Ten Ways to Prepare for Ramadan From Now

With Ramadan just around the corner, many of us are looking for ways to make sure that this will be the year we change, writes Nour Merza. With this in mind, here are ten ways to prepare yourself for Ramadan.
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1. Make the right intention
Beginning right now, make an intention that this Ramadan will be a time of great spiritual effort and sincerity. To help turn that intention into reality, make checklists of both daily goals for Ramadan (read a section of Quran or a beneficial lecture every day, etc.) and goals for the overall month (visit a home for the elderly, invite two non-Muslim friends for a chance to experience iftar, etc.).
2. Prepare your body
Make sure you are up to par physically by adjusting the amount and quality of your food intake. Start by eliminating snacks and have smaller meals in the weeks leading up to Ramadan. Also reduce your caffeine intake so that the lack of your morning coffee or afternoon tea doesn’t debilitate you in the first few days of the holy month. Of course, if you’re fasting during the month of Sha’baan, you’re halfway there.
3. Review all medical situations before Ramadan
Make sure to get your medical business in order before Ramadan arrives. If you suffer from a particular illness, check with a doctor, preferably one who understands the importance of fasting, on whether fasting is a reasonable option for you. If you are taking medication, ask your doctor if you can take your doses during non-fasting hours instead of during the day. Also, check if there are options to take your medication via injection instead of orally, as in the Hanafi school injections do not break your fast.
4. Observe voluntary fasts
Voluntary (nafl) fasts are a great way to help prepare the mind, body and soul for Ramadan. If you can do it, follow the Prophetic sunna and fast the month of Shaaban, which comes just before Ramadan. If that proves too difficult, try to implement some of these other sunnas: fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, or fasting on the ‘white days’ of each Islamic month: the 13th, 14th and 15th.
5. Increase Quran recitation
Many people aim to do a complete reading of the Quran at least once during Ramadan. If you don’t have a habit of reading the Quran daily, take this as an opportunity to incorporate that habit into your life. This will enable you to read longer sections of the book during Ramadan. Even if doing a complete reading of the Quran during Ramadan is too difficult, making a habit of reading one page or even a few verses a day will bring many blessings during the holy month and afterwards, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The most beloved of actions to Allah are the most consistent ones, even if in little amount.”
6. Perform extra prayers
If you have no missed obligatory prayers to make up, start to pray voluntary sunna prayers to prepare yourself for the extra prayers that take place in Ramadan. If you do have missed obligatory prayers, use the time you would give to the sunna prayers to make some of them up. Don’t feel that you are missing out on the opportunity to do voluntary sunnas, because God says in the famous Hadith Hazrat Jibreel (AS), “My servant draws near to Me by nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory on him.”
7. Give charity
Use the weeks leading up to Ramadan to increase your acts of charity, be that in the form of giving money to needy people or worthy causes.Giving charity is a way to purify your wealth, and you can enter the month of Ramadan in a greater state of purity. It also opens doors for great good in your life, for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has told us, “Allah says, ‘Spend, O son of Adam, you will also be spent on.’”
8. Engage in service (khidma)
Spend some time before Ramadan to find a local charity or community service opportunity to work with, whether it be in an Islamic environment or in the wider community. If you begin well before Ramadan starts, you will adjust to the environment before you begin fasting, so that you can explain to co-workers why you can’t join them for a coffee break or a meal.
9. Focus on your character
Imam al-Ghazali (rah) discusses the inner dimensions of the fast in his Revival of the Religious Sciences , which you can observe before Ramadan arrives. He mentioned that one must learn to fast with all the limbs, from all that harms the heart. You can, for example, avoid certain television shows to keep the eyes from seeing nudity, leave particular conversations to keep the ears from hearing foul language, and control the ego to keep the tongue from argument or backbiting. The inner fast is among the most important aspects of fasting Ramadan and is often more difficult than the physical fast from food, water and sexual relations, so the earlier you begin to practice this, the better.
10. Organize your life to minimize waste, over consumption and the ills that come with this
One of the major concerns about how Muslims practice Ramadan today is the high level of over consumption and waste that takes place during the holy month – a reality which is completely antithetical to the Prophetic tradition. Imam Zaid Shakir and others have spoken about ‘greening’ Ramadan as practiced today in the Muslim community, while Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad has suggested that Muslims use Ramadan to support ethical, fairtrade companies.
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Article taken from seekershub.org

Improving oneself

One day, one of the disciples of Bayazid (Alaihi Rahma) asked him:

– Will you give a piece of your coat so that I can carry it with me to gain blessing?

