Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen. Was salaatu was salaamu ala ashraful mursaleen sayyidina Muhammadi wa ala aali sayyidina Muhammadi wa ashaabihi ajma’een.
All praise is due to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the entire universe. And the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad (saw) his family and his companions.
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: “Yaa ayyuhalladheena aamanoo kutiba ‘alaikumus siyaamu kamaa kutiba ‘ala alladheena min qablikum la’allakum tattaqoon – O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you – so that hopefully you will have taqwa.” The topic today will insha Allah be about fasting and about the month of Ramadan. In this ayah Allah (swt) addresses us, the believing Muslims, and conveys a command to us which is that we should observe the fasting. The phrase used here “kutiba ‘alaikum” means that the fasting is compulsory upon all of us. The ayah also tells us that this is not something unique to the Ummah of Muhammad (saw) but was something which was also practiced by previous peoples.
The ayah then goes on to inform us about the purpose of this fasting – which is that it should be means through which we acquire taqwa or God-consciousness. When we fast we should try to have a heightened sense of awareness of Allah (swt) in our lives. We should always try to have this feeling that Allah (swt) is watching over us and observing everything that we do. So we should be extra careful of not falling into sinful acts and should be hastier in trying to do good deeds.
Allah (swt) then continues and says in the Holy Qur’an: “Ayyaamam ma’doodaat” meaning that the fasting is for a specific period of time, either 29 or 30 days. “Faman kaana minkum mareedan aw ‘alaa safarin fa’iddatum min ayyamin ukhar” – This part of the ayah gives a dispensation to those who either sick or are traveling, that they do not have to fast while in this condition but they must then make up for this at a later date by fasting the days they have missed i.e. they have to make qada’ fast. “Wa ‘ala alladheena yuteeqoonahu fidyatun ta’aamu miskeen ” – There may be some people who are unable to fast, such as those people who are extremely old or have a constant sickness, and for these people they have to feed poor people instead. They do not make qada’ fast. But for each day that they do not fast they have to feed the poor and this is called fidyah.
The ayah then ends with Allah (swt) saying: “Faman tatawwa’a khairan fahuwa khairul lah. Wa antasoomoo khairul lakum inkuntum ta’lamoon – And if someone does good of his own accord, it is better for him. But that you should fast is better for you, if you only knew.” So even if one is in a condition where he has the choice to fast or not, for him to choose to fast is much better. The reward for it is with Allah (swt) and we cannot really comprehend the true benefits which lie in fasting.
Allah (swt) then says in the following ayah: “Shahru Ramadana alladhee unzila feehil Qur’anu hudalli naasi wa bayyinaatim minal hudaa wal Furqaan – The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’an was sent down as guidance for mankind, with Clear Signs containing guidance and discrimination.” This is one of the most important reasons why this month of Ramadan is so great – it is the month in which the Glorious Quran was revealed by Allah (swt) to mankind. The Qur’an is our Guide in this life. It informs us of all the things that we have to do and how to attain the goodness of this world and of the next. It shows us how we can achieve the pleasure of Allah (swt), our Lord and Sustainer. It is a complete set of guidelines for us as to how we should live our lives. And without it we would be lost and left wandering in darkness.
So this is the month of the Quran and we should recite it as much as possible. We should at the very least try to complete one recitation of it during the course of this month. If we take just one Juz a day, then we will achieve this. That may seem a lot to some of us but if we break each Juz down into quarters and recite one quarter after each Salah, then insha Allah it will become easy on us. We should also put in some effort and try our best to observe the Salah of Taraweeh during the whole of this month. This is one of the great features of this month and we should not be negligent about it. It is a great ‘ibadah and to listen to the entire Quran being recited while in Salah will be of much benefit to us, now and in the Hereafter.
Allah (swt) also says in the Holy Qur’an: “Innaa anzalnaahu fee lailatil Qadr. Wa maa adraaka maa laitul Qadr. Laitul Qadri khairun min alfi shahr.” This is another one of the immense blessings which lies in Ramadan in that it contains the night of Lailatul Qadr. This is the night in which the Qur’an was revealed and as Allah (swt) mentions here it is better than a thousand months. Meaning that whatever acts of ‘ibadah are performed during this night is equivalent to performing that act for a thousand months continuously! Subhanallah. So if you make Salah, or read Quran or make dhikr during this night then it is as if you made Salah and read Quran for a thousand months. Is there anyone of us who can afford not take advantage of this? We are all so busy with our worldly activities that we hardly pay attention to the aakhirah. But here this night comes just once a year in which there is so much thawaab and hasanaat that it could make up for all the other times that we were negligent. So we should a real and sincere effort to search out this night and to derive full benefit from it by spending it in ‘ibadah and asking Allah (swt) for forgiveness.
