The Month of Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar but for many Muslims itís the first. How? Ramadan has become to them what 1st of January is most to Canadians. Got it? Resolutions for the New Year!
You hear every year similar sloganeering: ďHey, Iím listening to Quran Cds only from today!Ē ďNo Bro only Halal chickens in Ramadan.Ē ďOkay no more swearing! Alright Mom, Iíll don my headscarf and begin five times prayers from now.Ē ďRight Guys all cigarettes over, all bars closed!Ē ďItís Ramadan! Iíll send zakat home next week, itís been long enough.Ē
Maybe understanding what Allah wants from us in this Holy month in terms of fasting and praying will help us be better geared and truly programmed to handle the responsibility of Ramadan. Letís look at the main verse in Surah Baqara 2: 183-ďO Believers, the Fast has been made obligatory on you just as it was prescribed for the followers of the Prophets before you so that it may produce piety in you.Ē
Oh People of Iman!
Look how Allah addresses our Faith in Him and the strength of Belief in His Unseen Powers in order that we may observe his commands. Hadith literature is filled with the words Imanan wa Ihtisaaban. Repeatedly Allah reminds us that fasting or nightly vigil if done with true Faith in Allah and hope for His rewards then definitely forgiveness will be our lot. The Iman of Abu Bakr remains the true standard of what it means to believe. When others belied the Meraj he stood firm and unshakable. He, may Allah be pleased with him, did not disregard the story of Miíraj as wild and dreamy but accepted it unquestionably. Until today He is the Siddiq- Truthful to the bone! Fasting is a way of life for the Believers. There are many stories of brothers and sisters enduring miserable co-workers and terrible conditions but would not opt for concessions nor faint in the face of Allahís commands. Maybe it was this indispensable Iman that must have provided the groundswell of fasting that only in the 2nd AH was it revealed to be compulsory. Prior to that, fasting was once a year on the day of Ashura.
The firm and intense conviction in Allahís unseen promise is the key for undergoing sacrifices for Deen. Itís hardly the case for a Believer to calculate the diet value of fasting or the long hours of winter and short days of summer before starting a Ramadan schedule. Hell and Heaven is the criteria. The thirst of Ramadan becomes the extinguisher of Hell. The hunger of fasting from dawn to dusk provides the everlasting relishing fruits of Jannah. Just as the Companions didnít hesitate when the verses of alcohol and hijab were revealed, a marked sign of full conviction in Allahís words, so too must be the state of heart during the day when hunger pangs strike and thirst quenchers tease. Just do it!
Prescription from your Maker.
Fasting is prescribed by doctors before surgeries and during certain illness. The difference is our dear and knowledgeable Creator has written us an ancient prescription direct from the Throne.
Upon each and every able-bodied male and female He recommends, rather mandates, this third pillar so they may to be healthy and strong. All it requires is for them to fast for at least a month throughout daylight. Staying away from all benefits of the stomach and below assist in breaking the animal propensities and bringing human nature closer to angelic beings. A fasting person could easily subscribe to the pains and sufferings of the poorer nations.
A doctor doesnít only prescribe drugs but he writes the suitable dosage and period. Allah mentions the medicine: fasting. The dosage: from the end of the night to the beginning. The period: 30 days or 29. A doctor is regarded always as an expert in his field. Patients donít argue and challenge his degree. A patient in the divine hospital must submit to this prescription before serious fatalities occur. A doctor is mostly seen as a sincere adviser, filled with compassion and love. Allah is Halim- He is incomparably compassionate that He didnít order a full day without food and water. Neither did he want this for more than a month. He doesnít even want a pregnant mother or a child, a weak person or a traveler to undergo this sacrifice. In Fiqh, if someone works so hard that they fear they may faint they are to break their fast without any penalty. What compassion! Ramadan is His mercy.
Past nations also fasted.
