Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I’tikaf in the age of political Islam

Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters in a series in
We’re into the final days of Ramadan.
The last 10 days of the Holy Month are the most blessed and are very special in the life of every Muslim.
In this period of political Islam and sectarianism, it is maybe a good time to go on retreat and return to the roots of Islam and its true message.
It is with great anticipation that the faithful await Laylat al-Qadr and sit in I’tikaf (spiritual retreat).
I’tikaf began Monday (20 Ramadan), before maghreb prayers, and runs on until August 8 (30 Ramadan).
In the age of technology, I wonder how many people can still take the time off work and obligations to go on retreat for 10 days. I know one friend who has done just that and wish him well on his spiritual journey.
Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny or Night of Power) is described in the Qur’an, Surat al-Qadr (Chapter 97):
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
We have indeed revealed this message in the Night of Power.
And what will explain what the Night of Power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the spirit, by Allah's permission, on every errand.
Peace! Until the rising of the morn!
Tradition holds Laylat al-Qadr is the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Muslims will seek Laylat al-Qadr during the last 10 days of Ramadan, particularly on the odd nights – the 21st (tonight), 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th Ramadan.
The Prophet said, "Whoever stays up (in prayer and remembrance of Allah) on the Night of Qadr, fully believing (in Allah's promise of reward) and hoping to seek reward, he shall be forgiven for his past sins." [Bukhari and Muslim]
Muslims worldwide spend these last nights in devotion. They retreat to the mosque to read the Qur’an (I’tikaf), recite special supplications (du’a) and reflect on the meaning of God's message to them. It is believed to be a time of intense spirituality, when angels surround the believers, the gates of heaven are open, and God's blessings and mercy are abundant.
As narrated by Abu Huraira, the Prophet said, "When the last one third of the night remains, our Lord, the Glorious One, descends towards the lower heaven and proclaims: 'Is there anyone supplicating to Me so that I grant his supplication? Is there anyone begging of Me for anything so that I grant him his wish? Is there anyone who seeks My forgiveness so I forgive him?'" [Bukhari and Muslim]
The Prophet performed I’tikaf in the mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan, barely sleeping during that time.
Abu Said Al-Khudri relates, “Allah's Apostle used to practice I’tikaf in the middle 10 days of Ramadan and once he stayed in I’tikaf till the night of the 21st and it was the night in the morning of which he used to come out of his I’tikaf. The Prophet said, "Whoever was in I’tikaf with me should stay in I’tikaf for the last 10 days, for I was informed (of the date) of the Night (of Qadr) but I have been caused to forget it. (In the dream) I saw myself prostrating in mud and water in the morning of that night. So, look for it in the last 10 nights and in the odd ones of them." It rained that night and the roof of the mosque dribbled as it was made of leaf stalks of date palms. I saw with my own eyes the mark of mud and water on the forehead of the Prophet (on the morning of the 21st).” [Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 33, Number 244]
If the faithful cannot sit I’tikaf for the full 10 days and, they can try for as many days and nights as they possibly can.
Both men and women can sit in I’tikaf.
Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, says, “The Prophet used to practice I’tikaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice I’tikaf after him.” [Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 33, Number 243]
There was, however a little problem…
The jurist Umra bint Abderrahman, who was a pupil of Aisha bint Abu Bakr, relates the Prophet’s wife as saying:
Allah's Apostle mentioned that he would practice I’tikaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan. Aisha asked his permission to perform I’tikaf and he permitted her. Hafsa asked Aisha to take his permission for her, and she did so. When Zainab bint Jahsh saw that, she ordered a tent to be pitched for her and it was pitched for her. Allah's Apostle used to proceed to his tent after the prayer. So, he saw the tents and asked, "What is this?" He was told that those were the tents of Aisha, Hafsa and Zainab. He said, "Is it righteousness which they intended by doing so? I am not going to perform I’tikaf." So he returned home. When the fasting month was over, he performed I’tikaf for 10 days in the month of Shawwal (the lunar month after Ramadan). [Volume 3, Book 33, Number 261]
In these sad days of violence and killing, maybe these special days will bring comfort and inspiration to those in need.
May all your prayers be heard and answered.
Related post:

