BY MALAM YUSUF ABDULLAH.
In the name of Allah who states “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self – restraint (Al-taqwa)” Q2:183
May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon His noble servant our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
In the prophet’s sermon welcoming the Ramadan fast, he said: O people! The month of Allah has approached you with mercy and blessings. This is the month that is best of all months in the destination of Allah. Its days are the best of days; its nights are the best of nights; its hours are the best of hours. There is one night (Lailatul Qadr), in which the reward of righteous deed therein is multiplied to become as that performed in a thousand months” (equivalent to 83 years, four months) God is great!
Fasting as a pillar in Islam is abstention from legitimate eating, drinking and sexual pleasures from dawn until the cover of night. Why fasting? Attainment of taqwa at individual and societal levels is clearly stated as the sole rationale behind fasting. While taqwa is literally defined as self-restraint, it is technically considered as abstention from Allah’s prohibitions and adhering to His commands with the aim of drawing closer and gaining His pleasure. Based on a well-known tradition, only Allah knows the magnitude of the reward of someone that fasts. Thus, fasting draws one nearer to Allah provided it is done according to Sunnah. Ramadan is popularly likened to a school where applicants are admitted for a course after which they are assessed and graduated with varying certificates based on their individual performances. It is indeed a spiritual journey that one could sincerely embark upon to promote oneself in the sight of Allah. In addition to that, fasting has other socio-economic values.
In an effort to attain the taqwa, Muslims are encouraged to make extra efforts in all forms of worship throughout the month. The following points could be briefly highlighted:
- Qur’anic recitation: Undoubtedly, recitation of the noble Qur’an is the most important function of the month. So every believer should do his or her best in this direction. I use this medium to encourage brothers and sisters on the need to master the noble book as the level of ignorance in this regard is very disheartening. Our attention is more on the secular direction. How many of us acquired their first, second degree and PhD but are lagging behind regarding the noble Qur’an? In fact, many can not read the book freely as expected of all Muslims. Obviously, we must wake up and do the right thing for our goodness. We should try to recite the whole Qur’an as many times as possible and sacrifice such rewards to parents and loved ones, dead or alive. Allah states “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong), so every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting …” Q2: 185
- Salat: Another significant act I want draw attention to is the superogatory prayers. Taraweeh is the most popular in this regard. But there are different series said in this month. In fact, there is a popular narration of a thousand raka’ats in the month by Imam Jaafar al-Sadiq (‘A). According to the narration, 20 raka’ats in the first 20 nights with 8 raka’ats after Magrib and 12 after Isha. In the last 10 days, 30 raka’ats are said, 8 after Magrib, 22 after Isha and 100 raka’ats each on Layalul qadr’ 19th, 21st and 23rd nights. The acts of Ramadan by Shaikh el-Zakzaky is very explicit on this point. Other forms of Allah’s remembrance such as Salatun Nabiy, Istigfar among others should be increased. We should befriend the books of supplication like Mafaateehul Jinaan, Dhiyaa’us Saaliheen and the like. And as the Zaria massacre was over 500 days, brothers should not relent in prayers for Allah’s retribution against the killers of innocent, armless and peace loving members of the Islamic Movement-December, 2015. So also our brothers being terrorised in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Palestine.
- Supplications: More than any other time, believers are encouraged to put in more efforts in this direction. Allah said “When My servants Ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed Close (to them); I respond To the prayer of every supplicant when he calleth on Me; Let them also, with a will listen to My call, And believe in Me; That they may walk in the right way” Q2: 186. So we must remain steadfast seeking Allah’s forgiveness and mercy for our humble selves, parents and beloved.
- Generosity: We should not neglect this important point. The prophet (S) has encouraged the Ummah, especially the rich, to do their best in this direction. The reward of kind gestures are totally incomparable with that of Ramadan. This is why singles and community Iftar were encouraged to help the needy. So also Zakatul fitrah at the eve of Sallah celebration.
- Tafseer Sessions: With regard to the traditional Tafseer and other relevant sessions, we must make sure that we put into practice the lessons therein as actions always speak louder. Also, we should accelerate our activities as the month moves on, assessing ourselves as the popular saying goes, assess yourself before you are assessed. Everyone can appraise his or her activities vis a vis the goal of fasting. “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self-restraint (al-taqwa)” Q2:183. Because whoever does not achieve it in the end has really missed the goal and failed the examination! “O you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere” Q2:153. In our self and general assessment, we should never forget that fasting is a special act of worship enjoined on Muslims with a clearly stated objective. And the objective has multiplier-effects in our socio – economic lives.
Among other significant historic events remembered in the month were the battle of Badr fought on the 17th day, two years after hijra. The believers were permitted to protect themselves from the persistent persecution of the Meccan pagans. Allah stated the great victory. “Assuredly Allah did help you in many battle – fields, And on the day of Hunain; Behold! Your great numbers elated you, but they availed you naught; the land. For all that it is wide, did constrain you, and ye turned back in retreat” Q9:25
Over 70 enemies of Islam were killed with about the same number taken as hostages! No one could imagine success for the believers with their little number and few arms when the unbelievers had more than tripled them and were fully armed to teeth! “Remember ye implored the assistance of your Lord, And He answered you; I will assist you with a thousand of the angels, Ranks and ranks” Q8:9 Allah has promised believers similar success forever provided they are steadfast and sincere in their faith! “O Prophet! Sufficient unto thee is Allah, and unto those who follow thee among the believers” Q7:64.
Another significant event was the birth of Imam Hasan al – Mujtaba (‘A). The Imam was born on 15th Ramadhan, three years after hijra. His father was the commander of the faithful, Imam Ali son of Abi Talib and mother Sayyidah Fatima, daughter of the noble prophet (S). At his birth, the prophet went to the house and took him in his blessed arms and recited Adhan and Iqama naming him al-Hasan! He was brought up under the patronage of his grandfather, the prophet (S). However, he was finally murdered on the orders of his father’s staunch enemy, Mu’awiya son of Abu Sufyan, 50 years AH by poisoning.
The martyrdom of Imam Ali, commander of the faithful by Mu’awiya’s tool – Ibn Muljim – on the 21st Ramadan, 40 years after hijra was part of the events. The Imam was attacked while leading the Morning Prayer at Kufa which led to his martyrdom few days later. “And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead; nay (they are) alive, but you do not perceive” Q2:154. Before his last breath, the Imam passed his lengthy will to his eldest son Imam Hasan, part of which reads; “… I advise you all my children, members of my family and everyone whom my writing reaches to fear Allah, to keep your affairs in order and to maintain good relations among yourselves for I have heard grandfather (the holy prophet) saying; improvement of mutual differences is better than general prayers and fasting.”
Imam Sadiq (‘A) has said “when you begin your day observing fasting, you should make sure that your hearing, your sight, your hair, your sink and all your organs are also observing fasting, that is abstaining from not only the forbidden acts but also the discommended ones”. Imam Ali Amir al-Mumineen (‘A) has said “too many are the fasting ones who suffer nothing but thirst. Likewise, too many are the worshippers who suffer nothing but fatigue. How wonderful the sleeping and eating of the courteous are!”
While urging our humble selves to keep in mind the above testimonies to make our fasting acceptable before Allah the Most High, I fervently pray for His continuous care, protection and deliverance to the oppressed servant Shaikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky (H) and his disciples.