KISA QUERIES

 

Kisa Queries is a database of frequently asked non-jurisprudential questions that have been asked to Ayatullah Khamenei. They are adapted from his Farsi book series, Porseman. We pray that with the tawfīq of Allah, we can expand this database to include all the topics that his books cover, inshāʾAllāh.

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Kisa Queries

Kisa Queries is a database of frequently asked questions.

Sins and Repentance

Sins and Repentance

  • What is a sin?
  • What is meant by minor sins and major sins? Is there an āyah in the Qurʾān about this?
  • Is it correct to say that sins are ranked according to their effects? For example, lying is a major sin and a liar is said to be an enemy of Allah; however, if a sin is trivial in nature, is it possible that it is not considered a major sin and that one who commits such a sin is not an enemy of Allah?
  • If an individual holds a high position in society and commits a minor sin, can it be considered a major sin because of the devastating effects that it may have on society?
  • What is the rule for committing a minor sin in order to avoid committing a major sin?
  • Is it a sin to fantasize about encounters with individuals who are not maḥram to us? What should we do to combat such thoughts?
  • Do the Qurʾān and aḥādīth indicate what effect every sin has on our lives?
  • What is the root of all sin?
  • Is there a difference between akhlāqi sins, religious sins, societal sins, and sins that break the law?
  • If a person unknowingly committed a sin, will they still be held accountable for it?
  • Are the effects of mistreating parents manifested in this world?
  • What is meant by the manifestation of the effects of sin?
  • What is the rule on admitting to sin in the presence of others?
  • If a person has committed several major sins, but has truly repented, will his sins be forgiven?
  • What is the difference between a person who has committed sin and truly repented and a person who has never committed sin?
  • If a person feels remorse for committing sin, but he did not repent, will his sins be forgiven?
  • If a person committed many sins in their youth, will their sins be forgiven in old age, and will their repentance be accepted?
  • What are the conditions of true repentance?
  • What is the meaning of tawbat an-naṣūḥ (توبة النصوح), or sincere repentance?
  • What is the position of a person who repents, then later breaks that repentance, and feels remorse for having done so?
  • Before attending university, my focus was on school. I also considered myself to be fairly religious. However, after entering university, I have found myself committing several sins as a result of my friends. Will it be possible to repair my character and purify myself from sin?
  • Why are some people so susceptible to negative influence?
  • With all the corruption and sin that exists in society, how can we stay connected to Allah, elevate ourselves spiritually, and also remain active in that same society? Is it possible to maintain my religion under such conditions in society and university?
  • When I think about the sins that I have committed and the justice and accounting of Allah, I feel anxious, and I am not at peace. What should I do?
  • Is it possible for a person to love Allah so deeply that this love protects him from committing sin?
  • If the Prophets and Imāms (ʿa) are infallible and do not commit sins, why is it that they ask for forgiveness in their supplications?
  • One of the signs of the reappearance of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj) is that oppression and suffering will be pervasive throughout the world. Why, then, are people told to prepare for the reappearance of that Imām (ʿaj) by establishing peace and avoiding oppression and sin?
  • It is said that sins will be forgiven with repentance, yet in the Qurʾān, we read that even if someone commits an atom’s worth of evil or sin, they will be faced with it on the Day of Judgement (Sūrah az-Zalzalah). Which of these is correct?
The Holy Month of Ramadan
  • The Month of Ramadan
  • What does the word Ramadan mean?
  • Did the month of Ramaḍān and fasting exist in past religions? How is the fasting of Christians and Jews different from that of Muslims?
  • Rajab is the month of Amīr al-Muʾminīn (ʿa), Shaʿbān is attributed to the Noble Prophet (ṣ), and the month of Ramaḍān is the month of Allah, which is exclusive to the ummah (followers) of the Prophet (ṣ). Can you explain this?
  • What does it mean to be a guest of Allah during the month of Ramadan?
  • How should we plan our time during the month of Ramaḍān in order to maximize our benefits from the month?
  • What are the spiritual, societal, and health effects of fasting?
  • Isn’t fasting a type of self-discipline? If so, what is the difference between fasting and self-discipline outside of religion?
  • It is said that Shayṭān is locked up in chains during the month of Ramaḍān. If this is the case, then why do we still commit sins during this month? Why does Allah give Shayṭān the opportunity to lead us to sin when we have to go through much difficulty to free ourselves from his evil?
  • During the month of Ramaḍān, I feel more love for Allah and the Imām (ʿa). How can I know if Allah also loves me? Is there a way for me to be certain of Allah’s love for me?
  • What should we do to better safeguard the effects and blessings of the month of Ramaḍān within ourselves?
  • What is the relationship between the Qurʾān and the month of Ramaḍān? Why has this month been called “the spring of the Qurʾān?”
  • According to the following āyah, was the whole Qurʾān revealed during the month of Ramaḍān?: شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ The month of Ramaḍān (is that) in which the Qurʾān was revealed.
  • Are the words of the Qurʾān from Allah, or were they chosen because of the Noble Prophet’s language? Since Allah is not limited by time, geographical location, or a particular language, how do we explain the fact that the language of the Qurʾān is Arabic?
  • While reciting the Qurʾān, which rules should we observe in order to better benefit from the Noble Book?
  • Are there any spiritual rewards and blessings in reciting the translation of the Qurʾān?
  • Is it ok to draw our own personal conclusions about the Qurʾān? Is it possible to use the Qurʾān without referencing its tafsīr (scholarly commentary)? Isn’t the Qurʾān a source of guidance for all?
  • Why do the āyāt of Qurʾān mostly address men? Don’t women form half the population?
  • Explain the meaning and essence of the Night of Qadr. What is the importance of this night?
  • Did the Night of Qadr exist before Islam, and does it continue after the Noble Prophet (ṣ)?
  • The Night of Qadr is which night of the year? Due to the different calendars that exist throughout the world, is it possible for there to be more than one Night of Qadr?
  • If our fate and destiny is determined on the Night of Qadr, then what does it mean for man to strive and have freedom of choice?
  • What are some of the best things that we can do on the Night of Qadr?
  • What should we do to gain closeness to Allah during the month of Ramaḍān?
  • During the month of Ramaḍān, how do we get into the spirit of reciting duʿā and expressing our needs to Allah?
  • What are some of the etiquettes of duʿā?
  • Duʿā Saḥr has been narrated from which Imām?
  • What is the most important benefit of Duʿā Saḥr?
  • Who narrated Duʿā Iftitāḥ?
  • In part of Duʿā Iftitāḥ, we make duʿā for Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj), praying for his quick reappearance, and extolling his noble qualities and state of perfection. When the awliyāʾ (close guardians) of Allah mention their own superior virtues and level of perfection, is this considered self praise and the extolling of one’s own virtues? What is the importance of doing such a thing?
  • One of the famous duʿās recited during the noble month of Ramaḍān is Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī. Please briefly mention what this duʿā is about.
  • In Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī, Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) says, “I cry for the sake of my life being taken away.” Why do even the best of Allah’s servants fear death? And what should we do about this?
  • Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī mentions Munkar and Nakīr, the two angels who will be present the first night in the grave. Please explain what happens the first night in the grave and the reality and length of barzakh.
  • Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī mentions the difficulties and frightening events that we will face on the Day of Judgement. How many stations will there be on the Day of Judgement, and what is the philosophy behind them?
  • Many āyāt of the Qurʾān and most of the duʿās of the month of Ramaḍān mention the blessings of Paradise, such as various fruits, gardens beneath which rivers flow, bracelets of gold, robes of fine silk, etc. However Imām Ali (ʿa) has mentioned that worshipping in order to gain Paradise is a form of trade. Therefore, aren’t Qurʾān and duʿā encouraging this mindset?
  • How can we be certain that our sins are forgiven through duʿā, worship, and repentance during the month of Ramaḍān?

Sins and Repentance

What is a sin?

A sin is an action that is in contradiction with the will and pleasure of Allah. Sins darken a human’s soul, preventing them from attaining perfection and gaining closeness to Allah.

Allah has commanded us to perform certain actions and forbidden us from performing other actions. Disobeying these commands of Allah (i.e., not performing our obligatory duties or performing those forbidden actions) is considered a sin.

What is meant by minor sins and major sins? Is there an āyah in the Qurʾān about this?

Brief Answer: 

Sins are generally of two types: (1) major sins and (2) minor sins. It is important to note any sin that involves disobeying the commands of Allah is considered a major sin. The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Don’t look at whether a sin is minor; rather, look at Whom you are disobeying.” [1] Imām ʿAlī has also said, “The greatest of sins are those which the sinner considers minor.”

Therefore, we see that every sin is a major sin. The terms “major” and “minor” are relative terms used in regard to the effects and outcomes of the sin. Ergo, the division of sins as major or minor does not contradict the aforementioned aḥādīth, as it is used in relation to the effect of the sin and not the sin itself. In spite of this classification, it is important to acknowledge that sin is an act of disobedience against Allah.

In differentiating between major and minor sins Imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “Every sin for which Allah has promised hellfire as its punishment is a major sin.[2] 

The following āyāt of Qurʾān address these two types of sin:

  • If you avoid the major sins that you are forbidden, We will absolve you of your misdeeds and admit you to a noble abode.[3]
  • The Book will be set up. Then you will see the guilty apprehensive of what is in it. They will say, ‘Woe to us! What a book is this! It omits nothing, big or small, without enumerating it.[4]

The Qurʿān uses different terms to describe different types of sins, based on the nature of that sin. The following are some of these terms:

ذنب، معصية، اثم، سيّئة، جُرم، خطيئة، فسق، فساد، فجور، منکر، فاحشة، and شر

 

Detailed Answer:

In his book Tahrīr al Wasīlah, Imām Khomeini has mentioned six criteria for major sins:
1. Any sin for which the sharīʿah (Islamic law) guarantees hellfire as a punishment
2. Any sin that the sharīʿah strongly forbids
3. Any sin that Qurʾān and ḥadīth consider equal to or greater than other major sins
4. Any sin that one’s intellect or common sense acknowledges as being major
5. Any sin that Muslims commonly consider a major sin
6. Any sin that our ḥadīth specifically identify as a major sin.[5]

Amrū ibn ʿAbid, one of the Islamic scholars, approached Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa), gave his salāms and then recited the following āyah of the Qurʾān: “…those who avoid major sins and indecencies…”.[6]

He then became silent and did not complete the verse of Qurʾān. The Imām (ʿa) asked him why he became silent.

Amrū responded, “I would like to know what the major sins are according to the Book of Allah.”

Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) then listed the major sins that are mentioned in the Noble Qurʾān:
1. The greatest of the major sins is shirk, attributing partners to Allah: Indeed, whoever ascribes partners to Allah, Allah shall forbid him [entry into] paradise…[7]
2.Despairing of Allah’s mercy: Indeed no one despairs of Allah’s mercy except the faithless lot.[8]
3. Feeling safe from the plans of Allah (His punishment and reprieve): No one feels secure from Allah’s plans except the people who are losers (those who shall perish).[9]
4. Mistreating parents: …and (Allah commanded me) to be good to my mother, and He has not made me self-willed and wretched.
5. Killing an innocent person: Should anyone kill a believer intentionally, his requital shall be hell, to remain in it [forever]; Allah shall be wrathful at him and curse him and He shall prepare for him a great punishment.[10]
6. Accusing chaste women of adultery or fornication: Indeed those who accuse chaste and unwary faithful women shall be cursed in this world and the Hereafter, and there shall be a great punishment for them.[11]
7. Taking and using from the property of orphans: Indeed those who consume the property of orphans wrongfully, only ingest fire into their bellies, and soon they will enter the Blaze.[12]
8. Fleeing from the battlefield during jihād: Whoever turns his back [to flee] from them that day—unless [he is] diverting to fight or retiring towards another troop—shall certainly earn Allah’s wrath, and his refuge shall be hell, an evil destination.[13]
9. Practicing usury: Those who exact usury will not stand but like one deranged by the Devil’s touch…..they shall be the inmates of the Fire and they shall remain in it [forever].[14]
10. Practicing magic and witchcraft: …They would learn that which would harm them and bring them no benefit; though they certainly knew that anyone who buys it has no share in the Hereafter. Surely, evil is that for which they sold their souls, had they known![15]
11. Fornicating: …and do not commit fornication. (Whoever does that shall encounter its retribution, the punishment being doubled for him on the Day of Resurrection. In it he will abide in humiliation forever.[16]
12. Taking a false oath for the purpose of sinning: There shall be no share in the Hereafter for those who sell Allah’s covenant and their oaths for a paltry gain…[17]
13. Unlawfully taking the spoils of war: …And whoever betrays, [taking unlawfully of the spoils of war], will come with what he took on the Day of Resurrection.[18]
14. Not paying wājib zakāt (the obligatory poor rate): On the day when these shall be heated in hellfire and therewith branded on their foreheads, their sides, and their backs [and told]: ‘This is what you treasured (hoarded) up for yourselves! So taste what you have treasured (hoarded)!’[19]
15. Concealing one’s testimony (hiding the truth): … And do not conceal your testimony; anyone who conceals it, his heart will indeed be sinful…[20]
16. Drinking alcohol: O you who have faith! Indeed wine, gambling, idols, and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them, so that you may be felicitous.[21]
17. Deliberately not performing prayer and other wājib acts. The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Whoever deliberately misses his prayers, has sought estrangement from the promise of Allah and His messenger.[22]
18. And 19. Breaking one’s covenant and severing family ties: But as for those who break Allah’s covenant after having pledged it solemnly, and sever what Allah has commanded to be joined,…..it is such on whom the curse will lie, and for them will be the ills of the [ultimate] abode.[23]

It is important to note that some of the major sins are greater than others and that their numbers differ in ḥadīth. The difference in number has to do with the fact that the effects of some of the major sins are greater than others.

_____________________________________

[1] Makārim al-Akhlāq, P. 460.

[8] Ibid, 12:87.

[15] Noble Qurʾān, 2:102.

[22] Kāfī, Vol. 2, P. 287.

[2] Man Lā Yaḥḍuruhū al-Faqīh, Vol. 3, P. 569.

[9] Noble Qurʾān, 7:99.

[16] Ibid, 25:68-69.

[23] Noble Qurʾān, 13:25.

[3] Noble Qurʾān, 4:31

[10]Ibid, 4:93

[17] Ibid, 3:77.

[4] Ibid, 18:49.

[11]Ibid, 24:23.

[18] Noble Qurʾān, 3:161.

[5] Tahrīr al Wasīlah, Vol. 1, P. 274.

[12] Noble Qurʾān, 4:10.

[19] Noble Qurʾān, 9:35.

[6] Noble Qurʾān, 42:37.

[13] Ibid, 8:16.

[20] Ibid, 2:283.

[7] Ibid, 5:72.

[14] Ibid, 2:275.

[21] Ibid, 5:90.

Is it correct to say that sins are ranked according to their effects? For example, lying is a major sin and a liar is said to be an enemy of Allah; however, if a sin is trivial in nature, is it possible that it is not considered a major sin and that one who commits such a sin is not an enemy of Allah?
Brief Answer: 

Yes, sins are ranked according to their effects. According to Qurʾān and ḥadīth, there are several situations in which minor sins are considered as major sins. When this occurs, the minor sins will have the same consequences and punishments as major sins. An otherwise minor sin is considered as a major sin if an individual does the following:

  • persistently commits minor sins
  • considers one’s sins as trivial
  • openly expresses happiness while committing a sin
  • commit a sin out of blatant disobedience and rebellion
  • becomes arrogant in the face of Allah’s reprieve
  • openly commits sins
  • commits a sin while holding an important position or position of influence

 

Detailed Answer:

An otherwise minor sin is considered as a major sin if an individual does the following:
Persistently commits minor sins
Repeating minor sins causes them to become major sins. This also occurs if a person commits just one sin, but does not ask for forgiveness or think about repenting. This will be considered persistence in committing sin. The Noble Qurʾān has said the following about those who are righteous: …and (those) who knowingly do not persist in what [sins] they have committed.

Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “Avoid repeating sins, because it is among the greatest of misdeeds.”
Consider one’s sin as trivial
Underestimating one’s sin will cause it to become a major sin. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “The greatest of sins is that act of disobedience which the sinner considers trivial and negligible.”
Openly express happiness while committing sin
To enjoy and openly express happiness while committing a sin causes that sin to become greater and increases its punishment. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “The worst of the worst is a person who becomes happy while doing that which is bad.”

Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) has also said, “Avoid becoming happy while committing sin, as this expression of joy is worse than the sin that is being committed.”
Commit a sin out of blatant disobedience and rebellion
The Noble Qurʾān says, “As for he who has been rebellious and preferred the life of this world, his refuge will indeed be hell.”
To become arrogant in the face of Allah’s reprieve.
A minor sin becomes greater when a sinner considers Allah’s reprieve, or the fact that His punishment is not immediate, as a sign of His pleasure or contentment with that sin. Allah has said in the Noble Qurʾān, “And they say to themselves, ‘Why does not Allah punish us for what we say?!’ Let hell suffice them: they shall enter it, and it is an evil destination!”