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Syrian’s gloomy Ramadan

Photo by Hani Mohammed via
“This year, we are alone and we don’t know what we will do for money and food supplies during Ramadan… This Holy Month is completely different and horrible.”
This is how one Damascus resident -- dreading the third Ramadan since the Syrian revolution erupted in March 2011 – put it.
I am sure he is not alone.
It comes as no surprise as Syria faces the world’s worst humanitarian disaster that has left more than 100,000 dead, displaced 4.25 million people internally and forced more than 1.6 million to leave the country to seek refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and further afield. The number of people in need is expected to rise to 10 million, nearly half of the population, by the end of the year.
Cham, who I met on Twitter and goes by the handle @chamsyria, wrote for Mich Café on how he and his family will be coping this Holy Month.
Cham is 50-year-old travel agent. He is married and has three children – two girls, 22 and 15, and a 13-year-old son “who supported Spain in the World Cup.”
He is from Damascus. “We lived in the old part of the city. It was always hard going. My mother was afraid of politics and didn’t allow us to be active. But at school, then at university, it was difficult not to get involved. You had to be part of the [ruling] Baath Party or your life could get very complicated, which is what happened to me.”
He continues:
“My work as a travel agent stopped because of what happened in Syria. We haven’t had an income for more than two years. It is difficult to provide food and medicine for my family.
“My office landlord is threatening me with eviction because I can’t pay the rent. But without an office I will go crazy. I can’t even think about it…
“Our home was destroyed. We lost everything in it, even our memories…  Then we fled to central Damascus.”
Cham says that where he now lives with his family everything is controlled by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Every single meter, you find regime militias, security forces, Air Force Intelligence and public guards.”
Ramadan is a very important month, he says, not only because of our relation with God, but also because it is a month “when families unite, sit together for iftar (breaking of the fast) in an atmosphere of faith, spirituality, forgiveness and tolerance.”
While fasting from dawn until sunset during Ramadan, Muslims refrain from consuming eating, drinking liquids, smoking and engaging in sexual relations; in some interpretations they also refrain from swearing. According to Islam, the thawab (rewards) of fasting are many, but in this month they multiply.
“We used to buy many things before the Holy Month starts in anticipation of prices going up,” Cham continues. “This year, everything is expensive. Meat and chicken are more than SYP1200, basics such as sugar SYP115…” 
At iftar, the most important dish on the table is foul medammas, fatteh, salads and all kinds of juices.
“We used to have one or two main dishes, including the above and gather all the relatives. But since last Ramadan, we are too scared to move due to the many checkpoints around the city. It’s not safe to go out at night. I haven’t been out at night in more than two years. It’s best to be home before dark,” Cham says, adding:
“Last year we were about 15 people in one small home, all of us having fled their main residence. Three families had left because their homes were destroyed, including my own, by regime MIGs. Regime militiamen have killed some of our relatives or close friends. One of our female friends was raped and killed by Public Committees guardians along with her father and brother in Douma.”
“This year, my family is alone during Ramadan,” Cham says sadly. “We don’t know what we will do to buy food. My wife and I are always worried and wondering how we will manage. The children wonder whether we will be able to celebrate Eid or if we will stay home again, like previous years.”
He adds, “Ramadan is completely different and horrible now.”
In the evening, dates are usually the first food to break the fast; according to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) broke fast with three dates. Following that, Muslims generally adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served.
“We don’t know if we will dare go to the mosque this Ramadan, especially for the isha prayers and Taraweeh,” Cham notes. “We don’t know how the security situation will be. We don’t know if regime militias will prevent us from going to prayers as they did in many cities around Syria. We know they killed people who were praying fajr or after Taraweeh in Zamalka, Irbin, Douma and Harasta near Damascus.”
Cham’s remarks came as United Nations agencies warned that millions of Syrians are in need of food air as the more than two-year war has devastated food production in the country.
A joint report from the World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization says that if the present conflict continues, the food security prospects for 2014 could be worse than they are now. "With so many adverse factors now stacked against the crop and livestock sectors, and assuming that the present crisis remains unresolved, domestic production over the next 12 months will be severely compromised," the report said.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This Ramadan: Dress 1 million children!

