Ramadan; an alternative for change

Dear community members! The month of Ramadan is the month of fasting and countless blessings experienced and witnessed by millions of Muslims worldwide. The essence of Ramadan is to achieve piety. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous[1]

It is mentioned by Salman (r.a.), that on the last day of Shacbān[2], the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) gave us a speech, where he said: “O people – there comes over you now a great month, a most blessed month in which lies a night more greater in virtue than a thousand months. It is a month in which Allah has made fasting compulsory by day; and has made supererogatory act the Tarāwīḥ prayer by night. Whosoever intends drawing near to Allah by performing any virtuous deed – for such person shall be the reward like the one who had performed a compulsory deed (farḍ) in any other time. And whoever performs a compulsory deed (farḍ) shall be blessed with the reward of seventy compulsory deeds performed in any other time.

This is indeed the month of patience, and the reward for true patience is Paradise (Jannat). It is the month of sympathy with one’s fellowmen. It is the month wherein a true believer’s provision (rizq) is increased. Whosoever feeds another who fasted, in order to break the fast at sunset, for the feeder there shall be forgiveness of sins and emancipation from the fire of Hell (Jahannam), and for such feeder shall be the same reward as the one who fasted (who he fed) without that person’s reward being decreased in the least.”

Thereupon we said: “O Messenger of Allah (SAW), not all of us possess the means whereby we can give a fasting person to break his fast.”

The Messenger of God (SAW) replied: “Allah grants the same reward to the one who gives a fasting person to break the fast a mere date, or a drink of water, or a sip of milk.”

The messenger of God (SAW) then continued – “This is a month – the first of which brings Allah’s mercy, the middle of which brings His forgiveness and the last of which brings emancipation from the fire of Jahannam. Whosoever lessens the burden of his servants (bondsmen) in this month, Allah will forgive him and free him from the fire of Jahannam. And in this month four things you should continue to perform in great number, two of which shall be to please your Lord, while the other two shall be those without which you cannot do. Those which shall be to please your Lord, are that – (1) you should in great quantity bear witness that there is no deity to worship except Allah (i.e. recite Laa llaaha illallaah) and (2) Ask Allah’s forgiveness ( by mentioning Astaghirfir Allāh).

And as for those without which you cannot do – (1) you should beg of Allah, entrance into Paradise, and (2) ask refuge in Him from Jahannam. And whoever gave a person who fasted water to drink, Allah shall grant that giver to drink from my fountain (ḥawḍ), such a drink where after that person shall never again feel thirsty until he enters Jannat.”[3]

 

Imam Gazali on inner dimensions and secrets of fasting

When writing about the inner dimensions of Islamic worship, in particular about fasting,      Imam Ghazali, in his famous book Iḥjā’ cUlūmud-Dīn, shows that fasting is of three types:

  1. Fasting of the common people (ṣawm al-cumūm).
    This kind of fasting is practiced by many people and is simply distancing from food, drink and intimate relations.
  2. Fasting of the elect (ṣawm al-khuṣūṣ).
    This kind of fasting is not practiced by all but only some. It involves the fasting person with protecting the ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet and all other organs from committing sins while fasting.
  3. Fasting of the elect of the elect (ṣawm khuṣūṣ al-khuṣūṣ).
    This is a category of those whose hearts are concerned with nothing but Allah.[4]

It should be highlighted that Ramadan is not only meant to stay away from food, drink and intimate relations but also from the other vices and carnal desires. Therefore, in order to achieve righteousness, the believer should carefully manage the use of the tongue, eyes and ears. It is narrated from Ebū Hurayrat (r.a.) that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said,

Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink.”[5]

In his Iḥyā cUlūmud-Dīn, Imam Ghazali also noted a statement made by Abu Dardā’ (r.a.), a companion of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), where he mentioned, “How good is the sleep of the wise and how excellent is their eating; behold how they put to shame the wakefulness of the foolish and their fasting.”[6] Even though this statement mentioned by Abu Dardā’ (r.a.) may come as a strange comparison, but in reality it is a true statement because it demonstrates the true state of those who fast without realizing the significance of fasting and those who fast realizing its significance and act upon it.

Before the advent of this blessed month, the believer must be prepared spiritually and physically. Spiritual preparation is that he/she abstains from sins, engages with mentioning of God (dhikr Allah). As for the physical preparation is that he/she gets more engaged with the prayers, increases the reading of the Quran, fast for several days during the months of Rajab and Shacbān, so this way when Ramadan arrives, the body is used to fasting and standing for longer prayers at night while the Qur’an is being recited. This physical preparation allows the believer to be more engaged with the advancement of his/her spiritual state.

Upon the coming of Ramadan, Muslim families seek to attain the blessings of God and His forgiveness. However, attaining them requires the mobilization of all the family members, including the children.

Ramadan is the best opportunity for the believer to improve his/herself and to express kindnesses to the others. Through his teachings, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tells us that during this month, Allah (SWT) chains demons away from man and man is faced mainly with his internal enemy, which is the carnal self (nafs). So the Lord has given the opportunity for the believer to improve more during Ramadan than the other months. What benefit can attain someone who before Ramadan and thereafter remains the same? One must analyze and compare his/her spiritual and moral level before and after Ramadan. The biggest concern during Ramadan should be quality of deeds and not quantity. During this month the believer should be more concerned and struggle hard so the deeds may be accepted, rather than counting them. It is narrated by Ibn cAbbās (r.a.), “The Messenger of Allah was the best of people and he would express is finest (character) during the month of Ramadan…”[7]

If the believer is unable to adopt righteousness during Ramadan, then when will he/she be able to do so? The companions of Prophet (pbuh) prayed for months to Allah to accept their fasting of Ramadan. They would also pray to Him and prepare themselves spiritually and physically to reach this month. This shows their yearning for God through the blessed month of Ramadan.