The fact that hellfire is promised to those who become arrogant when they are not immediately punished proves that they committed a major sin.
Openly commit sins
Openly committing sin causes a minor sin to become a major sin. This is perhaps due to the fact that sinning openly indicates that a person has no problem in disobeying Allah. An action that leads to the corruption of society and brings a certain normalcy to sinning is considered as a major sin. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “Avoid committing sin openly, as this is one of the most terrible of sins.”

Imām ar-Riḍā (ʿa) has also said, “The reward of a person who hides his good acts is equivalent to 70 good acts, while the fate of a person who openly commits sin is wretchedness.”
Commits a sin while holding an important position or position of influence
The sin of a person who holds a position in society is not equal to that of others. The minor sins of these individuals will be considered as major sins. This is because their sins occur in two dimensions: an individual dimension and a societal dimension.

The sins of people in leadership and positions of influence can lead to the misguidance of society and weakening of people’s faith. It is because of these devastating effects that Allah’s accounting of those in positions of leadership is different from that of the common people. In the Qurʾān, Allah addresses the people of knowledge who create innovation in religion: “Had he (Muḥammad) faked any sayings in Our name, We would have surely seized him by the right hand and then cut off his aorta, and none of you could have held Us off from him.”

Allah has addressed innovators of religion and those who perpetuate distortions in religion in several places in the Qurʾān, but He has never used such strong language in those places. However, because of the Noble Prophet’s purity, high level of knowledge, awareness, and influence, his sin would be considered major. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “70 sins of the ignorant will be forgiven, before one sin of the scholar is forgiven.”

The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has also said, “If the scholars of religion and heads of government become corrupt, then the people will also become corrupt.”

If an individual holds a high position in society and commits a minor sin, can it be considered a major sin because of the devastating effects that it may have on society?

Yes. The sin of a person who holds a position in society is not equal to that of others. The minor sins of these individuals will be considered as major sins. This is because their sins occur in two dimensions: an individual dimension and a societal dimension. 

 

The sins of people in leadership and positions of influence can lead to the misguidance of society and weakening of people’s faith. It is because of these devastating effects that Allah’s accounting of those in positions of leadership is different from that of the common people. In the Qurʾān, Allah addresses the people of knowledge who create innovation in religion: Had he (Muḥammad) faked any sayings in Our name, We would have surely seized him by the right hand and then cut off his aorta, and none of you could have held Us off from him.”

 

Allah has addressed innovators of religion and those who perpetuate distortions in religion in several places in the Qurʾān, but He has never used such strong language in those places. However, because of the Noble Prophet’s purity, high level of knowledge, awareness, and influence, his sin would be considered major. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “70 sins of the ignorant will be forgiven, before one sin of the scholar is forgiven.”

 

The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has also said, “If the scholars of religion and heads of government become corrupt, then the people will also become corrupt.”

What is the rule for committing a minor sin in order to avoid committing a major sin?

First of all, it is important to know that though minor sins may not seem as wicked or as ugly major sins, and though they may be less harmful, if a person commits such a sin and feels that it is acceptable to do so, this will lead to repetition of the sin and a lack of repentance. This is a dangerous state to be in where a person puts themself in the position of habitually violating the laws of religion. Anyone who chooses to act in this manner has also chosen an uncertain future. 

 

So no, it is not permissible to commit a minor sin in order to escape a major sin. A sin is a sin, whether it is a minor sin or a major sin. For example, it is not Ok to……

 

The Holy Prophet (ṣ) has given Abā Dhar the following advice: “O Abā Dhar, don’t look at how small a sin is; rather, look at the greatness of the One whom you have disobeyed.” 

Perhaps a brief explanation will help put the position of minor sins into perspective according to Quran and hadith: It is possible for a person to  commit a minor sin and to automatically consider it a second level offense, thereby assuming that it will be forgiven. To make such assumptions is to be neglectful of the fact that repetition of minor sins and and considering them as insignificant, is in its self a major sin. Persistence in committing minor sins causes a person to become brazen and insolent in their actions. Such individuals tend to forget that they are ultimately disobeying Allah, whether they are guilty of a minor sin or a major sin.   

 

Is it a sin to fantasize about encounters with individuals who are not maḥram to us? What should we do to combat such thoughts?
Brief Answer

It must first be said that from the fiqh perspective, it is not a sin in itself to think about committing a sin. However, from the akhlāqī perspective, such thoughts are wrong because one of the factors that controls a person’s decision making process is their thought process. Healthy thoughts yield healthy results, and unhealthy thoughts yield unhealthy results. Imam ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “A person who constantly thinks of sin, will be led to commit sin.”

 

Some ways to combat such thoughts are as follows:

  1. Avoid mixed gatherings where the boundaries between maḥram and non-maḥram individuals are not observed. It is especially important to avoid being in secluded places where other people cannot enter. In the event that a person is present in such a gathering, he or she must be careful and do whatever possible to stay away from non-maḥram individuals. 
  2. Remember Allah at all times, in both ḥalāl and ḥarām situations.
  3. Manage and plan your time optimally. Ensure that you are engaged in societal, religious, cultural, and recreation activities whereby your time is being spent wisely. This is necessary in order to combat excessive amounts of free time. The influence and temptations of Shayṭān are most effective when we do not purposefully plan our time. 
  4. Spend your time around worthy individuals. It is such people who will aid us in the matters of this world and the Hereafter. 
Detailed Answer:

There is a clear difference between committing sin according to the laws of society and committing sin according to the laws of religion. According to the laws of society, punishment is linked to action. A person is not punished or held accountable until he has committed a sin (crime). However, Islamic culture and the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) caution us against thinking about committing sin. In Islam, the foundation of our actions are our thoughts and intentions. It is ultimately these two things that determine our reward or punishment.

When speaking to his disciples, Prophet ʿĪsa said, “Mūsa Ibn ʿImrān (ʿa), commanded you not to fornicate; however, I am commanding you not to inform your soul about fornication (don’t think about fornication), so that you may not act upon such thoughts! Whoever thinks about fornication is like a person who lights a fire in a room that he has painted, and the smoke from that fire taints the paint in the room (covers it with soot), though the house did not burn down!” In other words, thinking about committing sin pollutes an individual’s decision making process and puts him several steps closer to committing that sin.

It is important to mention that the intention to commit a sin is of two types:
The thought of committing a sin occurs in a person’s mind. Such a thought may appear involuntarily in one’s thoughts, but not be firmly planted in his mind. In this situation, a person will not be called into account for his thoughts. The question asked pertains to this type of thought.
A person makes a resolute and firm decision to commit a sin, whereby action follows such a decision. According to ḥadīth, this type of intention is considered a sin, and a person will be called into account for it due to the fact that they definitely intended to commit a sin.

Do the Qurʾān and aḥādīth indicate what effect every sin has on our lives?
Brief Answer

It is important to note that every step that a traveler takes away from the right path will have an immediate effect on his travels and lead him away from his intended destination. The effects of sin are also immediate and create distance between man and his ultimate goal of attaining closeness to Allah (swt). Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Bad actions have a more immediate effect on a person than a knife has on meat.”

Detailed Answer:

The Effects of Sin on Spirituality
Deprivation from performing the Night Prayer (Ṣalāt al-Layl) Imam Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Indeed, whoever sins will be deprived of [performing] the Night Prayer.”
Hardheartedness
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “Tears (of the eyes) will not dry up except as a result of hardheartedness, and the heart will not become hard except as a result of numerous sins.”
Duʿās (supplications) will not be answered
Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “Indeed, when a servant requests a need from Allah, he expects that need may be answered quickly or that it may take some time. However, if that servant commits a sin, then Allah will tell the angels, ‘Don’t grant his needs. Deprive him of it because he has angered Me and deserves to be deprived.’”
The intellect will be veiled
The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Whoever comes into the vicinity of sin one aspect of his intellect will leave him and never return.”
A veil will be placed over the heart
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “There is no pain that is more painful than the effects of sin on the heart.”
Being led astray
The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Indeed, sins have such dominance over the sinner that he will reject the wilāyah (guardianship) of the person whom the messenger of Allah has appointed as guardian, and even deny the prophethood of the Noble Prophet. Such a person will also deny the oneness of Allah, become misguided, and create deviation in the religion of Allah.”
Fear of death
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “Don’t be amongst those people who do not see the good in death, for such individuals have committed many sins.”
Wretchedness
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “Whoever enjoys opposing the commands of the Lord, Allah will cause him to suffer wretchedness and misery.”
Suffering from grief
The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Whenever the sins of a believer become many, and in return, he lacks good actions to compensate those sins, then Allah will cause him to suffer grief and sorrow so that his sins may be forgiven.”
The removal of safeguards, modesty, and decency
Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Allah has blessed his believing servants with 40 veils or safeguards. Every time that servant commits a major sin, one of those safeguards will be removed.”

The Effects of Sin on Worldly Affairs
Many āyāt of the Qurʾān mention the worldly outcomes of sin on some of the nations of the past. For example, the Qurʾān says, “So We sent down on those who were wrongdoers a plague from the sky because of the transgressions they used to commit.”

Another verse addresses the outcome of sin on future nations, saying, “Whatever affliction that may visit you is because of what your hands have earned…”

The following are some worldly effects of sin:
Deprivation of sustenance and livelihood
Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “When someone commits a sin, the result is that he will be deprived of sustenance.”
Poverty
The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Indeed, when a believer puts himself near sin, he will suffer poverty as a result of his action.”
Being deprived of blessings
It is important to note that blessings encompass much more than sustenance and livelihood. Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Allah never bestows a blessing on one of His servants, then takes away that blessing, except when that servant commits a sin, in which case, he deserves to be deprived of those blessings.”
Sickness
Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “No sickness occurs, except because of sin.”
Shortening of a person’s life
Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Those who die because of sin are more [in number] than those who leave this world naturally, and those whose lives are lengthened as a result of good deeds are more [in number] than those who live a natural life span.”
The descent of calamity
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “How often that Allah will inflict calamities and difficulties on a believer by way of his health, wealth, children, or family…” The Imām (ʿa) then recited the following āyah of the Qurʾān: “Whatever affliction that may visit you is because of what your hands have earned…”
Earthquakes
Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Anytime there is an increase in fornication, then there will also be an increase in the occurrence of earthquakes.”
Drought
Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “Whenever a people commit wrong, whatever amount of rain Allah had decreed would fall in that area for the year will be withheld from it and will be granted to another place.”
Loss of safety and security from accidents
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “Seek refuge in Allah from His besiegement during the day and night (from the calamities and sudden accidents that occur during that time).” The narrator then asked the Imām (ʿa) what he meant by the besiegement of Allah. The Imām (ʿa) replied, “The punishment of Allah (upon His servant) because of his sins.”
To be ruled by oppressors and the unjust
Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Allah has said, ‘Anytime someone who knows Me disobeys Me, then I will make dominant over him someone who does not know Me.”
Fear of rulers and statesmen
Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Indeed, when one of you are very fearful of rulers and statesmen, this fear is as a result of sins, so avoid sin as much as you can.”

The Effects of Sins on the Hereafter
Many āyāt of Qurʾān state that hellfire will be the outcome of committing sin. In Sūrah an-Naml, we read, “But whoever brings vice — they shall be cast on their faces into the fire [and told:] ‘Shall you not be requited for what you used to do?’”

In Sūrah Jinn, we also read, “And whoever disobeys Allah and His apostle, there will indeed be for him the fire of hell, to remain in it forever.”

According to ḥadīth, in addition to the punishment of hellfire, which sinners have been promised in the Hereafter, some other effects of committing sin have also been mentioned:
The destruction of good deeds
Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Try your best to do good deeds, and if you do not do good deeds or righteous acts, then do not commit sin. When a person constructs a building and does nothing to destroy or halt construction, then the construction of that building will progress gradually. However, if a person is constructing a building and decides to destroy it, in the end, he will not have a building (and nothing to show for his hard work).” Good deeds are destroyed in the same way by the sins that we commit.
Good deeds will not be accepted
The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Even if you established so many prayers that it is as if you have been nailed to the ground, and even if you fasted so much that you become as weak as shredded wood, Allah will not accept these acts of worship from you, except with abstinence from sin.”
Being deprived of forgiveness
A servant who seeks forgiveness after sinning will be forgiven. However, if he persists in committing sin, then he will be deprived of Allah’s forgiveness. Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Whoever intends to commit sin must not do so, because it often happens that a servant will commit a sin and Allah will witness that sin and say, ‘I swear by My magnificence and glory that I will not forgive you after this.’”

The specific outcomes and effects of many sins have been mentioned in the ḥadīth of the Maʿṣūmīn. They are too vast to mention here; however, we will end with a ḥadīth from Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa):
Sins and actions that affect and transform blessings: Usurping the rights of others, not practicing good habits, not doing good unto others, being ungrateful of blessings, and not being thankful
Sins and actions that result in regret: Murdering, breaking family ties, delaying prayer until the time has passed, not observing a will, not returning the financial rights of others, not giving zakāt until the time of death or until one no longer has the ability to speak.
Sins and actions that cause blessings to disappear: Disobedience that leads to oppression, mistreatment of others, mockery of others, considering others inferior
Shortcomings that keep blessings away and don’t allow them to reach mankind: Openly expressing one’s need, sleeping during the first third of the night, sleeping through the morning until the time of prayer has passed, belittling of blessings, and complaining about Allah
Sins and actions that destroy our protective veils (the safeguards which Allah has blessed us with): Drinking alcohol, gambling, vain actions, joking, mentioning the deficiencies of others, and associating with wretched and base individuals
Sins and actions that bring about misfortune and calamity: Not answering the call of the distressed, not helping the oppressed, not enjoining good and forbidding evil
Sins and actions that result in the enemy becoming victorious: Openly committing oppression, openly expressing the willingness to sin, considering that which is forbidden as permissible, stubbornly rejecting the advice of those who are good, and obeying those who are bad
Sins and actions which bring about an early death: Breaking family ties, swearing while lying, lying, fornicating, blocking the path of a Muslim (preventing him from fullfiling that which he needs to), and openly choosing to follow those who are unjust
Sins and actions which bring about hopelessness: Being hopeless in the face of mercy, being extremely hopeless in the grace of Allah, depending on the unjust, lying about Allah’s promise
Sins and actions that cause the destruction of the protective veil that guards against committing forbidden acts: Taking a loan with no intention of paying it back, spending wastefully, having bad akhlāq, being impatient, being intolerant, being lazy, being disdainful of those who are religious, being miserly to one’s wife, children, and relatives.
Sins and actions that cause the rejection of supplications: Having bad intentions, possessing internal wickedness, being two-faced and hypocritical with one’s brothers in religion, not believing that one’s supplications will be answered, delaying prayers until the time has passed, distancing oneself from that which is right by turning away from good actions and giving saḍaqa, and cursing
Sins and actions the prevent rainfall: being unjust in judgements, bearing false witness, concealing one’s testimony, withholding zakāt and that which was borrowed, being hardhearted towards those in need, oppressing orphans and the needy, sending away a beggar, and rejecting the poor in the dark of the night.

According to the Qurʾān and ḥadīth, sins have effects on us the worldly, spiritual, physical, and material aspect of our lives, in addition to effects in the Hereafter. 

 

What is the root of all sin?
Brief Answer

The scholars of ahklāq have proven through the āyāt of the Qurʾān that the fall of man is due to three things: desires of the inner self (nafs), the life of this world, and Shayṭān.

Detailed Answer:

Desires of the inner self: Allah has created man with two tendencies: he will either be inclined to do good or bad. The inner self (nafs) is inclined to overindulge in natural human instincts and will many times cause a person to be led by carnal desires. It is this facet of the inner self that is the source of immorality and sin. Prophet Yūsuf (ʿa) sought refuge in Allah from the harm of this part of human nature: “And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy.”
The life of this world: One ḥadīth states, “The source of all sin is the love of this world.” There is no issue with the fact that the life of this world plays a key role amongst Allah’s creations. Based on the divine will of Allah, the life of this world is the best of systems. The main problem is the type of relationship that mankind develops with this world. Those who focus on the material aspects of this world and believe that they will remain in it forever tend to become neglectful of Allah and the Hereafter. It is therefore important to change our perspective of this world and realize that our lives are not limited to it. We also need to comprehend that an everlasting abode awaits us after this life. The relationship between this world and the Hereafter should be one of intent and means. Misguidance and deviation occurs when mankind puts all their focus, effort, and worries on this world.
Shayṭān: Man ultimately has two choices: follow the path of Allah or follow Shayṭān. The Noble Qurʾān has said that following Shayṭān is a worthless course for mankind: “Did I not enjoin upon you, O children of Adam, that you not worship Satan — [for] indeed, he is to you a clear enemy — and that you worship [only] Me? This is the straight path.”

The leading role of Shayṭān is to whisper to mankind via the forces that are within one’s inner self (nafs). If we did not possess these forces within our inner selves, then Shayṭān would not be able to influence us. When we are overcome by a need to follow the desires of the inner self, Shayṭān will make that desire attractive and encourage us to pursue it.

It is important to note that Shayṭān strives to cause mankind to be neglectful of Allah and to distance us from His remembrance. He also makes this world attractive and facilitates a fixation with material things.

Is there a difference between akhlāqi sins, religious sins, societal sins, and sins that break the law?

There are differences between sins that violate the laws of nature and society and those sins that violate the laws of religion. Some of those differences are mentioned below:

  1. Sins pertaining to the laws of nature and society are violations that breach the principles and standards of nature, thereby threatening society and the safety of those within society. For example, drinking alcoholic beverages is a sin that violates the laws of nature and endangers a person’s health. An individual who is guilty of this act will be punished for violating the laws of nature and putting his health and life in danger.

