Monthly Archives: July 2017

Annual General Body Meeting

When: Agust 20th 2018 at after Maghrib Prayer. Where: Masjid AL- Falah – Westfield

The annual General Body Meeting of our society shall take place on August 16th 2018 at 8PM at the community Centre (Masjid – Westfield). This is one of the most
important annual meetings for all of us. The meeting is open to everybody, members or nonmembers. This is the time to know some of the details you might want to know and to ask questions you might have in your mind. All are welcome.

PRAYERS

Prayer and supplication is the centerpiece of a Muslim’s day-to-day life. It is clearly stated in the Quran that God created human beings so that they worship Him. Detailed instructions for the prayers came to us from God through his Prophet, Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him, his family and companions). In terms of prayers, there are five daily obligatory prayers and many daily or infrequent optional prayers. The list is as follows:

OBLIGATORY DAILY PRAYERS:

Fajr: This is the first prayer every day, at dawn before any part of the sun is visible or out.
Duhr: This is the afternoon prayer. Every Friday this prayer changes into the congregational Juma’h prayer.
Asr: This is prayed in late afternoon, somewhat in between the afternoon prayer and the sunset.
Maghrib: This is the prayer at sunset, right after it is completely set.
Isha: This is prayed at night after it is dark with the dusk completely over.
OTHER PRAYERS:

Witr: Daily after the Isha prayer but can be delayed until after mid-night before Fajr.
Tahajudd: This is prayed after mid-night before Fajr, ideally after waking up from some sleep.
Ishraq: This is prayed in the morning after sun is completely out.
Janaaza: This is the Muslim funeral prayer.
Taraweeh: This is in the month of Ramadan after the Isha prayer.
Eid-ul-Fitr: This the prayer on the day after the month of Ramadan. It is prayed in the morning after the sun is completely out.
Eid-ul-Adha: This is the prayer on the day of Hajj. It is prayed in the morning after the sun is completely out.
Istisqa: The prayer for rain in case of drought condition. No particular time.
Istikhara: The prayer to seek God’s guidance in case of a difficult decision-making.
Tasbeeh: No particular time. This is the prayer to particularly and repeatedly remember God and His attributes.
Masjid or Mosque: A prayer for visiting a mosque.
HOW TO PRAY – AN OVERVIEW

For a Muslim, prayer is a formal way of maintaining a link and communication with God. The following general etiquettes apply to all prayers:

Sanity of mind:

One has to have an understanding of what one is doing for a prayer to be valid and acceptable. One is supposed not to pray in case of any alteration of mind for any reason to the extent of clouding ones thinking and thought process. For this reason, for example, a patient with dementia, if severe enough, might be excused from the requirement of compulsory praying

Proper Intention:

Ones intention should be clear and valid. Prayers are only to God and they are performed only because He told us to do so. Their benefit, if He grants, is also only to us.

Physical Cleanliness:

Cleanliness of body, clothing and the place of prayer are the basic requirements of every prayer. We are required to wash our whole body (Ghusl) or a part of it (Wudu), depending upon the circumstances. In brief, Ghusl is required after intimacy, a sexual or a menstrual discharge, and is also recommended before some important prayers such as Juma’h, Eid, or Hajj. Wudu is required after waking up from sleep, or in case of urination, defecation or flatus.

Whole Body Wash or Ghusl:

It is done in private for each individual. Washing the whole body and hairs, including the areas washed during Wudu such as cleaning of nostrils and mouth, is part of the requirement. It is recommended not to waste more water than a reasonable amount.

Wudu:

Briefly, one starts with washing the hands followed by cleaning and washing the mouth and nostrils. Washing the face and arms including elbows follows this. Head, back of neck and ears are cleaned with wet hands, and feet are washed up to the ankles. Washing is generally done for three times each. Only clean water is used and it is recommended not to waste water. In case water or appropriate water is not available for Ghusl or Wudu, one is permitted to clean oneself using a clean dry surface, sand or even dirt in a particular manner, which is called Tayyamum. This is a special relaxation for special circumstances. The concept here is spiritual cleaning more than physical cleaning.