When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launches an initiative, the world takes note!
Sheikh Mo -- as we affectionately refer to the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai -- launched the Dress 1 Million Needy Children campaign on the second day of the Holy Month of Ramadan (July 11).
This is in keeping with the spirit of giving and sharing that takes over the Emirates during the Holy Month and which is maybe less visible during the rest of the year.
Add caption
Sheikh Mo posted on his Facebook page: “Today we launched #Dress1MillionNeedyChildren campaign to make the needy children happier around the world. Giving joy and support to 1 million children is our mission for this Ramadan. I invite everyone to be part of this campaign, and remember that the more we give, the more we get back. Children are the most helpless in disasters and conflicts, and we will do our best to help them. Dubai Cares’ achievements in supporting 8 million children gave us confidence to begin our new campaign today. Giving is a deeply rooted value in our religion, and the UAE has built its foundation on that basis.”
The campaign embodies the true meaning of giving and the ideals the Holy Month of Ramadan upholds, including generosity, benevolence and extending a helping hand to those less fortunate.
During Ramadan, most mosques put out iftars for breaking the fast at dusk (see Ramadan in Dubai), organizations distribute food to workers and the needy, others line main roads to offer drivers late in getting home dates and water, local residents give away food and have queues in front of their villas…
Of course, there is a lot of waste in hotels and restaurants and even in homes, but reminders are always going out to avoid this. There is a number to call to arrange pickup and delivery of excess food.
Photo via Hesham G. Ahmed on Facebook
One supermarket is even offering free grocery items!
The objective of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Dress 1 Million Needy Children Around the World campaign is to promote the concept of giving and generosity during Ramadan and to provide UAE citizens and residents with the opportunity to partake in a distinctive humanitarian initiative.
The campaign will work on collecting donations in coordination with the UAE Red Crescent Authority and telecoms operators du and Etisalat.
In the first two days of the Dress 1 Million Children, 75,000 were already taken care of thanks to an AED 3 million donation by telecom company du in support of Sheikh Mo’s initiative.
The campaign needs AED 40 million to cloth all one million of the world’s desperate children at the cost of AED 40 per outfit.
Distribution by the UAE Red Crescent in Bosnia...
and in Yemen
The UAE Red Crescent has already started distributing clothes to 10,000 Bosnian children, as well as in Yemen, as part of the campaign that can be monitored on Facebook.
Donations towards the campaign can be made by SMS, by bank transfer into one of the UAE Red Crescent bank accounts, or by visiting UAE Red Crescent Authority fundraising booths located around the UAE and its main website.
To contribute to “Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Dress 1 Million Needy Children” campaign by SMS, send the word “dress” to the following numbers (du and Etisalat):
  • 7040 to donate AED 40 and dress 1 child
  • 7160 to donate AED 160 and dress 4 children
  • 7240 to donate AED 240 and dress 6 children
  • 7400 to donate AED 400 and dress 10 children
In addition, contributions can be made via bank transfers to UAE Red Crescent bank accounts.
The campaign runs until 19 Ramadan (July 27).
Countries benefiting from this campaign were selected in close coordination with the UAE Red Crescent Authority. They were chosen based on humanitarian situation reports as well as the number of needy children in that country.
The campaign is limited to children outside the UAE as there are many local charity organizations, such as the UAE Red Crescent Authority, that provide other initiatives to local needy children.
The AED 40 cost of dressing one child was calculated and determined in coordination with the UAE Red Crescent Authority and in keeping with the suitable value and quality provided by charity organizations that provide clothing for needy children.
Donations are monetary only since collection, shipment and distribution of actual clothing material to beneficiaries can be difficult and costly.
The campaign was organized in coordination with the Red Crescent Authority precisely to make sure the donations arrive on time and to the right children who are in need. It has qualified experience in this type of campaign and has offices and representatives in many countries with children in need.
Dressing 1 million children starts with 1! Let’s make this happen.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Malala: Education is the only solution

