Eid!

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DAYS BEFORE EID:

Eid is a three day celebration marking the end of the month of Ramadan. We begin our preparations well in advance for it. The days before we make sure to buy new clothes, or find clean and nice clothes, to wear on the day of Eid. My mum went even as far as buying new pyjamas and underwear for us to put on the night before Eid. Depending on what culture you are in you prepare different clothes; my Kurdish cousins wear their classical garb and most Iraqies just wear something nice (we don’t have any traditional clothes). Another important aspect is the “Eid cleaning” which is like a spring cleaning.

Parents and older muslims make sure the food and desserts are ready by baking the “kleicha” (traditional in Iraq) or other national pastries. Some also slaughter whole sheep to prepare for the family and another to give to the poor.

MORNING OF:

The most important part of Eid is to wake up and go to the Eid prayer at the Mosque. Either you go early in the morning and have breakfast afterwards or you have breakfast with your family and go to the Eid prayer and have lunch afterwards. The prayer precedes the midday prayers that are usually prayed after a short intermission.

DURING THE DAY:

Since it’s a celebration it is tradition to carry out traditional celebratory practices depending on where you live. In south Asia it is custom to go between houses and wish people a happy celebration, in Europe we usually just gather someplace together, either a restaurant or someone’s house. We serve the food we have prepared and give presents to the kids, usually money. It’s like Bar Mitzvah money but way less and annually.

More info:

CNN

Al-Jazeera

The Guardian

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Laylat al-Qadr: Part III

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Laylat al-Qadr is when most Muslims try to act and do their best and pray as much as possible for prosperity and success in the year to come. But what other deeds are specific to Ramadan?

WHAT IS RAMADAN?

Ramadan is the ninth and one of the most holy month in the Islamic religion. Since muslims follow the lunar calendar, it occurs on different dates every year in comparison to the tropical solar calendar (ya know, January-December). Therefore, it is often referred to as the ‘blessed month of Ramadan’ and is observed by Muslims all over the world.

WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT RAMADAN?

Well, the month marks many important events in Islamic history. Most importantly, it is the month the Quran first appeared to the muslim Prophet (PBUH) Muhammed. During the exact night of the Quran’s revelation it is also believed that God decides your destiny for the coming year.

WHAT DO YOU DO DURING RAMADAN?

Like Christian and Jewish fasting, it is about abstaining. Most commonly, people abstain from food, water, and physical needs between sunrise and sunset. But similar to Lent and Yom Kippur it is way more than food. During the month you are encouraged to be more religious, to pray for yourself and others, and walk in the shoes of those that have less. The major aims of the month is to detox the soul of lust and gluttony and refocus and reset your self-discipline.

Abstinence is not only retained to our stomach; we have to fast our mouths from backbiting and swearing, our eyes from witnessing crime and watching sins being practiced, our ears from listening to gossip.

EID? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? WHY DO YOU GET MONEY?

Eid just means celebration or holiday. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid Al-Fitr which is a big celebration where fasting is absolutely prohibited. We wake up in the morning and go to our Mosques to pray the ‘Eid Prayer’. Afterwards we pray the normal noon prayers.It is encouraged to give money to children that usually go around the mosque. Then we go eatttttttttt!!!!!!!!!! Some people eat at the Mosque, other’s go to restaurants with their families, or gather somewhere for a massive feast. Ultimately, we all fall to our sides in food comas and our elders give us money as presents. Last year my uncle got us all books… I got everyone chocolate and clothes… But most importantly my grandpa gave us all money! Haha! It’s just a gift-tradition like giving watches to people that graduate. I know a Swedish convert family that have their kids write wish-lists like they used to do during Christmas. It’s very different!

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Laylat al-Qadr: Part II

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My family is incredibly mixed. Most of my ancestors were atheists or pagans and it was quite recently that my mother’s family converted to Islam. My grandmother and grandfather raised my mother in quite a scientific household, they were both academics and valued facts over anything else. But my grandmother was incredibly pious, which you would not believe at first glance. Despite not having or believing in the head scarf she has never missed a daily prayer throughout her life. Whatever she may do during the day or night, partying or studying, she would return back home and pray.