Proper Dress:

A man covers the body at least from naval to below-knee level. A woman covers the whole body except the face and hands.

Clean Place:

A space clear of any obvious trash or anything we may consider unclean is recommended. Other than that, no particular place is required. One could pray inside or outside, on the floor or carpet, on the grass, gravel, road, sand or even clean dirt. Nowadays, people routinely use a mat, a rug or a piece of cloth or a paper for cleanliness. The space should also be free or away from any animal, human or fictional statues, or their figures or pictures.

Proper Physical Direction:

Face is always towards the Kaaba (the first mosque built on earth), which is in the city of Makkah (Mecca), present day Saudi Arabia (21°25’26″N 39°49’27″E).

Proper Timings:

All obligatory and many optional prayers are performed at their particular timings. It is not recommended to delay an obligatory prayer without any valid reason. At the same time, there is ample flexibility to delay or combine prayers in certain circumstances. The only times, when it is recommended to avoid a formal prayer is the time when the sun is coming out until it is completely out, when the sun is at its highest point and when the sun has started to set, until it is completely set.

Individual or Congregational Prayer:

A prayer in congregation is always preferred and recommended and is many times better than praying individually. Certain prayers are valid only in a congregation, such as Juma’h prayer. If missed, one only prays the regular Duhr prayer instead. In usual congregational prayers, men and women are physically separated.

Men and Women Prayers:

In general, there is no difference in the details of praying between men and women, except a few relaxations given to women. Women do not pray during menses or after childbirth. Also, they may pray at home if they prefer and the Juma’h prayer is not obligatory upon them.

The Concepts of Obligatory, Recommended or Optional Parts of Prayers:

For each of the five daily prayers, some portions are obligatory, some recommended (some highly recommended and some usually recommended) and some optional. Obligatory portions are the ones without which a prayer is not valid. Recommended are the ones that the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) always performed (highly recommended) or usually performed (usually recommended). Optional are extra, which he might have performed at some times. The technical or Arabic terms for these parts are Fard (obligatory), Sunnah (recommended) and Nafl (optional). These concepts may vary a little based upon different religious schools of thought.

Briefly speaking, the formal activity of each prayer is divided into two or four continuous portions or “rakaas”. Following is some of the detail of rakaas in each daily prayer:

Fajr 2 Sunnah 2 Fard
Duhr 4 Sunnah 4 Fard 4 or 2 Sunnah
Asar 4 Sunnah 4 Fard
Maghrib 3 Fard 2 Sunnah 2
Isha 4 Fard 2 Sunnah followed by the Witr prayer
Special Circumstances:

In certain circumstances, such as during travel or Hajj, it is recommended to shorten the number of rakaas for obligatory prayers or combine some prayers.

All prayers, except supplications, are performed in Arabic. Part of the recitation always includes at least a few verses of the Quran. For details of the words and verses recited, it is better to consult a book or a knowledgeable Muslim. It is our intention, God-willing, to have that detail on this site. Until then, “The Beginner’s Book of Salah” by Ghulam Sarwar (ISBN 0 907261 39 6) is a good start. It is written for English speaking people. Feel free to contact or visit our center or any local mosque for further help and guidance.

ACCEPTING THE FAITH

We recommend that you review the section Basics of Islam, before reading this section.

Acceptance of the Muslim faith or Islam, as stated above is completely voluntary. The first word of the Quran revealed to the prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) was Iqra, which in Arabic means Read. Reading & studying of concepts may lead one to the stage of analyzing & reflecting upon them, which, if He wills, may lead to the level of appropriate understanding.

