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If there is only one thing certain about life, it is that it ends.  This instinctively raises a question which we human beings have pondered upon since the beginning of time: What is it that lies beyond death?

At the physiological level, the transformation of a deceased person when left to natural causes is something that we can witness; the heart stops beating, the lungs stop breathing, and the body is starved of blood and oxygen.  The termination of blood flow leads to impalement of the skin.  With the oxygen cut off, cells will respire anaerobically for a time, producing the lactic acid which causes the stiffening of the corpse’s muscles.  Then, as the cells begin to decompose, the stiffness wanes, the temperature drops, the flesh rots – until all that is left is dried-out bones.

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One of the interesting things that we find in the Quran is that there is repetition of concepts, which in reality is a way of emphasizing the significance of any given concept. And the more likely it is for us to forget about that concept, the more frequently Allah (SWT) has mentioned it in the Quran. So Allah (SWT) for example frequently mentions the life of the Hereafter. Why? Because as human beings we have a tendancy of overindulging in the affairs of this world and in the process forget about the accountability of the Day of Judgment. So the frequent mention of the Hereafter essentially serves as a constant reminder for us. One such often repeated concepts in the Quran is that of taqwa.

Taqwa is a verbal noun derived from the root waqa yaqi, ittaqa yattaqi, which means to shield oneself and/or to protect oneself.

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We praise Allah (SWT) an abundant praise that He allowed us to live through an entire season of Ramadan, that He made the fasting and the Qiyam in the month of Ramadan easy for us, that He blessed us to spend the day of Eid together with our family and friends.

Now that the month of Ramadan is over, something that we should not loose sight of is that the month of Ramadan essentially is a month of training, which prepares us to meet the challenges we face outside this month. During the month of Ramadan, we see that the faith of the believers translates itself into righteous deeds. So we see the Muslims standing up at night to pray taraweeh. We see Muslims reciting Quran; many who recite three, four or more juz every day. We see Muslims praying to Allah seeking forgiveness for their sins. But such practices should not end with the month of Ramadan, instead they should carry on into the following months.

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Allah ta’ala has blessed us that we are now at the doorsteps of another season of Ramadan. And we should have great gratitude to Allah that we were able to reach this far in the year for how many of our brothers and our sisters in the Ummah have passed away since the last Ramadan and hence are unable to take benefit of this month. And we cannot show enough gratitude to Allah for giving us this opportunity that perhaps our worship in this month will be a cause for us to enter paradise and to free our necks from the hell fire.

The month of Ramadan is a type of spiritual school to which we enter every year but yet unfortunately only few of us graduate. But Allah through His mercy has allowed us to come back to this school year after year that perhaps we eventually graduate through the lessons we draw from this month.

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Allah (SWT) describes the very purpose of our existence in the Quran as:

Wa ma khalaqtul jinna wal insa illa liya’budoon

I have only created jinn and men that they may worship me.

The term ‘ibadah is very encompassing and there are many different forms of ‘ibadah. One of the many forms of ‘ibadah that we often do not appreciate to the extent that we should is Dua. Now when we talk about dua, there are many questions that come to one’s mind. What is dua? What are its blessings and its excellence? What is the proper etiquette that one must follow while making dua? Why is the dua of some people responded to and not that of the others? How can one increase the chances of getting one’s dua accepted? Also, if everything is already predestined, then what is the purpose of making dua? 

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Allah frequently swears in the Quran by various times and many of these times that are mentioned are the times of transition, so for example, Allah says:

Wal-Fajr – When the night is beginning its transition to the day

Wad-Duha – When the morning is completing its transition from the night

Wal-‘Asr – When the day is transitioning into the night

So these times indicate the power of Allah because it takes tremendous power to bring about a change. We find that in our individual lives that its very easy to sustain old habits that we have but its very difficult in many instances to change those habits. We find it in our automobiles that it takes great amount of power to get the car rolling but once its moving along, it takes significantly less power to sustain its momentum. So times of transition are the times where power is indicated. And it’s interesting that when a person challenges the power of Allah (SWT), Allah reminds that person of this reality.

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The Nature of Iman

We’re living in a time when secular humanism is on the rise and gaining ground even among people who would otherwise consider themselves to be religious. One of the implications of the rise of secular humanism is the wide spread misunderstanding that good deeds or virtuous behavior is something that is independent of faith and that there is no correlation that exists between the two. Unfortunately, we see many Muslims now being influenced by this notion as well. So we would like to spend sometime looking through some of the aspects related to the nature and characteristics of faith.

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