During this month, Muslims are encouraged to be more generous, feed the poor and help those in need. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “He who feeds another person with ifṭār, earns the same rewards as he who fasts, without having the rewards of fasting minimizing.”[8]

Fulfillment of worship with sincerity and devotion results in heart purification and brings mercy and forgiveness from Allah (SWT). It is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Whoever fasts Ramadan with sincere faith and hopes to gain rewards from God, his/her sins will be forgiven.”[9]

Dear believers! Fasting Ramadan, besides being an act of worship and a physical training course, is also an absorption form of expressing gratitude to Allah (SWT) and drawing closer to Him by helping His creation.  When a man is left without food and drink, he will quickly feel the hunger and the thirst and will be able to apprehend the suffering of those who don’t have those blessings. This will make man more appreciative of God and more compassionate to His creation. It is said, “When something goes missing, it is then when you realize its importance.”

Ramadan is the month of Qur’an

Ramadan is also the month in which the Qur’an began to reveal to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Therefore, Ramadan is also known as the month of Qur’an. It is stated in sūrat al-Baqarat,

“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion…”[10]

Muslim believers are encouraged by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to read the Quran frequently, especially during Ramadan. Fāṭimah (r.a.), the beloved daughter of the Prophet (pbuh), mentioned that her father read the entire Qur’an once during the month of Ramadan with angel Gabriel, except his last Ramadan, during which he read it two times.[11] For this reason, reading it during Ramadan is encouraged. I would highly encourage you to read it yourself during this Ramadan and each day you read, implement its teachings in your daily life. When a woman asked Aisha (r.a.) the morale of the Prophet (pbuh), she replied, “His morale was the Qur’an”[12]

The night of Power (laylat al-Qadr)

Ramadan includes a night which is better in virtues then 1000 months.[13] This night is called the Night of Power (laylat al-Qadr). During this night God forgives all the sins of his servants who sincerely return to Him in repentance and engage themselves in worship. It is also during this night in which the Quran began to reveal to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The exact date of this night is not known but the Messenger of God (pbuh) advised the believers to seek it on the last single ten nights of Ramadan. Many of the elderly scholars had a conviction that it is the twenty-seventh night of Ramadan.

 

Those who are excluded from fasting Ramadan

Fasting Ramadan is not mandatory for:
– A non-Muslim
– A traveler
– A sick person
– A child who has not attained the age of puberty
– An insane person
– People who have attained an old age and cannot fast because of their weakness
– A woman during her menstrual period or at postnatal
– A Murted[14]

Travelers, temporary sick, the woman who is menstruating or postpartum period, should replace those missed days after Ramadan. Those who are chronically ill should give fidyat[15].

Ramadan list

– Restrict yourself from the excessive eating and drinking. Many people gain weight during this month instead of losing weight.
– Donate often.
– Read Quran daily.
– Attend the Tarāwīḥ prayer.
– Stay away from rumors, lies and bad words.
– Invite relatives and friends for the meal before dawn (ifṭār) or the meal after sunset (suḥūr).      – Restrain yourself from the excessive use of technology, by reducing the use of television, computer, etc.
– Add spiritual activities.
– Be gracious and forgiving and try to keep others away from doing wrong.

(A Friday sermon held by Imam Didmar Faja at Greenway Masjid in 2009)


[1] Q. (2:183).

[2] The Islamic lunar month that comes before the month of Ramadan.

[3] Muhammad Ibn Khuzeymat: Sahih ibn Khuzejmat, Al-Maktabat al-Islamiy, Beyrut, 1970, v.3, pg. 191.

[4] Abu Hamid Gazali: Ihya ulum al-Din, Dar al-Ma’rifat, Beirut, 1982 pg. 426.

[5] Muhammad Ibn Ismail al-Bukhari : Sahih al-Bukhari bi Sharh Kirmani, Dar ihya al-Turath al-Arabiy, Beirut, 1981, edit. 2, vol. 9, pg. 86-7.

[6] Gazali: Ihya’ ulum al-Din, vol. 1, pg. 236.

[7] Bukhari : Sahih al-Bukhari bi sharh Kirmani, v. 9, pg. 86.

 [8]Muhammad ibn Isa al-Tirmidhi: Sunan al-Tirmidhiy, Sharikat Maktabat vw Matba’at Mustafa Albabi al-Halabiy, Edit.2, Cairo, 1978,  vol.3, pg. 162.

[9]Ibid.

[10] Q. (2:185).

[11] Bukhari: Sahih al-Bukhari bi sharh Kirmaniy, vol. 19, pg. 15.

[12] Bukhari: Book of Muslim’s moral and manners, translated from the Arabic by  Yusuf Talal de Lorenzo, USA Al-Saadawi Publications, Alexandria, 1999, pg. 139.

[13] See Q. (97:3).

[14] Someone who leaves Islam.

[15]Feeding a poor person at least twice a day, Suhoor and Iftar throughout Ramadan. This can also be done by feeding thirty poor people Suhoor and Iftar throughout Ramadan. Meals can also be given in the amount of money.

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