If one has reached an appropriate understanding of the religion of Islam and decides to formally accept and adopt it, it can be done in a few general ways. It may be done in private between oneself and the Almighty God, as an understanding and commitment. It can also be done semi-privately, with or within one or more Muslims. Preferably though, it is done in public. Many people do it by going to a masjid and declaring it in front of a congregation.

There is no formal ceremony for acceptance and adoption of the religion of Islam except a private or public declaration or testification that there is nothing else or any other deity worthy of worship except Allah, the Arabic word for God. One also declares and testifies that all of His prophets were human beings and His messengers including the prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus) (May peace and blessings of God be upon them).

One declares and testifies that the prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) was the last of His prophets. Though it is not mandatory, most people state and declare it in Arabic (La ilaha illallah, Muhammad-ur-rasool Allah). According to the Islamic teachings, the person declaring the faith in this manner may be like a newborn child with a clean slate of deeds and might be forgiven for the past sins. Muslims present in the gathering may show their happiness and brother or sisterhood by congratulations and embraces.

HAJJ

Hajj for a Muslim is the sacred once-in-a-lifetime visit to the Kaaba, the Sacred House or the Sacred Masjid, in the city of Makkah, the present day Saudi Arabia. The Hajj involves certain rituals that must be performed in a specified manner at the specific times, instructed by Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him).

Every able adult Muslim, in terms of health, social situation and the expense involved, is required to make this journey once in his or her life. It might be at least physically easier to perform as soon as one is adult and able to; many delay it until later in life or even retirement. For most people, Hajj is a difficult and demanding commitment of intention, effort, time and money. But Muslims all over the globe, during most of their productive lives, maintain and strengthen their intentions to make this journey, save resources, even a small amount at a time and patiently wait for their desire and dream of making this journey to come true. Every year, 2-3 million people from almost every country of the world make this journey. In fact the demand is so high that the Saudi government allocates certain number of Hajj visas to every country based upon their Muslim population and/or to give representation to every nation.

Many Hajj rituals are based upon some of the events of the life of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his wife Hagar and their son Ismail (Ishmael) (may peace be upon them). For example, one part of the Hajj emulates the events when Prophet Ibrahim left his wife and son in the desert and she was running between the two hills, Safa and Marwa, looking for water. In this particular part, one is required to walk, at times swiftly, between these two places for seven times.

Zam-zam is the spring that sprung where Ismail (may peace be upon him) was lying and may be crying and kicking his feet on the ground. This particular spring has been providing the sacred water since those ancient times and the people coming to Hajj are drinking and taking it all around the globe.

In another part of Hajj, symbolically speaking, the devil is stoned multiple times. This is reflective of the events when Prophet Ibrahim (may peace be upon him) was instructed by God to sacrifice his son Ismail (may peace be upon him). As they were heading to fulfill God’s command, the devil repeatedly appeared and tried to convince them otherwise and they threw pebbles or stones at him. Related to that, a sacrifice of a sheep, cow or a camel is part of Hajj.

The dress code for Hajj, the Ihram, is also unique. Every man, in spite of his social or political status, covers himself with just two pieces of unstitched pieces of white cotton sheets and wears a flip-flop type sandal. Woman wear mostly white covering their whole bodies except the face and hands. There is no strict separation of men and women during the Hajj rituals.

Some basic requirements for Hajj

The religion of Islam.
Adult age. Children may go for Hajj but with their parents. Children’s Hajj performed in this manner is considered under optional category and does not compensate the compulsory requirement of Hajj upon them in adulthood.
Debts. It is important that one pays his or her debts before the Hajj or should have enough declared assets to pay the debt if needed.
A Formal Will. Putting down a formal Will for one’s assets is a requirement. When we leave home for a travel, we never know if we are going to safely come back. It is common sense to always have a Will in place but before Hajj, it is a religious requirement.
Appropriate documentation including a valid passport, required immunizations and the proper visa. Hajj visa is specific and one may not be able to enter the Hajj area without a visa with endorsement for Hajj.
Only designated agents or their sub-agents conduct Hajj travel. There is always an associated Saudi citizen or agent who manages the affairs on that end. He also makes sure that we leave Saudi Arabia safely after finishing Hajj.
Appropriate health. One should reconsider taking this trip if there are serious medical concerns; which might be an allowable excuse. This is the reason it is important to perform Hajj as soon as possible and in younger age. But sometime, even young people have valid medical excuses. It is important to note that one may perform Hajj on a wheelchair by pushing himself or herself or by another person.
The Hajj Travel

