Are you fully prepared for Ramadhan? Or is it taking you by surprise? Or are you on the fence about it? Well, let’s kindle the energy you will need to enter the blessed month, only 4 days away now. Insha Allah.
Although, Ramadhan is a month that encompasses all forms of worship, one worship is in the limelight—fasting. Okay, why fasting? Well, the answer is in the Qur’an. Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness.” (2:183) Still not clear? Well, let me explain. It basically means that if you “fast” you become “pious and righteous” –or in Arabic among the “Mutaqeen.” So, if we fast—the way that Allah (swt) wants us to fast—we will be “like” those who are righteous and pious in the eyes of Allah (swt) and in turn, our actions will attest to this fact. We will be like like the pious giants of our Islamic history whom we read about and admire—Abu Bakr Assidiq, Umar ibn Al Khattab, Al Hasan Al Basri etc. Yes, insha Allah. Some of you might say, “But I have been fasting for years now, and I am nowhere close to being like the righteous and pious giants in our Islamic history?” Well, Allah (swt) is right and you’re wrong. If you had “fasted” you would’ve achieved it by Allah’s will. Agree?
So this means that you, “before” and “after” Ramadhan should be radically different. Now, don’t go and take a before and after shot of yourself—I am not talking about weight! If you can take a picture of your “heart” do so—see if you can capture whether it is empty of awareness of Allah (swt) or full with it? Only you and Allah (swt) can gauge what is in your heart, for the Prophet Muhammad (saw) says, “Allah does not look at your outward appearance and your wealth, rather He looks at your hearts and deeds.” (Muslim, 1356) So, Ramadhan is like a four-week faith boosting boot camp, after which you emerge with a new faith laden heart—one that guides your whole being. One that causes you to be bound to Allah (swt), seeking His pleasure and fearing His wrath; causes you to have a tongue that speaks only about and for the sake of Allah (swt), and if and when it is silent, your heart is in the company of Allah (swt).
Are you telling me that after Ramadhan, I have to achieve this “taqwa” 100%? That’s impossible. Allah (swt) says, “Therefore do not acclaim your own virtue, / For He knows best who is truly pious.” (53:32) Attaining Taqwa should be a life-long mission for every believer—in other words a goal for life. One that provides room for improvement and the final results are only handed out by Allah (swt) Himself. What an honor? So, Insha Allah we all get an “A+” and not a big fat “F.”
Ramadhan is a time to charge our “faith batteries” to their limit and blast off to Allah (swt) the rest of the year. And for this reason Allah (swt) equipped the month of Ramadhan with all that you need to achieve this goal. Let’s look at some hadiths of the Prophet of Allah (saw) regarding Ramadhan. On the last day of Sha’ban, the Prophet (saw) addressed his companions saying,
“O people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a in which is a night better than a thousand months [one night equals over 84 years worth of rewards]; month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing any of the (optional) good deeds (in this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time [so for an optional prayer you receive the same reward as an obligatory prayer etc.] and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time[Let’s calculate together the huge rewards. 1 prayer is worth 10 rewards, multiplied by 70 equals 700. If in congregation multiply by 27 that is 18,900 rewards. And if that is for 5 daily prayers, you get 945,000 rewards which is equivalent to nearly 100 thousand prayers, or as if you went to Makkah and prayed in the Holy Mosque! Apply the same equation to reading a letter from the Qur’an—each letter is worth ten deeds. You do the math!] It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Fire of Hell, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all.” (Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah and Al Bayhaqi)
On hearing this, some of the poor companions sadly exclaimed, “Not all of us have the ability to feed a fasting person.” At which the Prophet (saw) said, that it could be as simple as a date or a sip of milk or water. I bet that drew a huge smile on their faces, as it should ours. So, do as I do. Tell your fasting Iftar guests to accumulate as many good deeds as they can on that day and not worry about what they will have for Iftar—I can take care of that! And by the way your good deeds do not go unnoticed, as they are in our human world, rather Allah (swt) boasts about them to the angels,
“Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers [I wonder sometimes if someone will pick up the study of crime rates all over the world during Ramadhan in an x number of years to see whether there is a declining trend compared to other months of the year. The Prophet (saw) does say that during this month Allah “decreases sins.”] In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted.” (Narrated by Tabarani)
An added convenience during the whole month of Ramadhan is that Shaytan is chained—so the biggest distraction of all is out of the way. The Prophet (saw) said,
“On the first night of the month of Ramadan, the devils and the giant jinn are chained. The gates of hell are closed and not one is left open, and the gates of paradise are opened without one left closed. A caller calls, ‘O you who want good, come forward, and you who want evil, retreat.’ Allah will save people from hell, and that will happen at every night.” (Tirmidhi, 549)
Some of you might say that this is not possible, “I am worse in Ramadhan than I am the rest of the year. Shaytan must be around.” Well, nope sorry. He is proud of you though, if that is any consolation. Ramadhan is the opportunity for you to determine if it is Shatytan causing you to do evil, or there is something already inherently evil about you. Difficult question I know—but face yourself. You must. Ramadhan is an opportunity for you to do so. The hadiths about Ramadhan are many—here are some more.