Bayazid responded:

– O my son, if you do not improve yourself until you become a perfect person, it is not going to help you even if you cover your entire body with my skin.

The above story about Bayazid Bistami is well known for illustrating that one cannot reach high levels of spiritual attainment only by virtue of externally improving oneself.

Salawat’us-Sharifah

In the Holy Quran, Allah, glory unto Him, vows by the Prophet’s life. Mentioning his great name next to His Own, the Almighty has required belief in his prophethood, as a precondition of being a worthy servant. Allah took offense in others raising their voices in the presence of His Beloved , cautioning against calling out his name like any other. What’s more, the Almighty has stated that He and the angels send their numerous blessings, salawat’us-sharifah, to the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), ordering his ummah amply do the same.

In accordance with the ayah:

“Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O Believers! Send your blessings on him and salute him with all respect,” (al-Ahzab, 56) sending salawat’us-sharifah to that Great Being is a duty for all Believers, laid down by Allah, glory unto Him.

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Narrating the following is Ubayy ibn Kab (RadiAllahu Anhu):

“A third of the night had passed when the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) awoke from his sleep and said:

‘Remember Allah, people, remember Allah! Blown will be the first horn that will rattle the ground. Then will follow the second. Death will arrive with all its intensity; death will arrive with all its intensity…’

‘I send lots of salawat’us-sharifah, Messenger of Allah’,said I. ‘How often should I do it?’

‘As much as you wish’ he (Peace and blessings be upon him) replied.

‘Would it be right if I spared a quarter of my prayer for it?’ I again inquired.

‘Spare as much from it as you wish’, he advised. ‘But it will be better for you if you spared more.’

‘Then I will spare half ’, I proposed.

‘As you wish…But better if you spared more’, said he.

‘How about I spared two-thirds then?’

‘As you wish… But better if you spared more’.

‘How would it be then if I send salawat’us-sharifah in the entire time I spare for prayer?’ I then asked.

‘If you do’, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, ‘then Allah will rid you of all your troubles and forgive your sins.’” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamat, 23/2457)

Devotees of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), therefore, embrace the salawat’us-sharifah as a continuous chant, for they are means of increasing the love of the Prophet in a Believer’s heart. Appropriately following the Blessed Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and making the most of the quintessential example he has provided doubtless comes through a grasp of the reality of the Quran and Sunnah, which in turn is possible only by virtue of drawing closer to the exemplary morals of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and delving into the depths of his heart.

No mortal has succeeded in describing his (peace and blessings be upon him) essential attribute; his towering morals and disposition has eluded comprehension. The wise, those spiritual sultans, even the great Jibril (Alaihi Salaam), have all accepted being on his path as the greatest honor, begging by his door as the most indefinable bliss.

On another note, according to the manners of prayer advised by Islam, all prayers begin and end with thanking Allah, glory unto Him, and sending blessings to the Blessed Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). There is an established conviction that Allah, glory unto Him, never turns down a salawat’us-sharifah, which, in essence, is a prayer and plea to the Almighty; the precise reason as to why prayers are adorned with it, both in the start and in the end. That is to say, squeezing in personal prayers amid two, whose acceptances are highly expected, is to ensure their acceptance as well.

“A prayer is left hanging between the earth and the skies,” states Omar  “and is not raised to Allah until blessings are sent to the Messenger of Allah .” (Tirmidhi, Witr, 21/486)

Therefore do not forget sending your blessings and peace to him (peace and blessings be upon him)…for you too stand in need of his intercession in the darkest of hours!