Mode and means of international travel are very different now compared to just a hundred years ago. Imagine somebody leaving the western part of China through central Asia or distant part of India traveling by foot or whatever animal or mode of transportation available before the automobile came into being or was widely available. It took months before he or she reached anywhere close to the land near Makkah; and imagine the amount of resources and effort involved. Even the sea journey took days to weeks, if not months. People from distant places all around the better-known world have been making this trip for centuries. The situation now is different, especially for the people in USA. They can browse the agent’s site for a suitable travel package, which usually include air-travel, fees, hotel accommodation and even the meals. Hajj travel is easy now.

The Hajj

Beside this general information, the detail of the Hajj itself is beyond the scope of this brief article. Please consult the local masjid for further guidance and to obtain appropriate information and literature.

FASTING

Fasting is one of the fundamental elements of Islamic faith. Muslims are told that fasting is prescribed to them as it was prescribed to other or previous nations. Like the compulsory and optional prayers, there is compulsory and optional fasting. Most of the description here is about the compulsory or obligatory fasting in the month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. As Islamic calendar follows rotation of moon around the earth, or it is a lunar calendar, which is about 10 days shorter than the conventional or solar calendar, Ramadan comes 10 days earlier every year than the previous year. Muslims all over the globe generally follow the same calendar except some disagreement about the 1st and last day of Ramadan, which is discussed later.

Fasting is for adults though children or early teens are encouraged to fast. Travelers or people with sickness can be excused from fasting. Women during menstruation and labor are also excused. They all are advised to either fast after the situation is changed or resolved or do the compensatory charity, depending upon the particular situation.

The month of Ramadan starts with sighting of the new moon, which has become the source of the difference of opinion. Unlike the old times, when the only way to determine if the new month has started was to find out if the new moon has been sighted or not, there are ways now to precisely determine when the moon may be sighted, even if it is an overcast sky. In practice, some people still follow the old tradition and start the month of Ramadan based upon the Local Moon-sighting. Many others start the month if it is reliably sighted anywhere in the world, the so-called Global Moon-sighting. In our center, we follow the Global Moon-sighting.

The Ramadan starts right at the sighting of the moon and Muslims enter into a special physical and spiritual mode or state of mind for the next whole month. Starting with the same evening, they also start a special congregational prayer, the Taraweeh prayer, after the regular Isha prayer. Nowadays, you may notice more people coming to a masjid in Ramadan, including for this prayer, than other months.

The special congregational or Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan is performed at night after the Isha prayer. It may have 8 to 20 rakaas. The tradition is to recite longer portions of the Quran in each rakaa than what is normally done. The Quran was revealed or conveyed to the prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) through the angel Gibraeel (Gabrial) (may peace be upon him) and it was specially repeated and practiced in the month of Ramadan. Muslims all around the Globe, in the Taraweeh prayer, try to do something similar and recite or listen to the whole Quran in 20-30 days. All along the history, to this day, there have been people who have memorized the whole Quran, the Huffaaz (plural) and Hafiz (singular), who lead this prayer. In some places, they take it even to a higher level and read another set of Quran only during the last 10 days, after finishing one in the first 20. Typical Taraweeh prayer lasts for 2-3 hours.