Malala addresses the world at the UN
Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai humbled the world yesterday by her speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Hers was an eyewitness testimony to education by a young survivor.
It was also proof of her courage that -- eight months after being shot and left for dead by the Taliban in Pakistan -- Malala should call “on all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world.”
“Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems faced by both men and women,” she said.
 “So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons,” Malala appealed, proudly watched by her parents.
Her address should be distributed to all schools. Parents should play it to their children. All heads of state as well as foreign and education ministers should memorize it. It would make good reading for the Taliban… if they have the courage to read.
Education is the only way we might see a fall in the number of child brides, the eventual abolition of Female Genital Mutilation, gender equality in the workplace and at home and hopefully racial and religious tolerance.
That’s why, last October I called on the The Norwegian Nobel Committee to award Malala Yousafzai and girls’ education the Nobel Peace Prize.
After the Nobel Peace Prize going to U.S. President Barack Obama (2009) and the European Union (2012) -- shocking choices in both cases -- what better way to encourage peace than through education generally and girls’ education specifically?
Malala Yousafzai’s speech in full at the United Nations yesterday, courtesy of A World at School:
In the name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.
Honorable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon,
Respected President General Assembly Vuk Jeremic
Honorable UN envoy for Global Education Mr Gordon Brown,
Respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters;
Today, it is an honor for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honorable people is a great moment in my life.
I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say. But first of all, thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and a new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me.
I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and all of the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me get better and recover my strength. I fully support Mr Ban Ki-moon the Secretary-General in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of the UN Special Envoy Mr Gordon Brown. And I thank them both for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action.
Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.
So here I stand...    one girl among many.
I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.
I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Those who have fought for their rights:
Their right to live in peace.
Their right to be treated with dignity.
Their right to equality of opportunity.
Their right to be educated.
Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.  I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.
Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban.
Malala's proud parents
I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change that I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learnt from Gandhi Jee, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learnt from my mother and father. This is what my soul is telling me, be peaceful and love everyone.
Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.
The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than sword” was true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. And that is why they killed 14 innocent medical students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they killed many female teachers and polio workers in Khyber Pukhtoon Khwa and FATA. That is why they are blasting schools every day. Because they were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society.
I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist, “Why are the Taliban against education?” He answered very simply. By pointing to his book he said, “A Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book.” They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits. Pakistan is peace-loving democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. And Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. Islam says that it is not only each child's right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility.
Malala applauded by Ban Ki-moon and the assembly
Honorable Secretary-General, peace is necessary for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan; terrorism, wars and conflicts stop children to go to their schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many parts of the world in many ways. In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labor. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by the hurdles of extremism for decades. Young girls have to do domestic child labor and are forced to get married at early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems faced by both men and women.
Dear fellows, today I am focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But, this time, we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights rather I am focusing on women to be independent to fight for themselves.
Encouragement from Gordon Brown
Dear sisters and brothers, now it's time to speak up.
So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favor of peace and prosperity.
We call upon the world leaders that all the peace deals must protect women and children's rights. A deal that goes against the dignity of women and their rights is unacceptable.
We call upon all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world.
We call upon all governments to fight against terrorism and violence, to protect children from brutality and harm.
We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of educational opportunities for girls in the developing world.
We call upon all communities to be tolerant – to reject prejudice based on cast, creed, sect, religion or gender. To ensure freedom and equality for women so that they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.
We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave – to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.
Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child's bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.
Because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.
Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future.
So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.
One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.
Education is the only solution. Education First.

Related posts:
Tale of 2 visions: For and against women -- December 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wishing you a peaceable Ramadan

Ramadan Kareem to Sheikh Mo, the UAE family and to all my readers
Some 1.6 billion Muslims around the world today begin celebrating the Holy Month of Ramadan.
With so much turmoil, violence and death around us again this Holy Month, I would like to dedicate this Ramadan to Sheikh Mo -- as we affectionately refer to HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice-President, Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai.
Thank you Sheikh Mo for creating a dream I can share. Thank you for keeping this country safe for us to build a home away from home.
It is every adult and healthy Muslim’s obligation to fast -- abstain from eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn to dusk. But it is also a spiritual journey to avoid immoral behavior, anger and show compassion.
The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was gradually revealed to Prophet Mohammad (PBUP) over a period of 23 years.
I wish Sheikh Mo, the UAE family as well as my readers a blissful and blessed fasting month of Ramadan.
May Allah reward your self-restraint and answer your supplications.
Allah's Apostle said, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates
of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained."
[Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 123, narrated by Abu Huraira]