Peace & Blessings

They were Peaks of Humbleness

The higher the Companions rose through Islamic morals, the more amazingly humble they became. Below is typical example:

Salman Farisi -Allah be well-pleased with himwas the governor of Madain when a man, from the Taym Clan, arrived from Damascus with a sack of figs. He saw Salman -Allah be well-pleased with him-, whom he was unable to recognize, in great part due to the modest woolen cloak he was wearing at the time.

“Come, help me carry this load”, he called out to Salman -Allah be well-pleased with him-, thinking he was a slave.

Salman -Allah be well-pleased with him- went next to him, putting the sack over his shoulders without protest. It was not long before the Damascene was told who he really was.

“That man is the governor of Madain”, they said.

“Please, forgive me”, then said the man apologetically. “I could not recognize you”.

“No harm done”, replied Salman -Allah be wellpleased with him-, modestly as ever. “I will carry the load to wherever it is that you want me to take it.” (Ibn Saad, IV, 88)

The Almighty praises His modest servants, like Salman Farisi -Allah be well-pleased with him-, in the Quran as follows:

“The (faithful) servants of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish ones address them answer: Peace…” (al-Furqan, 63)

An inclination to love.

The unique and final goal of life is a love through which our souls can find peaceful settlement is Allah the Almighty, who breathed from His soul into ours. Every kind of ephemeral love that is directed to a mistaken object wanders in blind alleys. If our love does not reach Allah, it ends in nothing but exhaustion for the soul.

Our nature and welfare require us to make the love of Allah the center of our lives. Therefore all other transitory loves should build a ladder for us toward divine love. This is a primordial goal of the creation of humanity.

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The shortest way to reach divine love is through the love of the Prophet ﷺ􏰂, the beloved Messenger of Allah. This goal can be achieved by following him in every aspect of life. Our response to him is required by a basic principle of love: a lover must love everything that the beloved loves. Such staunch commitment to Allah’s preferences is the bedrock of loving Allah.

Love of the Prophet ﷺ􏰂 reveals itself through peacefulness in worship, courtesy in personal relations, politeness in morality, ten- derness of heart, radiance of face, spirituality in conversation, and depth of perspective. The only fountain from which all these beauties may be drawn is Prophet Muhammadﷺ.

Indeed, our hearts can fully benefit from the heart of the Prophet 􏰂ﷺ only when we become moths turning around his light. Mawlânâ Jalaluddin Rumi (Alaihi Rahma) gives us several examples of how divine love disseminates into the universe. These examples allow us to measure our love of the Prophetﷺ:

Innumerable moths jump into fire for the sake of love. They flutter in flame and burn, saying in the language of their state, “You become like me!” ….

The candle flames and weeps. It submits itself to the fire and suffers gravely. It gives out light while dissolving in tears. The candle says: “It is useless to spend gold and silver wildly in order to bring yourself profit. If you want spiritual profit, burn and melt like me!”

The Prophet 􏰂ﷺ whom we love dearly wept again and again, repeating “My community, my community!” His love and compas- sion for his community were incomparably stronger than those of a loving and affectionate mother for her children. He was anxious about what his community would be facing on the Day of Judgment, and he suffered much to save his people. He said, “In the way of Allah I was subjected to much suffering that no one had faced before.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah 34/2472).

The Prophet 􏰂ﷺ said to the Companions: “Be careful! I am a protection for you on earth while I am alive, and I will continue in my grave. I will keep praying for you to Allah the Almighty, saying ‘My community, my community!’ until the last trump of doom.” (Ali al-Muttaqi, al-Kanz al-Ummah, vol. 14, p. 414).

For the sake of our eternal life, we should truly love the Prophet 􏰂ﷺ more than we love ourselves, since he told us, “A believer will be together with the one he loves.” (Bukhari, Adab 96). All Muslims should show loyalty to the Prophet’s community because of his love for it.. That loyalty is an indicator of how much we love him.

-An Excerpt from the book “Such a mercy he is”

UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS IS ONE NOT OBLIGED TO FAST?

Islam is a religion that makes our life easier. Allah the Exalted does not hold His subjects responsible of the things they are not capable of. This condition holds for fasting as well. It is a sin not to fast during the month of Ramadan without an excuse. However, in some cases, it is permissible not to fast or break the fast that has   already started. After Ramadan, the fasts that are not performed are repaid as qada as soon as possible.

The following are the conditions that our religion considers valid excuses for not fasting or for breaking the fast in Ramadan:

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– Excerpt from the book,”My beautiful Religion: According to the Hanafi School”

WASTEFULNESS– Concerning Health and the Consumption of Food and Drink

Health is one of the underappreciated divine bounties. Our Prophet ﷺ warns of the common ignorance and negligence in this regard. “There are two divine blessings that people do not properly value,” he said, “health and leisure.” (Bukhârî, Riqâq, 1). Thus he warns us, his community, against the remorse we may suffer for wasting these two precious gifts.

Ibn `Umar (RadiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allahﷺ said, “When you reach the morning, don’t wait for the evening. When you reach the evening, don’t wait for the morning. When you are healthy, take precautions for the time when you may be sick. Throughout you life, take precautions for the time you die.” (Bukhârî, Riqâq, 3)

Allah entrusted each of us with a body, and our bodies have due rights over us. In fact, in order to pursue the life of servanthood properly, it is necessary to maintain physical as well as spiritual health. Acts of worship may only be performed fully when a person has a healthy body. Is it possible for someone who is not healthy to offer ritual prayers serenely or to fast with inner peace? So many ritual acts and good works that allow people’s hearts to draw closer 􏰁to Allah depend on the blessing of health.

When one loses one’s health, one’s acts of worship and of service lose their wholeness. Thus when we still have the opportunity to keep ourselves healthy, we should thank Allah properly for this bounty and pay close atten- tion to our worship and the giving of charity.

Just as with all other bounties, health may be wasted if one does not follow the divine instructions concerning its preservation.

To throw your health away is to treat your body profligately. In order to avoid wasting our health, we must protect it by follow- ing the guidance of reason and the divine commands. This involves seeking healthy nourishment, but also protecting our bodies from natural factors like excessive heat and cold, and from the results of negligence, such as traffic accidents. Our religion includes a variety of material and spiritual teachings concerning the protection of health. It orders us to be prudent in the consumption of food.

Our religion informs us that in order to protect our health, spiritual precautions are also necessary. These include being careful to pay the share of the poor out of our wealth, and giving alms. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ indicated the extent of spiritual precautions needed protect health. He said, “An act of charity is due for every joint of the human body. This is why every instance of declaring Allah’s glory counts as charity; every instance of thanking Allah counts as charity, every recitation of “There is no god but Allah” counts as charity; every declaration of” Allah is greater” counts as charity; to give good advice is charity; to warn against something evil is charity. The ritual prayer of two cycles performed before noon has the same status.” (Bukhârî, Sulh, 11).

Certainly being healthy and happy are great blessings that oblige their possessor to thank Allah. The respected Companions of the Prophet, who are presented to us as role models because of their high virtues,(See at-Tawbah, 9/100.) made great efforts in the cause of Allah because they took the bounties bestowed by Allah as capital to invest toward the life of the Hereafter. Allah the Almighty blessed their efforts. The modern lifestyle, with its overconsumption, gluttony, luxury and ostenta- tion, was not practiced by the Companions of the Prophet. They pursued their lives in accordance with their consciousness that “the soul’s mansion tomorrow will be the grave.”

The higher a person’s spiritual state, the greater care that person takes concerning food and drink. For example, according to the religious law, to keep eating after one’s hunger is satisfied is accounted wasteful. According to the Sufi path, to keep eating until one’s hunger is satisfied is accounted wasteful. At the level of truth, to eat without remembering the divine presence is accounted wasteful. And at the level of recognition of Allah, to eat without contemplating the divine disclosure manifested in the gift of food is accounted wasteful.

The hidden guide Khidr (Alaihi Salaam) visited `Abdulkhâliq Gujduwânî one of the Friends of Allah. The conversation between the two concerning the consumption of food and drink is full of lessons, since it displays the peak of spiritual sensitivity.

Showing hospitality, `Abdulkhâliq Gujduwânî offered Kidr food, but Khidr (Alaihi Salaam) refused to eat it, and moved away from the table. `Abdulkhâliq Gujduwânî was surprised. “This is a lawfully obtained food,” he said.” Why don’t you eat?”