The ‘ulama’ differ as to which night exactly is the night of power. The strongest view is that it is one of the last ten nights of Ramadan, especially the odd nights. And there is great wisdom behind the Prophet (saw) not telling us exactly which night is lailatul Qadr. This is so that the people would go and search for this night by spending all the nights in ‘ibadah and thus increasing their good deeds. But nowadays we find some people who place particular emphasis on just one night, the 27th night. There is nothing wrong in making extra ‘ibadah during this night – it is good and we should be doing it – but the problem comes in when people seem to believe that this is the Night of Power and so they don’t pay much attention to the other nights. This is the wrong attitude to have: rather we should believe that any of the nights could be lailatul Qadr and should spending all of them in doing good deeds, not only the 27th night.
The Prophet (saw) said in a hadith: “Man saama Ramadana eemaanan wahtisaaban ghufira lahu maa taqaddama min dhambih – Whoever fasts Ramadan with faith and anticipating reward (from Allah) will have his past sins forgiven.” So this hadith informs us about how much reward there awaits for us in fasting – if we do it and we do it sincerely, hoping for Allah’s pleasure – then He will forgive us all of our prior sins. And what more could any of us want than this?
In another narration the Prophet (saw) said that whoever observes the night prayer during this month with imaan and hoping for Allah’s reward his previous sins will be forgiven. So this shows to us the significance that Tarawih has with relation to this month. And the words “eemaanan wahtisaaban” which appear in both these ahadith warn us that we should be doing these things solely for the pelasure of Allah (swt), and with no riyaa’ i.e. wanting to be seen by people. If we have this feeling within us, that we want to boast and show off to people, then we will lose the reward for these deeds.
And there are many other ahadith which also speak about the virtues of this month: it is mentioned that the shayateen are chained up during this month. This is a great favour upon us in that it becomes so much easier for us to engage in good deeds and to abstain from evil. It is also narrated that the gates of Jannah are opened and the gates of Jahannam are locked when Ramadan arrives. The reward for good deeds are multiplied in this month: a Sunnah act is counted as a Fard and the reward for each Fard act is multiplied. Another narration states that the breath of a fasting is more pleasant in the sight of Allah (swt) than the smell of musk. And besides all of this there are other virtues as well which we don’t have time to go into.
There are different levels are fasting. There are those who fast and merely abstain from eating and drinking and from intimacy with their wives. This is fasting of the lowest degree. And we should strive for more than this. The next level of fasting is to engage all the limbs in fasting i.e. the eyes, ears, tongue and so forth. Fasting of the eyes means not to look at anything evil, fasting of the ears means not to listen to evil things and fasting of the tongue means to protect from saying anything displeasing to Allah (swt). One should also avoid over-eating at the time of breaking fast. This is one of the harder aspects of fasting, since after a long day without eating anything, it can be really hard to contain oneself from over-indulging. But to stuff oneself and eat too much really defeats the purpose of fasting. Another aspect of this level of fasting is that one should be in a state between fear and hope at the time of completing the fast i.e. you should hope that your fast is accepted and fear that it would be rejected. Then there is a level above this, which is the level of the Prophets and the awliya’. At this level of fasting one abstains from all worldly thoughts and thinks only about Allah (swt), all the time.
I feel that it is a good idea now that Ramadan is almost here to make some resolutions. Why now and not at the start of the year as is customary? Because the shayateen are chained, good deeds are multiplied and it becomes easier to perform them. I don’t mean things specifically for Ramadan, like trying to complete the whole Qur’an during the month, but some small good action that you can do every day.
Some people feel that we have to prepare for Ramadan, so that we can do lots of pious deeds during the month. I see it the other way round: Ramadan is like a training ground which prepares us for the rest of the year. We do lots of good, become more spiritual during this time but it shouldn’t end once Eid comes. We should try and continue with the good we engaged in during the rest of the year as well. It is unreasonable to think that people will be as pious and holy during the rest of the year as they are during Ramadan. That’s why resolutions: choose some small good deed and get into the habit of doing it during Ramadan. Hopefully, after the month ends, we will have become so used to doing it that we will continue practicing on it throughout the rest of the year as well.
May Allah (swt) make this month a source of good for us, a purification, and a wiping out of sins.
Wa aakhiru da’waanaa ‘anil hamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘aalameen.