Ramadan 1: The Meaning of Ramadan

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One could say Ramadan commemorates the tanzeel or sending down of the Qur’an, which occurred on the “Night of Power” or Laylat-ul-Qadr, a night the Quran describes as “better than a thousand months.” One fasts from the first thread of light of dawn until what the Qur’an mentions as “layl” or night, but which is usually interpreted as the first darkness, or sunset, although some wait longer to be sure it is really night. The fast includes not only food and drink (including water), but also abstention from profanity, smoking, sexual relations, and any other “impiety” such as lying, stealing, or fighting. War is prohibited except in actual self-defense. It is a sacred month, one of four, and the most sacred of all. Continue reading

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The Difference between Salat and Du’a: What is Prayer?

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When most people think of “Islamic prayer,” they picture rows of worshippers bowing and prostrating in unison, usually inside a mosque, facing Mecca (Makkah). But the act of worship pictured is salat, a specific act of worship with geophysical as well as body-language physical protocols, requiring a ritual ablution, preferably in water, prior to its performance. The word du’a, on the other hand, is equivalent in meaning to the English word “prayer,” which is simply “supplication.” To refer to salat as “prayer” is convenient, because there is no English equivalent, but inaccurate. Continue reading

Notes on Quran Explanations & Translations

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Since the Quran is the final Revelation from God in the line of prophets from Abraham to Mohammad, including Solomon, Moses, and Jesus, it would follow that this book, sent with Prophet Mohammad to “al-aalameen” or “all the worlds,” is one we should attempt to understand. And since it is also the only revealed Book that still exists in the original language, in this case Arabic, it is also important to preserve the original and the understanding of its meaning. But there is a conflict here… Continue reading

Ramadan: Time, Physical Worship and Limits

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The days of Ramadan are flying by with so much to do, so little energy, and no time to write about it. Time and its fleeting nature is a topic the Quran discusses with some frequency, most often in reference to spending some of that time with thikr Allah, thinking about Allah, how we will meet Him in the Hereafter, and what we are doing to be better people, more compassionate and responsible. The difference between faith and denial is enormous——yet manifested in small ways, perhaps the change from one to the other could move a mountain, a change of mindset that may take a matter of seconds…
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Day 3: The Power of Praise

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“Praise” is an easy word to be glib about, saying such platitudes as “we must be grateful for all we have,” but the Quran mentions al-hamd so frequently and with such significance that I was struck with a lesser-noticed attribute: sheer power. Past the invocation or Bismallah, the first word in the Quran is al-hamd, or “praise.” But in a sense it is also the last word, as this aya indicates… Continue reading

Day 2: Reassess Priorities

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No more predictions about what I’m going to write “tomorrow!” Surprise, the unexpected, and we are reminded that even our self-direction is subject to change——and that everything is in Allah’s hands. Reminded to say insha’ Allah. Humans love the unpredictable. Thrill rides, gambling, surprise parties, spontaneity, humor, and so much more, show how we gravitate to it, even playing with death… At the same time we also love control and security, to a fault. Irony! So we must find a balance. Continue reading

Ramadan Diary

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Since this blog was started last Ramadan, when my intention was to write a little every day on the subject of the Quran, it seems only fitting that this Ramadan I try again to do the same. It’s not a diary in the sense of focusing on something in my daily life, but rather in the sense of doing something every day, thinking and writing about the Quran during the month in which we remember and commemorate the revelation of this final Book of Allah. Continue reading