Fasting, described simply, is abstaining from eating, drinking and intimacy from dawn to dusk. In reality, it is much more demanding and involved. One has to be constantly God conscience and avoid anything that God has prohibited or disliked for us. This may be described as not using our eyes to see something we are not supposed to see, our ears to hear something we are not supposed to hear, our hands to do something that they are not supposed to do, our feet to go somewhere we are not supposed to go and our mind, time and effort to use it in a way we are told to avoid. We are asked to spend time in God’s remembrance and perform more than the usual compulsory prayers. We are asked to read and recite the Quran and reflect on it. We are asked to be extra generous with our charities, especially to our families and neighbors, maintain our relationships and pay the Zakat if we have not already paid. We are asked to feed the hungry and help the travelers and prisoners. Ramadan in fact is an opportunity or blessing given to us every year to change our life and life-style altogether.

Every day in Ramadan starts with waking up in wee hours and a meal, the so-called Suhoor or Sehri. We are not used to eating at that time and some even like to avoid it. We are told that there is special blessing in eating that meal, even if it is just a small amount or a few dates and water, and it is strongly recommended. In most Muslims households and localities though, Suhoor is a festive looking time. The whole neighborhoods wake up, sometime even making sure that others have waken up, and make and enjoy meals that they might not regularly make except for this particular time. In non-Muslim countries, the same happens, though on a smaller family scale.

The meal at the end of a fast has also become ceremonial and is more noticeable even in non-Muslim environment. Typically, the fast ends with sunset and it is recommended to break it by eating or drinking something, as soon as possible. It is not recommended to delay it further. After breaking the fast and before the formal dinner, there is Maghrib prayer. Over the years and centuries, Muslims all around the globe, depending upon their own taste and cuisines, have developed certain special dishes and meals that they make for breaking the fast and the dinner afterwards. Out of affection to the prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, the two items common to all these might be the plain water and a few dates.

The Ramadan ends with the sighting of the next moon, leading to one of the two major celebrations or holidays for Muslims, the Eid-ul-Fitr, which translates into celebration of charity. To mark this day, an obligatory charity is due upon every able leader of the household on behalf of every person in the house, including the one who might have born that same morning. This charity is only valid if disposed before the Eid prayer that day and ideally is delivered to the local needy right away.

ZAKAT

Zakat is something in material sense (goods, animals, assets or money) a Muslim gives back to the Muslim community every year. It is determined based upon the wealth, assets or goods retained for the previous year, not the income during that time. Assets and goods for personal or family use are excluded for the calculation of Zakat. There is also a minimal level of wealth, the Nisab, after which the Zakat becomes applicable. For understanding, the typical value of Nisab, consider the value 87.43 g of gold. There is no Zakat on any wealth less than that.

Once the value of Nisab is excluded, Zakat of 2.5% is due on the rest of the amount. Zakat is considered a compulsory act of worship, not a tax or even a charity. God stated that Zakat cleanses and blesses our overall wealth. In Islam, there is no restriction for earning or accumulating wealth in any permissible way, as long as the yearly Zakat is paid. It is also understood that any wealth acquired by us is a special blessing from God. We are only the temporary custodian and should use it in manners He recommended.

Zakat is generally given to Muslims or for certain Muslim causes. More deserving are the needy in one’s own family and neighborhood. Preferably, it should be disposed without the indication of its nature. In Muslim societies, there are formal systems or institutions for its collection and delivery. If given appropriately and collected and used properly, it becomes a tremendous resource for the welfare of needy, sick and elderly.

BASICS OF ISLAM

Allah is the proper Arabic name of God. In English language and literature, including this site, one or the other words, Allah or God, are used interchangeably.

Islam is the religion God designed and decreed for human beings. Its instructions trickled down to us through His messengers or prophets, from the first prophet Adam (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) to His last, the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him). In between, there were thousands of prophets, some better known or more significant than others. The Quran mentioned some of them by name, including the prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Yousuf (Joseph) and Isa (Jesus) (may peace and blessings of God be upon all of them).   The Quran also stated that these messengers were delivering the parts of the same message from God, The Almighty.

