Meaning of Ramadan
Fasting during Ramadan was
ordained during the second year of Hijrah. Why not earlier? In Makkah the economic
conditions of the Muslims were bad. They were being persecuted. Often days would
go by before they had anything to eat. It is easy to skip meals if you dont
have any. Obviously fasting would have been easier under the circumstances.
So why not then?
The answer may be that Ramadan
is not only about skipping meals. While fasting is an integral and paramount
part of it, Ramadan offers a comprehensive program for our spiritual overhaul.
The entire program required the peace and security that was offered by Madinah.
Yes, Ramadan is the most
important month of the year. It is the month that the believers await with eagerness.
At the beginning of Rajab --- two full months before Ramadan --- the Prophet
Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to supplicate thus: "O
Allah! Bless us during Rajab and Shaban, and let us reach Ramadan (in
During Ramadan the believers
get busy seeking Allahs mercy, forgiveness, and protection from Hellfire.
This is the month for renewing our commitment and re-establishing our relationship
with our Creator. It is the spring season for goodness and virtues when righteousness
blossoms throughout the Muslim communities. "If we combine all the blessings
of the other eleven months, they would not add up to the blessings of Ramadan,"
said the great scholar and reformer Shaikh Ahmed Farooqi (Mujaddad Alif Thani).
It offers every Muslim an opportunity to strengthen his Iman, purify
his heart and soul, and to remove the evil effects of the sins committed by
"Anyone who fasts during
this month with purity of belief and with expectation of a good reward (from
his Creator), will have his previous sins forgiven," said Prophet Muhammad,
Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. "Anyone who stands in prayers during
its nights with purity of belief and expectation of a reward, will have his
previous sins forgiven." As other ahadith tell us, the rewards for
good deeds are multiplied manifold during Ramadan.
Along with the possibility
of a great reward, there is the risk of a terrible loss. If we let any other
month pass by carelessly, we just lost a month. If we do the same during Ramadan,
we have lost everything. The person who misses just one days fast without
a legitimate reason, cannot really make up for it even if he were to
fast everyday for the rest of his life. And of the three persons that Prophet,
Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam cursed, one is the unfortunate Muslim who
finds Ramadan in good health but does not use the opportunity to seek Allahs
One who does not fast is
obviously in this category, but so also is the person who fasts and prays but
makes no effort to stay away from sins or attain purity of the heart through
the numerous opportunities offered by Ramadan. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi
wa sallam, warned us: "There are those who get nothing from their fast
but hunger and thirst. There are those who get nothing from their nightly prayers
but loss of sleep."
Those who understood this,
for them Ramadan was indeed a very special month. In addition to fasting, mandatory
Salat, and extra Travih Salat, they spent the whole month in acts of
worship like voluntary Salat, Tilawa (recitation of Quran),
Dhikr etc. After mentioning that this has been the tradition of the pious
people of this Ummah throughout the centuries, Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi notes:
" I have seen with my own eyes such ulema and mashaikh who
used to finish recitation of the entire Quran everyday during Ramadan.
They spent almost the entire night in prayers. They used to eat so little that
one wondered how they could endure all this. These greats valued every moment
of Ramadan and would not waste any of it in any other pursuit
them made one believe the astounding stories of Ibada and devotion of
our elders recorded by history."
This emphasis on these acts
of worship may sound strange --- even misplaced --- to some. It requires some
explanation. We know that the term Ibada (worship and obedience) in Islam
applies not only to the formal acts of worship and devotion like Salat
, Tilawa, and Dhikr, but it also applies to worldly acts when
performed in obedience to Shariah and with the intention of pleasing
Allah. Thus a believer going to work is performing Ibada when he seeks
Halal income to discharge his responsibility as a bread-winner for the
family. However a distinction must be made between the two. The first category
consists of direct Ibada, acts that are required for their own sake.
The second category consists of indirect Ibada --- worldly acts that
become Ibada through proper intention and observation of Shariah.
While the second category is important for it extends the idea of Ibada
to our entire life, there is also a danger because by their very nature these
acts can camouflage other motives. (Is my going to work really Ibada
or am I actually in the rat race?). Here the direct Ibada comes to the
rescue. Through them we can purify our motives, and re-establish our relationship
Islam does not approve of
monasticism. It does not ask us to permanently isolate ourselves from this world,
since our test is in living here according to the Commands of our Creator. But
it does ask us to take periodic breaks from it. The mandatory Salat (five
daily prayers) is one example. For a few minutes every so many hours throughout
the day, we leave the affairs of this world and appear before Allah to remind
ourselves that none but He is worthy of worship and of our unfaltering obedience.
Ramadan takes this to the next higher plane, providing intense training for
a whole month.
This spirit is captured
in Itikaf, a unique Ibada associated with Ramadan, in which a person gives
up all his normal activities and enters a mosque for a specific period. There
is great merit in it and every Muslim community is encouraged to provide at
least one person who will perform Itikaf for the last ten days of Ramadan.
But even those who cannot spare ten days are encouraged to spend as much time
in the mosque as possible.
Through direct Ibada we
"charge our batteries"; the indirect ones allow us to use the power
so accumulated in driving the vehicle of our life. Ramadan is the month for
rebuilding our spiritual strength. How much we benefit from it is up to us.
[reproduced with permission
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:05:01 AM
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