One of my favorite hadiths about Ramadhan is the following:
“There is a gate in paradise called ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasting will enter through it on the Day of Judgment, and none except them will enter through it. It will be said, ‘Where are those who used to observe fasting?’ They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry, the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it.” (Bukhari, 1896)
This is a remarkable hadith. Mark, the door of “ar-Raiyan” is not “of paradise” but “in paradise.” Wait a minute! Haven’t the people in Paradise fasted in this life? Yes, they have. But this is a higher rank in Paradise, for those who fasted for real. A fast different from everybody else’s—a fast that lasted beyond sunset and even beyond Ramadhan itself. These believers lowered their gaze because their eyes were fasting from gazing at what displeased Allah; their tongues were fasting from gossiping and cursing; they maintained ties of the womb; treated their parents with kindness; put the needs of others before their own, and gave alms; deprived themselves of sleep to stand in prayer the last third of the night; deprived themselves of a full stomach to share their food with others; deprived themselves of watching TV to go and stand in congregational prayer or for taraweeh etc. May we be called from this door Insha Allah.
So, fasting and its rewards are of different kinds and levels. Yes, and all Praise is due to Allah (swt). One kind of fasting is that of the stomach in which person has merely fulfilled the obligation of fasting, but missed out on the huge amount of good deeds as well as the opportunity to be emancipated from the hellfire. The Prophet (SAWS) describes this type of person using painful words, “Some of those who perform Qiyam get nothing out of it but staying up all night and some of those who fast get nothing out of it but hunger and thirst.” (Bukhari, 1083) We definitely do not want to be among these. The second kind is that of the stomach, and the rest of the organs of the body—eyes, tongue, hands etc—all day, even after sunset. These beleivers can’t look at anything prohibited because their eyes are fasting; they can’t listen to someone gossiping because their ears are fasting; they can’t gossip, curse, or speak ill to and of others because their tongues are fasting; their feet are fasting so they can’t go to places that will displease Allah. You get the point, right? Let’s try this one this year. But for those of you who even want to do better, there is a higher kind. Really? Yeah. I find no better words than those of Al-Junaid who was asked, “Who is the best fasting person in Ramadan?” He answered, “A servant who is absent-minded, bound to Allah. If he talks, it is about Allah. If he utters a word, it is for the sake of Allah, and if he keeps silent, he is with Allah.” During this kind of fasting, your heart becomes a permanent endowment—waqf—to Allah. You worry you may oversleep and miss out on calling on Allah in the last third of the night when He is in the closest heaven, and you worry that you may overeat and not attain khushu’u in prayer. Now that is real ambition in my opinion, so let’s all be ambitious in achieving this kind of fasting this year. Insha Allah.
The month of Ramadhan is something to look forward to. Indeed the Prophet (saw) who customarily advised us to be strangers in this world and not hold on to it fast, became an entirely different person if the month of Rajab came along. He would ask for a longer life to witness Ramadhan, and would say, “O Allah! Bless us in Rajab and Sha’ban, and bring us O Allah to Ramadhan.” (Narrated by Tabarani and Ahmed) So let’s do the same, each Ramadhan is a chance to revive and survive insha Allah.
Stay tuned for the entry on the Ramadhan workshop we held this past Thursday the 5th of August 2010, insha Allah, so you can work on your Ramadhan Resolutions as well . . .