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REMINISCENCES OF RAMADAN IN KENYA

All praise is for Allah (Subhānahū wa Ta'ālā) and may the peace and blessings of Allah shower forever on our Beloved Holy Prophet Sayyidinā wa Mawlānā Muhammad al-Mustafā (Sall'Allāhu 'alayhi wa Sallam), and on his Family and Companions, Āmīn.

RAMADAN WITH AL-HABĪB AHMAD MASH-HŪR AL-HADDĀD
The most cherished moments of my life are the ones I spent with Sayyidī wa Murshidī, the majestic Shaykh, al-Habīb Ahmad Mash-hūr bin Tāhā al-Haddād (Naf'anAllāhu bih), in Kenya. He is a descendant of Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa Sallam), an 'Alawī Sayyid in the illustrious Bā 'Alawī tradition from Yemen whose ancestors had for centuries spread Islam in East Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and in many other countries. He was resident in Jeddah, but every year, he would travel from there to Mombasa to spend the month of Ramadan and then leave for Hajj.

He led the 'Ishā' and Tarāwīh Prayers in the Masjid Birikau in Mombasa, my home town. Al-'Allāmah 'Abdullah Zizimawalla, a Khalīfa in Tarīqa ar-Rifā'iyyah would be there to greet him. I know of two Somali shaykhs from the masjid on Seventh Street Eastleigh, Nairobi who would come all the way from there to spend the whole month of Ramadan with him. All the mashāyikh (scholars and spiritual masters) from Mombasa and other places would come to kiss his hand. Non-Muslims, such as the Hindus and the Sikhs would also visit him just to benefit from sitting in his presence. The spiritual benefits of his company (suhbah) cannot be described. He was a man of Allah, the greatest Muslim saint to be seen for a long time anywhere in the world.

It was only due to his final illness that he could not come to Mombasa for three years before he left his earthly existence in 1416 A.H / 1995 C.E. Blessed are those who learned Islam at his feet, blessed are those who served him, blessed are those whom he served and who benefited from him, and blessed are his murīdīn (disciples) and muhibbīn (those who love him).

After the Tarāwih Prayers, al-Habīb would give a dars (lesson) from Riyād as-Salihīn (Gardens of the Righteous) of Imām an-Nawawī, or from the Ihyā' 'Ulūm al-Dīn (The Revival of Religious Knowledge) of Imām al-Ghazālī, or from the Risāla al-Mu'āwanah (The Book of Assistance) of Imām 'Abdallah bin 'Alawī al-Haddād (Naf'anAllāhu bihim). Once in a while, he would recite a qasīda (religious poem) of Imām al-Haddād or Imām 'Alī bin Muhammad al-Habshī, and he would explain their meaning. At the end of the majlis (spiritual gathering), kahawa tangawizi (coffee with ginger) would be served.

After 'Asr Prayers, al-Habīb would give a dars in Masjid Shaykh Jundani. Sharif 'Abdul Qadir Hasan al-Hamed would sit to his right and Sharif Muhammad bin Hasan bin Ahmad (popularly known as Sharif Karama) would sit to his left, and translate his dars from Arabic to Swahili. In the last ten days of Ramadan, there would be more majālis (spiritual gatherings), either in homes or in other masājid such as Masjid Nūr, Masjid Khonzi, or the Masjid in Makadara.

In Mombasa, we were among the Bā 'Alawī, whose forefathers had come from Yemen to spread Islam in East Africa but nobody told us about that perhaps because it was not considered important. What mattered was that with our Shaykh, al-Habīb, we were like one family who loved one another for the sake of Allah and were united in worshipping Him.

And Al-Habīb was the most outstanding and majestic personality who continued the work of his ancestors to spread Islam in East Africa. He preached and propagated Islam in Zanzibar, the Comoros, Kenya, Uganda, Zaire and the Congo, going deep inland into villages and forests when modes of travel and transport were not that well developed. He converted thousands of people to Islam: Allah Alone knows the exact number.