They never really categorised themselves into either Sunni or Shia but my grandfather declared himself Qurani for the first few years when he started practicing (which was like.. 20 years ago). Now he leans more heavily towards the Shia side but would never admit so to anyone. My aunts married Sunnis but retained their “non-denomination” religious views that they had grown up with. My uncles married Sunnis but became more Shia for some incredibly odd reason. My mother married my dad that came from a Shia background and “became” Shia, which she shared with her brothers. Although I was raised mainly Shia, I have come to realise that some traditions we carry out in our family are largely Sunni or paganistic (lol, isn’t that funny).

Coming to iftar (breaking your fast during Ramadan) at our place is the most exquisite look into most muslim families. We line up to pray side by side but in different ways. We all have our own traditions and understandings of Islam but celebrate Ramadan together. When we eat we argue, loudly and proudly, over different religious ideas. My mother and uncles are always the first to tap out and my lawyer aunt and psychologist grandfather go head to head over issues they actually agree on. Then we deflate over tea and laugh over biscuits, and whilst the adults discuss us children get to listen and learn.

It is important to remember that this is how most muslims live; side by side with people of different belief, if not within the family then with their neighbours or friends. To my Muslim readers I encourage you to try to understand your fellow Muslims of different schools of thoughts. To my non-Muslim readers I employ you to learn about the importance of such diversity within Islam and other religions?

Community is a corner stone in religion and accepting different views is a fundamental rule in Islam:

There is no compulsion in religion. Certainly, right has become clearly distinct from wrong. Whoever rejects the devil and believes in God has firmly taken hold of a strong handle that never breaks. God is All-hearing and knowing.

Excerpt from Quran 2:256 (translation by Muhammad Sarwar)

On this potential day of Qadr it is important not only to pray for yourself and your year but to reflect on your actions. Have you chosen right when the distinction become clear? Have you forced someone to adhere to your belief? Is your hand indeed clasped around the unbreakable handle of God’s mercy?

Laylat al-Qadr: Part I

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Laylat al-Qadr consists of prayers and traditions carried out throughout the night. It is commonly known as “The Night of Destiny” and commemorates the first night that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is uncertain when this night exactly is, but Shia believe it to fall on either the 19th, 21st, or 23rd of Ramadan whilst Sunni believe it is 27th of Ramadan.

It is believed that during Laylat al-Qadr the annual destiny for each person is determined by God. This is mentioned in the Quran as well:

Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind]. 4 On that night is made distinct every precise matter – 5 [Every] matter [proceeding] from Us. Indeed, We were to send [a messenger] 6 As mercy from your Lord. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.

Excerpt from the Quran 44:3-6

Some Muslims retreat for “Itikaf” where you stay in the Mosque for the last 10 days of Ramdan and spend the days praying and fasting and away from the materialism. To be able to perform Itikaf you must be able to fast, not have any physical or mental illnesses, and believe in the message of Islam.

Throughout Ramadan you are supposed to abstain from food, water, and sex but only during the day time. During the Itikaf, you are allowed to eat and drink when the sun has set, but the rules on sex and any form of physical pleasure still stand. You are not allowed to leave the mosque, talk ill of another person, harbour hate in your heart, carry out any business deals, or utilise money. Of course, if there is something that requires you to do any of these things you are allowed to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible and return to your Itikaf.

The reason for doing Itikaf or participating in the traditions of Laylat al-Qadr are many and mostly personal. It can either come from wanting to be closer to God, or sacrificing your time to God for help in some matter, or in thankfulness for the previous year.

Battle of Badr

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Every Muslim is acquainted with the Battle of Badr; if you were a participant in your mosque you might have done a play on it or been told about it by your parents. Historically, it is one of the most famous and most important Islamic battles in the religion.

It all started in year 624 AD when the Quraish tribe in Mecca started grand-scale preparations to attack the Prophet (PBUH) and Medina. All profits accrued by the Quraishi were planned to be spent on horses and other war tools to fight the Muslims in Medina.

A caravan from Abu Sufyan was travelling between Mecca and Syria with all the Quraishi treasures. The Muslims planned a raid on the caravan in revenge of the Quraishi abolishing them from their Meccan homes. The Prophet (PBUH) had initially no interest in engaging in battle but a revelation from God told him to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Quraishi were camping near Badr, 200 miles from Mecca and 80 miles from Medina. The caravan was never intercepted, which the Quraishi’s had planned to be their signal to start marching towards Medina. The army from Mecca had 1000 well equipped soldiers from Meccan houses such as the Quraishi and Umayyad’s. From Medina, an army of merely 313 persons, 70 camels, and two horses proceeded to meet the army from Mecca.

