By Sheikh Muhammad Turi
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.
Let me start by congratulating the Muslim – ummah on the advent of this great month, Ramadan Kareem which is a special gift from Allah for mercy and forgiveness! As the ninth month of Islamic calendar, it is highly revered, respected and welcomed by all. The historic events of this month include the Badar day, death of Sayyidah Khadijah and Abi Talib (may Allah have mercy on them) and the birth of Imam Hasan son of Aliy son of Abi Talib (as) among others.
The piece I write is not on the jurisprudential aspect but a general overview on the fast. No doubt, the month is an opportunity from Allah for the Ummah to draw closer to Him. But there are very essential points for all believers to take note of. Whoever wishes to benefit from the endless bounties of Allah of this month should guard his or her sayings and actions from deviation from the teachings of Islam.
Whenever the Ramadan comes the prophet would deliver his popular khutbah on his pulpit elucidating the virtues of Ramadan and the laid down conditions for whoever wishes to benefit from. Because fasting is not just to keep away from the physical needs of the body but as one fasts all parts of his or her body like the tongue, legs, eyes and hands must fast as well. It is by this only that one can attain the taqwa, the achievable ultimate goal for the fast!
In the prophet’s sermon welcoming the Ramadan fast he said: O people! The month of Allah has approached you with His 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 and four months) Allah great!
Fasting as pillar in Islam is abstention from legitimate eating, drinking and sexual pleasures from down until the cover of night.
THE RATIONALE BEHIND FASTING
As the Qur’an indicated, attainment of taqwa at individual and societal levels is the ultimate goal for which fasting was prescribed. Taqwa literally means self-restraint. However, 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 those that fast accordingly. In a prominent hadeeth, the messenger of Allah has said “He who does not abandon the speaking of falsehood and the doing (of things) like that, Allah has no need of his leaving off his food and drink”
RELEVANCE OF TAQWA TO OUR DAILY LIFE
Muslims all over the world fast in Ramadan. No doubt, if this worship is done accordingly it actualizes attainment of the much needed taqwa which can help solve all the socio – economic problems of our nation with positive multiplier effects.
Generally speaking, we are strongly encouraged to put more effort in the following areas so as to acquire the pleasure of Allah in this month namely;
1. QUR’ANIC RECITATION
Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an as Allah says “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 everyone of You Who is present (at his home) During that month should spend it in fasting …..” Q2: 185.
So we are all expected to put more effort in the recitation of the noble Qur’an in this month and it is not only to read but to meditate and put the teachings into actions as emphasized by the noble prophet (s). Some brothers and sisters engage in special Qur’anic recitation sessions in Ramadan, organized by some schools, mosques and Islamic centres which is a very important initiative. Some internationally recognized educational centres/organizations especially in Iran on the other hand organize international Qur’anic recitation competitions where the best competitors are highly rewarded with a view to improving moral and academic excellence in the field.
Ordinarily, every Muslim is encouraged to have a personal routine for Qur’anic recitation advisably once a month. But when it comes to Ramadan, the emphasis is relatively higher to reflect the prophetic teachings to which the pious predecessors strictly complied with. The Qur’an could be recited at any time at individual level or in group. All other forms of Zikr are equally important and encouraged for the believers to embrace at this significant period. “Then do ye remember Me; I will remember You. Be grateful to Me, and reject not faith” Q2: 152
2. SUPEROGATORY PRAYERS
“O you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere” Q2:153.
Beside the compulsory prayers, the superogatory are also well rewarded acts in this month. The Taraweeh and Tahajjud are commonly known and well attended in most parts of the Muslim world. Such prayers whether said in congregations or individually but amidst other worshippers serves as catalyst.
However, the followers of the school of Ahlul–bait have a very comprehensive package for Ramadan. For example, the brothers are very conversant with the a thousand raka’ats prayer split across the month on a given specification based on the narration of Imam Jaafar al–Saadiq (as).
As a way of encouragement, the relevant supplications after each two raka’ats compiled by Sheikh Zakzaky (H) are reprinted yearly for the past fifteen years. We strongly encourage on the need to embark on continuous prayers for Allah to solve the impending predicament of this Ummah.
In addition to that, we have many other forms of superogatory prayers said at different times with sole aim of drawing closer to Allah the most high. For more on this, one can refer to books of supplication such as Mafaateehul Jinaan, Dhiyaa’us Saalihee, Iqbaalul aamaal and Aamaalu – Ramadan specially designed for the month are very elaborative on this.
“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.
Although Allah always answers the prayers of His servants, but by virture of Ramadan prayers which are also a form of worship are more encouraged in the month. The school of Ahlul–bait has great reservoir of those prayers. We have special set of prayers for relatively all historical events. For Ramadan, beside the normal taaqeebats, we have the specific prayers narrated for recitation; daily, after every compulsory prayer, night prayers – iftitah, Sahur and for the nights of majesty; Layaalil Qadr among others.
We can refer to the same set of books; Mafaateehul Jinaan, Dhiyaa’us saaliheen, Iqbaalul aamaal and Aamaaul – Ramadan among others for these and other inevitable prayers as taught by the noble messenger (s).
4. KINDNESS TO THE WEAK
“They ask thee what they should spend (in charity). Say whatever wealth ye spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever ye do that is good, Allah knoweth it all” Q2:216.
Feeding the weak is commonly known as one of the highly encouraged recommended acts in this month. The believers are mobilized to participate in this gesture to the best of their ability. One can either supply the food items or provide for direct consumption to the needy, so also gift of clothing and other humanitarian aids. Another form of highly rewarded assistance is provision of discount to our customers for at least 10% to welcome the Ramadan Kareem.
5. MAJAALISUT TAFSEER
Another important activity in this month is Tafseer sessions in particular and other forms of education – based sessions in general. The Islamic scholars that run these programmes should advisably protect the interest of the Ummah and dwell on the significant unifying factors rather than divisive. They should keep in mind that they should also be fully accountable to Allah for all their actions.
As the month runs out, we are always encouraged further to put more effort to acquire the pleasure of Allah especially towards the end in the Layalil qadr. As we pray to get aboard in the fast approaching spiritual journey, we encourage all Muslims to do their best sincerely as commanded by Allah and practically described by the noble messenger so that we may achieve the ultimate goal behind fasting, attainment of Taqwa as clearly expressed by the above verse!
No doubt the much needed Taqwa which is lacking in the society is the root cause of our predicament. Therefore, we should try our best to achieve it as the popular saying goes fear of Allah is the beginning of wisdom!
While praying for a successful and result – oriented Ramadan Kareem, I wish the Muslim ummah happy fasting in advance!