Khidr (Alaihi Salaam) replied, “Yes, it is obtained lawfully, but the one who prepared it cooked it with anger and in heedlessness.”

Thus the spiritual quality of our food is influenced not only by whether the food was lawfully obtained, but also by the psycho- logical condition of whoever prepares it. And the spiritual qualify of our inner attitudes and ritual acts is influenced by the quality of our food. So look at how sensitive we must be concerning the food that we eat.

Lawfully obtained food has an important part in purifying the heart. Abdulqâdir Gaylânî قدسسره stated, “Eating unlawfully obtained food kills the heart; eating lawfully obtained food enlivens it. There is food that makes you occupied with the world. There is also food that makes you occupied with the Hereafter. There is even food that makes you love Allah the Exalted.”

Mawlânâ Jalâladdîn Rûmî قدسسره said, “Last night some doubtful bits of food went down to my stomach and closed the way by which inspiration comes.” His statement shows that we must be as careful about the spiritual quality of the food we consume as we are about its material quality.

Mawlânâ also said, “Do not feed your body so much! After all, it is a sacrificial victim that will be delivered to the soil. But feed your heart as much as you can, for it is your heart that will ascend to honor. …Feed your body less, because those who feed it more than is necessary begin pursuing selfish desires, and are destined to disgrace.”

To act immoderately in such matters is not suitable to the dig- nity of a believer.

Our virtuous predecessors said, “Allah summarized the entire science of medicine in a half verse of the Qur’an:

…Eat and drink, but do not waste by excess!… (A’raf, 7/31).

They emphasized the importance of keeping away from waste when consuming food and drink so that one might have a healthy life in spiritual as well as material terms.(See, Ibn Kathîr, Tafsîr, II, 219.)

In a Prophetic saying we read: “Eat, drink, dress yourself, and give charity without falling into profligacy and arrogance.” (Bukhârî, Libâs, 1). This saying indicates the limits the limits that people should observe when they satisfy their needs. In another Prophetic saying, we read: “It would certainly be extravagance to eat everything you desire!” (Ibn Mâja, At`ima, 51).

Greedily devouring everything is what is termed gluttony, and our religion forbids such an action. Again, this saying indicates that having the opportunity to indulge does not justify overindulgence.

Our Prophet ﷺ concisely stated the measure one must observe regarding consumption: “No man filled a cup more dangerous than his stomach. Certainly a few bites of food are sufficient to live. But if one has to eat more, let him allow one third of his stomach for food, one third of it for drink, and one third of it for breathing!” (Tirmidhî, Zuhd, 47).

`Umar (RadiAllahu Anhu) gives the following advice in this regard: “Refrain from entirely filling your stomach with food and drink. Otherwise it will be harmful to your body, will encourage the emergence of disease, and will make you lazy about ritual prayer. Follow the middle way regarding the consumption of food and drink! That is more useful to your body, and will also move you away from waste- fulness.” (Ali al-Muttaqî, Kanz, XV, 433/41713).

Thevenôt, a Western traveler, wrote a book of observations made during his travels and published it in Paris in 1665. In that book he recorded how our predecessors, who carried the flag of Islam for so many centuries, organized their lives. He noted their cleanliness and simplicity and their moderation in consumption, and how all these customs resulted in a society of healthy people. He said:

Turks live a healthy life and rarely get sick. Among them, you do not find the diseases related to the kidneys and so many other dangerous diseases that we come across in our homeland. They do not even know their names. I suppose that the reasons why the Turks have such perfect health conditions are that they bathe frequently and are moderate in their consumption of food and bev- erages. They eat only small amounts of food. And the foods they eat are not mixed, unlike the kind of food commonly eaten among Christians.(M. De Thevenot, Relation d’un Voyage Fait au Levant, s. 58, Paris, 1665.)

A proverb reminds us, “A person should not live to eat, but should eat to live!” The principle describes an important charac- teristic of believers.

