In the recent days, several authors have noted how Islamic bonds have done better than most other bonds in the face of current US economic crash. It is indeed true that most Islamic bonds have done better than the regular ones, but that success should only be attributed to the mix and the fact that current economic collapse took place in an area that is not at all a part of Islamic bonds: banking and finance.
At this point, as money is being injected into financial markets, it is possible that other bonds will do far better than Islamic bonds because of the latter not dealing in financial markets. This is purely based on the fact that money is being heavily injected into other markets. At this point, if Islamic bonds do not do as well, would we then say that the Islamic method is not a good one because the economic gain is not there? No.
The purpose of Islamic bonds is not to have an economic gain better than other bonds, but for them to be ethical investments. Two major investments (among others) that are avoided in Islamic bonds are: 1) investments in financial institutions that deal in interest, and 2) investments in alcohol industry. In the first case, an interest-based transaction is inherently an unfair one, while the latter is harmful for the collective society. (For this reason, some Islamic bonds also avoid dealing in weapon industry stocks.)
Success of Islamic bonds is not the primary reason for their existence and for people investing in them. The primary reason is that they are ethical in nature and operate in areas that are neither unfair to the other party nor harmful to others.
A few friends of mine and I meet weekly to study Quran together. This week while we were studying, the following verses of Quran struck me in which Prophet Jacob (pbuh) guides his sons on how to enter Egypt:
Prophet Jacob's (pbuh) guidance clarifies the balance between one's effort and reliance on God. As is clear from these verses, one should plan to achieve their goal, make an effort towards it and then rely on God. And without God's help, one may not be successful in their goal. So one should make an effort and then also rely on God, and pray to Him for success.
It may also be the case that a certain reward is predestined only if one makes the effort and prays for it. Of course, it does not negate one being rewarded without making an effort if God willed.
I keep running into the same argument over and over again: some beliefs or pieces of information are so obvious that it doesn't matter whether one has evidence for them. A similar line of reasoning is that if a belief or a piece of information has become public knowledge then it ought to be right; after all, it is so obvious that everyone knows it.
This line of reasoning is inherently flawed. Especially Muslims must be careful when they accept such 'public' pieces of information for the Quran says:
It is this commandment of Quran that led collectors of hadith to verify every person who narrated a saying of the Prophet (pbuh) even though a large number of concepts were public knowledge at that time. For instance, methods of prayer, zakat, fasting, pilgrimage were all well-known, but when hadith collectors collected narratives, they still ensured that the information was brought to them by trustworthy folks. In addition, they also verified the text of the narrative via textual analysis and related methodologies.
It should not be acceptable for a Muslim to take a piece of information, whether it be 'public knowledge' or otherwise, without verifying its sources. And the application of this principle should not be limited religious issues only since Quran's commandment does not make it specific to religion.
During Ramadan, one gets up in the morning before the breaking of the dawn and eats in preparation for the fast. This time is just before the morning prayer (fajr prayers). Interestingly, not only can tahajjud prayers be offered at this time, it is indeed preferred time for these prayers.
If one is able to get up a few minutes before their regular time for eating, then they can avail the opportunity to offer these prayers and earn the great reward it offers. This can be seen as one of the blessings of Ramadan!
Interestingly, it also makes Ramadan a month in which in addition to five daily prayers, offering of tahajjud is much more a reality than ordinary days — all by the grace of God.
A few days back, I heard someone stating that fasting in initial days of Ramadan this year was very tough although with time it is becoming manageable. They also said that by the end of the day, one gets quite grumpy and it becomes even harder then to bear with the fast.
Even before the advent of Islam, Arabs used to make their horses go without food for days in order to prepare them for battles. Similarly, fasting is supposed to prepare one in multiple ways. Refraining from food obviously makes one cherish and acknowledge the great blessings of God. It also makes it easier for one to connect with the feeling that many unfortunate souls experience when they are unable to get food for themselves and their families, and sleep with empty stomachs.
At the same time, Islam also lays an additional emphasis on dealing with others in a nicely way and refraining from hurting them even verbally, especially during the month of Ramadan. In this regard, although one may become easily irritable, the emphasis on self-restraint when one is cranky strongly encourages them to control their temperament. Thus, the fast makes one practice control under severe pressure and difficult situations. When one goes manages composure under such conditions for a month, it is bound to leave lasting differences.
Ramadan, thus, prepares one for the rest of the year both physically as well as spiritually.
Arrival of Ramadan usually intensifies the religiosity and spirituality of a Muslim. Fasting plays a leading role, but many of us often indulge in additional worship such as the optional Taraweeh prayers and recitation of the Quran. For me, Ramadan is also a time to enhance my relationship with God for the coming year, and boost it via prayer and Quran. Of course, many other acts (such as zakat) also contribute to it. Here is how one can attempt enhancing their relationship with the Almighty using the two mechanisms I mentioned above.
Prayer: Prayer is a dialogue and a virtual contact with God. In sura Fatihah, we praise and thank God, and ask Him to show us the right path, and then recite a few verses of Quran as a response from Him. Memorizing the meaning of the verses and bringing them to mind when one offers prayers develops an active dialog with God. Not only the words, but actions, especially bowing and prostration, with the recitation of the supplications augment the relationship. It is a physical manifestation of a slave's subservience to his lord after having understood His response to his ask. Although, this can be practiced all year round, but in this month, the special emphasis on worship and additional time that one is able to devote act as boosters.
Quran: Many of us make a pledge to read Quran or at least a portion thereof. The importance of understanding the Quran cannot be overemphasized, and therefore, if unable to read both its Arabic text and translation, one can (and probably should) resort to studying the translation only. Appreciating the fact that Quran is an address from God makes one grateful to Him for having sent guidance to lead His creation aright, acting upon which would make one successful in His eyes and lead to eternal bliss. It makes one understand the traits He would like to see in His slave, and what one should avoid. Fasting helps further by reminding the need to act upon what Quran has taught us.