The kitāb (book) he wrote called Miftāh al-Jannah (The Key To Paradise) is the fastest selling book among Muslims in the U.K. People have accepted Islam just reading that book, without even having seen al-Habīb. He has left murīdīn (disciples) all over the world who are like mines of gold. His departure has left a void impossible to fill. May Allah (Subhānahū wa Ta'ālā) give us the hidāya (guidance) to walk in his footsteps, Āmīn Yā Rabb al-'Ālamīn.

RAMADAN IN MASJID JĀMI' IN NAIROBI
Thirty years ago, in 1387 A.H / 1967 C.E, there used to be at most ten people who would come for 'Ishā' and Tarāwīh Prayers in Masjid Jāmi' in Nairobi. The Imām was Shaykh Ramadani Gathiyaka, a Shaykh in Tarīqa al-Qādiriyyah. After Tarāwīh Prayers, du'ā' (supplication to Allah) would be recited from the kitāb titled Tabāraka Dhu'l 'Ulā (Blessed is The Possessor of Exaltation) of Hujjat-ud-Dīn Muhammad bin 'Abd al-'Azīz al-Warāq.

Shaykh Ramadani preached Islam in the villages in his own Kikuyu language. He lent dignity to the position of Imām of the masjid. He brought much needed stability to Masjid Jāmi' which saw tremendous expansion. When he passed away in 1410 A.H / 1990 C.E, Masjid Jāmi' used to be full for 'Ishā' and Tarāwīh Prayers, and people used to overflow till the outside. People of all races, whether African, Arab or Asian used to come to kiss his hand, demonstrating yet again that there is no racism in Islam.

Once I met two African-Americans in the Masjid Jāmi'. They would sit for hours in the masjid in the month of Ramadan, to bask in its spiritual atmosphere. Their most cherished desire had finally been fulfilled. They had found their roots: the true religion of Islam of their ancestors. May Allah fulfil all their good and noble wishes, Āmīn.

The primary purpose of any masjid is to nurture spiritual progress but there is something more to Masjid Jāmi' in Nairobi: it is so beautiful, it has also become a scenic and tourist attraction. Muslims as far as Toronto in Canada love to include its photo in their calendar. It was built by Mawlānā 'Abdullah Shah, a walī (saint) whose barakāt (blessings) continue to benefit Muslims in Kenya. To this day, his death anniversary is commemorated in Masjid Jāmī' with khatm al-Qur'ān (the recitation of the whole Qur'ān Karīm).

OTHER MASĀJID IN NAIROBI
Suppose your heart goes out to your Somali brothers and you desire to be with them. Then you don't have to go all the way to Mogadishu to pray with them. You can go to the masjid on Seventh Street in Eastleigh. It is in a perfect Somali setting. They follow the Shafi'ī madh-hab, one of the four major schools of sacred Muslim law. At the end of the twenty raka'āt of Tarāwīh, there is recitation of du'ā' (supplication to Allah) and qasīda (religious poem) from Tabāraka Dhu'l 'Ulā. This du'ā' is very popular and is recited in many masājid including those in the locations of Pumwani, Kibera, Dandora, and South "C", among others, because it combines with it salawāt (blessings) on the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall'Allāhu 'alayhi wa Sallam). For those who want to stay longer, there is more Dhikr (rememberance of Allah) in a circle in standing position. In Masjid Nūr in South "C", Qasīda al-Burda (the poem of the Prophet's mantle) composed by Imām al-Busīrī (Rahmatullāhi 'alayh) is also recited once a week, the congregational recitation being led by Shaykh 'Abdallāh Zabīdī.

