بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
By Sh. Abdur Rahman Khan
All praises are for Allah, The Almighty, and may His peace and blessing be upon His true servant and final Messenger Muhammad, on his Companions and his household.
The Month of Ramadhan always comes to us with lots of blessings and opportunities from Allah SWT. Ramadhan is a very special month. It is the month of the Qur’an, Siyaam and Qiyaam. In this month there is a great night; the Night of Qadr that is better than one thousand months. This blessed month is an annual retreat of the soul to attain a higher status and a long lasting relationship with:
- The Divine; Allah SWT,
- The creation (particularly the towards the servants of Allah SWT) and
- The self (An-Nafs)
Each of these has rights over us and Ramadhan is the time when we reset and reprogram ourselves to rectify and enhance these relationships. We hope that after we finish our fasting we get closer to good and discard anything that would have stifled those relationships over the past years.
No wonder why we learn that the Sahaabah (RA) used to look forward for the Month of Ramadhan six months before its arrival and when it is done they reflect upon what they did in Ramadhan for next five months. Then when the Month of Ramadhan comes they would maximize every moment to fulfill these goals.
Our Relationship with Allah SWT
Let us begin with our relationship with Allah SWT. One of the greatest benefits of fasting the Month of Ramadhan is to intensify our intention and sincerity with Allah SWT. We are not fasting to please someone or to show someone. This particular act of worship distinguishes itself from the other acts of worship or Ibaadaat.
For this we read the Hadith of Abu Huraira (RA) who reported Allah’s Messenger (SAS) as saying: Every (good) deed of the son of Adam would be multiplied, a good deed receiving a tenfold to seven hundredfold reward. Allah, the Exalted and Majestic, has said: With the exception of fasting, for it is done for Me and I will give a reward for it, for one abandons his passion and food for My sake. There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts, joy when he breaks it, and joy when he meets his Lord, and the breath (of an observer of fast) is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk. [Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar (RA) quoted several views from scholars who sought to explain the meaning of this Hadith why fasting was singled out in this manner.
Firstly, there is no showing off in fasting as may happen in other acts of worship. Imam Al-Qurtubi said: Because showing off may enter into all good deeds, but no one can see when a person is fasting except Allaah, so Allaah connected it to Himself. Hence He said in the Hadith: “He gives up his desire for My sake.” Ibn al-Jawzi further explained that: All acts of worship can be seen when done, and they may be contaminated with some element of showing off, unlike fasting where there is no action to be seen or heard.
Secondly, that what is meant by the words, “I shall reward for it” is that only Allah SWT knows the extent of his reward and how much his good deeds (hasanaat) will be multiplied. Al-Qurtubi said: What this means is that the amount of reward for good deeds may become known to people, and they will be rewarded between ten and seven hundred fold, and as much as Allaah wants, except fasting, for Allaah will reward it without measure. This is supported by a report narrated by Muslim (115) from Abu Hurairah (RA) who said: The Messenger of Allaah (SAS) said: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be rewarded between ten and seven hundred fold. Allaah said: ‘Except fasting, for it is for Me and I shall reward for it’” – i.e., I shall reward it greatly, without specifying how much.
Thirdly, that what is meant by “Fasting is for Me” is that it is the dearest of acts of worship to Allah SWT as Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (RA) said: The words “Fasting is for Me” are sufficient to indicate the superiority of fasting over all other acts of worship. This is supported by a Hadith narrated by Abu Umaamah (RA) who said: The Messenger of Allaah (SAS) said: “You should fast, for there is nothing like it.” (An-Nasaa’i).
Yet another thought into this Hadith “Fasting is for Me” is that fasting is mentioned in conjunction with Allaah by way of honoring. This is similar when one says Baitullah or “the House of Allaah,” giving honor to Ka’bah as opposed to the other houses or places of worship.
So no doubt Fasting done for Allah SWT’s sake cleanse one from shirk, doubts, show-off, insincere intentions, arrogance and all those negative qualities that cause a person to be distanced from Allah SWT.
Another way of strengthening our relationship with Allah SWT is to humble ourselves in what Allaah has commanded us to do so. Allaah alone is the One Who issues rulings, and His rulings are the most wise and perfect. Thus, the Believers hasten to obey the commands of Allaah and His Messenger (SAS), He SWT describes them saying (when translated):
It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error. (Surat-ul Ahzaab:36)
These days too many people believe that they can do what they feel like in acts of worship because he has the right to do so. A person may like to spend a thousand dollars, but not fast a single day, or vice versa or he may fast all month but not want to give anything from his wealth. So fasting the Month of Ramadhan is testing how true and strong is this relationship with Allah SWT to comply with His Commands.
Our Relationship With Our Fellow Human Beings
Next in line is the relationship that ought to be strengthened with our fellow human beings during the Month of Ramadhan. We are given the glad tidings from Rasoolullah SAS who said: In Paradise there are rooms whose inside can be seen from the outside, and the outside can be seen from the inside. A Bedouin asked, `Who are they for, O Messenger of Allah’ He said: For those who speak kindly, feed the hungry and stand in prayer at night whilst the people are sleeping.”
While this can be done throughout the year but during the Month of Ramadhan it is easier to intensify in these good deeds. It is not time to lavish oneself in food and drink but to use the food and drink that was not consumed and give to those are hungry and poor.
