Faith Friday: Fasting of the Ears

as written for

The more I study Islam the more I understand it is a religion which aims to purify the heart of its adherents, and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadhan, is when Muslims curb their desires, amplify their ibadah (acts of worship) and increase their reflection on life. Think of it as a month-long spiritual boot camp. I use the “boot camp” analogy because in order to “survive” Ramadhan a higher level of discipline is required to practise a higher degree of self-restraint, which is one of the aspects of being pious in Islam.

In Surah Al-Baqarah verse 183 it says: 

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Yusuf Ali translation)

The verse above reveals the Muttaqun, those who have taqwa, are those who practice great self-restraint. A person’s level of piety correlates to how much he or she curbs the nafs, known as the desires of the ego, and controls his or her attachment to dunya, the ephemeral world. As Dr. Muhammad ‘Afifi Al-‘Akiti explained in The Meaning of Nafs:

“There are two kinds of people, one are those whose Nafs have overcome them and led them to ruin because they yielded to them and obeyed their impulses. The other kinds are those who have overcome their Nafs and made them obey their commands.”

Music vs. Holy Qur’an 

I have a confession. Although my borderline obsession for music has significantly decreased in the last few years, I still like music and listen to it as a form of art and entertainment. The glorious month of Ramadhan is here and I am faced with a challenge. You might be wondering, What does music have anything to with Ramadhan? Isn’t it a time when Muslims abstain from food and water (amongst other things) from dawn to dusk for an entire month?

The permissibility of listening to music is a topic of debate in the Muslim world. Some clerics and scholars are adamant of its impermissibility with the exception of Islamic music that does not involve string instruments. Others support a different notion, one that claims music is not prohibited as long as it does not contain vulgarity, promote vice and ill-behaviour, and cause the heart to become heedless and commit shirk (to worship anyone or anything other than Allah). Therefore, songs that call people towards the remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa taala (swt), Glorified and Exalted be He, and lead to dhikr are considered not only permissible but also commendable. 

As someone who enjoys music I can admit that music is for the most part a deception of dunya. Moreover, it can create a false sense of identity (e.g. Beliebers). It is mainly used to fulfill the desire of the nafs to be in constant distraction of a reality that can sometimes be painful and daunting. This perpetual longing for a temporary relief is the main cause of addiction. Therefore, we have to be careful about the music we listen to because they can affect the state of our hearts and our consciousness of Allah (swt). Hence, Ramadhan is a time which calls for the fasting of the ears so we may return to our fitrah, our natural state of being and living. Imagine life without “artificial preservatives” but “naturally sweetened” with ibadah instead. Mashaa Allah! 

During last Ramadhan I was determined to please Allah (swt) by trying something I had not done before. I stopped listening to music. Every time I had the urge to listen to my favourite R&B songs I would play nasheed or a chapter of the Holy Qur’an instead. I did this for an entire month. Subhana Allah, I can’t believe I was actually able to do it but I did and it made me feel good about not my wasting time and ‘ajr during Ramadhan. I memorised verses of the Qur’an instead of lyrics. I listened and sung along to songs which glorified The Creator instead of the creation. As much as I like music, my love for Allah (swt) and desire to please my Creator was much greater, alhamdulillah. I pray so I can always hold onto Allah’s words in the Qur’an: "But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not". (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 216) The question now: Can I expect myself to do the same this year and the years to come? Inshaa Allah (God willing). 

If you want to experience a higher level of closeness to Allah (swt) and feel deep in your heart that refraining yourself from listening to music that will not benefit you in the Hereafter will please Allah (swt) then why not try it? Let’s not forget the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Anyone who leaves something for the sake of Allah, Allah shall compensate him a better one for that." (Ahmad)

Avoiding Sins of the Tongue

Successful indeed are the believers, who are humble in their prayers, and who turn away from vain conversation.” (Surah al Mu’minoon, 23: 1-3) 

Apart from the eyes and tongue, our ears were also given to us as an amanah. We are responsible for the choices we make regarding the things we listen to. Yes, it is challenging because it involves others but we have to make an effort to avoid listening to vulgarity, gossip, back biting and vain talk. Although we might not initiate such activities, to listen in is an act of participation which will not benefit us.

It was related that Ibrahim Ibn Adham (may Allah swt be pleased with him), a famous Sultan in the 8th Century who renounced the Kingdom of Balkh, was once invited to a banquet. When the guests were seated, some people mentioned the name of a person not in attendance by saying his presence was not pleasant anyway. Ibrahim Ibn Adham (may Allah swt be pleased with him) immediately reacted by saying: “This is what I have done to myself; I have allowed myself to be present in a session with people who commit gossip (ghibah).” 

If your friends or colleagues start to indulge in the latest “information” about so and so you have the option of politely excusing yourself from the group or better still (if they are Muslims) remind them kindly about the virtues of Ramadhan and the reward they will receive by trying their best to abstain from the sins of the tongue. Abu Huraira narrates that the Messenger of God (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Verily a person utters a word, that he deems harmless, but it results in his falling into the depths of the Hellfire.” (Tirmidhi; Ibn Majah) 

Sometimes we are unmindful of the danger of our words and how it may cause harm to others and ourselves. It’s good to remind one another when this happens. Allah (swt) will reward you and your friends will thank you for it. After all, a true friend is someone who will not only help you in this world but will also try to save you in matters of the Hereafter.

Honour the Month of Ramadhan 

Ramadhan is a priceless gift from Allah (swt) because it provides us with countless opportunities to purify our hearts, carry out good deeds and attain a higher level of faith and spirituality. According to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the reward of every act of worship and good deed is multiplied by seventy times during Ramadhan (Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah). In fact, the reward of a sunnah (non-obligatory) prayer becomes equivalent to that of a fardh’ (obligatory) prayer in Ramadhan, mashaa Allah

Moreover, the blessed month of Ramadhan is not only about abstaining from the gratification of hunger, thirst and carnal desires but ultimately, it is a period of inner struggle to improve and increase our acts of ibadah (worship) and most importantly, repair the condition of our hearts that have been tarnished by our love for dunya and its constituents. Furthermore, the purification of the self begins by monitoring what we allow to enter our hearts. The true meaning of Ramadhan isn't about the things we refrain from. Rather, it is all about empowering ourselves to fight against our lower self, the nafs, and choosing to feed our souls with worship.

If you think it’s too hard to change and adopt positive habits, think again. Ramadhan has taught me that without a heart which loves Allah (swt) everything seems impossible but with a heart that is sincerely devoted to Allah (swt) the impossible becomes possible, inshaa Allah.

P.S. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all my Muslim brothers and sisters a blessed Ramadhan. May this month inspire us to become better Muslims for the months and years ahead, inshaa Allah.


Ayuni A. said…
Salam Sha. Think you may have mistakenly posted the wrong snapshot of the verse. That one is from Al-Imran :)

Ramadhan kareem to you!
Farhana Ariffin said…
Salam sis. Great article. But the verse is not tally with the translation :-)
Shahirah Elaiza said…
@yunayuni, @farhana, JazakaAllah Khair for correcting me! I have rectified the mistake alhamdulillah. Ramadhan Mubarak sisters =)
Ramadhan Mubarak x
Shahirah Elaiza said…
@Muslimah Delights, Ramadhan Kareem =)
Mynnie. said…
tq for another inspiring post, kak Sha. i love all your Faith Fridays, they're my favs. Ramadhan Kareem (:
Shahirah Elaiza said…
@Mynnie, alhamdulillah =) Ramadhan Mubarak!