on the human selves because it is against their nature.

“For they cannot continue surviving in this world except by things material in utter contrast to God whose existence is absolutely independent of everything.”

(Note: Hadith Qudsi is a special category of the Prophetic sayings in which the Prophet Muhammad related what Allah the Almighty said in the form of the first person.)

Similarly, yet earlier than al-Sharani, al-Ghazzali commented in the Chapter on Fasting of his famous Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, “... the aim of fasting is to mould oneself into one of the Divine Qualities ... that is, al-samadiyyah ... as well as to emulate the Angels in restraining from the carnal desires in as much as possible.

For they are creatures unblemished by such desires.

Man’s rank is above that of beasts because of his ability, by the light of his intelligence, to control his passion and, yet, is below that of Angels because he can be overwhelmed by passions and is afflicted with the continuous struggle to overcome them.

Such has been the case that were he to be completely taken up by lust, he would then sink to the lowest of the low and soon join the animals at large; nonetheless, should he manage to subdue his appetite, he would then ascend to the loftiest of the high and soon reach the angelic horizon.

The Angels are indeed intimate to Allah – Most High and Exalted is He- – and just as they are so, that which emulates and character-wise resembles them shall then be nigh unto Him as well.

For the one approximating to the intimate becomes itself proximate.

And proximity here is not by locus but rather by character.”



IKIM VIEWS by DR MOHD ZAIDI ISMAIL , SENIOR FELLOW / DIRECTOR CENTRE FOR SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT STUDIES

Source: The STAR Online Home News Opinion Tuesday 31 July 2012

Hidup tenang bila diri dihiasi takwa

Pemimpin tawaduk tak khianati amanah, kuasa

Ketika Abu Dzar Al-Ghifari meminta nasihat Rasulullah SAW, kata Rasulullah SAW kepadanya: “Saya wasiatkan kepadamu, bertakwalah engkau kepada Allah kerana takwa itu adalah pokok dari segala perkara.” Umumnya, ulama mendefinisikan takwa sebagai menjaga diri daripada perbuatan maksiat, meninggalkan dosa syirik, perbuatan keji dan dosa besar, serta berperi laku dengan adab syariah. Takwa adalah melaksanakan segala perintah Allah dan menjauhi larangan-Nya.

"Barang siapa yang menghiasi dirinya dengan ketakwaan kepada Allah, maka dia akan hidup dengan penuh keyakinan dan kekuatan. Dia pun akan berjalan di muka bumi ini dengan penuh ketenangan dan kedamaian" - Riwayat Abu Nu’aim

Firman Allah SWT: “Wahai umat manusia! Sesungguhnya Kami telah menciptakan kamu dari lelaki dan perempuan, dan Kami telah menjadikan kamu berbagai bangsa dan bersuku puak, supaya kamu berkenal-kenalan (dan beramah mesra antara satu dengan yang lain). Sesungguhnya semulia-mulia kamu di sisi Allah ialah orang yang lebih takwanya di antara kamu, (bukan yang lebih keturunan atau bangsanya). Sesungguhnya Allah Maha Mengetahui, lagi Maha Mendalam Pengetahuan-Nya (akan keadaan dan amalan kamu).” (Surah Al-Hujurat, ayat 13)

Firman-Nya lagi: “Wahai anak Adam! Sesungguhnya Kami telah menurunkan kepada kamu (bahan untuk) pakaian menutup aurat kamu, dan pakaian perhiasan; dan pakaian yang berupa takwa itulah yang sebaik-baiknya. Yang demikian itu adalah dari tanda (limpah kurnia) Allah (dan rahmat-Nya kepada hamba-Nya) supaya mereka mengenangnya (dan bersyukur).” (Surah Al-A’raf, ayat 26)

Tiada niat lakukan kejahatan

Orang yang bertakwa selalu memikirkan apa yang akan diucapkan dan berhati-hati ketika melakukan sesuatu perkara. Tidak ada niat di hati Muslim sama sekali untuk melakukan kejahatan yang boleh merugikan dan memudaratkan orang lain, apatah lagi merugikan masyarakat serta negara.