On the other hand, if you wish to be together with Muslims of Pakistani or Indian ancestry who have roots in Kenya stretching back to more than a hundred years, you might decide to go to the masjid in Pangani where the whole Qur'ān is recited in Tarāwīh in the month of Ramadan, as in many masājid in Kenya. Here they follow the Hanafī school of Muslim law. In this masjid, you will also see many people doing I'tikāf, secluding themselves for the 'ibādah (worship) of Allah Ta'āla in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. Al-Hamdu Lillāh, more and more people are beginning to do I'tikāf in masājid all over Kenya. According to oral tradition, one of the pioneers of this Sunnah in Kenya was al-'Allāmah Hājjī Ibrāhīm Jinn al-Qādirī who was the first person to do I'tikāf in Masjid Jāmi' built by the Memons in Mombasa about a hundred years ago. He was such a great 'ālim (learned scholar) that 'ulamā (learned scholars) from as far as the Hijāz would come to ask him questions on Islam.

HUQŪQULLĀH AND HUQŪQ AL-'IBĀD
Rasūlullāh (Sall'Allāhu 'alayhi wa Sallam) taught us that the shayātīn (devils) are chained during the month of Ramadan. Every year, we see a visible manifestation of this as masājid become full and people make sure they do not miss any of the twenty raka'āt of Tarāwīh prayers. They pray more nawāfil (additional voluntary Salāh), memorize the Asmā' al-Husnā (the Most Beautiful Names of Allah Ta'ālā), become more attached to their awrād and adhkār (regular voluntary invocations) like the Rātib al-Haddād, and they recite more salawāt (blessings) on the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall'Allāhu 'alayhi wa Sallam). They wake up for suhūr to fulfil that Sunnah. They avoid feasting after the fast but practice moderation as is Sunnah. They repay their debts and avoid quarrels. They become more charitable, give more in sadaqa (charity), distribute their Zakāt (compulsory poor-due), and provide food in masājid for iftār to break the fast at sunset. They take greater care of Muslims in prisons, providing them with food for iftār, prayer mats, copies of the Qur'ān Karīm, Juz 'Amma, and books on Islam. They become more generous in donating towards the building and upkeep of masājid, madāris, orphanages, bore-holes and wells.

Muslims also make sure they earn halāl, eat halāl, and keep away from both the sagāir (minor sins) and the kabāir (major sins) such as backbiting, lying, cheating, malice, jealousy, hatred, show-off and arrogance, and try to clean their hearts of all such diseases. So, while they fulfil the Huqūqullāh (The Rights of Allah) with more 'ibādah (worship), they are also more careful to fulfil the Huqūq al-'ibaad (the rights of others over them) by taking greater care of their parents, relatives and neighbours, and of Muslims in general. Their special du'ā' (supplication) is that Muslims should live with īmān (true faith) and in peace and dignity wherever they are.

RAMADAN BRINGS JOY FOR CHILDREN
Ramadan is a great month of joy and celebration for the children as well. They start fasting from the age of seven. It is a day of great joy in the family when the child completes his or her fast at the age of seven or eight. As they grow older, they progressively keep more and more fasts so that by the time they become bāligh (attain puberty) at the age of thirteen or fourteen, they are able to fast the whole month of Ramadan. Most children decide to pray at least one juz of Qur'ān everyday so that they are able to complete the recitation of the whole Qur'ān in the month of Ramadan. Some pray three juz everyday and complete the Qur'ān three times. Others pray even more. Some take to Qur'ān memorization. Masājid are full of Muslims reciting the Qur'ān, especially after each Salāt al-fard. Children are taught not to miss even one Salāh (Prayer) and to find time to read Islamic journals like Iqra' to widen their knowledge of Islam. They do not slacken in any of their school or madrasa studies but try to excel in all fields that are permitted in Islam.

Children in the madāris (Islamic schools) in Kenya as elsewhere are taught this qasīda (religious poem) to greet the month of Ramadan.

Marhaban Yā Shahru Ramadan
Marhaban Yā Shahru Ramadan
Marhaban Yā Shahru Ramadan
Marhaban Shahrun Sa'ādah wa'l 'Ibādah

Welcome O month of Ramadan
Welcome O month of Ramadan
Welcome O month of Ramadan
Welcome, month of Bliss and worship

When Ramadan is about to end, they are taught the qasīda to bid it farewell.