 

Anything that goes against the laws of nature and society, negatively affects an individual’s akhlāq and honor, or negatively impacts  the modesty and well-being of society is considered a sin and warrants punishment.

 

Islam looks at the state of mankind as a whole and advocates for the physical well-being of man, as well as peace and tranquility in society. The well-being of the soul and tranquillty of body and mind is also important in Islam.

 

According to today’s laws, acts such as suicide and promiscuity are not considered crimes, and in many instances, they are not seen as being sinful. These acts are not seen as damaging to society. However, Islam considers such acts a sinful because ultimately, they negatively impact mankind’s honor and akhlāq. These actions also indirectly weaken the foundation of society and humanity as a whole.

  1. Punishment for violations against the laws of nature and society are limited to this world, whereas violating the laws of Allah is punishable both in this world and the Hereafter. For example, a thief may be imprisoned for a few months for his crime, but someone who disobeys Allah will face the consequences of his actions both in this world and in the Hereafter.
  2. The fundamental difference between sins that are based on the laws of society and sins that are based on the laws of religion is that in society, punishment is based on an action that is committed; however, according to jurisprudence and religious law, a person’s intentions and thoughts are also considered as part of that sin. This is to the extent that a person’s motivation to commit an action is even more important than that action. Thinking about committing sin is the greatest facilitator of sin.

 

If a person unknowingly committed a sin, will they still be held accountable for it?

Not knowing (something) is of two types. Sometimes, a person may not know about something, but they have the ability to find the answer or ask about that ruling. However, instead of doing so, they are careless of their religious responsibility and commit sin as a result. This individual is referred to as a jāhil al-muqaṣṣir, an ignorant person who is responsible and will be held accountable for his actions. This person who will not be excused for their ignorance since they had the opportunity and ability to gain knowledge and acquire information, but deliberately did not do so.

Other times, a person may not have access to the laws of Allah or knowledgeable individuals. This person is referred to as a jāhil al-qāṣir, and is excused for their ignorance, whether it is due to lack of understanding, not having the opportunity to gain knowledge, or error in acquiring knowledge and information. If such a person commits a sin, then he will not be held accountable for it. But if they later find out that they missed performing a wājib action as a result of sinning, they must make up that action.

 

Are the effects of mistreating parents manifested in this world?

Yes, without a doubt, the effects of mistreating parents are felt in this world. According to the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa), disobedience and mistreatment of parents shortens one’s lifespan. On the other hand, respecting and doing good to parents is said to extend a person’s lifespan. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “I seek refuge in Allah from sins that bring about speedy destruction, hasten death, and destroy dwellings. These sins are breaking family ties, mistreating and disobeying parents, and abstaining from doing good.” 

What is meant by the manifestation of the effects of sin?

When it is said that the effects of sins are manifested in this world, this means that the punishment for many sins will be experienced while we are in this world. 

One of the effects of sin is that it erases and destroys good deeds. It has been mentioned several times in the Noble Qurʾān that major sins, such as [stubborn] disbelief, polytheism, denying the signs of Allah, and denying the existence of the Hereafter, result in the destruction of good deeds. For example, Iblīs’s stubbornness and arrogance in his refusal to bow before Prophet Ādam (ʿa), despite the command of Allah (swt), erased 6,000 years of his worship.

 

According to aḥādīth, some of the manifestations of sin in this world are as follows: 

  1. Hardheartedness
  2. Withdrawal of blessings
  3. Supplications not being answered
  4. Disbelief 
  5. The cutting off of sustenance
  6. Being deprived of performing the night prayer
  7. Loss of safety from calamities
  8. Drought
  9. Poverty
  10. Shortening of one’s lie span
  11. Depression
What is the rule on admitting to sin in the presence of others?
Brief Answer: 

Admitting to committing a sin in the presence of others is forbidden, especially when it encourages others to commit sin. Admission of sin should only take place before Allah. One of the biggest investments that a person can make in life is in their dignity and character. Any threat to one’s dignity is equal to a threat to his life. Every human being possesses four things that must be protected at all times: his life, wealth, family, and dignity. 

Detailed Answer:

The Noble Qurʾān states, “O you who have faith! Avoid much suspicion; indeed, some suspicions are sins. And do not spy on one another or backbite.”

The above āyah of Qurʾān has forbidden three actions: (1) suspicion towards other believers and members of society, (2) seeking information about the sins or mistakes of others, and (3) backbiting.

This ayah of the Qurʾān forbids those actions that are a threat to the very fabric of society. These actions facilitate the breakdown of friendship, trust, and dignity of members of society. Not only is divulging the faults of others problematic, but divulging one’s own faults also leads to the above mentioned societal ills.

If a person has committed several major sins, but has truly repented, will his sins be forgiven?

The most important thing that a person who repents needs to keep in mind is that the best method of cultivating one’s self is avoidance of sin. In the event that a person commits a sin, be it a minor sin or major sin, and truly repents for that sin, then yes, those sins will be forgiven. He must seek Allah’s forgiveness, regret committing that sin, and not repeat it. Allah (swt) has said the following concerning those who are righteous: 

And those who, when they commit an indecent act or wrong themselves, remember Allah, and plead [to Allah seeking His] forgiveness for their sins —and who forgives sins except Allah?— and who knowingly do not persist in what [sins] they have committed.

What is the difference between a person who has committed sin and truly repented and a person who has never committed sin?
Brief Answer: 

Without a doubt, a person who has not tainted himself by committing sin holds a higher station than someone who has sinned and then repented. A person who does not know what it feels like to sin and does not have the habit of sinning is better able to keep him or herself away from sin. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “It is easier to avoid sin than to seek forgiveness.

Detailed Answer:

In the event that a sin is committed, we must never despair in the mercy of Allah (swt).

However, even though Allah forgives our sins and accepts our repentance, there is a difference between a person who has committed sin and then repented, and an individual who is conscious of and makes an effort not to commit sin. One of our great scholars has said, “A person who has not committed a sin is like a blank piece of paper on which nothing has been written, but an individual who has committed sin and repented is like a white piece of paper on which something has been written and then erased. In other words, there is a clear difference between the two.

If a person feels remorse for committing sin, but he did not repent, will his sins be forgiven?

Repentance is, in fact, remorse for past sins, and the decision not to commit sins in the future. If a person truly feels remorse for committing sin, then this is actually repentance and will be accepted from him. Therefore, although a person may not verbally seek forgiveness or announce his repentance, the act of repentance (feeling remorse) will be accepted from him. In spite of this, it is very important for an individual to seek repent and forgiveness from Allah. In some instances, Allah may forgive a person’s sins even without that individual seeking forgiveness from Him, but it is important to remember that through repentance and seeking forgiveness, one is better able to benefit from the grace of Allah and gain closeness to Him.

 

If a person committed many sins in their youth, will their sins be forgiven in old age, and will their repentance be accepted?

Allah, the All-Beneficent and All-Merciful, eagerly accepts the repentance of His servants, not only in their youth, but at any age. The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “If a person repents a year before his death, Allah will accept his repentance.” The Prophet (ṣ) then said, “A year is too much. If that person repents one month before his death, it will be accepted.” He then said, “This amount of time is also too much. If that person has one week to remain in this world and he repents, it will be accepted.” The Prophet (ṣ) continued, “This is also too much. Whoever repents a day before his death, Allah will accept his repentance.” He then said, “Whoever feels remorse an hour before his death, Allah will accept his repentance.” In the end, the Noble Prophet (ṣ) said, “One hour is also too much! If that person repents the last moment before his life is taken from him, Allah will accept his repentance.”

 

A great manifestation of the above ḥadīth can be seen in Karbalāʾ on the morning of ʿĀshūrā, when Ḥurr Ibn Yazīd ar-Riyāḥī repented during the last moments of his life. His repentance was accepted by Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa). 

 

This does not mean that a person can choose to commit whatever sin he pleases with the intention of repenting at the end of his life. On the contrary, a person should try his best to avoid disobeying Allah, and in the event that he does disobey Allah, he should repent immediately.

 

It is important that we come to the realization that the time of death is hidden and unknown. It is also a fact that many people die in their youth. Therefore, repentance and avoidance of sin should never be delayed. Such procrastination is discouraged in aḥādīth.

What are the conditions of true repentance?
The conditions for repentance will be explained according to the words of Imam ʿAlī (ʿa).

Someone said, “I seek forgiveness from Allah” in the presence of Imām ʿAlī (ʿa). It appeared that the Imām (ʿa) took issue with the way that individual spoke, or that he was aware of that person’s past actions.

To the Imām (ʿa), that individual’s words seemed superficial and this was not true repentance. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) then said the following: 

 

“To seek forgiveness has a verbal component, but it also contains six steps: 

  1. Having remorse for past actions
  2. Making the decision to avoid that action forever
  3. Returning the rights that you have usurped from others—this must be done in such a way that you return to Allah free of the rights of others.
  4. Making up any wājib actions (e.g., prayer, fasting, ḥajj, etc.) that you have missed—this can mean to literally make up that action or to make atonement for it (pay a kaffārah)
  5. Any flesh or weight that you have gained as a result of doing ḥarām (unlawful earnings) remove it through the grief of repentance, until nothing remains of it. Then replace it with new flesh that is not tainted by sin.
  6. Make the body taste the pain of obedience as you have made it taste the sweetness of disobedience.  

 

After you have gone through these six steps, then say, ‘Astaghfirullāh’ (I seek forgiveness from Allah).”

Detailed Answer:

It is possible that someone may think that these six conditions of the Imām (ʿa) are beyond their ability. In answering that individual, we must say that some of these, such as the fifth and sixth points, are conditions of “complete repentance,” but the other four are obligatory and necessary conditions of true repentance.

Shahīd Mutahharī has said the following pertaining to the ḥadīth of Imām ʿAlī (ʿa): “The first and second points are the pillars of repentance; the third and fourth are necessary conditions of repentance; and the fifth and sixth parts are conditions of ‘complete repentance.’”

Repentance holds a very high station in our lives as believers. Our aḥādīth consider repentance to be amongst the highest forms of worship, the best of supplications, and the best method of turning to Allah.

What is the meaning of tawbat an-naṣūḥ (توبة النصوح), or sincere repentance?
Brief Answer: 

The word naṣūḥ (نصوح) comes from the root word naṣḥ (نصح), which means to sincerely want to do good. Since true good deeds should be done with a sense of certainty, the word naṣḥ (نصح) sometimes comes in the meaning of certainty. For this reason, both meanings are combined in 

tawbat an-naṣūḥ (توبة نصوح), where it means to be both sincere and certain.

Detailed Answer:

According to the many commentaries written about tawbat an-naṣūḥ (توبة نصوح), it can be summarized as follows:
Sincere repentance has four conditions: (1) feeling heartfelt remorse, (2) verbally seeking forgiveness, (3) avoiding sin, and (4) resolving to avoid sin in the future.
Sincere repentance can also mean to constantly visualize the sin that has been committed and and to be ashamed for having committed it.
To be sincerely repentant means to be tearful and disgusted when faced with committing sin.

 

When Maʿādh ibn Jabal asked the Noble Prophet (ṣ) about tawbat an-naṣūḥ, the Prophet (ṣ) said: Tawbat an-naṣūḥ (sincere repentance) means that the person who is repenting will never return to that sin, in the same way that milk cannot be returned to a bosom.”

 

This ḥadīth demonstrates that sincere repentance creates such an internal revolution within the person repenting that a return to the past is impossible.

What is the position of a person who repents, then later breaks that repentance, and feels remorse for having done so?

Through His infinite grace and mercy, Allah (swt) has kept the doors of forgiveness open to those of His servants who repent and later break their repentance. 

It is important to mention that absolute goodness is something that is possible only for the angels, while pure evil is the work of Shayṭān. Mankind, however, has the ability to return to goodness after having done evil. The nature of man is that he will make mistakes throughout his life. So, if the doors of forgiveness and repentance were closed to him, then he would become discouraged and lose the opportunity to reach perfection. Repentance provides mankind with a means of self improvement, purification from sin, and a chance to bask in Allah’s mercy.

Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa)  has said the following in Munājāt al-Tāʾibīn: “My Lord! You are the one who has opened a door of forgiveness for Your servants and named it ‘repentance.’ You have said, ‘Return to your Lord and repent sincerely!’ When the door of mercy is open, what is the excuse of those who neglect it?!” 

Before attending university, my focus was on school. I also considered myself to be fairly religious. However, after entering university, I have found myself committing several sins as a result of my friends. Will it be possible to repair my character and purify myself from sin?
Brief Answer: 

A human being’s personality is affected by many different factors throughout his life. Inherited and genetic traits are the foundation of our abilities and capabilities, and are nurtured by the environment around us. One of the factors that plays a critical role in shaping a person’s character, especially in their youth and young adulthood, is the friends that we surround ourselves with. Friends play such an important role in an individual’s destiny and character that on the Day of Judgement, many people will wish that they had not chosen friends who ultimately led them down a path of destruction. In the Noble Qurʾān, we read:

Detailed Answer:

Although we may inherit certain traits and qualities, or are nurtured by the environment that we live in, the choices that we make play an equally crucial role in the outcome of our lives. Our choices and efforts play a pivotal role in shaping our character.

The first step in safeguarding oneself from sin and maintaining a healthy character and way of life in the university environment is to acknowledge the impact of friends. Friends can help lead a person to salvation or be instrumental in bringing about a person’s downfall. In addressing the importance of friendship and the impact that friends can have on our destiny, Allah has given us a number of examples of friendship in the Noble Qurʾān. One such example is found in the story of Prophet Nūh (ʿa). His son chose to follow the path of misguided friends, which ultimately led to him incurring the wrath of Allah. However, another example is seen through the story of the Ashāb al-Kahf, or Companions of the Cave. By keeping a close circle of righteous friends, these pious youth were saved from an environment that was engulfed in polytheism and sin. Even the dog who was with these individuals benefited from their goodness, to the extent that the dog is mentioned in the Noble Qurʾān. Therefore, friends and companions can have a serious impact on our lives.

 

It will be a day when the wrongdoer will bite his hands, saying, ‘I wish I had followed the Messenger’s way! Woe be upon me! I wish I had not taken so and so as a friend!

 

The answer is yes. Though some character traits may be firmly established or may become habitual, change is always possible. Many psychologists believe that changes in a person’s character are possible until the end of life. So, yes it is possible to remove yourself from the negative influence of friends and work on improving your character. We never allow the past to define us. Know that you can always turn to Your Lord in repentance and never doubt His forgiveness.

 

Here are some things that you can do:

  1. Try your best to change your circle of friends. If there are irreligious individuals among them, permanently distance yourself from them.
  2. Replace them with individuals who are religious and community-oriented, and who uplift you.
  3. Try to involve yourself in religious gatherings and spiritual discussions.

 

Know that one of the best ways of making amends for past sins is to feel remorseful and make the decision not to repeat that sin. We should also turn to Allah in sincere repentance.

Why are some people so susceptible to negative influence?
Brief Answer: 

One of the main reasons that some people are more susceptible to negative influence is because they are ill prepared to navigate certain situations. A person must possess strength of thought, belief, and character. They must also be able to navigate society and possess strong cultural values. These tools will enable them to withstand the influence of others and mental influences of the environment. Having a certain level of maturity and preparedness will ensure that a young person who has just left home and entered the university environment is not easily swayed by his or her peers. Such a youth will think before acting and will only act after pondering the possible effects of an action.

Detailed Answer:

Below are some suggestions which may be beneficial in navigating difficult circumstances:
When you are faced with certain situations or issues, don’t make a decision quickly. First, think it through. Make sure that you fully understand what you are faced with, then make your decision.
In order to be successful, make plans and stick to them.
Before forming friendships with new people, first examine their character and get to know them. If you find that person will make a suitable friend, then move forward with that friendship.
Take a few minutes to exercise at a specific time every day.
Offer your daily prayers on time.
Avoid committing sin.
Try to develop the skill of forming relationships through the use of appropriate and acceptable models (examples).
Make a promise to yourself to always abide by the above mentioned advice, holding yourself accountable if you don’t.

With all the corruption and sin that exists in society, how can we stay connected to Allah, elevate ourselves spiritually, and also remain active in that same society? Is it possible to maintain my religion under such conditions in society and university?

Allāmah Ṭabāṭabāʾī, has mentioned to two fundamental things that we need to do in order to spiritually elevate ourselves:

  1. Have upright and firm belief
  2. Be heedful of one’s self, protecting the heart, and safeguarding the inner self from the evil of Shayṭān

 

Unfortunately, the society we live in today, which is dominant throughout the world, is not in accordance with man’s nature and rationale. In this society, the basic elements of humanity are forgotten and even suppressed. The material aspects are overly emphasized, while the spiritual aspects are ignored or simply forgotten. In today’s world, most people equate happiness and success with fulfilling their own desires, partaking in whatever carnal exploits that please themselves, and seeking excessive enjoyment of whatever comes their way. Matters pertaining to spirituality and the soul are not usually not seen as important. 