Orang yang menjadikan takwa sebagai hiasan hidupnya tidak mungkin mengkhianati amanah dan kuasanya untuk kepentingan diri, keluarga atau kroninya. Kuasa kepemimpinan adalah amanah yang akan dipertanggungjawabkan kepada masyarakat, bangsa dan terutama kepada Allah SWT.

Islam lahir ramai pemimpin bertakwa

Islam melahirkan ramai pemimpin bertakwa yang memimpin umat Islam dengan penuh keadilan. Contohnya, Saidina Ali bin Abi Talib yang bersifat tawaduk dan patuh terhadap keputusan Kadi, meskipun tuntutannya terhadap baju besi dimiliki seorang Yahudi, dibatalkan di sidang pengadilan.

Saidina Ali membawa saksi iaitu Saidina Hasan, puteranya sendiri dan Qanbar, pembantunya. Namun Kadi Syuraih sebagai seorang kadi yang jujur dan tegas telah menolak saksi dari kaum kerabat kerana dianggap boleh menimbulkan berat sebelah kepada Saidina Ali.

Akhirnya, Kadi telah memberikan keputusan yang adil dengan memberikan kemenangan kepada Yahudi dan Khalifah Ali menerimanya dengan ikhlas.

Sikap tawaduk yang lahir dari takwa ini telah membuka pintu hati Yahudi itu untuk menerima Islam sebagai pegangan hidupnya.

Yahudi berkata: “Wahai Amirul Mukminin, Tuan telah membuat aduan mengenai saya kepada Kadi yang juga orang bawahan tuan, tapi dia telah memberikan kemenangan kepada saya. Maka dengan ini, saya bersaksi bahawa ini adalah kebenaran dan saya bersaksi tiada tuhan melainkan Allah dan Muhammad adalah Rasulullah.”

Peroleh ketenangan di dunia, akhirat

Akhirnya, apabila takwa menjadi perhiasan hidup dalam setiap gerak gerinya, dia akan memperoleh ketenangan dan kedamaian yang hakiki di dunia serta akhirat nanti.

Maka benarlah Rasulullah SAW bersabda: “Barang siapa yang menghiasi dirinya dengan ketakwaan kepada Allah, maka dia akan hidup dengan penuh keyakinan dan kekuatan. Dia pun akan berjalan di muka bumi ini dengan penuh ketenangan dan kedamaian.” (Hadis riwayat Abu Nu’aim)

Takwa adalah bekalan hidup paling berharga dalam diri seorang Muslim. Tanpanya hidup menjadi tidak bermakna dan penuh kegelisahan. Sebaliknya, seseorang akan merasai hakikat kebahagiaan hidup, baik di dunia mahu pun akhirat apabila dia berhasil menjadi seorang yang bertakwa.


Dr Engku Ahmad Zaki Engku Alwi Sumber: Berita Harian Online Agama Selasa 31 Julai 2012 11 Ramadhan 1433H

Giving should not just be seasonal

YEAR-ROUND NEEDS: Don't just treat the underprivileged during Ramadan

WE were having tea at a Bangsar kedai kopi one afternoon before the start of the fasting month when we were approached by a young Indian man begging for money. Most people would have pushed him away but my friend asked the man to sit  at a table and order any food and drink on the menu. He paid for the man's meal and sent him off with some money in hand.

On several occasions when we met at night in Bangsar, this same friend would buy roses from an old man who would go from table to table. I see him doing it without hesitation every time.

Some of the diners there would think he was a sucker to be taken in by these people, including the blind who go around day and night begging for money but in the guise of selling packets of tissues.

Orphans breaking fast at a function in Shah Alam. In Islam, whoever gives the fasting person food
to break his fast would have the same reward as the fasting person.