Muwadda' Muwadda' Yā Ramadan
Muwadda' Muwadda' Yā Ramadan
Muwadda' Muwadda' Yā Ramadan
Wadda'tuk'Allāha Yā Ramadan

Farewell, farewell O month of Ramadan
Farewell, farewell O month of Ramadan
Farewell, farewell O month of Ramadan
Farewell as you return back to Allah, O month of Ramadan

DU'Ā' AFTER TARĀWĪH
The most popular du'ā' (supplication to Allah) especially recited in the month of Ramadan which most Muslims in Kenya and indeed in the whole of East Africa know by heart is:

lā ilāha ill'Allāh Nastaghfirullāh
Nas'aluka'l Jannata wa na'ūdhu Bika min-an-nār
Allāhumma Innaka 'Afuwwun Tuhibbu'l 'afwa
Fa'fu 'annā Yā Karīm al-'Afwa

None is to be worshipped but Allah. We beg forgiveness of Allah.
We seek Paradise from You (O Allah) and protection from hell-fire.
O Allah! You are Forgiving. You love forgiveness.
So forgive us, O The Most Generous in forgiving.

This du'ā' is congregationally recited loud and clear in many masājid in Kenya and in the rest of East Africa after every two or four raka'āt of Tarāwīh Prayers. In some other masājid, there is another du'ā' that is recited after every two rak'ah. It is:

Fadlun min'Allāhi wa Ni'matan wa Maghfiratan wa Rahmah

Bounty from Allah and Favour and Forgiveness and Mercy

Surprise, surprise! This du'ā' is recited after every two rak'ah of Tarāwīh in many masājid in Toronto as well! Sub'hānAllāh! (Glorified is Allah!)

After the completion of every four raka'āt of Tarāwīh, there is a congregational du'ā' that mentions the names of the beloved Prophet Sayyidinā Muhammad al-Mustafā (Sall'Allāhu 'alayhi wa Sallam), and the Khulafā ar-Rāshidīn, that is, Sayyidinā Abū Bakr as-Siddīq, Sayyidinā 'Umar, Sayyidinā 'Uthmān and Sayyidinā 'Alī (Rady Allāhu 'Anhum). This tradition is also common to some masājid in Toronto.

In some other masājid, this du'ā' (supplication to Allah) is recited after every four raka'āt of Tarāwīh:

Sub'hāna Dhi'l Mulki wa'l Malakūt
Sub'hāna Dhi'l 'Izzati wa'l 'Azamati wa'l Haybati
wa'l Qudrati wa'l Kibriyāi wa'l Jabarūt
Sub'hāna'l Maliki'l Hayyilladhī
lā yanāmu wa lā yamūt
Subbūhun Quddūsun Rabbunā
wa Rabb-u'l-malāikati wa'r-Rūh
Allāhumma ajirnā min-an-nār
Yā Mujīr Yā Mujīr Yā Mujīr
bi Rahmatika Yā Arham-ar-Rāhimīn

Glory be to the Owner of the Kingdom and the Dominion
(here and in the Hereafter)
Glory be to the Possessor of Honour, Greatness, Awe-inspiring Esteem,
and Power, Majesty and Might.
Glory be to the Ever-Living Sovereign
Who neither sleeps nor dies.
O All Glorious, Most Holy, our Lord, and
The Lord of the angels and of the Spirit.
O Allah! Save us from hell-fire.
O Guardian! O Guardian! O Guardian!
by Your Mercy, O The Most Merciful.

We find that this du'ā' is congregationally recited with full gusto after every four raka'āt of Tarāwīh in many masājid in Toronto as well.

May Allah (Subhānahū wa Ta'āla) give us the hidāya (guidance) to do more 'ibadah (worship) during the month of Ramadan so that we are able to reap its full benefits to gain maghfira (forgiveness from Allah Ta'āla). Āmīn Yā Rabb al-'ālamīn.

Siddiq Osman Noormuhammad
1417 / 1997
Toronto, Canada.
Updated: Ramadan 1428 / October 2007

Key to Arabic transliteration
www.iqra.net/About/key.php

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