Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam,

As-salamu `alaykum wa-rahmatu llah.

In sha'Allah, Wednesday night (tomorrow) is the first night of Ramadan 1428 and Thursday, Sept. 13 (the following day) is the first day of fasting. In anticipation of our making the most of the beautiful occasion, I wanted to share a bit of advice that I pray will be helpful to students, and other members of the Muslim community at Harvard, who will be on campus for Ramadan soon, if they are not here already. In sha'Allah, we will have an opportunity to discuss Ramadan-related matters on other occasions in the near future.

* As in years past, we are announcing the beginning of the blessed month of Ramadan on the Harvard Islamic Society website and over the community announcement list (his-list). There is also a post on the blog of your favorite HIS Muslim Chaplain . Note that, as in years past, in ascertaining the beginning of Ramadan, we are relying on regional Muslim organizations in the Greater Boston Area. Al-hamdu li-llah, the Imams of the Islamic Council of New England agreed at its recent meeting to continue following the methodology for ascertaining the beginning of the month that the New England Imams established several years ago. The New England Imams rely on acceptable reports of the sighting of the crescent moon of Ramadan by Muslim religious authorities from multiple locales around the world.

* Start fasting with your community wherever you are. Avoid disputes. Do not to get caught up in the wrangling about establishing the beginning of the blessed month that sometimes afflicts members of our community a day or so before Ramadan, the month of patience, begins.

* Do fix your intention (niyya) to fast during the night before fasting during the day. If you have questions about this or any of the other technical aspects fasting ask an `alim (religious scholar). Asking is a form of worship in itself. As in years past, there will be a "Ramadan Workshop" on the basics of fasting this Sunday, Sept 16, 1-3pm with Shaykh Suheil Laher (MIT Muslim Chaplain and PhD Student, Arabic and
Islamic Studies, NELC, Harvard University), Shaykh Sami ul-Ihsan Khan (JD candidate, Harvard Law School) and myself. The location will be announced soon in sha'Allah. Watch the HIS Event Calendar at the website.

* As a rule, try to make the days and nights of Ramadan different from what they are for you outside of Ramadan. Hadith: "Let not your day of fasting be like your day when not fasting."

* Try to spend a lot of time around your brothers and sisters in Islam this month. Try not to break your fast alone. Make a special effort to pray in congregation.

* Ask Allah for forgiveness a lot during the beginning of the month. Try to think of the sins with which you entered Ramadan and seek forgiveness and repent from them.

* Read the Qur'an. Recite the Qur'an. Listen to it being recited. Turn an ayah (passage) or two over of the Qur'an in your mind for a couple of minutes.

* If you normally watch TV, listening music, watch movies on DVD or the Web, give it up for the month. Try replacing it with listening to the Qur'an, reading from the Qur'an or making remembrance of Allah.

* Give a lot of sadaqa (charity). Remember that sadaqa includes saying
subhana llah ("How Perfect is Allah!"), al-hamdu li-llah ("Praise be to
Allah") and allah akbar (Allah is Greater!); smiling at your brother or
sister and helping him or her carry his stuff.

* Do not burn out. Increase your devotions as the month goes on. The
Messenger said the most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are
[done] consistently, even if they are small.

May Allah forgive all our sins; accept our fasting, bowing, prostration,
charity, supplications and other good deed; manumit us from the Hellfire
and admit the Paradise Gardens through the Rayyan Gate!

Your Brother and the Most Needy Slave of Allah
Taha bin Hasan Abdul-Basser

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