 

Individuals who seek salvation must know themselves and be aware of  both their internal and external strengths. We must also live our lives according to the laws of nature and pay attention to both the spiritual and material (worldly) aspects of our lives. It is also important to maintain balance in our human instincts and desires, never sacrificing one for the other. Imām ar-Riḍā (ʿa) has said, Whoever forsakes the life of this world for religion or whoever abandons his religion for the life of this world, is not from us.” The Imām then pointed out, “Know the religion of Allah correctly and follow it with awareness and insight.”

 

Below are somethings that we can do to maintain our connection to Allah, increase our spirituality, and safeguard ourselves from corruption and sin:

  • Reflection and Logical Reasoning: Allah says in the Noble Qurʾān, “To Allah belong the east and the west; so, whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah!” The Noble Qurʾān has informed mankind that all the worldly phenomena are signs of Allah and an indication of His existence. In many āyāt of the Qurʾān, Allah has stressed that His signs are there for mankind to ponder and contemplate upon so that they can establish in their minds the existence of a Creator through the beauty, wonder, order, and harmony of creation. On a deeper level, the Qurʾān has advised man to reflect on his own creation and to ponder upon the secrets and wonders of the human soul and body. We should also reflect upon the differences of color, languages, and ethnicities found within mankind. Reflection of the Creator, creation, and our own existence will help bring about spiritual awakening and connection to Allah.
  • Worship: After the attainment of belief and deeper knowledge (of Allah and religion), mankind must strive to do good deeds and perform his religious responsibilities. Belief and deep knowledge (maʿrifah) along with good deeds allows man to attain a higher level of spirituality. We read in the Noble Qurʾān, “And worship your Lord until certainty comes to you.” 

 

 

Allāmah Ṭabāṭabāʾī has said that there is only one way to improve one’s akhlāq and attain good, permanent character traits: through repetition and consistency in doing good deeds. Some of those good deeds consist of performing our wājib prayers, praying on time, doing good to our parents, giving ṣadaqah, having good akhlāq, and serving others.

  • Remembrance of Allah and Supplication: Remembrance of Allah is a form of worship that brings about completion of the inner self and closeness to Allah.

 

 

When I think about the sins that I have committed and the justice and accounting of Allah, I feel anxious, and I am not at peace. What should I do?
Brief Answer: 

It is important to mention that according to Qurʾān and aḥādīth, Allah despises feelings of hopelessness and fear. Ideally, a person should remain in a state between fear and hope, where his fear motivates him to obey Allah, whereas his hope in Allah’s mercy brings about encouragement and joy. 

 

True followers of the right path are confident and at peace with themselves. These individuals know with certainty that every bad or unjust action that is done in this world, whether small or big, will be written in their book of deeds, and that they will be held accountable for those actions on the Day of Judgement.They are always careful of their actions and make sure to perform that which Allah has made obligatory. They also avoid that which is forbidden and keep themselves away from sin. These individuals are able to gain mastery over their low desires and carnal instincts through their belief. They are never doubtful about elevating themselves spiritually, nor are they doubtful about the justice of Allah. The Noble Qurʾān has said the following about the justice of Allah: 

 

We shall set up just scales on the Day of Resurrection, and no soul will be wronged in the least. 

 

To combat feelings of hopelessness and mental anguish, one should never doubt in the mercy of Allah. The aforementioned āyah reminds us that Allah’s justice will prevail on the Day of Judgement and that we should not fear being wronged on that day. At the same time, there are many āyāt in Qurʾān that remind us of Allah’s mercy towards his servants.

 

It is worthy to mention that if Allah dealt with mankind strictly through His justice, and examined every action that was ever recorded for that person throughout his life, then none would escape punishment and none would attain salvation. The Noble Qurʾān has said, “Were it not for Allah’s grace and His mercy upon you, none of you would ever become pure.” 

 

Detailed Answer:

Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) has extolled Allah’s grace and justice through duʿā:

O Allah, if You wish,
You will pardon us through Your bounty,
and if You wish,
You will punish us through Your justice,
So, make our path to Your pardon smooth through Your kindness,
and grant us protection from Your punishment through Your forbearance,
for none of us has the endurance for Your justice,
and none of us can reach salvation without Your pardon!

To reflect on sins that have been committed is, in itself, a sign of Allah’s grace and favor towards that sinner. Though a person who has sinned may experience mental anguish and loss of peace, that individual should thank Allah for bringing about those feelings. Repentance begins with feelings of regret and remorse. True repentance will ultimately bring about Allah’s forgiveness and peace of heart to the repentant. The Noble Prophet(ṣ) has advised his companion Abā Dhar on this topic, “If Allah (swt) wants good for his servant, then He will cause that person’s sins to materialize before him, and if He wants bad and misfortune for a servant, then He will cause him to forget his sins.” This ḥadīth makes it clear that remembering sins we have committed actually deters us from committing more sin.

To help alleviate your feelings of anxiety and worry about your status before Allah as a sinner, hold fast to the words of the Almighty Himself:

Say [that Allah declares,] “O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah will forgive all sins. Indeed, He is the All-Forgiving, the All-Merciful.”

Is it possible for a person to love Allah so deeply that this love protects him from committing sin?
Brief Answer: 

Absolutely! The love of Allah, His awliyāʾ, and the exalted values (brought by religion) have always lit the path of mystics and many great scholars. We see examples of such love in the whispered dhikr of Amīr ul-Muʾminīn (ʿa) during the deepest part of the night, in duʿas such as Duʿā as-Sabāḥ and Duʿā Kumayl. It is also seen in Imām Ḥuasyn’s (ʿa) Duʿa al-ʿArafah, in Imām as-Sajjās’s (ʿa) Ṣaḥīfah as-Sajjādiyah, etc. These are all as a result of the divine love that existed in the hearts of our noble Imāms (ʿa).

 

The more an individual has deep knowledge of his beloved, the greater his love will be for that beloved. Obedience, servitude, and submission to that beloved will also become second nature. So, in order to foster love of Allah that will protect us from sin, we must strive to know Him. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Allah the glorified, has said, ‘The most beloved things that my servants can do in order to gain closeness to Me is to perform those actions that I have made obligatory and to perform recommended acts to gain closeness to Me so that I may love them (in return). This must be done to the extent that I become his ears and hear that which he hears, his eyes and see what he sees, his tongue and speak to whomever he speaks, and his hands and touch that which he touches.’”

 

Lastly, the pleasure of the beloved is only achieved by doing the things that we know the beloved is pleased with. The first step is performing the obligatory acts and avoiding those acts that anger the beloved. Such an individual will try, through self development and great effort, to stay away from sin so that he may gain the pleasure and love of Allah.

Detailed Answer:

Love is a powerful concept that has been examined from the beginning of time. Lots has been said and written about love, from its greatness and beauty, to its ability to induce mental instability and sickness. It has been said that love brings about everlasting happiness and keeps the heart alive, and that a life without love has no meaning. On the flip side, it has also been likened to illnesses such as cancer and gout, where rational individuals are encouraged to flee from it.

In part of Khuṭbah 109 of Nahj al-Balāghah, Imām Alī (ʿa) has said, “Whoever loves a thing, this love will blind him and his heart will become ill. That person will then see through damaged eyes and hear through deaf ears.”

Some scholars believe that it is love of the Divine that overtakes a person’s being and guides him towards the (oneness of the) Creator. It is also said that it is love of material and superficial things that leads to sin, emotional imbalance, and misfortune. Such love has nothing to do with the Divine Creator, and therefore brings about disobedience and risky behavior, and can ultimately lead to a person’s downfall. On the contrary, true love of that which is sacred brings serenity and light (brightness) to man’s soul. A person who loves Allah forgets everything else but Him and strives diligently in His way, even though he may go through difficulty to do so.

In ḥadīth al-qudsī, the following is said about the love of Allah (swt): “When my servant is attentive to Me, I will make it such that his wishes and joy is through My remembrance; then, when his wishes and joy is gained through My remembrance, he will love Me, and I will also love him. When he loves Me, I will remove the barrier that is between Myself and him (until he is a witness to my existence).

If the Prophets and Imāms (ʿa) are infallible and do not commit sins, why is it that they ask for forgiveness in their supplications?

Asking for forgiveness and repentance has different levels. Sinners ask for forgiveness for the sins they have committed, whereas those who tread on the path of righteousness repent for having paid attention to other than Allah (swt). The repentance of the awliyāʾ (intimate servants) of Allah is on a level higher than all others. Since these noble individuals are embedded in the beautiful essence of the Lord, and are fully aware of the greatness of the station of the Lord, they consider themselves insignificant before the infinite greatness of the Creator and always bow down in shame and humility before Him when they look at themselves and their actions.

 

Yes, although Imām ʿAlī’s (ʿa) worship is among the greatest of the awliyāʾ of Allah, the Imām feels as if he is nothing before Allah. He equates his worship to a simple gift from a poor servant, and therefore bows down before the magnificence of the Creator. The Imām (ʿa) has said the following about Allah (swt): “We do not know You how You deserve to be known.”

 

One of the signs of the reappearance of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj) is that oppression and suffering will be pervasive throughout the world. Why, then, are people told to prepare for the reappearance of that Imām (ʿaj) by establishing peace and avoiding oppression and sin?

More than 3,000 traditions have been narrated by the Noble Prophet (ṣ) and Imāms (ʿa) about the reappearance of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj), from both Shīʿah and Sunnī sources. In spite of this fact, the above mentioned question has always existed in the minds of people.

 

It is important to consider the following points:

  1. The reappearance of Imām al-Mahdī (ʾaj) is not only dependent on the spread of corruption in society. The Imām (ʿaj) will only return when the people of the world have matured in their thoughts, achieved spiritual perfection that allows them to truly appreciate the existence of the Imām (ʿaj), and become deserving of his guidance.

 

After deep examination of religious text, the conclusion is that the fundamental reason that the Imām (ʿaj) remains in ghaybah is because of the poor ahklāq, spiritual unpreparedness, and general unpreparedness of the people for the rule of the Imām (ʿaj). If these obstacles are removed, then this period of ghaybah will also come to an end.

 

  1. The focus in preparing for the reappearance of the Imām (ʿaj) is not to encourage the spreading of corruption and oppression in society in order for the Imām to appear sooner. Rather, the focus is on establishing the basis of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿa)’s reappearance through reformation and betterment of society. 

 

When the world becomes filled with oppression, suffering, injustice, discrimination, and corruption, and after various measures are taken to combat these evils, we will then acknowledge the inability of man to establish justice. Only then will we come to accept that it is only a divine leader,who will be able to put a stop to the chaos through a divine revolution.

 

  1. It is important to acknowledge that if we are amongst those who help in the spread of corruption, then we will be counted among those whom the Imām (ʿaj) will defeat during his revolution. On the contrary, if we strive to establish justice and reform society, we will be among those who help bring about the revolution of the Imām (ʿaj). Therefore, if we aid in the spread of corruption and oppression in order to hasten the reappearance of Imām (ʿaj), then we will certainly endanger our chance at salvation. The Imām (ʿaj) will rise and wage a revolution in order to destroy the foundation of oppression and corruption. So, with that in mind, how will we be able to benefit from the guidance and divine revolution of the Imām (ʿaj) while we have a hand in spreading the very corruption and deviations that he will come to fight against?

 

To conclude, silence in the face of corruption and aiding in its spread in order to hasten the reappearance of the Imam of our time (ʿaj) is not correct.

It is said that sins will be forgiven with repentance, yet in the Qurʾān, we read that even if someone commits an atom’s worth of evil or sin, they will be faced with it on the Day of Judgement (Sūrah az-Zalzalah). Which of these is correct?

Every action, good or bad, necessitates reward or punishment. This is a basic principle that has been mentioned in Sūrah az-Zalzalah. However, conditions that inhibit this principle can be found in other āyāt of the Qurʾān. For example, āyah 70 of Sūrah al-Furqān mentions that everyone will be held accountable “except those who repent, attain faith, and act righteously. For such, Allah will replace their misdeeds with good deeds, and Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.”

 

According to Qurʾānic commentary by ʿAllāmah Ṭabāṭābā’i, the āyah of tawbah overrules the āyah of Sūrah az-Zalzalah. It is common for a law to supplement or overrule a previous law. 

 

To answer the question above, man will be faced with his actions on the Day of Judgement. This will occur in the event that his good or bad actions remain until the Day of Judgement. If a person’s bad deeds are eliminated  through repentance and righteous actions, then he will not have to face those bad deeds on the Day of Judgement. Likewise, if a person’s good deeds are wiped out because of actions such as backbiting and oppression, then he will have nothing good remaining on that day. 

The Holy Month of Ramadan

What does the word Ramadan mean?
Brief Answer: 

According to some scholars, the word Ramaḍān (رمضان) is derived from the root word ramaḍ (رمض), which refers to stones that have been scorched due to intense heat. Since the wājib fast of the month of Ramaḍān coincided with intense heat, this month was named Ramaḍān. According to one interpretation, the month of Ramaḍān is the month of burning one’s sins. Even higher than that, it is the burning of the inner self in order to refine the soul and remove the veils of egoism and selfishness.

 

According to other scholars, the word Ramaḍān was derived from ramīḍ (رمیض), which refers to clouds and rain at the end of the 40 days of summer and the beginning of autumn. Ramīḍ is said to chase away the heat of summer. Therefore, this month was named Ramaḍān (رمضان), as it washes sins away from the human body. 

 

Others believe that the word “Ramaḍān” was taken from an Arabic phrase that means to put a spear between two stones and to pound on it in order to sharpen the spear. According to this interpretation, during Ramaḍān, man puts himself in between obedience and worship of Allah in order to soften and prepare his soul for servitude. 

 

Based on this information, some say that Islam has named this month Ramaḍān, whereas others say this month has been named Ramaḍān from the time of jāhiliyyah (ignorance). 

Detailed Answer:

Two important points pertaining to the meaning of Ramaḍān have been mentioned in traditions (aḥādīth):
In many aḥādīth, the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) have advised that we avoid using the word Ramaḍān by itself; rather, they refer to it as “the month of Ramaḍān,” since the word Ramaḍān is actually one of the names of Allah. Amīr al-Muʾminīn (ʿa) has said, “Don’t say ‘Ramaḍān.’ Rather, say, ‘the month of Ramaḍān,’ and observe the respect of this month.”
Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “Don’t say “this Ramaḍān” or “Ramaḍān has passed” or “Ramaḍān is here,” because Ramaḍān is one of the names of Allah, and it does not come and go. Coming and going are qualities of a mortal being.

In reality, Ramaḍān is one of the names of Allah, and the month of Ramaḍān is the month of Allah. In Khuṭbat ash-Shaʿbāniyyah, the Noble Prophet (ṣ) said, “O people! Verily, the month of Allah has been brought to you.”

In many aḥādīth, the month of Ramaḍān is introduced as the beginning of the year. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “The first month of the year is Ramaḍān; so, if this month is a healthy and successful month, then the whole year will be successful.”

Muḥarram is the first month of the year in the lunar calendar, but Ramaḍān is the first month of the year for individuals who are concerned about self development. During the months of Rajab and Shaʿbān, one must take account of and purify his year, and then become the guest of Allah while in a state of purity.

Did the month of Ramaḍān and fasting exist in past religions? How is the fasting of Christians and Jews different from that of Muslims?

The Qurʾān explicitly mentions that fasting was obligatory on nations of the past:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُم

O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary.

 

From this āyah, it is clear that fasting was obligatory for people and nations in the past. Who were these past nations? Different forms of fasting have been mentioned in historical accounts of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and India. The Bible also emphasizes and encourages fasting.

 

The Dictionary of the Bible states, “Fasting has always been normal in all tribes, nations, and religions during times of grief and unexpected difficulties.” 

 

In the Torah, it is said that Mūsā (ʿa) fasted for 40 days: “When I went to the mountain to receive the commandments, I stayed for 40 days and 40 nights, and during that time, I did not eat bread or drink water.”

 

In The Gospel of St. Luke, it is also said that the Disciples fasted.

 

Fasting is a well-known act of worship among the Jews, but this action only takes place during Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). On this day, the Jews fast from sundown of the first day until nightfall the next day in order to atone for their sins. During this time, they abstain from food, drink, bathing, physical pleasures, and work. They spend time worshipping and seeking repentance in their synagogues.

Rajab is the month of Amīr al-Muʾminīn (ʿa), Shaʿbān is attributed to the Noble Prophet (ṣ), and the month of Ramaḍān is the month of Allah, which is exclusive to the ummah (followers) of the Prophet (ṣ). Can you explain this?

The Prophet of Allah (ṣ) has said, “Rajab is the month of Allah, Shaʿbān is my month, and the month of Ramaḍān is the month of my Ummah.”

 

There are many such aḥādīth related to this topic. Some of them introduce the month of Rajab and the month of Ramaḍān as the months of Allah. In reality, all of these months belong to Allah, though some of them have special characteristics. 

 

According to aḥādīth, Rajab is the month of strengthening one’s connection to Allah. In the month of Shaʿbān, we are strongly advised to send ṣalawāt (salutations) upon Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) and his divine family, and also to pledge to uphold the sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet (ṣ). It is said that one has the ability to be a guest of Allah during the month of Ramaḍān and that the forgiveness of the ummah is possible throughout the month of Ramaḍān. The peak of this forgiveness takes place on the Night of Qadr and the eve of Eid ul-Fiṭr.

