Quarterly: Issue No 79
Rajab 1437 / April 2016
RAJAB - SHA’BAAN - RAMADAAN
All Praise be to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala - Glory be to Him, the Exalted) and peace and blessings of Allah he upon His beloved Messenger Muhammad, his family and all his companions. Ameen!
By the Grace and Mercy of Allah (SWT), the month of Ramadaan is once again before our door-step. It is a month which is awaited by believers because it contains many benefits and virtues. During the month of Shabaan, Friday sermons (Khutbas) often focus on the value of this great month. Verily, it is a month to increase our acts of worship (Ibaadah) because we have been created with the purpose of worshiping Allah alone.
Allah (SWT) says:
“I have not created jinn and mankind except to worship Me.”
(Surah al-Dhariyat: Chapter 51: Verse 56).
It is now the time to set habits which will make you benefit to the maximum in the month of Ramadaan. The key tasks from now on is preparation. Usamah ibn Zayd (Radiyallahu Anhu) reported: I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha’ban.’ He said, ‘That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadaan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up in the state when I am fasting.’ (Sunan Al-Nasa’i)
Generally, the word ‘taqwa’ is translated as ‘God-fearing’ or ‘piety’. The word ‘taqwa’ is derived from the root word ‘waqaya’ which means protection or protecting oneself.
In addition to the virtues of this blessed month of Ramadaan, it is important that we know the purpose of these acts of worship. In the Quran, Allah (SWT) clearly defines the purpose of fasting in the month of Ramadaan as follows:
“O you who believe! Fasting has been made mandatory for you as it was made mandatory for those before you, so that you may become god-fearing (Al-Muttaqoon).”
(Surah Al-Baqarah: Chapter 2: Verse 184).
Sayyiduna Ubay Ibn Ka’b (Radiyallahu Anhu) gave a comprehensive explanation of ‘taqwa’ in response to a query from Caliph Umar Farooq (Radiyallahu Anhuma). Sayyiduna Ka’b asked: “O Amirul Momineen! Have you ever walked on a path full of thorns?” Caliph Umar replied, “Yes”. Sayyiduna Ka’b then asked, “What did you do?” In reply, Caliph Umar said: “I gathered my clothing and lifted it up to my shin, thereafter I watched my steps and took each step carefully from the fear of thorns lest they prick me”. Hadrat Ka’b said, “This is taqwa”.
In Sayyiduna Ka’b’s definition of ‘taqwa’, the world is a like a passage full of thorns (sins) in which a believer treads through very carefully saving himself from the harm of sinful actions and attractions by adhering to the commands and prohibitions of Allah and His beloved Messenger Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam).
In the light of this anecdote, we can understand that ‘taqwa’ is a quality that makes the believer to protect himself from sins. Satanic temptations are around us, especially in our society that we call “modern.” Even in our house we are not immune from satanic influences through the social media and satellite television. The servant who has acquired ‘taqwa’ avoids the traps set by Satan and thus protects himself from committing evil deeds.
Human beings are weak and susceptible to fall into error and sin. It takes a little distraction and heedlessness to slip from virtue to vice and from piety to perversity. To protect men and women straying from the path of righteousness and falling into transgression, Islam has carefully planned out spiritual programs on a daily and yearly basis for its adherents. If followed sincerely and faithfully it will greatly minimize the chance of straying away from the right course.
Among the various program intended to awaken the spiritual life of a believer, Ramadaan, the month of fasting, contains the most intense training to instill ‘taqwa’ in the hearts of believers.
The great significance of Ramadaan can be seen from the love and yearning the Holy Prophet showed for the month. He used to start preparing for Ramadaan two months in advance in Rajab with the supplication, “O Allah, make the months of Rajab and Sha’ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadaan (i.e. allow us to live till this coming Ramadaan so that we may benefit from its numerous blessings).”
Of all the righteous deeds connected with Ramadaan, fasting is the only main distinguishing obligatory feature.