On the 17th of Ramadan, 624 AD, the Muslims had reached Badr and the Battle between the two armies commenced. Both sides fought bravely and there was a mix of individual combats between great names from both sides as well as massive clashes between the armies. On the tenth day of the battle, the Prophet (PBUH) prayed to God:

O, Allah; if this group of believers are defeated, You shall not be worshipped on earth anymore.

Ultimately, with holy zeal they prospered and defeated the opposition. The Muslims drove back the Meccans, there were many casualties and prisoners taken by the Muslims. William Muir writes:

In pursuance of Mahomet’s commands the citizens of Medina and such of the refugees as possessed houses received the prisoners and treated them with much consideration. ‘Blessings be on the men of Medina’, said one of these prisoners in later days, ‘they made us ride while they themselves walked; they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates’.

The war had many consequences, the main being the boost of morale the Muslims felt in their victory especially after the immense loss they had suffered since the beginning of Islam.

123 And already had Allah given you victory at [the battle of] Badr while you were few in number. Then fear Allah ; perhaps you will be grateful. 124 [Remember] when you said to the believers, “Is it not sufficient for you that your Lord should reinforce you with three thousand angels sent down? 125 Yes, if you remain patient and conscious of Allah and the enemy come upon you [attacking] in rage, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand angels having marks [of distinction] 126 And Allah made it not except as [a sign of] good tidings for you and to reassure your hearts thereby. And victory is not except from Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Wise – 127 That He might cut down a section of the disbelievers or suppress them so that they turn back disappointed.

Excerpt from Quran 3:123-127 (Ali ‘Imran)


Sources:

Important Events: The Battle of Badr

On The Path of The Beloved – Battle of Badr

The Battle of Badr

Chapter 30: The Battle of Badr in The Message by Ayatullah Jafar Subhani

The Battle of Khaybar

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In the beginning, the Jews of Medina lived in peace alongside the Muslims after the siege of Medina. The Qurayshi from Mecca besieged Medina from the north whilst the Prophet (PBUH) lived in it but the Muslim’s quickly dug trenches and caused a headlock and standstill. The Jews in the south of Medina were not inclined to attack the Muslims, especially because of the treaty they had made between them and the Muslims, but after the Qurayshi accused them of treachery they changed their minds. Ultimately, the army against Medina broke up and they drafted the Treaty of Hudaybiyah that would allow the inhabitants of Medina to travel to Mecca for their pilgrimage once a year.

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Muslims invented trenches before WWI

In the aftermath, the Jews on the south of Medina locked themselves up in their forts but the Muslims besieged them shortly after the Qurayshi had retreated. The Prophet (PBUH) suggested to solve their issues with an arbitrator of their own choosing. They chose Sa’ad ibn Muadh who decreed to banish the remaining women and children and sentenced all men to death in accordance with the Torah:

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced laborand shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestockand everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies.

Deutoronomy 20:10-14

It is reflected later by Muslim scholars that had they chosen Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as their arbitrator their sentence would have been more lenient. In fact, not all Jews were sentenced to die or banishment but were sent to Khaybar, an oasis north of Medina.

 

After returning to routines and their normal lives, the Jews felt like they had surrendered to the Muslims and did not like the shit of power that had occurred. Therefore, many of the Jewish tribes around Medina attacked the Prophet’s (PBUH) city and its inhabitants. Jewish marauders carried out raiding expeditions and many on their way to or from Medina were intercepted and killed. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) decided to put an end to the abuse and set out for Khaybar with 1600 men and women soldiers and 100 horses.

The conquest of Khyber conferred unlimited benefits upon the Muslims; some of them were:

1.Immense quantities of gold and silver that the Jews had been accumulating for many generations.

2.The finest arsenals of Arabia containing the newest weapons of the times such as swords, spears, lances, maces, shields, armor, bows and arrows.

3.Vast herds of horses, camels and cattle, and flocks of sheep and goats.

4.Rich arable lands with palm groves.

