, by SYED AKBAR HASSAN
On getting closer to ayaat related to Ramadhan last week we fully realise that Ramadhan is a great and blessed month. The objective of Ramadhan is not to starve and deprive ourselves of what otherwise would have been permissible to us during the day; rather its purpose is to achieve taqwa (piety) and neki (righteousness).
The real objective of fasting is to become conscious of our Creator and Maker, to increase our awareness of His Majesty, and to exalt and glorify Him for the guidance He has given us. Furthermore, to appreciate His greatness and to recall the blessings He has bestowed upon us, so we may be grateful and thankful to Him. The month of Ramadhan is not only the month of fasting; it is also the month of the Qur’ān. In this article our discussion shall basically be on dos and donts in the month of Ramadhan so as to make this holy month as much rewarding and beneficial for us as possible, inshaAllah.
In a hadith narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) informed us: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadhan out of iman (faith/belief) and hoping for a reward (from Allah the Exalted), then all his past sins will be forgiven.” Similarly he said; “Whoever stands (in prayer) in the month of Ramadhan out of iman (faith/belief) and hoping for a reward (from Allah the Exalted), then all his past sins will be forgiven.”
We learn a couple of things from this hadith:
1. The month of Ramadhan has dual aspects –
a. Fasting during the day, and
b. Standing in prayer in the night, reciting the Qur’ān.
2. Intention – purity of intention.
In regard to the fasting side of the glorious month, abstaining from food is an exercise for the discipline and control of the self, the baser self. One learns how to restrain his urges and desires. Fasting frees the person from the bondage of lusts and desires. Abstaining from intakes also reminds us of the less fortunate ones, the poor and the destitute. Fasting gives us a general sense of how they feel. It boosts the morale of the poor by knowing that even kings have to go hungry for a while. Fasting makes the rich realise and understand what the poor goes through day after day. Fasting also purifies one’s heart and tongue.
The Qur’ān, the Guidance, the Light, is such a great gift from Allah to us that if only we really open our heart to the Qur’ān, and let its Light penetrate the depths of our heart, it will surely illuminate our way to the final and intended destination, Jannatul-Firdaus. We must remember that the Qur’ān was the instrument Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) used in order to change the hearts of the people and bring about a complete political, social and economic change to societies. The Qur’ān makes the perfect complement to Ramadhan. On the other hand, niyah (intention) is most important to any action. Our intention must be pure for the sake of Allah the Exalted; to seek His good pleasure and none else. If we approach this month with the proper intention, we shall reap the fruits and rewards of this great month in this life and the next, Insha-Allah.
Our fasts and the standing in night (Taraweeh) of the month of Ramadhan must not become a ritual with us, a mere habit. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) told us on the authority of Abu Hurairah in Musnad Ahmad: “How often one fasts and gets out of it nothing but hunger and how often one stands (in prayer) and gets nothing except staying up at night.”
Standing in prayer in the night and reciting the Qur’ān is one very important part of this holy month. Taraweeh is a part of it but in the light of Surah Muzammil at least one third of the night apart from Taraweeh prayers should be spent either in nawafil or recitation and understanding of the Qur’ān. The more the better but Allah – the Rahman and Raheem – knowing our limitations and shortcomings, has not made it compulsory for us.
Here are a few tips that might help us achieve the real objective of the great month of Ramadhan:
1. Most television and satellite stations advertise their Ramadhan programmes that are not all that worthy. We should abstain from such programmes and instead dedicate our precious time in getting closer to the Qur’ān and Hadith by reciting it and trying to understand and adopt its hidayah (guidance) in our day-to-day life – with our family.
2. We should use our quality time to come close to Allah the Exalted by worshipping Him through reciting the Qur’ān, making Zikr, dua (supplicating), giving sadaqua (charity) and dawah (calling others to good) instead of wasting that time in shopping malls and other places..
3. We should abstain from listening to music, vain talk, backbiting, cheating, obscene and vulgar language.
4. It is also very important that we spend some time on self-assessment and list the things we are doing which Allah the Exalted does not like. We must be honest with ourselves in this exercise and come up with sensible and practical solutions to the problems. We must always remember to seek help from Allah the Exalted first and foremost and truly have the desire to change ourselves.
5. We can always do Zikr while driving to work or going to any place. Even we may listen to the Qur’ān and Hadith on way to our offices. We can have it on CD, mobile, etc. and in which ever format and language we desire.
6. We must spend in sadaqua (charity) for the love and pleasure of Allah the Exalted and for His sake only. Our sadaqua for His cause during this month should be more than any other month. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was more charitable during the month of Ramadhan than in any other month. The first recipients of charity should be our relatives.
7. We should make sure to calculate our Zakat and that it is paid at the earliest. Zakat is payable annually and not necessarily in the month of Ramadhan but due to our lack of knowledge and also in hope of manifold more reward in the month of Ramadhan we wait for the same even when it becomes due months earlier.
8. We should try to get up at least an hour before dawn and perform Tahajjud (we may read from the Qur’ān while praying – only in Fard Salah one is not permitted to hold the Qur’ān and recite from it). Reserve the last 15 minutes or so for Suhoor. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) recommended that we do that. There is Barakah in Suhoor.
9. This is the month of forgiveness. So it becomes imperative for us to increase our dua (supplications) to Allah the Exalted and ask for pardon and forgiveness. We should increase our supplications during our Salah especially during Sujood (prostration). One is closest to Allah the Exalted when he is performing Sajdah.
10. We should invite our relatives, friends and others to Iftar. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said whoever feeds others the angels will pray for him.
11. We must reconcile any disputes we might have with anyone including our family. Forgive our brother and/or sister for any injustice they might have done to us and strengthen the bond of brotherhood with love and mutual respect.
12. We should not forget to make dua (supplicate) before breaking our fast. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said, “As a fasting person is about to end his fast, he is certain to have a prayer answered.” We should begin our supplication by saying: “Bismillah. O Allah, for You I have fasted and from Your blessings and provisions I break my fast.” We must supplicate for ourselves, our family, and our Muslim brothers and sisters everywhere. Also pray that Allah the Exalted helps us change ourselves so that our condition may change.
13. Our biggest test may be anger so it is all very important for us to control our anger.
14. We must look forward to Lailatul-Qadr and ask Allah the Exalted to make us among those who will witness that great night which is better than a thousand months. If we happen to witness that night, we should not ask for just worldly gains rather we should ask for Allah’s rahmah (blessings) and maghfirah (forgiveness) and a place in Paradise. We should pray for the good of the Dunya and the Akhirah.
15. It is highly recommended that whosoever can, spend the last ten days in devotion and Ibadah to Allah the Exalted by performing ‘Itikaf in the Masjid.
16. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce a new Ibadah to our other Ibadaat. If we are not doing it already, we should consider praying two Raka’at, Salatud-Duha. This Salah may be performed 10 to 15 minutes after sunrise till shortly before Zawal, which is when the sun is at its highest point. Continue to practise this after Ramadhan.
17. We must never forget to thank Allah the Exalted for all His blessings. Show our gratefulness by being sincere to Him and by fulfilling our obligations and duties – most notably the struggle for the establishment of the Just Social Order.
In summary, we, honoured Muslims have double duties in the month of Ramadhan – to discipline the animal side of our existence and to nourish and feed the spiritual side. So, to get full advantage of the virtue and grace of this month we should fast for the sole purpose of increasing our Taqwa and awareness of Allah the Exalted. May Allah with His hidayah, rahmah and maghfirah let us spend this holy month in such a way that He is pleased with us and we feel within ourselves and our families radical change in our attitude, behaviour, lifestyle and personality all through the year, amin.