As the heart is the spiritual centre of the human soul, the belly is the centre of sensual appetite. When the belly is pampered, the fleshly desires are stimulated, which in turn may lead to sin and arrogance and disinvest one of ‘taqwa’. On the other hand, controlling one’s appetite and eating just enough to satisfy hunger keeps a person away from lust and evil thoughts and the weakness of soul that comes with the over indulgence of food. A belly filled to brim tends to be rebellious, while a bit empty stomach remains calm and conforming. Hence the Prophet (SAW) advised moderation in consuming food and drink, he said: “A human being does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. Enough for the son of Adam are a few morsels to keep his back straight. If it cannot be avoided, then a third is for food, a third for drink, and a third for breath.” (Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Maajah)
The Prophet (SAW) also said:
“The believer eats with one stomach while the kaafir eats with seven stomachs.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
This means that the believer eats with the manners of Islam and in moderation, while the kaafir eats based on desires and gluttony and so he eats with seven stomachs.”
Fasting in the ordinary sense of the word simply means depriving the flesh from the pleasure of food and drink. The Ramadaan fast also means the same. However, the physical abstinence from food and drink combined with the intent to obey and worship Allah, takes a higher and nobler dimension, and it becomes the nourishment of the soul.
However, a mere voluntarily abstaining from food and drink is not enough for the fast to be accepted or effective in purifying the soul and inculcating ‘taqwa’. With giving up food and drink, it is imperative that the fasting person must also faithfully heed all prohibitions and perform all duties prescribed by Allah and His Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet (SAW) made this point abundantly clear in more than one of his sayings. At one occasion he said:
“Whoever does not give up false statements (telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (fasting).” (Bukhari)
In an another hadith, the Holy Prophet (SAW) warned:
“There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger, and there are those who pray and get nothing from their prayer but a sleepless night.” (Ibn Maajah)
Unfortunately, we notice that each year after Ramadaan, many Muslims revert to what they were before this mubarak month. The masjids are no longer filled as they were during the month of Ramadaan. Salaah (prayer), Qur’an-reading, good character, charity and all good works are neglected. And many still let themselves once again be carried away by recklessness and evil. How can we really know if we have succeeded in reaping the benefits of the month of Ramadaan, or if we have benefitted from our Ibaadah and have acquired ‘taqwa’?
Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (RA) reported that a person came to the Holy Prophet (SAW) and told him so and so prays during the night but steals in the morning. The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied: “Certainly his prayer prevents him (from that act).” (Musnad Ahmad, and Ibn Hibban).
In light of this Hadith, we can conclude that prayer and any act of worship prevents the servant of Allah from all sins. This is what Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:
“Surely prayer (salaah) keeps one away from indecency and evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest. And Allah knows what you do.” (Surah Al-Ankaboot: Chapter 29: Verse 46).
Indeed, the one who really reaps the benefits of his efforts during Ramadaan is the one whose condition after this great month is better than before. He is ready to obey, desiring to do good deeds and quick to perform the acts required because he has taken advantage of that great school (that is, Ramadaan). He fears that his fast may not accepted for indeed Allah (SWT) accepts from only those who have ‘taqwa’.
It has been reported from Caliph Ali (RA) that he had once said: “Be more concern with the acceptance of your deeds than the act itself. Haven’t you heard what Allah (SWT) says:
“Allah only accepts from those who have taqwa (guard against evil).” (Surah Al-Ma’idah: Chapter 5: Verse 28).
Sayyiduna Abu Dharr (RA) reported Allah's Messenger (SAW) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, stated: “He who comes with goodness, there are in store for him ten like those and even more than those: And he who comes with vice, it is only for that which he is called to account. I even forgive him (as I like). And he who draws close to Me by the span of a palm I draw close to him by the cubit, and he who draws close to Me by the cubit I draw close to him by the space (covered) by two hands, and he who walks towards Me I rush towards him, and he who meets Me in the state that his sins fill the earth, but not associating anything with Me, I would meet Him with the same (vastness) of pardon (on My behalf).” (Sahih Muslim)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported Allah's Messenger (SAW) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, stated: “I live in the thought of My servant as he thinks about Me, and I am with him, as he remembers Me. And if he remembers Me in his heart, I also remember him in My Heart, and if he remembers Me in assembly I remember him in My Assembly, better than he does, and if he draws near Me by the span of a palm I draw near him by the cubit, and if he draws near Me by the cubit I draw near him by the space (covered by) two hands. And if he walks towards Me, I rush towards him.” (Sahih Muslim)
If we Muslims really want to take advantage of this Mubarak month of Ramadaan, we will have to observe this month with clearly defined objective in our minds - that is to achieve ‘taqwa’. May Allah give us the Tawfiq to achieve this with all the respect and care it truly deserves. Ameen.
May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad, the WITNESS to all Mankind. Ameen.
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Requesting your humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa