During Ramadan, many of us attend taraweeh(night prayers) at the masjid. Some of us stay until the Imam leads us in witr (a final supplementary prayer). For many of us, this can amount to over two hours of prayer time and for many of us, we understand almost nothing.
Sometimes, during the recitation of the Qur’an we hear the people around us crying profusely and we wish we could understand what could be so powerful that those around us are reduced to such tears. We can sometimes make out a specific word, but within a moment, we are back to indistinguishable meanings and simply wishing we knew what was going on.
I used to have no idea what was going on in the prayer. I remember standing for lengthy time periods behind the Imam, trying to make my mind focus but finding it constantly drift off; it’s very, very hard to concentrate when the mind has nothing to contextualize. I eventually would settle on trying to think of anything for which I could possibly be grateful. But taraweehprayers are long; without understanding, my heart would simply get bored and my limbs would always fidget. Thoughts of my day, my concerns, my hopes and my food cravings after a day of fasting would all filter through my conscious while I shifted around. It’s hard to keep still for that long when one is mentally checked out and physically disengaged.
However, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) guided me to an action which changed my life and revolutionized my prayer and du`a (supplication) experience ever since. It’s simple, but it takes long-term dedication. The results, for me, were powerful and transformational. The common-sense solution that worked miracles in my life by Allah’s blessings: reading a translation.
Every single day, for a number of years, I would sit and read five pages of the Qur’an in the English translation. I would do this while both reciting and listening to the Arabic recitation, allowing my ears to become accustomed to the Arabic words associated with the English.
After a few months of this practice, the first Ramadan came. In my hometown masjid, the Imam would lead twenty rakahs(units of prayer). So I would pray eight rakahs and then sit in the back and read the translation of the verses for the next twelve. I continued this throughout Ramadan and was extremely consistent with this practice for the next year. Soon, my awareness of Arabic words increased; I realized that the Qur’an uses many of the same words over and over and I was able to recognize them. I was also becoming more familiar with the surahs (chapters); I had an introductory understanding of what themes were being discussed in certain portions of the Qur’an due to keywords and a general awareness of what thesurah entailed.
By the second Ramadan, I was praying with purpose. While I still had no idea what every word meant, I had begun to comprehend general meanings of many of the chapters and I was able to grasp the overarching messages of some of the verses. I kept up my practice of praying eight and reading the translation. I even had a few emotional moments. I started looking forward to certain verses that were my favorites. I was finally beginning to understand and I was actually enjoying it; the sweetness of the Qur’an had penetrated my heart and taken hold of my body. Praying taraweeh in Ramadan became a means of nourishment for my soul and tranquility for my limbs.
I also began memorizing the Qur’an and the more I memorized, the more my vocabulary expanded. After four years of reading the translation consistently and memorizing the Qur`an, I was enthralled with the idea of praying for hours behind the Imam. I could not wait for Ramadan; all year I waited for the last ten nights specifically, when the Imam would recite the Qur’an for an even longer period of time. My character, my life’s purpose, my Ramadan experience completely changed because I finally grasped a general understanding of the Qur’an.
Six years after I began reading the translation consistently and memorizing portions of the Qur’an, I moved to Egypt to learn Arabic. When I started, I took a practice test and was placed in an intermediary level. However, when I met my teacher for the first time, barely able to communicate a few sentences, she was shocked. “Your vocabulary is so expansive,” she told me, “but you clearly are a beginner!” Needless to say, I was re-placed as a beginner. Throughout our lessons, my Arabic teacher would express her surprise at my ability to understand certain words in depth simply because they appeared in the Qur’an, while others I struggled with at great lengths. Eventually, she told me that my Qur’anic preparation was what helped me actually grasp the language and is what had originally placed me at a level far higher than I really was.
Subhan’Allah, do you know what this is picture of? It is a man leading prayer reading a Quran based off of braille for those that are blind! Indeed, some people may not be able to see with their eyes, but how many of us are blind when it comes to our hearts! This is truly a man who can see, ma’sha’Allah!
[And for those who are quick to complain, let us respect the fact that there may be a difference of opinion amongst the scholars when it comes to reading out of the Quran when it comes to non-obligatory prayers (like the Taraweeh) and remember, “Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day speak good, or keep silent.”]
May Allah open and soften our hearts, Ameen!
The Series “Getting to Know the Companions of Muhammad pbuh” will take place at Masjid Tuanku Mizan also known as the Steel Mosque in Putra Jaya, Malaysia daily after the taraweeh prayers.
(Duration: 35:22 — 16.2MB)
Alhamdulillah, Allah s.w.t. has blessed all of us to be in this blessed month of Ramadan and he has blessed you guys to be watching this video this very moment. Now in this blessed month of Ramadan, there are three stops or there are three stations that you don’t ever want to miss and subhanAllah, this is the mercy of this blessed month that Allah s.w.t has given us these three stops or stations for this blessed month.
The first station, the first stop comes where the Prophet s.a.w. said, Whosoever does qiyam, i.e. taraweeh in the month of Ramadan, Allah s.w.t inshaAllah forgive all of his previous sins.
The second station is…Whosoever fasts in the month of Ramadan with imaan and hoping the reward from Allah s.w.t., Allah s.w.t will forgive all of his previous sins.
And the third stop or station comes which is (Arabic) whosoever does qiyaam or tahajjud and taraweeh on the night of laylatul qadr, Allah s.w.t shall forgive all his previous sins.
By: Mahasin Shamsid-Deen
Have you ever wondered how your brothers and sisters in the USA are experiencing their Ramadan? How is their experience similar/different from yours, and what could be the lessons learned for their fellow Muslims around the world?
In this article, we will discuss how Ramadan is like for a Muslim in Central Virginia, USA.
How Do Muslims in Your Area Prepare for Ramadan?
Alhumdulillah, the Ramadan experience in the US is as variable as the community. After residing in different parts of the country over a number of years, some consistencies have become the norm. Muslims themselves are made to be responsible for making Ramadan relevant and important since the US does not have a predominant Muslim population. There will be no advertising and promotion on the radio or television to either remind or enhance the experience.
However, in Central Virginia and many other areas of the country the local Imam will begin to devote a Friday khutbah to the subject and preparation of Ramadan usually the week before. If there is an Islamic school in the area, the staff will usually have it on the calendar and begin activities with the children.
The start of Ramadan is anticipated but always a bit chaotic as there is no governmental agency or television announcement of its start.
Muslims wait around their phones and computers for the sighting of the hilal to begin the month. Many Muslims who have migrated from different parts of the world and now reside in the US often hear from family members and pass information along. Nonetheless, most of the time a message is left on the answer machine of the local masjid/Islamic centre that people are asked to call after midnight. Some will use the internet to update with mass emails and even some smaller or technologically advanced communities will send out mass text messages. Some years, the evening news will announce that Ramadan has begun in whatever Muslim country is at war or in the news at the moment.
Not surprisingly, the end of Ramadan in the united states follows the same ritual as the beginning as far as informing people when and where the Eid-ul Fitr prayer will be held. In every city that I have lived in the US, at least one masjid/Islamic centre is observing this Eid prayer on a different day. As many masjid/Islamic centre have become very ethnically divided over the past 20 years, some Eid prayers will be almost exclusively one nationality or if there is a ‘unified’ Eid prayer, the community will splinter into ethnic subgroups for Eid activities. This is especially disconcerting to new converts or those Muslims who do not have Muslim families as they are often alone.
It seems that community support really means a lot over here. How does the community help those less well off during Ramadan?
During the month of Ramadan many local mosques will sponsor either nightly taraweeh or have ‘weekend’ taraweeh prayers. Also, some localities will have restaurants and individuals sign up in advance to sponsor an iftar and dinner for anyone attending the mosque at night, while smaller communities will usually only have a potluck or family sponsorship of food once a week. In recent years in many locations, especially Central Virginia – Ramadan has become synonymous with fundraising. Islamic schools, individuals building a masjid, the Islamic centre itself and Muslim groups/initiatives will pick a night usually a weekend and bring in a guest speaker while they provide food to breakfast and serve dinner for those at the mosque – for a fee. The speaker will spend the time between Maghrib and Isha discussing the benefits and needs for those in attendance to donate. Usually, those in the mosque may breakfast for free, but must pay to eat. This practice can and has led to congregants being subjected to a fundraiser every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the month. Since attendance at the masjid is higher on the weekend evenings some here in Central Virginia have begun to complain that this practice takes away from the spirituality of the month,
Brotherhood and congregation within the home is less specific. Many use the masjid/Islamic centre as their sole social source while others have gatherings in their homes for those within their own ethnic group or madhab. New converts are usually not invited to breakfast with Muslims at their house unless they are in the ‘known’ crowd, so their only iftar is usually within the masjid/Islamic centre. This is often true of those Muslims who do not have Muslim family members as well.
What about taraweeh? What are your tips to attend regularly and make the most out of it?
When Ramadan is in the summer and the fasting days are 15+ hours, Muslims are more able to have an iftar at their home and then go to the masjid for Taraweeh. When Ramadan is in the winter, and the days are so short, iftar and dinner seems to revolve around the masjid only.
American Muslims will usually read the Qur’an during the month of Ramadan, usually taking in one-thirtieth each day. Interestingly, this is done in addition to going to the nightly taraweeh where the Quran is recited in Arabic. Many will read the translations each day so they can understand exactly what is being recited to them at night.