 

In other aḥādīth, the month of Rajab has been attributed to Imām Alī (ʿa). This may be because the Imām was born in this month, or it may be in reference to the position of wilāyah (guardianship). True connection to Allah is not possible except through the path of wilāyah. This reality becomes clear on the Night of Qadr, when the angels and holy spirit reveal the divine decrees of the universe to the noble heart of Imām az-Zamān (ʿaj). 

 

The ummah is only able to achieve the highest levels of Tawḥīd and spirituality by following the Messenger of Allah (ṣ) and Imām ʿAlī (ʿa), and reaching such a level is most attainable during the month of Ramaḍān. This is why it has been named the month of Allah. This month is also referred to as the month of the ummah due to the honor that it holds for the ummah and the fact that sins are forgiven, as well as the chance of self purification given to the servants of Allah during the month of Ramaḍān.

What does it mean to be a guest of Allah during the month of Ramadan?
Brief Answer: 

There are several aḥādīth that indicate that we are guests of Allah during the month of Ramaḍān. To be a guest of Allah in this month means that Allah bestows special honor and mercy upon His servants. The servants of Allah, which includes believers and non-believers, benefit from the honor and mercy of Allah throughout their lives. However, being a guest of Allah during the month of Ramaḍān is a special honor and source of mercy for those who are fasting. 

Detailed Answer:

The following are some aḥādīth that indicate we are guests of Allah during the month of Ramaḍān:
The doors of Paradise are opened from the first night of Ramaḍān and do not close until the last night of the month.
The doors of Hell are closed from the beginning until the end of the month of Ramaḍān.
Shayṭān is locked up and put in chains, so he does not ruin the fast of the servants of Allah.
The month of Ramaḍān is a month those beginning is mercy, its middle is forgiveness of sins, and is end is salvation from the fire of Hell. Through the mercy of Allah, we are His guests and He forgives our sins. In the end, the guests are gifted with freedom from the Hellfire.
The Night of Qadr exists in the month of Ramaḍān, and this night is more valuable than a 1000 months. The benefits of worship on this night are more than any other. One year of a believer’s life is predetermined on this night.

How should we plan our time during the month of Ramaḍān in order to maximize our benefits from the month?
Brief Answer: 

Without a doubt, success in everything depends on good planning. This is possible only when the following criteria are met:

  1. Planning is in accordance with the goals one has set.
  2. Goals are made when the possibility of implementation comes about. It is only then that one truly values those goals.

 

When one knows the value of an opportunity or the importance of a blessing, they will appreciate and benefit from it even more. In order to benefit fully from the month of Ramaḍān, one must make plans for the month according to their physical and spiritual state and other circumstances, such as work and family. Ideally, one should divide their time into three parts:

    1. Knowledge and Wisdom
      During this month, one must make a serious effort to increase their knowledge and gain insight and wisdom, which will be the foundation of their belief.

  • Worship and Duʿā
    During the month of Ramaḍān, in addition to the acts of worship that we usually perform, there are other wājib (obligatory) and mustaḥab (recommended) acts of worship that one can engage in. These additional acts of worship include fasting, reciting Qurʾān, reciting duʿās specific to the month of Ramaḍān, doing good to others, etc. Performing these acts of worship is highly recommended and must be considered when planning the month of Ramaḍān.
  • Sleep and Rest
    In order to optimize benefits in the two previous domains, one must get adequate sleep and rest. If one fails to do this, they will not be successful in these first two parts. Our sleep and rest cycle changes during the month of Ramaḍān as a result of our modified eating schedule and other changes that take place during this month. Our scholars advise that you try not to change your sleep schedule too much, with as few interruptions to your sleep timings as possible. Continue your sleep and rest schedule with very little change to your normal sleep cycle. For example, if you stay awake for one hour during the time of suḥūr for eating suḥūr, reciting the night prayer, and the morning prayer, then make up that amount of sleep during the day. The time after Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr prayers is a suitable time for rest since we are not eating lunch. By resting during that time, you will be able to stay awake for a portion of the night and make better use of your time. 

 

Detailed Answer:

Here are some additional points that will help one maximize how much they benefit from the month of Ramaḍān:
Endeavor to avoid those things that are ḥarām, especially those things that are ḥarām for the eyes, ears, and tongue. It is also important that we eat foods that are ḥalāl.
Recite the Qurʾān a few times during the day and night. For example, read for about 15 minutes during the day and 15 minutes at night.
Divide duʿās and recite them during different times of the day and night. During the day, suffice with the duʿās that are read between prayers or after prayers, but spend more time at night in the recitation of duʿā. If some duʿās are long, it is not necessary to recite them every night.
To optimize your time while traveling or going about day to day tasks, do dhikr (dhikr done quietly and to one’s self so that it does not appear that one is doing riyāʾ(showing off). Try to advance from doing dhikr of the tongue to paying attention to the meaning of the dhikr and doing dhikr from one’s heart, ultimately achieving true remembrance of Allah. This should be done to the extent that a person feels that Allah is always with them and always watching them. The best adhkār, especially for the removal of apparent difficulties and spiritual difficulties, are the adhkār of istighfār and la ilāha ilallāh (لا اله الا الله)
Always be in the state of wuḍūʾ, even before going to sleep. During the month of Ramaḍān, one’s sleep is considered worship, and every breath that a person takes is also counted as worship, so being in wuḍūʾ only elevates that worship.
Stay awake at night in worship, especially on nights where the next day is a holiday. Perhaps some of the most important acts during this month are tahajjud, staying awake in worship, asking for forgiveness, and performing Ṣalāt ul-Layl in the middle of the night.
Take part in majālis (religious gatherings) in your masjid or Ḥusayniyah, where sermons or discussions related to jurisprudence, and religious issues are taking place. Many scholars and mujtahidīn (jurists) believe that one should also listen to religious speeches, sermons, and the recitation of musībah (lamentation). Participating in religious gatherings puts one in contact with Allah and places the individual within Allah’s mercy. This plays an important role in protecting one’s religion and spirituality.
Avoid strenuous exercise during the month of Ramaḍān. Try to do light exercise, such as walking and stretching.
Include more sweet foods and high-protein foods in your diet, such as dates and dairy products.
Avoid overeating during ifṭār and suḥūr. This will not only interrupt your sleep schedule, but also negatively impact your worship and educational lessons during the holy month.
Avoid expending unnecessary energy. For example, avoid useless talk and watching unnecessary television programs.

What are the spiritual, societal, and health effects of fasting?
Brief Answer:

Fasting has different dimensions, and it has many physical and spiritual effects on the human being. The most important of these dimensions have to do with akhlāq and the philosophy of self-building.

 

The effects on self-building are that fasting purifies the soul by engaging it in spiritual matters rather than worldly matters. Secondly, it helps us strengthen our willpower by training our bodies to avoid certain things. Lastly, it helps us control our desires, thus allowing us to control our nafs and primal desires.

 

Additionally, fasting has societal benefits, namely that it teaches us the importance of equality in society. A person who is fasting better understands the needs of the less fortunate and thereby recognizes the importance of addressing this societal issue of economic inequality.

 

Fasting also has numerous health benefits. Medical science has proven that fasting (restricting food) has miraculous effects in treating many physical diseases. Overeating is the cause of many diseases. The messenger of Allah (ṣ) has said, “The stomach is the center and house of all pain and illnesses, and diet (abstinence from unsuitable food and overeating) is the cure.” He has also said, “Fast so that you become healthy.” 

 

If fasting is performed according to its conditions, then it will have important self-building, societal, and health benefits for man. By creating limitations, fasting strengthens both the stomach and the digestive organs. By taking control of one’s thoughts and abstaining from sin, the human being’s soul is protected from spiritual impurities. The soul is fortified through recitation of the Qurʾān and duʿā. In summary, fasting brings about soundness of body and soul. 

Detailed Answer:

The Effects on Self-building
Purification of the Soul
A human being’s soul is always in the state of managing (controlling) his body. A body without the management of the soul is like a ship without a captain. During the month of Ramaḍān, because of abstinence from food and drink during specific hours, and also control of the senses (e.g., the eyes, ears, and all channels where information enters the mind), tranquility of the soul and self is better achieved. The soul’s involvement in material and worldly matters lessens while it becomes engaged in spiritual matters. As a result, the soul becomes more pure.
The Strengthening of Willpower
Allah has organized fasting in such a way that a person must avoid eating and drinking during a specific period of time, while he is able to eat and drink and enjoy that which is ḥalāl during a designated time. Following this exact program and repeating it for a month trains the soul to habits that it is not accustomed to doing during the other months of the year. This process ultimately results in the strengthening of a person’s willpower.
Controlling of Desires
A person who is fasting despite being hungry and thirsty must avoid food, drink, and other pleasures. This, in turn, helps him take control of his inner self (nafs) and gain mastery over his senses and desires. This brings about control and regulation of his primal instincts. In summary, fasting brings about man’s advancement from the world of animals and elevates him to the world of the angels.

Piety plays a very important role in a Muslim’s moral training, and the best form of worship for achieving this worthy character trait is fasting. In relation to this, the Qurʾān has said, “O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting, as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary.”

When the messenger of Allah (ṣ) mentioned the virtues of the month of Ramaḍān and fasting in Khuṭbat ash-Shaʿbāniyyah, Imām Ali (ʿa) asked, “What are the best actions during this month?” The Noble Prophet (ṣ) responded, “Abstinence and avoidance from sin and disobedience.”

Fasting, therefore, prevents sin and suppresses a sinner’s nafs. By acting upon this command of Allah, an individual is able to keep the spirit of piety and abstinence alive within himself. This is because fasting makes it easier for one to reform and train his inner self. The restrictions of the month of Ramaḍān extinguish the stubborn flame of our primal instincts and our carnal desires.

Overeating lays the groundwork for many abnormalities, stimulation of carnal desires, and delving into ḥarām. It also brings about the desire for that which is forbidden. It has been narrated in ḥadīth, “I (fasting) am a source of fear for your stomach and desires.”
If the stomach is in a state of purity and is fed only to the point that a person is satisfied (rather than full), and one stays away from foods that are ḥarām and doubtful, this brings about chastity. Purity of desires and purity of the stomach, is a very good foundation for spiritual joy and serenity of the heart and soul.

Societal Effects
The human being is a social creature. A perfect person is someone who grows and progresses in all dimensions of existence. Fasting is a source of development for the other dimensions of one’s existence. Fasting also teaches us that there should be equality among individuals in society. By adhering to this religious command, those who are more affluent become aware of the plight of the hungry and less fortunate in society. With this awareness comes the understanding that we must think about those who are less fortunate. If we are able to sense and feel what the less fortunate go through, then our response in addressing this issue will be more effective. Fasting allows us to (physically) sense this important societal issue. With this, the human being will not become indifferent to the plight of his fellow creation and will be more aware of the critical issues of society, such as poverty and hunger.

Isn’t fasting a type of self-discipline? If so, what is the difference between fasting and self-discipline outside of religion?
Riyāḍah (self-discipline) has several meanings. In general terminology, riyāḍah means to endure suffering and difficulties and physically limit one’s self in order to achieve spiritual strength.  

 

Riyāḍah can be divided into two types: absolute self-discipline (self-discipline that has nothing to do with the teachings of religion) and self-discipline associated with the teachings of religion and based upon the standards of the sharīʿah (Islamic laws). 

 

Riyāḍah in its absolute form refers to the human being doing anything possible in order to put himself through physical difficulties for the purpose of elevating himself spiritually. There is no consideration as to whether that action is correct or in accordance with religion. In order to reach the goal that has been set, these individuals will engage in any action. It does not matter if this action is forbidden (ḥarām) or dishonorable for a human being to engage in. The only focus is that such an action results in strengthening one’s soul and will power. 

 

However, In riyāḍah associated with religion, such as fasting, an individual never acts outside the boundaries of sharīʿah. His focus is not to achieve a superficial skill or ability, as such achievements are not desirable to a believer. A believer fasts during the month of Ramaḍān based on the laws decreed by Allah and recognizes that actions associated with the laws of religion are there to facilitate worship and closeness to Alllah. Therefore, we see that the end results and effects of riyāḍah that is associated with the sharīʿah and that which is not associated with the sharīʿah are completely different.

 

Detailed Answer:

Detailed Answer:
The difference between riyāḍah associated with religion and that which is not associated with religion lies in the fact that religion does not allow one to harm himself or another person. An individual’s actions must always have a reasonable and sensible benefit. For example, fasting is obligatory upon one who has reached the age of responsibility, but if that same fast has the possibility of causing physical harm, then that ruling no longer applies to that individual, and that person is not obligated to fast. This is according to the general rule of jurisprudence:
“One should not harm others, nor harm himself, according to Islam and the rules of Islam.”

This is also according to the Noble Qurʾān:
(لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّـهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا)
Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity.
However, an ascetic who is in pursuit of absolute riyāḍah does not take any of these rules into consideration and will many times act opposite to these rules.
The third difference between the two types of riyāḍah lies in the intention and goal of the one performing that act. If an ascetic is asked about what motivates them or what their intentions are in performing a particular action, they may answer, “We are engaging in this particular action simply to increase our spirituality, willpower, or mental abilities.” However, the first condition of fasting is that one must make the intention to gain closeness to Allah: “Certainly, actions are only in accordance with their intentions.”
One who is fasting may also have the intention of fasting in order to enter Paradise or benefit from the blessings of Paradise. Such an individual must have the intention of gaining closeness to Allah. As a servant of Allah, he strives to please Allah and benefit from both material and spiritual blessings.
The fourth difference between riyāḍah associated with religion and riyāḍah that is not associated with religion lies in how the end results of the two are used. A believer who has reached perfection by following religious rules will never use the results of that perfection in the way of ḥarām or misuse those skills he has been blessed with. However, an ascetic who has gained spiritual or physical skills through riyāḍah may be motivated to use those skills in an unlawful and improper manner. The question may arise, is it possible for a person to gain any notable skills or accomplish anything significant through riyāḍah that is not associated with religion? The answer is yes because the end results of riyāḍah are associated with cause and effect. For example, putting the body through physical and spiritual exercises will naturally result in the strengthening of one’s soul and gaining a deeper connection with the spiritual world. These spiritual gains and abilities can be used in the way of Allah and in a beneficial manner, or they can be used in a completely opposite manner.

It is said that Shayṭān is locked up in chains during the month of Ramaḍān. If this is the case, then why do we still commit sins during this month? Why does Allah give Shayṭān the opportunity to lead us to sin when we have to go through much difficulty to free ourselves from his evil?
This is a basic question that arises in the mind of every Muslim thinker. A lengthy and detailed answer can be seen below. However, here is a brief answer to suffice your question:

Allah, through the grace and mercy that He has bestowed on the believers, has given the believer several opportunities and tools with which to seek his help in protecting and strengthening his spirituality. The month of Ramaḍān, especially the Night of Qadr, is the best time and opportunity to fulfill this goal. Allah has limited Shayṭān’s power during this month. This limitation is interpreted as Shayṭān being put in chains. The holy month of Ramaḍān is an opportunity given to man that he may strive for spiritual perfection, but with the condition that he consciously chooses to do so. If an individual does not want to embark on a path of strengthening and increasing his faith (e.g.,  he fasts, but does not avoid sin), then fasting will not have a profound effect on his soul. By fasting, he will simply be fulfilling a religious responsibility.

 

Detailed Answer:

There are different viewpoints concerning its answer. Let us examine the points below.

Allah created the human being in order to help him achieve perfection. The defining factor in the human being’s achievement of perfection lies in his knowledge and true understanding of Allah during worship. Allah tells us in the Noble Qurʾān:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.
It is only through worship and knowledge of Allah that man can achieve perfection. The individual who has embarked on the path of perfection is only able to see the One who is worshipped when he has chosen this path by choice and with awareness.
Allah has created the human being with freedom of choice and has allowed him to choose the path of salvation or the path of evil, and He has said:
إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا
Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful.

It is here that we begin the discussion of man being tested. Being tested is one of the intermediate goals in the creation of mankind. The fact that man is tested plays a critical role in the choices that he makes. It is not surprising that this issue is discussed in many āyāt of the Noble Qurʾān, which says:
إِنَّا خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ أَمْشَاجٍ نَّبْتَلِيهِ
Indeed, We created man from a sperm-drop mixture that We may try him

A test is only justified and fair when the conditions and means exist for a human being to choose between a path of good or a path of evil. Since Allah considers mankind the most honorable of his creations and has only congratulated Himself on mankind’s creation, He has given man many opportunities and means to aid him in choosing the path of salvation and perfection.

The following are some opportunities and means that Allah has made available:
The human being was created to naturally and instinctively seek Allah:
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا
So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. (Adhere to) the fiṭrah of Allah upon which He has created (all) people.
Leadership and guidance towards the truth is facilitated by Allah Himself:
قُلِ اللَّـهُ يَهْدِي لِلْحَقِّ
Say, Allah guides to the truth.

Both good and bad is revealed to man in order for him to make an informed choice:
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
And (by) the soul and he who proportioned it; And inspired it (with discernment of) its wickedness and its righteousness.

The love and desire (inclination) to have faith in Allah has been established in the hearts of mankind:
حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ
But Allah has endeared you to the faith and has made it pleasing in your hearts.