Excerpt from A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims by Sayyid Ali Ashgar Razwy

Another Jewish settlement near Khaybar, called Fadak, surrendered voluntarily and sent envoys to negotiates terms of peace. The Prophet (PBUH) accepted their surrendered and allowed them to retain the right of their land as long as they became subjects of the Islamic State (NOT convert).


Sources:

TBA

Yathrib becomes Medina

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The Prophet (PBUH) was 53 years of age at the time of the Hijra that marks the first day and year of the Islamic calendar. The migration lead him to Yathrib where he spent the remaining 10 years of his life. In Yathrib the divine message entered its last and decisive stage that would lay the foundation for Islam spreading throughout the world.

The Romans had expelled the Jews from Syria and Palestine in the 2nd Century B.C. Some of these Jews had migrated to Yathrib where they built strong fortresses. Yathrib was therefore a mix of mainly Jews and other culturally and religiously diverse tribes that lived together in peace that provided a open atmosphere for freedom of religion.

The Yathribites were not foreign to the idea of unity under one God, a message that had been previously put forward by the Jews. The Judaic religion also taught that a Prophet was to come that was also believed by the Christian monks, most famously Buhaira that met the Prophet (PBUH) when he was 12 years old. Yathrib therefore changed its name to Medinat-Al-Nabi (City of the Prophet) or Al-Medina Al-Munawara (The Illuminated City), or Medina for short.

The Jew could not help shouting at the top of his voice: ‘O you Arabs! Here is your great man whom you have been waiting for!’ So all the Muslims rushed to their arms and received Allah’s Messenger on the summit of Harra. The Prophet turned with them to the right and alighted at the quarters of Bani Amr Ibn ‘Auf, and this was on Monday in the month of Rabi-ul-Awal.

Excerpt from Muhammad by Alim.org

The Muhajireen (the emigrants) were the Muslims that took flight alongside the Prophet (PBUH) towards Medina. They had become muslims in its formative years when it was contained within Mecca. The inhabitants of Medina, the Ansar, believed in the message of Islam and that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was truly a messenger from God. To ensure continued cooperation between the Muhajireen and the Anser, the Prophet (PBUH) joined one of each together in a tie of “Brotherhood”.

And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed then with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.

9:100 The Holy Quran from Quran.org translation by Sahih International

The Prophet (PBUH) also drafted a treaty between the Muslims and Jews of Medina to ensure safety for both parties. The Document read something like this:

The state of peace and war shall be common to all Muslims; none among them shall have the right of concluding peace with, or declaring war against, the enemies of his co-religionists. The Jews who enter into this covenant shall be protected from all insults and vexations; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good offices. The Jews of the various branches of ‘Awf, Najjar, al-Harith, Jashm, Tha’labah, Aws, and all others domiciled in Yathrib shall form with the Muslims one composite nation. They shall practice their religion as freely as the Muslims.

The clients and allies of the Jews shall enjoy the same security and freedom. The guilty shall be pursued and punished. The Jews shall join the Muslims in defending Yathrib against all enemies. The interior of Yathrib shall be a sacred place for all those who accept this Charter. The clients and allies of the Muslims and of the Jews shall be as respected as the principals. All Muslims shall hold in abhorrence anyone found guilty of a crime, injustice, or disorder. None shall uphold the culpable, even if he may be his nearest in kinship.

Excerpt from The Holy Prophet by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi

Not long after the flight to Medina, the first mosque was built by the Muslims who had just emerged from the Meccan oppressive regime. The mosque became a centre for gatherings, praying, learning the Quran, and a headquarter disputes were settled and problems were solved according to Islamic law. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) utilised the new mosque to lead daily prayers, deliver sermons, and teach the Quran and the divine laws within it, as well as discourse with his companions about the meaning and future of Islam.

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There were still some agitation from some Jewish Yathribites that colluded with the polytheist Quraish tribe in Mecca to stamp out Islam. The Quraishites were furious after the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had slipped away from them the same night he was to be assassinated. The news that Islam was growing steadfast in Medina further ignited their hate and rage against the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers.


Sources:

Prophet Muhammad – A Brief Biography by Al-Balagh Foundation

Muhammad, Messenger of Peace and Tolerance by Yasin T. Al-Jibouri