City of Brass

City of Brass

The Criterion: reading the Qur’an is the foundation of ibadat in Ramadan

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
Surah Ar-Ra'd, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

Surah Ar-Ra’d, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

Ramadan is one-third over. Unlike past years, I’ve not written as much about my observances this year because I’ve been dedicated to improving my ibadat (worship). I completely concur with my friend Shahed Amanullah’s concerns that Ramadan is beginning to see the same commercialization and mainstreaming that afflicts the Christmas season for Christians. Shahed asks how we as Muslims in the west might avoid losing sight of the spiritual significance of Ramadan, and I think the best answer is to turn to the fundamentals. Specifically, the Holy Qur’an.

This year, I intend to recite the complete Qur’an twice during Ramadan, which is a substantial challenge for me since one juz (chapter) takes me between 30-45 minutes to recite. Recitation of Qur’an is particularly laudable during Ramadan, as this was the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to mankind:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَٰتٍ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong) [2:185]

Note the word, “Furqan” (criterion, or discernment) – the Qur’an refers to itself as the Criterion numerous times and there is an entire surah (Al-Furqan, [25:1-77]) that discusses its purpose as such. The Qur’an tells us that it is the guidebook and the template for a Muslim to have a virtuous life that will reap rewards in the hereafter rather than the mundane world. Certainly the interpretation of the Qur’an varies between Muslims, but we all share the source text in Arabic as a starting point, and there is no substitute for reconnecting to the text by reading it in the original Arabic as was divinely intended. When I recite the Qur’an, I do not do so for the purpose of interpreting the text, but as a purely devotional act, reciting the very words of the Divine aloud, embracing the poetic rhythm of the words themselves.

You do not need to understand the Qur’an or interpret it, for the spiritual benefit of reciting it to accrue to you. But as I have devoted my time to the Qur’an thus far, I have noticed that there is a peace that descends upon my soul during tilawat, a state of mind where the concerns about the material world, stress and conflict, fears and angst, all drop away. The Qur’an itself verifies this:

ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ ٱلْقُلُوبُ

Verily, in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation [13:28]

If Ramadan is the month in which we are tasked as Muslims to put aside our concerns for the material world – literally, by fasting – then the Qur’an is how our hearts find consolation and reassurance from those material concerns. The Qur’an is the fundamental element of ibadat that grounds all our myriad Muslim identities and communities onto common ground – not necessarily what the Qur’an says, but rather what it represents. Unlike communal prayer, reading the Qur’an is not a social act of worship but an intensely private one, the epitome of seeing a personal connection to Allah. Ultimately, religion is about finding a connection to the Divine and the Qur’an is the purest expression of that connection for the Muslim. The Qur’an truly is the foundation of our ibadat during Ramadan.

Related: some posts of mine from previous years about Ramadan: Ramadan as a meditation on nothingness (essence vs existence), Ramadan as the month of Jihad, and the paradox of time in Ramadan. Also in a more lighthearted vein: fasting in the sky (scraper) and the devil’s iftaar :)

Nominations now open for the 11th Annual Brass Crescent Awards

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

brasscrescent_back

The Brass Crescent Awards is an annual awards ceremony that honors the best writers and thinkers of the emerging Muslim blogosphere (aka the Islamsphere). Nominations are taken from blog readers, who then vote for the winners.

Founded in 2004 by myself and Shahed Amanullah, the Brass Crescent Awards are named for the Story of the City of Brass in the Thousand and One Nights. Today, the Islamsphere is forging a new synthesis of Islam and modernity, and is the intellectual heir to the traditions of philosophy and learning that was once the hallmark of Islamic civilization – a heritage scarcely recognizable today in the Islamic world after a century’s ravages of colonialism, tyrants, and religious fundamentalism. We believe that Islam transcends history, and we are forging history anew for tomorrow’s Islam. These awards are a means to honor ourselves, celebrate our nascent community, and promote its growth.