Monday, July 8, 2013

Banging the drums in Ramadan

With Ramadan starting in a couple of days, you can feel the excitement mounting in preparation for the Holy Month of fasting.
In the UAE, the faithful are expected to start the dawn to dusk fast on Wednesday depending on the visual sighting of the crescent moon.
It is a month of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship.
Ramadan also inculcates such virtues as self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who are less fortunate. It encourages acts of generosity and compulsory charity or zakat.
Daytime life slows down considerably during Ramadan and most expats leave the Emirates, especially as the Holy Month has been in the summer for the past few years.
But after iftar -- or breaking of the fast – at sunset and the special Taraweeh prayers at the mosque, everyone is out and about until suhoor, the meal just before dawn.
I find the Taraweeh magical and usually rush home after work at 9 pm to sit in the garden and follow them from the mosque next door. (See Ramadan Taraweeh: A 14-century legacy).
The Taraweeh are special prayers featuring recitations of the Quran after 'Isha (the last evening prayer). They are performed at the mosque, where the congregation prays and listens to passages from the Quran.
About a thirtieth of the Qur'an is recited each evening so that by the end of the blessed month, the entire Holy Book would have been completed.
Attending Taraweeh in congregation at the mosque after 'Isha is recommended but non-compulsory. They are a very popular and anticipated feature of the day.
Although I don’t observe Ramadan, it is still a month that holds great memories accumulated over the years.
Ramadan is all about the spirit of giving and communal gatherings, whether with friends or participating with family.
Every year I look forward to writing these Ramadan posts and you can read some past ones from the links below.
This year I was looking back on my time in Sidi Bou Said (Tunisia) and Beirut, when we used to wake up to the M’tabbel or M’sahhir – the Ramadan drummer that is.
Just before dawn, Muslims observe suhoor -- the pre-fast meal – followed by the fajr prayer, the first of the day.
In times gone by, the Ramadan drummers would walk the streets, beating their drums to wake people up in time for suhoor. It is a tradition that dates back to the Ottoman Empire and is dying away with the onset of technology.
Urban living and high-rise buildings make it more difficult for the drummer to be heard. In some places it is considered noise pollution. It is also thought that with mobile phones and alarm clocks, there is no danger of sleeping through suhoor.
But we used to look forward to the M’tabbel passing through the neighborhood.
He was known to most residents and often survived through the tips he was given at the end of the Holy Month for Eid.
The M’tabbel would walk the streets, often joined by children and would beat his drum three times every couple of houses while chanting. He was invariably invited to share people’s suhoor, a cup of tea or juice at one home or another because he wouldn’t get back to his own in time.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and its annual observance is one of the five pillars of Islam considered obligatory by believers and the foundation of Muslim life: belief, worship, charitable giving, fasting during the month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj at least once in a lifetime.
The pillars are mentioned in the Quran and summarized in the famous hadith of the Angel Gabriel. The hadith attributed to Abu Hurairah (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:2:48) goes like this:
One day while the Prophet (PBUH) was sitting in the company of some people, (The Angel) Gabriel came and asked, "What is faith?" Allah's Apostle replied, “Faith is to belief in Allah, His angels, (the) meeting with Him, His Apostles, and to believe in Resurrection."

Then he further asked, "What is Islam?" Allah's Apostle replied, "To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly, to pay the compulsory charity (zakat) and to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan."

Then he further asked, "What is Ihsan (perfection)?" Allah's Apostle replied, "To worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that He is looking at you."

Then he further asked, "When will the Hour be established?" Allah's Apostle replied, "The answerer has no better knowledge than the questioner. But I will inform you about its portents.

  • “When a slave (lady) gives birth to her master.
  • “When the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of tall buildings. And the Hour is one of five things which nobody knows except Allah.”
The Prophet then recited: "Verily, with Allah (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour." (31.34)
Then that angel (Gabriel) left and the Prophet asked his companions to call him back, but they could not see him. Then the Prophet said, "That was Gabriel who came to teach the people their religion."
Abu Abdullah said: He (the Prophet) considered all that as a part of faith.
Are there still, I wonder, Ramadan drummers waking the faithful for suhoor?
Are there any in Dubai that we could join on their route?
I wish my readers who will be fasting a Ramadan Kareem and syam ma2boul.

Related Ramadan posts:
Ramadan in Dubai -- August 18, 2010