In this verse Allah deliberately reminds us of an historical as well as a psychological fact in one breath. The Bible is filled with passages and stories of fasting Prophets and their disciples. What great devotees they were! But more importantly it creates a sense of comfort and spiritual ambience: We are not alone. Others do fast. Others stay thirsty, hungry and equally sex starved. The world knows about avoiding physical pleasures for Godís sake. Ask the Yogis. As true Believers we must not only take solace in that but also strive to perfect it by abiding by the rules. With the various mustahabs and etiquettes, supplications and extra worshiping, Ramadan provides excellently a consistent package for spiritual health.
The clause ďas it was prescribed to those before youĒ actually points to this essential psychology in Dawah. Environments makes and breaks. Successful long term Dawah aims at creating an alternative environment conducive to Iman building and Islam acting. Isnít it? The famous saying Ibn Adam Ibn Bia stand perfectly true. Man is the product of his environment. As a matter of fact maybe thatís why Salah in Jamah is more meritorious in Ramadan besides the Sunnah of performing Taraweeh collectively and breaking fast together. The atmosphere of reciting the entire Quran in the nights and secluding in the mosque, together, is amazingly dynamic for anyone wishing change.
Another example of the power of the environment is Hurricanes. They arenít a poor manís disaster or a rich manís escape. When it strikes ALL feel the hurt. So too when evil rampages all get caught. So let Ramadan be the collective answer to our moral crisis.
La al la in Arabic signifies both an uncertain as well as a definite response. Maybe perhaps indicates those Muslims who happily fast but donít get the desired results. One person said I eat too much Iftar so fasting doesnít reduce me. Another complained that after EidulFitr I return to the bar. Yet another stopped praying Salah soon in Shawaal! As the Hadith mentions: Many a fasting persons gets nothing out of their fasting except hunger.
But in using the translation of surely the rejoice is with those Muslims who achieve change. Definitely fasting provides them the much needed reform and repentance they worked for. Authentic Hadith reminds us that a person gets rewards based upon his/her intention. If sincere then loads of blessings and if insincere then punishment. Fasting can never be a boast for the sincere. As mater of fact the Hadith continues by saying a person gets in life what they intend. So for the Ramadan Muslims it has to change. It has to be that you intend sincere detoxification of the soul. It has to be that you want to repent from ill ways of living. It has to be that the Quran should surely become your life manual from today onwards. Let your niyyah work for you! So make sure the translation of laíal la in your fasting is surely and not perhaps!
Taqwa: staying conscious of the Reformer.
Many translators struggle to bring out the real meaning of this word taqwa. Literally it means to protect and could be that one protects himself from the Wrath of Allah by protecting himself from indulging in things that Allah forbids. In the Shariah, Taqwa as used in the Quran repeatedly, signifies the obedience to the Rules of Islam while avoiding Haraam, and additionally abstaining from unsuitable things in life.
I think a good example to this is ensuring Iftar dinners are Haraam-free and zero-doubtful. No matter how sumptuous or prestigous it may be, donít destroy your fast. Abu Bakr, radiallahu anhu, the model Muslim Leader, actually forced himself to vomit when he ate doubtful food morsels from his slave once. Be careful in being more delighted in Halal labels than Halal rules.
Remember the story of the pious gal living in the desert during the Caliphate of Omar bin Khatab, may Allah be pleased with him. She refused to adulterate the milk with water upon her motherís orders. When her mom tried explaining her that Omar wasnít there to peep them, the smart Bedouin teen retorted: But the lord of Omar sees!
Being conscious of Allah while staying hungry for His sake makes the course of fasting easy. Some women fainted during their fast and when the Prophet, on whom be peace, was informed he ordered that they vomit. These poor ladies vomited fresh meat! They had backbitten someone whilst fasting. That sin weakened them terribly. Allah says: Whosoever adopts Taqwa, Allah makes a way out for her/him and feeds them from unknown quarters!
Let Ramadan become the month of Allah, like any other month, but this will only happen if you make it, this time, the Muslim Reformer. Inshallah.
Oh Allah grant our lethargic selves piety and purity, for surely You are the Controller and Friend of our selves.
Jami'yyatul Ulama Canada - Sh.Habeeb (Member)