The Awards will take place in two phases. First is the nominations phase, where readers nominate their favorite blogs in each of several categories. All submitted nominations will then be narrowed down to a maximum of five nominees per category, as selected by our judges. We will then have the final voting round. Simply visit BrassCrescent.org to submit nominations and vote.

Here are this year’s categories:

BEST MUSLIM BLOG: This category honors the most indispensable, Muslim-authored (single-author) blog there is. Period.

BEST SOCIAL MEDIA STREAM: People are increasingly expressing themselves through social multimedia feeds like Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Flickr and more. Who is doing a good job of mastering this medium?

BEST FEMALE MUSLIM BLOGGER: The woman’s voice in Islam is equal to the man’s, and in the Islamsphere we seek to make sure the female perspective is highlighted and given its rightful due. Which (single-author) Muslim woman’s blog has done the most to explore the role that women play within Islam and society?

BEST GROUP BLOG: What multiple author blog in the Islamsphere has the best diversity of writers and the most interesting debate on Muslim issues?

FUNNIEST BLOGGER: Which blogger gets their point across by using humor in the most effective way?

BEST NEW BLOG: Which blog is a true diamond in the rough, one that everyone should be reading but who most just haven’t heard of (yet)?

BEST NON-MUSLIM BLOGGER: Which blog written by a non-Muslim is most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue with Muslims?

BEST POST OR SERIES: Which single post or group of posts in the Islamsphere was the most original and important, above all the others?

BEST REGIONAL BLOG: The Islamsphere is truly a global phenomenon. Different regions of the world all have unique perspectives on faith and politics that should be recognized and celebrated. What blogs or bloggers are the best voice of their people and their cultures?

BEST WRITER: Who is the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophically wise among us? This category is intended to highlight a blogger who may not post daily, but when they do post, they really make an impact.

BEST TWEETER: What Muslim voice on Twitter provides the most informative and entertaining retweets, links, and/or witticisms in 140 characters or less?

BEST NON-MUSLIM TWEETER: What non-Muslim voice on twitter should we all be following, who tweets about issues relating to the Muslim world and Islam?

Note: With the “muslim”/”non-muslims” exceptions noted above, any blog is eligible for any category, including blogs authored by people of other faiths. In defining the Islamsphere, we are not relying solely on adherence to the faith, but an affinity for parts of the diverse cultural fabric that Islam embraces and is embraced by worldwide.

Help us promote the Awards – follow @brasscrescent on Twitter, Like our Facebook page, check out our subreddit /r/brasscrescent, and mention the Awards on your own blog. Asking your readers to nominate you is fair game!

Ramadan Kareem from the Democratic Party and President Obama

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The official twitter handle of the Democratic Party (@TheDemocrats) just posted this Ramadan Kareem message quoting President Obama:

“Ramadan reminds us of our shared responsibility to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves and the basic principles that bind people of different faiths together: a yearning for peace, justice and equality.” — President Obama

Also, it’s worth watching President Obama’s Ramadan Message to muslims back in 2009 (here’s a transcript)

Ramadan is coming – or has already arrived

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Ramadan Mubarak!

By the lunar Fatimid calendar, today (Saturday 28th June) is the 1st of Ramadan. The Mecca-centric calculations of The Fiqh Council of North America (affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America) also concur with the lunar calendar in declaring today the 1st of Ramadan.

Most moonsighting communities have not yet confirmed a positive moon sighting, according to Moonsighting.com and according to CrescentWatch.org. For communities that adhere to the moonsighting tradition, Ramadan begins tomorrow on Sunday, 29th June.

Whether you begin fasting today or tomorrow, Ramadan Mubarak! Please do remember me and my family in your precious dua.

Related: my contribution to the moonsighting debate, where I argue that calculations are just as valid as moonsighting and rebut some of the exclusivity arguments that moonsighters sometimes make (not to mention pointing out that moonsighters themselves also use calculations). Also, Dr. Muqtedar Khan has written a new essay in favor or calculations that is very thought-provoking, On the moon-sighting debate: a Maslaha-based argument.. Finally, an old brief essay of mine of some relevance: in motion, the believers reflect the heavens.

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