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Archive for August, 2013

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

According to one way of calculating the lunar months, tonight is the 25th night of Ramadan. According to the Sunni Muslims [and I say this because I know that this comes from the Sunni hadith collections, and I don’t know if the Shi’a Muslims have a different understanding], on nights like tonight the Prophet (God’s blessings and peace be upon him) recommended for us to say:

اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عنا
Allāhumma innaka ‘afuw tuḥibb al-‘afw f‘afu ‘annā
“O God, truly You are Pardoning. You love pardoning, so pardon us.”

I say this from the bottom of my heart.

It has been almost 15 years since I became Muslim. How many mistakes I have made along the way! How many times I have faltered! God, please forgive me, especially because I know I will slip again.

The other night while teaching a class, I said, “a lifetime of sins can be erased in one moment, but changing the way you live your life may take many years.” How true. One of the wisdoms of the sīrah of the Prophet (God’s blessings and peace be upon him) is that change takes time – Islam doesn’t come all at once, nor does it come without effort.

I feel that I implicitly make a chart, all the time. On one side are virtues and the other are vices. It is as if all of my efforts over the years have been directed towards crossing out the vices that I have overcome and circling the virtues that have become consistent. But when I look at my theoretical chart tonight, I am overwhelmed by the vices the still remain un-crossed-out, and the virtues that have yet to be circled.

اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عنا
Allāhumma innaka ‘afuw tuḥibb al-‘afw f‘afu ‘annā
“O God, truly You are Pardoning. You love pardoning, so pardon us.”

I think about the coming year, when Ramadan won’t be here to protect me. I think about what I can take from this night – these past weeks – and carry with me back into the bustling world just outside my window. Even if I am forgiven on this night, what might I be doing a few weeks from now?

I am so afraid, and feel so weak and inclined to sin and forgetfulness. The realization that Ramadan is almost over hits me like a ton of bricks, and I don’t know what to do.

اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عنا
Allāhumma innaka ‘afuw tuḥibb al-‘afw f‘afu ‘annā
“O God, truly You are Pardoning. You love pardoning, so pardon us.”

I am reminded of the hadith found in the chapter,  “On Moderation in Worship,” in the book Riyāḍ al-ṣāliḥīn:

Hanzala…one of the scribes of the Messenger of Allah, said, “Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, met me and said, ‘How are you, Hanzala?’ I said, ‘Hanzala is a hypocrite!’ I said, Glory be to Allah! What are you saying!’ I said, ‘We were with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who reminded us of the Garden and the Fire and it was as if we could see them with our eyes. When we leave the presence of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, we attend to our wives, children and estates in a state of great heedlessness.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allah, we have experienced the same as this!’ So Abu Bakr and I went to visit the Messenger of Allah and I said, ‘Hanzala is a hypocrite, Messenger of Allah!’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Why is that?’ I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, when we are with you, you remind us of the Garden and Fire and it is as if we could see them with our eyes. When we leave your presence, we attend to our wives, children and estates in a state of great heedlessness.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘By the One in whose hand my soul is, if you were to remain in the state you are in when you are in my presence and in the dhikr, the angels would shake hands with you on your bed and in the street, but, Hanzala, different times are not the same…'”

“Different times are not the same.” Thank you, O Prophet of Mercy! Upon you be blessings and peace, O Messenger of God!

There is a wisdom in my Lord making Ramadan qualitatively different from the rest of the year. Ramadan is not what will save me – my Lord is the Lord of all moments. Allah is always the Pardoner, and I will always need to be pardoned. If every virtue that is on my chart now becomes circled and every vice becomes crossed out, on that day I am sure my eyes will be opened to many more virtues until then unimagined, and many more vices still hidden. The arc of my moral universe has been long – I just hope it is bending towards virtue.

اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عنا
Allāhumma innaka ‘afuw tuḥibb al-‘afw f‘afu ‘annā
“O God, truly You are Pardoning. You love pardoning, so pardon us.”
Al-Afuww_99_Names_of_Allah_in_99_Days_to_Ramadan_Independent_Learners

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