Allah the Exalted wants us to be moderate in the consumption of food and drink and keep away from the custom that unbelievers follow in this regard. He warns us:

…while those who reject Allah will enjoy (this world) and eat as cattle eat. And the Fire will be their abode. (Muhammad, 47/12)

All behaviors that remove the blessing of the food are included under wastefulness. So if one begins eating without washing one’s hands and without remembering Allah, and if one does not thank Allah at the end of the meal, such negligence is considered not only ingratitude, but also profligacy.

In a Prophetic saying we read: “The blessing of the meal is in washing one’s hands before and after the meal.” (Tirmidhî, At`ima, 39).

“When someone goes to bed without washing the food off his hands, if he experiences harm, let him not blame anybody but him- self!” (Abû Dâwûd, At’ima, 53).

Observing the rules of hygiene when eating or drinking becomes a means to increase blessing and supports both material and spiritual health and peace. Additionally, if people begin a meal by saying bismillâh (“in the name of Allah”) and end it with alham- dulillâh (“the praise belongs to Allah”), that meal becomes curative, whereas a meal consumed without remembering and thanking Allah produces only negligence and excess weight. Our Prophet ﷺ declared:

If a person says bismillâh when entering his house and when beginning his meal, the Devil says to his soldiers, “You can neither spend the night nor find food here.” But if a person does not say bismillâh when he enters his house, the Devil says to his soldiers, “Here is a place for you to spend the night.” And if that person does not say bismillâh when he begins to eat, the Devil says to his sol- diers, “You have found both a place to stay the night and something to eat.” (Muslim, Ashriba’, 103)

A’ishah (RadiAllahu Anha) related :

Once the Messenger of Allah ﷺ sat down to eat with six of his Companions. A Bedouin came; he ate all the food in two bites. Then our Prophet ﷺ said, “If he had said bismillâh, the food would have been enough for all of us. Thus when any of you begins eating, let him say bismillâh. If he forgets to say it at the beginning, let him say bismillâh fi awwâlihi wa akhirihi, “In the name of Allah be its beginning and its end.”

When drinking water, the proper manners are to say bismillâh and to drink it in three sips; at the end one should say alhamdu- lillâh. Our Prophet ﷺ used to drink water and other beverages by dividing them into three parts. He said, “Don’t drink things down all at once, as camels do. Drink in two or three sips. Pronounce bismillâh before you drink something; and at the end say alhamdu- lillâh. (Tirmidhî, Ashriba, 13). Our Prophet ﷺ also forbade blowing into a beverage for any reason.

Eating alone also decreases the blessing in the food, and is a kind of wastefulness.. Our Prophet ﷺ said that “There is com- passion in community, and fire in solitude.” He advised us to be together when we eat.

Wahshî b. Harb related that some Companions said, “O Messenger of Allah! We eat but we do not feel satisfied.” 

The Messenger of Allah ﷺasked, “Perhaps you have your meals alone?”

They said, “Yes, we do!”

The Messenger of Allah ﷺtold them, “Have your meals together and say bismillâh, so that your food becomes blessed.” (Abû Dâwûd, At`ima, 14)

One feels terribly shaken when one sees the wastefulness dominating our habits of consumption of food and drink, in our daily life and especially during wedding ceremonies and feasts.

Wedding ceremonies and banquets are important means for strengthening community feeling. Unfortunately, when such cel- ebrations are designed egotistically, for purposes of show, they do not function to build community feeling. Instead they push people toward evil sentiments like pride, arrogance, jealousy, and envy, which lead to disappointment. Communities where such celebrations are encouraged fall away from the divine mercy and blessing.

To sum up, the end of a life controlled by extravagance is such a huge disappointment that Allah the Almighty says:

The profligate are the friends of devils. (Isrâ, 17/27)

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ reminded us that in the Hereafter we shall be required to give an accounting of all the bounties and trusts that we received during our worldly life. He urged us to move away from negligence. “No servant of Allah will be able to leave his place before he provides an explanation of where he spent his life, what he achieved with his knowledge, how he earned his wealth and how spent it, and how he spent the strength of his body.” (Tirmidhî, Qiyâmah, 1)

-AN EXCERPT FROM “SUCH A MERCY HE WAS..”