I know he was sincere when he did it. The benefits are bountiful when we do things, in whatever capacity but more so on a voluntary basis, with sincerity; more so in this holy month of Ramadan. In Islam, we are taught the virtue of giving the fasting person food to break his fast; whoever does so would have the same reward as the fasting person. And that the reward for giving voluntary alms in secret is 70 times that of giving it publicly.

In many places, you'll find that iftar is served in mosques, with the food donated by individuals to share. At the mosque, our individual titles serve no purpose. In a congregation, we are "brothers" and "sisters", irrespective of colour and creed. This contact between the various levels of society helps to create a real bond of brotherhood in the Muslim community.

We also find individuals and companies rushing to host iftar. Orphans, single mothers and the poor are much sought after. They break fast at posh restaurants, hotels, convention centres and golf clubs, with the media in tow. They also participate in "Amal Ramadan" programmes put together by some non-governmental organisations, giving aid to poor households in rural areas throughout the country.

We also read newspaper reports of companies taking orphans out shopping for their Raya clothes and shoes, in line with the spirit of giving during the fasting month.

I even know of a group of young professionals who do this, treating the orphans to buka puasa and giving them duit raya from their own pockets.

It is unfortunate, however, that some individuals and companies treat this as their annual personal or corporate social responsibility.

What long-term benefit would this be to the orphans, single mothers and the poor, if it is nothing more than a yearly affair? They are lucky if they get picked again in the coming years.

Friends have complained to me about how difficult it was for them to seek donations, in cash or kind, from individuals and companies for orphanages and old folks' homes outside the fasting month. Letters and emails sent remained unanswered. Verbal commitments remained just that.

More often than not, these friends had to seek the help of their own family members, groups and friends for donations.

Yes, charity begins at home but these orphanages and old folks' homes need more than just what family members and friends can give to sustain their operations. Depending on the government's support alone is not enough.

We need to be reminded that Ramadan comes only once a year but when giving to charity, there is no need for us to check the calendar.


Writer is a NST associate editor (online)
By Fauziah Ismail  | fauziah@nstp.com.my  
Source: New Straits Times Columnist Tuesday 31 July 2012  

Ramadan: Month to do good deeds

THIS year, Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, falls on this and next month, the seventh and eighth month of the Gregorian calendar. July 21 was the first day of fasting.

Muslims have been waiting for its arrival as it is a month when performing good deeds is rewarded many, many times over by Allah.

During this month, there will be Ramadan bazaars selling many kinds of food, biscuits and fruit juices to break fast.

These stalls are frequented not only by Muslims but also non-Muslims, since it is the only time when they can find dishes and Malay kuih under one roof. They will be spoilt for choice.

The majority of traders are from pasar malam while a minority are part-timers.

Hopefully, traders will not increase the price of food.


‘Bubur lambuk’ being distributed at a mosque. Muslims are blessed when they
perform good deeds in the holy month of Ramadan.

It is also my hope that these traders are fit to cook and handle the food. It is not hygienic to prepare food without cleanliness because people can become victims of food poisoning. I was one such victim a few years back.

The Health Department and local authorities that issue temporary permits to these traders should monitor them on a daily basis.

At bazaars, I have seen people carrying plastic bags of food as if there is no tomorrow. How can they eat so much? This is beyond my understanding.

What is sad, I believe, is that only half of the food is eaten, and the leftovers will end up in the dustbin.

To my fellow Muslims, don't be greedy.

Overspending can lead to food wastage and no matter how famished one is, the stomach can only take so much food. What a waste of money and food.

Ramadan is also a time for families to break fast together at home or other places when the bilal announces the time for Maghrib prayers, that is, the time at which to break fast.

This is good for family members to bond with each other.

There will also be traffic congestion during Ramadan, which is understandable, since everybody is rushing to go home to break fast with loved ones.

The traffic situation will become chaotic if it rains in the evenings. Traffic policemen are needed to help ease the congestion.

That said, to my Muslim brothers and sisters everywhere, and to all Malaysians, selamat berbuka puasa.


By Mohd Faizal Abdullah, Kuala Lumpur Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 31 July 2012