The main part of the message is the understanding that God is the exclusive and only Creator, Sustainer, Cherisher and Caretaker of this universe and/or any others if they exist. He is the Legislator and the only Deity worthy of worship. Neither was He procreated and nor did He procreate. Our understanding of Him is limited to what he taught us about Himself through revelation. He commanded us to reflect on His creation(s) and systems so that we may know Him better. He is closer to us than we think but He and we are in different dimensions. Until the time comes or until He allows, we have no way of directly perceiving Him.

He does what He wills and whatever He wills happens. This does not mean that He has not given us a choice. A small part of His creation that is known to us and larger part that is still unknown, all follow His rules and are running as per His plans. His plans and the systems are just and balanced, an understanding we might attain if we reflect upon them.  Actions and inactions have repercussions and causes have effects, all according to His supreme plan.

We, the human beings, in spiritual form, existed before we were brought to this world and would continue to exist afterwards. Compared to the overall scheme of things, the period of our life is very brief and temporary. God brought us to life by putting us in our physical bodies and He could and would bring us back after a certain pre-determined time, known only to Him. He expects us to remember Him, obey Him, worship Him and follow the guidelines He sent to us through His messengers, the prophets of Him.

Each one of us is responsible and accountable for our own responsibilities, actions or inactions. Each one of us would have to individually answer to Him without any input or sway even from our friends, family members, children or parents.

Human beings, physically speaking, are not created equal.  We are different from each other in many aspects including the gender, color, race, health, wealth and intelligence. This is His wisdom. He tells us that there is no superiority of one person upon other by just the gender, color, race, health, wealth or even intelligence. Better is the one who is more knowledgeable of Him and fearful of Him and uses whatever is bestowed to him/her by Him to the use He intended. It is only in our own interest to try to know Him and reflect upon His creations, rules and systems. The material benefits and the knowledge we may acquire are bestowed to us more as a test from Him than a reward.

Out of all the attributes of Him we are given knowledge of, His Mercy surpasses all others. Oblivious of most of our past, all of our future and with a very limited understanding of even our present, concepts like this are difficult for us to comprehend. He is the Fashioner, the Designer and the Creator, while He is also the most Just, the Subduer and the Forgiver. He is Almighty, All-knower and Omni-potent.

God has given human being the mind to analyze a situation and make appropriate choices. Some of us are not accountable or punishable for our actions or inactions if this ability is absent or compromised. For others, His guidance has been formerly provided and recommendations already made. When the pre-determined time arrives, known only to Him, every human being would be brought to life, in front and answerable to Him for every aspect and detail of his or her life. Some would succeed and many not. In the Quran, God has given many examples of what may be the punishment for the ones who fail and reward for the ones who succeed. In our life times, it is not possible for us to determine our or anybody else’s fate. We are only asked to follow the right path, stay steadfast, ask for His forgiveness and have great hope in His Mercy. May God forgive us all.

Islam is the completely voluntary understanding and acceptance of these concepts, without any pressure, duress, coercion, compulsion or any ulterior, worldly or material motives. Reaching to this understanding and its acceptance, by itself a blessing from God, out of His wisdom, is not provided to all of us. This understanding and acceptance brings a human being to a state where he submits to Him and accepts the privileges and responsibilities of his own position. This is Islam, which brings him/her to a peaceful, tranquil and content state of mind.

A Muslim, preferably, is not an ascetic. One is active, involved and always trying to improve oneself and in the process of helping and improving the other people and life forms and their surroundings. While struggling to do this, even his day-to-day routine is considered an act of worship.

A Muslim is known by his character. All the ideological and philosophical beliefs and understanding might have limited value if they are not reflected on a person’s character. He does everything in his or her capacity to protect his religion, life, intellect, family and the property. He is truthful, fair, trustworthy, reliable, kind and generous. Finally, while constantly working for the noble cause, after putting a full effort on his part, he relies completely on God, the Almighty and happily accepts whatever transpires from Him.