Special help and support is given to the believers during the life of this world:
إِنَّا لَنَنصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا
Indeed, We will support Our messengers and those who believe during the life of this world.

The path of guidance is opened to man in relation to his efforts:
وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
And those who strive for Us, We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.

Although many opportunities exist to guide man towards the path of goodness, there are forces that may influence him towards the path of evil. These forces make it possible for man to realize that he may be tested by Allah. The existence of forces that influence the human being towards evil and temptation puts him in the position of having to choose between two paths. In the end, his willpower and self determination help him in making that ultimate choice.

The whispers and temptations of Shayṭān brings about an internal struggle within the human being, and by seeking Allah’s help and favor, he begins a formidable internal war. It is through this internal struggle that his soul and inner self is nourished and given the chance of gaining perfection. Since man has truly been tested in this situation, his true character—whether positive or negative—comes to light, and the hidden facets of his character are revealed.

When Shayṭān disobeyed Allah and was driven from His presence, he requested that Allah give him permission to tempt and mislead mankind. Allah agreed to his request and allowed him the opportunity to seduce and lead mankind in the direction of evil and to do this knowing that Allah is all powerful. However, Allah limited Shayṭān’s power and did not allow him to have full control and domination over mankind. In the Noble Qurʾān we read:
وَمَا كَانَ لَهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يُؤْمِنُ بِالْآخِرَةِ مِمَّنْ هُوَ مِنْهَا فِي شَكٍّ
And he had over them no authority except (it was decreed) that We might make evident who believes in the Hereafter from who is thereof in doubt.

Shayṭān’s seduction and temptation is only effective on those individuals who choose the path of evil over good. However, those individuals who are sincere and who truly seek Allah, will not be harmed by Shayṭān. Shayṭān has spoken out about his inability to mislead those who choose the path of good by saying:
فَبِعِزَّتِكَ لَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ إِلَّا عِبَادَكَ مِنْهُمُ الْمُخْلَصِينَ
(Iblīs) said, “By your might, I will surely mislead them all except, among them, Your chosen servants.”

We see that mankind is tempted by Shayṭān after ignoring his natural instincts and the divine revelations. An individual who has chosen to disbelieve, has in turn lost the love and support of the purest people on earth. They deserve only to be burdened with the whisperings and misguidance of Shayṭān. This is actually a way in which Allah punishes those individuals in this world. Allah has said:
أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا الشَّيَاطِينَ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ تَؤُزُّهُمْ أَزًّا
Do you not see that We have sent the devils upon the disbelievers, inciting them to (evil) with (constant) incitement?

During the month of Ramaḍān, I feel more love for Allah and the Imām (ʿa). How can I know if Allah also loves me? Is there a way for me to be certain of Allah’s love for me?
Brief Answer: There are different ways that people express love and friendship. It is sometimes expressed through affectionate words in the form of poetry or prose. Love and friendship may even be expressed through tears of happiness. Giving gifts, showing respect, and being hospitable are also ways of expressing love and friendship.

 

The following are signs and effects of Allah’s love for his servants, as mentioned in ḥadīth:

  1. Obedience of Allah and following his awliyāʾ (the Prophets and Maʿṣūmīn):

من سرّه ان يعلم ان الله يحبه فليعمل بطاعة الله و ليتبعنا

Whoever becomes happy when he understands that Allah loves him must obey Allah and follow us (Ahl al-Bayt).

 

  1. Constantly remembering Allah:

اذا رألت عبدی يكثر ذکری فأنا اذنت له فی ذلک و انا احبه

If you see that My servant is in constant remembrance of Me, I have given him permission to do so and I love him.

 

  1. Internal peace and fortitude: 

اذا احب الله عبداً زيًّنَهُ بالسكينة و الحلم

Whenever Allah is fond of one of His servants, He adorns that servant with internal peace and fortitude.

 

  • Having a pure heart and balanced disposition:

 

اذا احب  الله عبداً رزقه قلباً سليماً و خلقاً قوبماً

Whenever Allah is fond of a servant, He bestows upon that servant a pure heart and a balanced disposition. (That individual will not have the tendency to suffer from extreme behavioral issues or temperaments.)

 

  1. Being fond of those who obey Allah and having enmity for those who disobey Him:

اذا اردت ان تعلم ان فيك خيراً فانظر الی قلبک فان کان يحب اهل طاعة الله عز و جل و يبغض اهل معصية ففيك  خيراً و الله يحبك

If you want to know whether goodness exists within you or not, then look at your heart. If you find in it friendship and love for those servants who obey Allah, and hatred (dislike) for those who commit sin, then there is goodness in you, and Allah loves you.

 

Additionally, the blessing of existence, life, the continuation of life, and the fact that mankind must be equipped with all that is necessary for the continuation of life, as well as what is needed for his spiritual growth and his growth in worldly affairs, is in actuality, a manifestation of Allah’s love for his servants.

 

Detailed Answer:

Allah’s expression of love for His servants is not of the reactionary or physical nature that is prevalent among humans. He is above and free of such humanly characteristics. Allah’s love for His servant can be explained in the following manner: every cause is attached to its effect, and every product is attached to its maker. Every effect is a manifestation of its cause and shares an origin and similarities with that cause. Every effect is also fond of its cause since it is aware that its existence is as a result of that cause. The friendship and love between cause and effect depends on the strength of the cause and the depth of understanding of the effect. Therefore, the highest and strongest form of love, is that which exists between Allah and His servants.

Allah has expressed His love for His servants in many āyāt and aḥādīth:
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ; فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ; وَاللَّـهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
وَاللَّـهُ يُحِبُّ الصَّابِرِينَ
Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant; Then indeed, Allah loves those who fear him; And Allah loves the doers of good; And Allah loves the steadfast;

In Ḥadīth al-Qudsi, it is said:
لو علم المدبرون کيف انتظاری لهم لماتوا شوقاً
If those who turned away from Me knew how much I was waiting for them, they would die from eagerness and pleasure.

The emotions and passion that may sometimes guide an individual towards seeking absolute perfection and an everlasting existence (in the Hereafter), is in itself another indication of Allah’s grace and love (for His creation).

When we look at the love that a servant has for Allah, or the love of the awliyāʾ (Prophets and Imāms) for Allah, we see that this love becomes so great that such individuals will announce without hesitation, “O Allah! Even if you put us in the Hellfire, we will still announce our love for You!”

In Munājāt ash-Shaʿbāniyyah, we read:
و ان ادخلتنی النار اعلمت اهلها انی احبک.
O Allah! If You make me enter the fire, I will announce to the inhabitants of the fire that I love you (I am your loving friend).

In Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī, we read:
الهی! لو قرنتنی بالاصفاد و منعتنی سيبك من بين الاشهاد و دللت علی فضائحی عيون العباد و امرت بى الى النار و حلت بينى و بين الابرار ماقطعت رجائی منک و ما صرفت تأميلى للعفو عنك و لا خرج حبك من قلبى.
O Allah! If You put me in an iron collar and drag me in chains, and deprived me of your all encompassing grace and favour, and inform others of my infamy, and give the order that I should be thrown in the fire, and separate me from Your good servants; after all of this, I will not lose hope in You. I will never abandon hope in Your forgiveness (I will never doubt in Your forgiveness), and my love for You will never leave my heart.

The duʿās (supplications) of the awliyāʾ of Allah are not poetic and exaggerated speeches that play on one’s emotions; rather, the supplications of these pious individuals are an expression of their feelings (moods) and perceptions. They are enamored with the One who loves them, and they witness the manifestation of Allah’s beauty and perfection in every object and creation:
انت الذی لا اله غيرك تعرفت لکل شئ فما جهلک شئ و انت الذی تعرفت الیّ فی كل شئ فرأيتك ظاهراً فی کل شئ و انت المظاهر لکل شئ
You are the One that there is no God but you. You have made Yourself known to everything, in such a way that You are not unknown to anything. You are that God who has shown me yourself in everything, in such a way that I see You clearly in everything and You are apparent and visible in everything.

What should we do to better safeguard the effects and blessings of the month of Ramaḍān within ourselves?
Brief Answer: 

Without a doubt, a month of fasting and constant struggle of self improvement has deep spiritual benefits on the human being’s soul and physical health. However, what should we do so that fasing has lasting effects on our lives and souls?

 

The first step that we must take is to try to make sure that our fast is complete and perfect (accurate). When we do this, the effects of our fast will last until the next year and beyond.

 

Imām Ja’far aṣ-Ṣādiq(ʿa) has said, “Whenever you are fasting, you must keep your eyes and ears far away from that which is forbidden (ḥarām), and your organs and limbs must be purified from indecencies. You must stay away from useless and vain actions. You must possess the forbearance, dignity, and respect of one who is truly fasting because one who is truly fasting is completely heedful and careful in all areas of his life. He is mindful that even the smallest religious, non-religious, or behavioral (akhlāqi) shortcoming is not seen in him. One who is fasting must choose to be silent whenever possible, except when he is in remembrance of Allah or voicing his needs. Avoid boisterous and loud laughing when fasting because Allah dislikes such laughing. 

 

From this ḥadīth, we understand that a true fast is not only avoidance of food and drink. Rather, when we are truly fasting, all of our organs and limbs must also be fasting. Such a fast is complete and will naturally have lasting effects. There are two other important things that must be done in order for the effects of our fast to be lasting: 

 

  1. Avoidance of that which destroys the effects of one’s fast. The ultimate goal of fasting is to gain taqwā (God consciousness). Therefore if we want to benefit from the lasting effects of fasting, our actions must be consistent with avoidance of sin. 
  2. We must not cut our relationship with the month of Ramaḍān. In other words, we must continue to perform the acts of worship that we used to perform during this holy month. In order to strengthen the effects of fasting, we must sometimes fast outside of Ramaḍān. These fasts are of course not wājib, but must have the same quality as a fast performed during the month of Ramaḍān (i.e., all our organs and limbs must also be fasting). Therefore, it is steadfastness and perseverance in an action that results in the lasting effects of that action. 
Detailed Answer:

Imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “The action most loved by Allah is that which His servant performs consistently, even when done in small increments.

It has been recommended that after the month of Ramaḍān, we should sometimes fast and read the Qurʾān, even if we are able to read just one page of Qurʾān a day. We should also read the duʿās that are specific to each month on a daily basis. It has always been the custom of great personalities, like the Prophet (ṣ) and Imāms (ʿa), to fast on a regular basis throughout the year. They recommend that we fast at least three days a month: the beginning, middle, and end of the month. They also advise that we read at least 50 āyāt of Qurʾān a day. These recommendations and advice are to possibly help facilitate the continuation and lasting effects of the month of Ramaḍān. They may also help turn these spiritual habits into character traits, which become second nature to the believer and govern his actions.

What is the relationship between the Qurʾān and the month of Ramaḍān? Why has this month been called “the spring of the Qurʾān?”

According to āyāt of Qurʾān and aḥādīth, fasting is an important act of worship with many blessings attributed to it, but it is only the first step of obtaining taqwā (piety):

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who have believed, prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those before you that you may become righteous.

 

Complete guidance of the believers depends on benefiting from the Noble Qurʾān:  

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

This is the book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.

 

The most important faḍīlah (virtue) of the month of Ramaḍān is that the Qurʾān was revealed during this month: 

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاس

The month of Ramaḍān (is that) in which was revealed the Qurʾān, a guidance for the People.

 

From the āyāt mentioned above, it is clear that there is a special relationship between the Noble Qurʾān and the month of Ramaḍān. In the same way that the spring season gives way to rebirth and rejuvenation of nature and mankind, the Qurʾān is considered the spring of our hearts. Our hearts experience a certain rebirth and rejuvenation through reading, learning, and understanding the Qurʾān. 

 

Imām Muḥammad Bāqir (ʿa) has said:

تعّلموا كتاب الله تبارك وتعالى، فإنه أحسن الحديث وأبلغ الموعظة، وتفقهوا فيه فإنه ربيع القلوب. 

Learn from the book of Allah, the Exalted, and find understanding in it, because it is the most beautiful of words and the most expressive of sermons.

 

There is a very deep relationship between the Qurʾān and the month of Ramaḍān, and when we read and learn from the Qurʾān during this holy month, we are better able to purify our lives and gain a deeper understanding of the Night of Qadr, a night that is directly connected to the reality of the Noble Qurʾān. The Noble Prophet (ṣ) has said, “Reading one āyah of the Qurʾān during the month of Ramaḍān,has the same reward as completing the Qurʾān during other months of the year.

According to the following āyah, was the whole Qurʾān revealed during the month of Ramaḍān?: شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ The month of Ramaḍān (is that) in which the Qurʾān was revealed.

The āyāt of Qurʾān that talk about how the Noble Qurʾān was revealed can be divided into two groups: 

  1. Āyāt that indicate the Qurʾān was revealed on the Night of Qadr (e.g., 2:185, 44:3:, 97:1).
  2. Āyāt that indicate the Qurʾān was revealed gradually over the course of 20-23 years (e.g., 17:106, 25: 32)

 

How can we determine from these two groups of verses when the Qurʾān was revealed and whether it was revealed on the Night of Qadr?

 

This question has been answered by both Ahl as-Sunnah and Shīʿah scholars below:

  1. Most Ahl as-Sunnah scholars and some Shīʿah scholars, such as Shaykh al-Mufīd, Sayyid Murtaḍā, and Ibn Shahrāshūb, have said that the beginning of revelation took place during the month of Ramaḍān. This group of scholars believe that it is usually possible to pinpoint or make reference to the beginning of an event (not necessarily the duration or end of that event). They believe that the content of the first group of āyāt cannot be compared to the content of the second group.
  2. Other scholars, such as Fakhr Rāzī, say that this is rather a general reference to the month. They believe that every year during the Night of Qadr, Angel Jibrāʾīll would reveal portions of the Qurʾān to the Noble Prophet (ṣ) according to the needs of the people. According to this explanation, it is clear that it is not possible to compare the first group of āyāt with the second group. 
  3. Some scholars opine that the first group of āyāt are referring to the fact that the āyāt of Qurʾān were revealed during the month of Ramaḍān. Based on this opinion, it is correct to attribute the revelation of the Qurʾān to the month of Ramaḍān. 
  4. Some, such as Shaykh Ṣadūq, believe that the Qurʾān was revealed all at once during one Night of Qadr, at Bayt al-ʿIzzah, or Bayt al-Maʿmūr. After this, the Qurʾān was revealed gradually to the Prophet (ṣ) over the course of 20-23 years. This opinion has been proven by aḥādīth. For example, Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “The Qurʾān was revealed all at once at Bayt al-Maʿmūr. It was then revealed to the Prophet (ṣ) over the course of 20 years. 
  5. Other Shīʿah scholars, such as Fayḍ Kāshānī and Abū ʿAbdullah Zanjānī, have said that it is not the words or content of the Qurʾān that was revealed during the month of Ramaḍān; rather, the reality and understanding of the Qurʾān was revealed. They also say that what is meant by “Bayt al-Maʿmūr” in ḥadīth is that the Qurʾān was revealed to the heart of the Noble Prophet (ṣ).
  6. ʿAllāmah Ṭabātabāʾī differentiates between the Qurʾān being revealed all at once and it being revealed gradually over time. He believes that the term anzāl refers to the Qurʾān being revealed all at once and deals with understanding the reality of the Qurʾān and pertains to its laws. However, the term tanzīl refers to the gradual revelation of the Qurʾān and deals with portions and details of the Qurʾān. This point of view is supported by āyāt of Qurʾān, such as the following: 

كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ.

(This is) a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from (one who is) the All-Wise and All-Aware

 

The Qurʾān was revealed all at once in order to provide a detailed synopsis of its goals, lessons, guidance, and its realities (the reality of its message). It was necessary for the Noble Prophet (ṣ) to have such knowledge of the Qurʾān and divine guidance from the unseen. However, the gradual revelation to the Qurʾān is related to specific events and needs, and was very beneficial in strengthening the Prophet’s heart. The order in which the āyāt of Qurʾān were revealed was instrumental in mankind’s guidance and in projecting a model for the formation of an Islamic civilization.

 

From the scholarly viewpoints mentioned above,ʿAllāmah Ṭabātabāʾī’s point of view has been proven through research. However, some scholars of Qurʾānic sciences are of the opinion that ʿAllāmah’s reasonings and proofs are incomplete. They believe that what can be accepted with certainty is the gradual revelation of the Noble Qurʾān and that the virtue of the month of Ramḍān lies in that the revelation of the Qurʾān began in that month, and that the Qurʾān was revealed as a book of guidance for mankind.

 

Are the words of the Qurʾān from Allah, or were they chosen because of the Noble Prophet's language? Since Allah is not limited by time, geographical location, or a particular language, how do we explain the fact that the language of the Qurʾān is Arabic?