Fasting makes us feel compassion and empathy towards the poor, because when the fasting person tastes the pain of hunger for a while, he remembers those who are in this situation all the time, so he will hasten to do acts of kindness to them and show compassion towards them. So fasting is a means of feeling empathy with the poor and the urge to give.
During the Month of Ramadhan Rasoolullah SAS exercised this quality of giving more than other times. In a Hadith we learn that Rasoolullah SAS “was the most generous of all the people and he used to become more generous in Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night during Ramadan to revise the Qur’an with him. Allah’s Apostle then used to be more generous than the fast wind”.
He even encourages us to offer a fasting person with something to break his/her fast. He tells us:
“Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast will have a reward like his without detracting from the reward of the fasting person in the slightest.”. [At-Tirmidhi Above all Ramadhan teaches us to withhold our tongues and hands from harming others. This perhaps is the one of the most powerful way of strengthening our relationship with our fellow human beings. He warns:
“Whosoever does not leave bad words and bad actions, Allah does not care if he leaves his food and drink.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Isn’t this what we fear most from our brothers and sisters today.. Saying and doing bad things against us! Hence we ought to refrain from backbiting, slander, lies, gossips etc.
So if we fast right we can discard hypocritical relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters and instead develop a lasting bond of brotherhood based on true love, respect and sincerity. If a person does that for a whole month sincerely, the rest of the year will go well.
If on the other hand we harm each other while fasting then there is no difference between a day when we fast and a day when we do not. We may end up fasting year after year yet we are back to square one. Nothing has stayed with us and this is sad. Rasoolullah SAS warns:
So the Month of Ramadhan is time to be sincere and make Du’a for our brothers and sisters as Rasoolullah SAS recommends in a Hadith narrated by Safwan who said: I visited Abu Darda’s house in Sham. I did not find him there but Umm Darda (was present at the house). She said: Do you intend to perform Hajj during this year? I said: Yes. She Said: Do supplicate Allah for blessing upon us, for Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) used to say: The supplication of a Muslim for his brother at in his absence is responded so long as he makes a supplication for blessings for his brother and the commissioned Angel says: Ameen, and says: May it be for you too! I went to the Souk (market) and met Abu Darda and he narrated like this from Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him). (Muslim)
Relationship with our own Nafs (self)
The Nafs is the seat of Shaitaan within us and Allah SWT has given us this noble opportunity in the Month of Ramadhan to rectify it and conquer the Shaitaan that resides within. Rasoolullah SAS informs:
“When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are closed, and the devils are chained up.
For this He SWT has chained the devils so that we can utilize his weakness to gain our strength. While there are many interpretations for this Hadith it would appear that the Shayaateen are not able to tempt the Muslims as they are able to do to others because they are busy with the fast which controls their desires (Nafs) by reading the Qur’an and doing Zhikr of Allah SWT.
Another physical dimension to this is that fasting humiliates and weakens the Shaytaan; it weakens the effects of his whispers (waswaas) on a person and reduces his sins. That is because the Shaytaan “flows through the son of Adam like blood” as the Prophet (SAS) said, but fasting narrows the passages through which the Shaytaan flows, so his influence grows less.
Undoubtedly blood is created from food and drink, so when a person eats and drinks, the passages through which the devils flow – which is the blood – become wide. But if a person fasts, the passages through which the devils flow become narrow, so hearts are motivated to do good deeds, and to give up evil deeds.
The greatest inner quality that is developed deep within us during the Month of Ramadhan is Taqwa. In fact, it is the primary reason for fasting in the Month of Ramadhan. Allah SWT says (when translated): “ O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (pious)” [2:183]
The reason mentioned here is Taqwa (God- Conscious) and Taqwa means giving up Haraam things, and in general terms includes both doing what is commanded and abstaining from what is forbidden for Allah SWT’s pleasure. So if by fasting we can give up Halaal things in order to please Allaah and for fear of His painful torment, then we will be more likely to refrain from Haraam things for the same purpose.
Once again if a person does that for a whole month, the rest of the year will go well achieving this inner deep God-consciousness.
Finally, every heart desires something great. He wants to achieve great things in life. Through Fasting we want to aim high and reach high and it is attaining the forgiveness of our sins and reaching the special place in Jannah called Ar-Rayyaan! Sahl ibn Sa’d reported that the Prophet said: “There is a gate to Paradise that is called ar-Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection it will say: ‘Where are those who fasted?’ When the last [one] has passed through the gate, it will be locked.” (Al Bukhari and Muslim)
Dear Brothers and Sisters let us not allow the Month of Ramadhan to come and go with achieving the greatness and grandeur it brings us. I’ll remind myself and all of us of a Hadith of Rasoolullah SAS. Due to these numerous means of forgiveness during the month of Ramadan, the one who misses this great opportunity has indeed been afflicted with extreme, great lose. The Messenger SAS climbed the minbar and said: Ameen, Ameen, Ameen! The Companions inquired concerning this, and he responded: Verily Jibriel approached me and said: Whomsoever reaches the month of Ramadan but does not have his sins forgiven before his death and due to this he enters the Hell-fire, may Allah distance this person Jibriel then ordered me to say Ameen, so I said Ameen. (Ibn Hiban)
If we do not do good in this blessed Month of Ramadhan then when else? Qatadah (one of the early Scholars) said: It used to be said: Whoever does not have his sins forgiven in Ramadan, he will not have his sins forgiven in other than Ramadan (meaning: if one did not take advantage of such great opportunity in Ramadan, more than likely he will not take advantage of any other opportunity).