It was natural for the Qurʾān to be revealed in Arabic since the Noble Prophet (ṣ) and the first people addressed by the Qurʾān were Arabic speakers. Every speaker will naturally deliver his message in the language of whomever is being addressed. Allah (swt) used this method when appointing the Prophets and when conveying His message to mankind. ِAllah has said in the Qurʾān:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ،

And we did not send any messenger except (speaking) in the language of his people to state clearly for them,

 

Below are a few important points which are related to this topic:

 

  1. In order for the Qurʾān to be revealed in this world, it was necessary for that revelation to be in a specific language, and that was the eloquent language of Arabic. However, the message and culture of the Noble Qurʾān is innate and understood by all of mankind. If the culture and message of the Qurʾān only addressed a particular race or ethnic group, then it would never have been a universal message. It is not possible to gain a full understanding of the Noble Qurʾān simply by learning the Arabic language; rather, it is a divine book that originates in the heavens. The infinite knowledge of the Qurʾān is from Allah and can only be obtained through virtuousness and a connection with Allah.
  2. In the same way that divine revelation is only attributed to Allah, revelation of the Qurʾān in eloquent Arabic is only by Allah. It is not that the essence and meaning of the Qurʾān was revealed to the Prophet (ṣ) and that he had a choice in the language of the Qurʾān. The words of the Noble Qurʾān were specified by Allah and are miracles in themselves.
  3. The relationship between words and their meanings is not one that is intrinsic. Specific words were chosen to represent specific meanings. It is because of this that one meaning can be represented by different words among different nations and people. It is for this reason that a reality such as revelation is sometimes in Arabic, Hebrew, etc.

 

It is important to note that Arabic is a comprehensive language whose words have the capability of representing a wide range of meanings. Therefore, familiarizing oneself with the Arabic language and reciting the Noble Qurʾān in Arabic facilitates the achievement of a deeper understanding of the language.

 

While reciting the Qurʾān, which rules should we observe in order to better benefit from the Noble Book?

The following are some etiquette that should be observed when we recite the Noble Qurʾān:

  1. One must be in a state of purity and with wuḍūʾ when reciting the Qurʾān.
  2. One should brush his teeth before recitation of the Qurʾān.
  3. The Qurʾān should be recited in a beautiful voice.
  4. The Qurʾān should be read in a medium-toned voice. It should not be read in a voice that is too soft or too loud.
  5. While reciting the Qurʾān, one should be respectful, dignified, and facing the qiblah, regardless of whether one is sitting or standing. If one is sitting, he should do so in good posture and not while leaning on something or slouching. 
  6. One should recite the Qurʾān while looking at and reading from the text of the Qurʾān. Reciting from the text of the Qurʾān has been emphasized in aḥādīth and has many benefits.

 

The following has been narrated in a ḥadīth from the Noble Prophet (ṣ):

لیس شئ أشدّ علی الشّيطان من القرائة فی المصحف نظراً

Nothing is more harsh for Shayṭān than when the Qurʾān is recited by means of looking at its text.

  1. Before reciting, say the following phrase:

أعوذ بالله السّميع العليم من الشّيطان الرجيم

I seek refuge with Allah, the All-Hearing and All-Knowing from the exiled Shayṭān

 

Then, say Bismillāhir Raḥmanir Raḥim and begin reciting the Qurʾān. It is mentioned in the Qurʾān that by the grace of Allah, we will be protected from the interference of Shayṭān through these words. 

  1. Observe tartīl when reciting the Qurʾān. In āyah 3 of Sūrah al-Muzzammil, we read, “And recite the Qurʾān with measured recitation.” In other words, don’t read the Qurʾān so fast that there is no spacing or differentiation between the letters, words, and stop signs. There should also not be excessive and incorrect spacing between the words and letters. Therefore, the Qurʾān should be read in such a way that the letters and words are clear, properly pronounced, and connected. The stop signs that appear at the end of the āyāt must also be observed. 
  2. When reciting the Qurʾān, one should be focused on the āyah that is being read, rather than thinking about something else.
  3. One should ponder upon the āyāt of the Qurʾān so that they are able to personally benefit from the knowledge and secrets within those āyāt.
  4. The rights of each āyah must be observed. This means that when one is reciting the Qurʾān and an āyah mentions Allah’s mercy and Paradise, then that individual should not think that he is deprived of Allah’s mercy, and he should not think that the attainment of Paradise is beyond his reach. When reciting āyāt that mention punishment and the Hellfire, one should be fearful and seek refuge from Allah’s wrath and that they will not be an inhabitant of the Hellfire. When reciting āyāt that praise Allah and mention His greatness, we should remember Him through these qualities. When reciting āyāt that mention seeking Allah’s forgiveness, then the reciter should seek Allah’s grace and forgiveness. Whenever the ṣāliḥin (pious individuals) are mentioned, we should ask Allah to make us such people and include us among such noble people. When the misguided and neglectful are mentioned, we should ask Allah to not count us as such people. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “While reciting the Noble Qurʾān, when you reach an āyah thatmentions Paradise, ask Allah to grant you Paradise; and when you reach an āyah that mentions the Hellfire, seek refuge with Allah from the Hellfire.”
Are there any spiritual rewards and blessings in reciting the translation of the Qurʾān?

 Yes, there is spiritual reward and blessing in reciting the translation of the Qurʾān (in one’s own language). We should strive to recite the Qurʾān in Arabic, but it is also important to be familiar with the translation of the āyāt of the Qurʾān. Even if we recite fewer verses, our focus should be on the meaning and translation of the āyāt as we recite. We will better benefit from Qurʾān when we understand what is being read. 

 

Below are some reasons we are encouraged to recite the Qurʾān in Arabic:

  • To establish a shared language among all the followers of Islam and bring about a sense of unity and global connection among Muslims.
  • To understand the true spiritual message of the Qurʾān. There is a vast difference between the Arabic of the Qurʾān and its translation. The Arabic is the actual word of Allah, while the translation is man’s interpretation of the words of Allah. It is for this reason that we are encouraged to learn Arabic and gain as much of an understanding of the language as we can.
  • In addition to its content, the Noble Qurʾān has an eloquence, which is in itself part of the miracle of the noble book. It is not possible to convey the eloquence of Qurʾānic Arabic in any translation. 
  • To recite the Qurʾān in the same language that Jabrāʾīl revealed it to the Noble Prophet (ṣ).
Is it ok to draw our own personal conclusions about the Qurʾān? Is it possible to use the Qurʾān without referencing its tafsīr (scholarly commentary)? Isn’t the Qurʾān a source of guidance for all?

 It is possible for everyone to benefit from the knowledge of the Qurʾān to some extent. However, in order to benefit from the Qurʾān as the essential source of Islamic knowledge, one must not only acquire certain skills, but also gain mastery in the use of those skills. The most important skills that one must gain in order to understand the Qurʾān are as follows:

  1. Knowledge of the grammar and rules of the Arabic language: In order to understand what is being said in any given language, it is necessary to understand the rules of that language and its words. In the Arabic language, this would entail having comprehensive knowledge of the formation of words, use of words, meaning of words, and figures of speech.
  2. Knowledge of the subject matter, context, and grammatical style of the Qurʾān: The Noble Qurʾān contains contextual facts that are sometimes related, and other times, unrelated. In order to fully understand the intended meaning, it is necessary to do a side-by-side comparison of the text of the Qurʾān and to have a comprehensive overview of all related and unrelated text.
  3. Knowledge of the Sunnah (Traditions) of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa): The Noble Qurʾān tells us that the Prophet (ṣ) and Maʿṣūmīn (ʿa) are our guides to understanding the Qurʾān. Knowledge of the sunnah of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and their teachings on how to do tafsīr of the Qurʾān is instrumental in gaining a deeper understanding of the message of the Noble Qurʾān.
  4. Dynamic and Rational Thinking: One who does commentary of the Qurʾān needs to be an active and rational thinker in order to be able to accurately derive religious knowledge from the āyāt of the Qurʾān.
  5. A Comprehensive and Universal View: A deep understanding of the meaning of the Qurʾān necessitates an extensive education. A successful commentator of the Qurʾān relies on past knowledge and  extensive research.

 

Why do the āyāt of Qurʾān mostly address men? Don’t women form half the population?
Brief Answer: 

Researchers of the Qurʾān have divided those whom the Qurʾān addresses into two groups:

  1. Āyāt that specifically address males or females, such as āyāt 216 and 233 of Sūrah al-Baqarah. 
  2. Āyāt that address males and females as a whole. These āyāt are of two types:
    1. Āyāt that address mankind as a whole by using a general term of address, such as nās, insān, and man.
    2. Āyāt that use a masculine term, but are actually addressing mankind as a whole.
Detailed Answer:

A few points concerning the last group of āyāt (those that use a masculine term, but addressing mankind as a whole):
The laws and knowledge within these āyāt address men and women equally even though a masculine term is used. It is important to note that no one who has written a commentary on the Qurʾān and who is familiar with language and the rules of grammar has ever said that most of the āyāt of the Qurʾān pertain to men.
This is a common grammatical style in many languages and is not exclusive to the Noble Qurʾān. Āyāt mentioning laws of religion use masculine words and pronouns, even though such āyāt address both male and female.
One of the reasons that women are often not directly addressed in the Qurʾān is in observance of the honor and respect of women. This form of address shows Allah’s reverence towards women and in no way indicates a backward view of them.

Explain the meaning and essence of the Night of Qadr. What is the importance of this night?
Brief Answer: 

The essence of the Night of Qadr is described as the night in which Allah takes into account a whole year of a person’s life, where that individual’s fate is determined by his choices, his self will, and that which he is deserving of. 

 

The importance of the Night of Qadr is that the entire events of one year of a person’s life is preordained in that night. These are events that are directly influenced by the individual himself. A person’s birth, death, sustenance, good and bad deeds, Ḥajj, obedience to Allah, and sins are all taken into account on the Night of Qadr. A believer’s worship on this night has countless blessings and has the power to positively shape his or her destiny.

Detailed Answer:

The word qadr means size or to measure something. It also refers to qualities of everything in relation to its creation and existence. In other words, qadr refers to the measure and limitations of all things in reference to their creation. Based on the wisdom of Allah, the measure of everything must be taken into account upon its creation. When asked about the meaning of the word qadr, Imām ar-Riḍā (ʿa) said, “It includes the length, width, and continuance of everything.” Allah’s account of everything in the material world is directly related to the creation and limitations of those things.

Did the Night of Qadr exist before Islam, and does it continue after the Noble Prophet (ṣ)?

According to aḥādīth, the Night of Qadr is not exclusive to the time period of Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ). This night is said to have also existed in the past. ʿAllāmah Majlisī has narrated the following ḥadīth from Imām al-Jawād (ʿa): “Allah created the Night of Qadr from the beginning of creation, and in it, He brought into being the very first Prophet and the very first waṣī (vicegerent)”

 

The following ḥadīth has also been narrated from the Noble Prophet (ṣ): “Allah has bestowed the Night of Qadr on my ummah, and no ummah of the past was given such a blessing.”

 

These two aḥādīth indicate that the Night of Qadr did originate in the past; however, special blessings that were bestowed exclusively on the followers of Islam were not given to nations of the past.

The Night of Qadr is which night of the year? Due to the different calendars that exist throughout the world, is it possible for there to be more than one Night of Qadr?

The Night of Qadr is, without a doubt, one of the nights of the month of Ramaḍān. Several āyāt of Qurʾān also confirm this fact. In Sūrah al-Baqarah, we read, “The Qurʾān was revealed during the month of Ramaḍān.” In Sūrah al-Qadr, we also read, “We sent it (the Qurʾān) down in the Night of Qadr.” It is necessary to refer to aḥādīth to specify when the Night of Qadr occurs. In both Sunnī and Shīʿah aḥādīth, different possibilities are given for the night of Qadr, including the night of the 17th,19th, 21th, 23rd, 27th, and 29th of Ramaḍān. 

 

Based on reliable aḥādīth of the Imāms, the Night of Qadr most likely occurs on the night of the 19th, 21st, or 23rd of Ramaḍān, with the strongest possibility of its occurrence being on the night of the 23rd.

 

The Night of Qadr occurs on only one night, and believers have the opportunity to repeatedly benefit from the blessings of this night every year. Despite the different calendars that exist, the Night of Qadr does not occur more than once a year.

 

If our fate and destiny is determined on the Night of Qadr, then what does it mean for man to strive and have freedom of choice?

The word qadr refers to taking into account the relationship and formation of every event as it relates to the cause of that thing. On the Night of Qadr, this relationship is closely evaluated by Allah. When it is said that one’s fate is determined on this night, it means that the specific form and measure of every thing or event is taken into consideration. This taking into account is based on whether or not the conditions exist for that thing to take place, or whether there is an obstacle to its occurrence. Mankind’s merit and the choices that he may make are also taken into account.

 

Through His wisdom and mercy, Allah has ordained that there be a natural order and relationship between everything. For example, there is a direct correlation between lifespan and health and lifespan and avoidance of certain sins (such as breaking of family ties). So, maintaining good health, maintaining family ties, and giving ṣadaqah all have a positive impact on one’s lifespan. In the same way, positive and negative choices directly affect the path that one travels in life. 

 

On the Night of Qadr, it becomes clear that the path that man takes is directly impacted by his choices. On that night, it is also made clear that duʿā and the asking for the fulfillment of one’s needs determine which blessings one is deserving of.

 

We see that Allah’s determination of one’s fate and the choices that one may make are not in contradiction of one another. Man’s choices are part of the chain of cause and effect that directly impacts the events in his life. Allah evaluates a person on the Night of Qadr and determines how that person’s closeness to the Creator, his good and bad deeds, and his choices ultimately shape and predetermine the events of his life. It is for this reason that the believers are encouraged to stay up and spend the Night of Qadr in worship and duʿā, in the hopes that these acts will bring about Allah’s grace and mercy, thereby elevating his status before Allah. 

 

Lastly, it is important to mention that if mankind did not have the element of choice, and if our actions had no effect on our fates, then we would not be encouraged to stay up in worship on the Night of Qadr. When we make that choice and strive to live a Godly life, then yes, we are ultimately determining our own fates.

 

What are some of the best things that we can do on the Night of Qadr?

 The following are some of the recommended acts of the Night of Qadr:

    1. Acknowledgement of the importance of the Night of Qadr. In the Noble Qurʾān, Allah addresses the Prophet (ṣ) about the month of Ramaḍān, saying, “Indeed We sent it down on the Night of Ordainment. And what will show you what is the Night of Ordainment? The Night of Ordainment is better than a thousand months.” This comparison indicates the elevated status of the Night of Qadr, that it is better than a lifetime and more weighty than the number, a thousand. It is a night where man’s destiny is determined. If one ponders the greatness and potential blessing of this night then he or she will try to make the best of this valuable opportunity.  

  • Repentance. One of the best things that one can do on the night of Qadr, is to repent. In Sūrah Tahrim Allah has said: “O you who have faith! Repent to Allah with sincere repentance!” Seeking repentance is something that is always encouraged, and which holds special meaning on the Night of Qadr. On this night one seeks closeness to Allah and tries his best to truly be repentant. One who is repentant will be remorseful of his past actions and will not repeat that action.
  • Reciting Duʿā. Duʿā or supplication establishes a believer’s connection with Allah. Through duʿā, one is able to express his needs and state-of-being before Allah. Life is such that we are easily distracted by, and drawn to the material world. Whereas man was created to naturally seek closeness to Allah. One of the best ways of doing this is by spending a few moments connecting with Allah through duʿa everyday. The Noble Prophet has said: “Duʿā is the brain (central operating system) of worship”. The Night of Qadr is a night of worship, so in order to really benefit from it, one must turn to Allah in supplication.
  • Seeking forgiveness. It is recommended that one must ask for forgiveness at least 100 times on the Nights of Qadr.
  • Recitation of the Qurʾān. Since the Noble Qurʾān was revealed on the Night of Qadr, the best pledge that we can make to Allah is to recite the Qurʾān on that night. In Sūrah Muzzammil Allah has said: “So recite as much of the Qurʾān as is feasible.” Believers are always encouraged to recite the Qurʾān and to do so with understanding. Qurʾān recitation on the Night of Qadr is one of the best acts of worship.
  • Staying awake all night. In order to fully benefit from the grace of Allah and the blessings of the Night of Qadr, it is necessary to spend the night in worship. This is especially true when that time is spent at a place of worship such as a mosque, or in the presence of other worshipers.
  • Gaining knowledge, especially of Allah and of one’s self. The Night of Qadr is a time of spiritual elevation through self reflection and seeking closeness to Allah. This is only possible by knowing one’s self and knowing one’s lord. In ḥadīth it has been said: “Whoever knows himself, then he knows his lord.” Imām Ali has also said: “The first and most essential pillar of belief is knowledge of Allah.”

 

 

What should we do to gain closeness to Allah during the month of Ramaḍān?

To become closer to something means to form a deeper and more profound relationship with that thing. So, how can man, a lowly creature, form a relationship with the Lord of the worlds and Creator of all that is between the Heavens and the earth? Is such a thing even possible> The answer is yes. That relationship and closeness to Allah can be established through duʿā. Duʿā is not simply reading or reciting words or sentences without a presence of mind or engagement of one’s heart and soul. Rather, duʿā is the bearing of one’s soul and comes from deep within. This intimate and exclusive connection with one’s Lord is what brings about closeness to Allah.

During the month of Ramaḍān, how do we get into the spirit of reciting duʿā and expressing our needs to Allah?

The more that man is aware of his helplessness and neediness, and the more that he is aware of the power and mercy of Allah, the more he is able to get into the spirit of duʿā. To feel that one is completely self-sufficient and without need brings about rebellion and disobedience. In Sūrah al-ʿAlaq, we read, “Indeed man becomes rebellious when he considers himself without need.” Knowing that one is in need of Allah, and therefore putting all of his affairs in the hands of Allah, pulls one closer to his Lord. However, it is not enough to only need Allah and depend on Him. All barriers that exist between Allah and His servants must be set aside. Self conceit, vanity, neglectfulness, greed, hardheartedness, and hopelessness are all barriers that may exist between man and his Lord. On the contrary, brokenheartedness, supplication, crying, humility, hopefulness, helplessness (before one’s Lord), seeking refuge (from Allah), having certainty that Allah will answer one’s duʿās, and tenderheartedness all remove the barriers and veils that may exist between the servant and his Master.

 

Whenever the Noble Prophet (ṣ) used to supplicate to Allah, he would be like a needy person who has stretched out his empty hands in need of food. It is this feeling of helplessness and distress that brings about Allah’s mercy and divine intervention.

What are some of the etiquettes of duʿā?

Some of the etiquettes and formalities of duʿā are stated below:

  1. Continuous supplication: One must be in a state of constant supplication, whereby he is silently supplicating at all times and in all circumstances—in sadness or happiness, comfort or suffering, poverty or wealth, youth or old age, sickness or health, difficulty or easy, and so on.

  • Avoidance of sin: Sins can sometimes prevent duʿās from being answered. In Duʿā Kumayl, we read, “O Allah, forgive for me those sins that hinder supplication.”  
  • Making duʿā and reciting āmīn with a group of believers: It is narrated that whenever difficulty arose for Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa), he would gather the women and children of the family to recite duʿā and say āmīn as a group.
  • Evoking the beautiful names of Allah (al-Asmāʾ al-Ḥusnā) and praising Allah before reciting duʿā: Every name of Allah is a key to unlocking His mercy, and every name holds a unique benefit. Praising Allah prior to asking for one’s needs is one of the etiquettes of duʿā.
  • Repeatedly asking for one’s needs: Although Allah is knowledgeable and aware of all things, even that which has not taken place or has been done in secret, voicing and asking for one’s needs facilitates the answering of that need. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq(ʿa) has said, “Allah knows what His servant will ask for during supplication, but He likes for that need to be presented before Him, so whenever you supplicate, name your needs one by one.” 
  • Persistent and tireless wanting (of one’s needs): When a door is persistently knocked on, it will eventually open. Likewise, persistence in duʿā brings about Allah’s mercy and the granting of that need.
  • Having high aspirations and asking for things that are important: The loftier and more valuable one’s needs are, the better. This also facilitates the faster granting of those needs. One’s needs should not just be for material or worldly things. He should also have spiritual needs and needs associated with the Hereafter. In Sūrah al-Baqarah, we read, “Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and save us from the punishment of the Fire.”

 

 

Duʿā Saḥr has been narrated from which Imām?

Duʿā Saḥr is a source of profound knowledge that originated from Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa) and was narrated by Imām ar-Riḍā (ʿa). This duʿā is recited just before dawn during the month of Ramaḍān. In relation to the greatness and value of this duʿā, Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “If I wanted to swear, I would swear that the greatest name of Allah is in this duʿā. Therefore, when you call upon Allah with this duʿā, do so with seriousness because this duʿā contains hidden knowledge and truths. Do not reveal it to those who are unworthy, such as the hypocrites, liars, and those who deny the truth. Reveal it only to those who are deserving.” 

What is the most important benefit of Duʿā Saḥr?

This beautiful duʿā expresses the greatest request of a believer by evoking the exalted and glorious qualities of Allah. Perhaps the most important benefit of this duʿā is that through it, man supplicates and seeks refuge from the divine presence of his Lord, while also seeking to embody these divine qualities in his own self. Duʿā Saḥr and the other duʿās of the Ahl al-Bayt do not only exude beauty in their words and recitation, but they also express what is the heart of the Ahl al-Bayt and what they bear witness to in their worship of Allah (swt). Understanding the deeper meaning and messages embedded in these duʿās can only be achieved by gaining closeness to these noble individuals and striving to follow in their spiritual path.

 

Who narrated Duʿā Iftitāḥ?

 Duʿā Iftitaḥ is one of the well-known duʿās that is recited in the nights of the month of Ramaḍān. This duʿā is found in authentic books of duʿā and has always been recited by people of knowledge who seek the truth and love the Ahl al-Bayt. The narrator of Duʿā Iftitāḥ is Muḥammad bin Uthmān bin Saʿīd, one of the special representatives of Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj), although the duʿā is not attributed to the Imām. Since Muḥammad bin ʿUthmān was one of the close followers of Imām al-ʿAṣr (ʿaj), there is a strong possibility that it was narrated by the Imām.

 

Duʿā Iftitāḥ contains a number of sections:

  1. The first section is about praising and describing the beautiful and majestic qualities of Allah and His perfection.
  2. The next section sends salutations and blessings upon the Noble Prophet (ṣ) and his pure family and describes their high status and levels of perfection.
  3. The third section is about Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj) and the glory of his occultation. Supplication is also made for the quick reappearance of the Imām and for the establishment of a just government ruled by him. The believer also prays to be among those who will serve in this just government.
In part of Duʿā Iftitāḥ, we make duʿā for Imām al-Mahdī (ʿaj), praying for his quick reappearance, and extolling his noble qualities and state of perfection. When the awliyāʾ (close guardians) of Allah mention their own superior virtues and level of perfection, is this considered self praise and the extolling of one’s own virtues? What is the importance of doing such a thing?

In answering this question, there are a few points that must be mentioned:

Firstly, based on extensive written and verbal proof, the Imāms of Allah are infallible. They are free from all undesirable akhlāqi traits and diseases of the soul. By believing that these noble individuals are infallible, it is understood that the words and message of their supplication are not one of self praise or  extolling of one’s own virtues. The awliyāʾ of Allah know that they are mortal and that their lives are according to the will of Allah. They do not see their existence as being independent and perfect before the greatness and exalted qualities of Allah (swt).  

 

Secondly, who, other than these noble individuals, are aware of their own status and qualities as those holding the position of vicegerency? The elevated position of the infallible Imāms can only be introduced by someone whose status and origin is similar. Such a person can only be found within the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) .

 

Thirdly, terms that express the greatness, perfection, and qualities that are exclusive to the Imāms (ʿa) are, in reality, referring to their spiritual status and character. These terms are not referring to the Imāms personally.

 

One of the famous duʿās recited during the noble month of Ramaḍān is Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī. Please briefly mention what this duʿā is about.
Brief Answer: 

Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī is one of the most uplifting duʿās of the month of Ramaḍān. Those who supplicate and seek closeness to Allah have a deep connection with this duʿā. Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah originated from Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) and was narrated by and named after his close companion, Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī. Abū Ḥamzah has said, “During the month of Ramaḍān, Imām Zayn ul-ʿAbidīn (ʿa) spent most of the night in prayer, and when dawn arrived, he would recite this duʿā.” If Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī and other supplications like it did not exist, we would not know what words to use when speaking and seeking closeness to Allah, what to request from Him, or how to present ourselves as His servants. These qualities make Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah, one of the great blessings and treasures that has been bestowed upon the believers. 

Detailed Answer:

Detailed Answer:
Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī contains several sections:

In the first section, the supplicant praises and is thankful to Allah. He also introduces the Oneness of Allah, to whom none can compare, and expresses that the path to gain closeness to Allah is always open and accessible to all.
The second section expresses the hopes and fears of a servant before Allah. A servant may feel humble before the infinite greatness and majesty of his Lord, or he may be overcome with hope and eagerness before the never ending mercy and beneficence of his Lord.
In the third section, Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) makes his requests to Allah and supplicates for his parents, his family, the believers, and Islam.
The fourth section is about the lofty requests that can only be attained through preparedness and complete attention and consistent remembrance of Allah. Fulfillment of these requests is limited to only certain awliyāʾ of Allah and special individuals among his servants. This section of the duʿā contains three essential requests that are always sought by the pious servants of Allah. Attaining these requests is a sign of having reached the highest level of closeness to Allah and the highest level of human perfection:
Complete faith: Complete faith through which all barriers between a servant and Allah are removed, and whereby one is able to have a heartfelt connection to Allah. Imām Ali (ʿa) has said, “There is no honor higher than having faith (in Allah).”
Certainty: Complete belief in and acknowledgement of the fact that whatever befalls the human being is by the divine will of Allah. According to the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa), “Certainty is the head of religion and the fruit or product of religion is the strength of one’s certainty.”
Contentment: Content with whatever sustenance Allah has bestowed upon him. This is the characteristic of a true believer and those who possess insight and certainty. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “Contentment in the face of an unpleasant decree is among the highest levels of faith.”

In Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī, Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) says, “I cry for the sake of my life being taken away.” Why do even the best of Allah’s servants fear death? And what should we do about this?

There are different reasons why we fear death. They can be divided into three groups: those who are imperfect, those who are mediocre, and those who are perfect.

People who are imperfect fear death because they instinctively desire to remain in this world and long for eternal life. These individuals hate immortality and nonexistence, and because they believe death is a state of nonexistence, they abhor it. Allah describes the beliefs of this group in the Noble Qurʾān: “There is nothing but the life of this world; we live and die, and we will not be resurrected.”

 

The mediocre group consists of individuals whose belief in the Hereafter is incomplete. Due to their neglect of the Hereafter and focus on the matters of this world, as well as their efforts in such matters, these people fear death. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣadiq (ʿa) has said, “A man once came to Abū Dhar and asked him, ‘Why do we dislike death?’ Abū Dhar answered, ‘This is because you have cultivated this world and destroyed the Hereafter, so you fear being taken from a habitable place to a place of destruction.’”

 

The third group are perfect human beings and true believers. The fear of such individuals is positive and worthy. These individuals are, in reality, fearful of the greatness of Allah. Their fear is not like that of those who attach themselves solely to this world and that which is connected to it. When those who love Allah meet the Almighty, and death is the first step of this meeting, their hearts race, and they are fearful, but this is not normal fear. Based on the teachings of the Noble Qurʾān, these true believers consider death to be a huge test in the same way that life is a test. They fear failing this test. The test of those who have reached the highest levels of belief and perfection is, in actuality, very difficult, and we have yet to fully understand how they are tested.

Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī mentions Munkar and Nakīr, the two angels who will be present the first night in the grave. Please explain what happens the first night in the grave and the reality and length of barzakh.

Death is the first stage of barzakh. Everything that was created has a fixed term, which ends with death. This fixed term and death does not indicate that an individual will no longer exist. Rather, it is a time when creation begins its journey back to Allah (swt). After a slight pause in this world, each being will reach its permanent abode. Therefore, death is the first step in our long journey back to Allah.

 

In reality, death is a bridge between this world and the Hereafter. It transports the human being from his dwelling in this temporary abode, where he has the opportunity to act and prepare for the Hereafter, to an everlasting abode. No one will be able to flee such a fate.

 

The grave is actually barzakh: the realm between this world and the Hereafter. Man will remain in barzakh from the time of death until the blowing of the trumpet. Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) has spoken about the difficulties or ease that man may face in the grave: “What is meant by barzakh is the grave. The dead will have a difficult time there. I swear by Allah that the grave will either be one of the gardens of Paradise or one of the pits of Hell.”  

 

The fear of the grave will be due one’s entrance into the grave, the pressure of the grave, and the questioning of Munkar and Nakīr. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “The two angels, Munkar and Nakīr will come to the person being buried. They will come with booming voices and it will be as if lightning is coming from their eyes. They will tear the earth with their teeth and will be pulling at their hair. Munkar and Nakīr will then ask the one who has died, ‘Who is your Lord?’ ‘What is your religion?’” The questioning will continue, and in the end, the believer will be allowed to view his dwelling in Paradise, while the unbeliever will be given a view of his abode in Hell.

Duʿā Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī mentions the difficulties and frightening events that we will face on the Day of Judgement. How many stations will there be on the Day of Judgement, and what is the philosophy behind them?

After everyone, except the true, righteous Shīʿah, gathers on the Day of Judgement, they must go through stations before reaching their final abode. The Judgement Day is ultimately the return of all things to its Creator, so the philosophy and goal of these stations is for man to undergo purification in preparation to meet Allah (swt). 

 

It is important to note that the length of these stations and the amount of time that one spends in them will depend on that individual. According to some narrations, those individuals who have no hope of achieving purification and whose accounting and abode is clear, will not stop at the stations. They will be taken straight to the Hellfire. The true Shīʿah will also not pause at these stations and will instead go straight to Paradise. Those who achieved purification in this world will only stop at the stations for a short time and will soon find themselves standing before Allah. 

 

According to ḥādīth, the gathering place of mankind on the Day of Judgement contains 50 stations, the first of which is waking up from the grave and appearing at the place of judgement. In the Qurʾān, we read, “The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose span is fifty thousand years.”

 

Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said the following in explanation of this ayah: “Before you are judged before Allah, take account of yourself in this world because the Judgement Day contains fifty stations, and each station will last a thousand years.”

 

Ibn Masʿūd has said, “We were sitting with Amīr al-Muʾminīn when he said, ‘There are 50 stations on the Judgement Day. Each station will last a thousand years, the first of which is resurrection from the grave.’”

Many āyāt of the Qurʾān and most of the duʿās of the month of Ramaḍān mention the blessings of Paradise, such as various fruits, gardens beneath which rivers flow, bracelets of gold, robes of fine silk, etc. However Imām Ali (ʿa) has mentioned that worshipping in order to gain Paradise is a form of trade. Therefore, aren’t Qurʾān and duʿā encouraging this mindset?

The original goal of Qurʾān is calling upon mankind to serve Allah; however, there are different levels in the achievement of this goal. The highest level is to be in the presence of the Creator and ultimately return to Him. The reality is that many people worship Allah out of fear of the Hellfire or for the attainment of Paradise. Such individuals would not worship if there was no mention of Heaven or Hell. Therefore, Paradise and Hellfire are two great blessings of Allah that actually facilitate mankind in becoming a beloved servant of Allah. Yes, worship based on fear of the Hellfire or the desire to gain blessings is the lowest form of worship, but it is much better than being a slave of Shayṭān or the nafs al-ammārah (the lowest level of the inner self). These two entities completely derail man from the path of attaining perfection. 

Therefore, Qurʾān and duʿā first mention the blessings and bounties that appeal to the senses and motivate man to serve Allah rather than Shaytān. The promise of Paradise and the pleasure of Allah will then make a person eager to serve Him. A person’s love for and desire to serve Allah will then become deeper until he ultimately reaches a level where servitude of Allah is more important to him than gaining blessings, and where his worship will no longer be a form of trade. In the Noble Qurʾān, we read:

Allah has promised the faithful, men and women, gardens with streams running in them, to remain in them [forever], and good dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. Yet, Allah’s pleasure is greater [than all these]; that is the great success.

 

This āyah basically summarizes the answer to our question: the Qurʾān and duʿa in no way encourage man to make his worship a form of trade; rather, man is being elevated in a step by step manner. This spiritual journey begins with man being promised blessings that he is naturally drawn to and can easily understand. He is then guided to an even higher level where he is made to understand that the pleasure of Allah should be his ultimate goal and that this is true success.

 

How can we be certain that our sins are forgiven through duʿā, worship, and repentance during the month of Ramaḍān?
Brief Answer: 

The Noble Qurʾān says, “Those who repent, attain faith, and act righteously. For such, Allah will replace their misdeeds with good deeds, and Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.”

 

ʿAllāmah Ṭabāṭābā’i has written, “Whoever has committed a sin, if he does three things—in addition to being saved from everlasting punishment on the Day of Judgement—his sins will be replaced with good deeds. [These three things are that they] (1) repent, (2) act righteously, and (3) attain faith. 

 

Repentance means that one is remorseful and turns towards Allah, while righteous actions firmly establish that repentance. ʿAllāmah continues by saying, “This repentance, along with righteous actions, turns into sincere repentance (tawbat an-nuṣūḥ)”

 

Tawbat an-nuṣūḥ (sincere repentance) is a pure state that cannot be broken and whereby return to sin is not possible. There is also no difficulty in performing righteous acts after such a repentance.

 

In commentary of the āyah “Repent to Allah with sincere repentance!”,  Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said, “This means that a person repents and does not return to that sin again.”  

 

Therefore, based on the above ayah and ḥadīth, in order to make sure that our sins are forgiven through duʿā, worship, and repentance, a person’s repentance must be one that is never broken. In order for Allah to forgive past sins and turn them into good deeds, a person must truly be remorseful of past sins and firmly establish the effects of repentance within themselves through righteous actions. 

 

Detailed Answer:

It is important to note that repentance (tawbah) is, in reality, regret and remorse from sin, which necessitates the decision to avoid sin in the future, and if that sin of the past was something that one was able to make amends for, then one must make amends for that sin. Based on this, the fundamental parts of repentance can be summarized into four things: (1) regret or remorse, (2), the decision to avoid sin in the future, (3) making amends for the past, (4) seeking forgiveness and pardon from Allah.
For example, it is not right for someone to lie and be guilty of perpetuating deceit on others while in public and then ask for forgiveness in the privacy of his home! Just as one is supposed to right those wrongs that he has committed against Allah, such as prayer, fasting, and worship, if he has violated the right of others, he must return that right to those individuals. If it is possible, he must also seek the good will of those he has wronged.

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