By Yusuf Abdullahi
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 peace and blessings of Allah be upon His chosen servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
Let me start by correcting an oversight in the last discourse on the date of Imam Khomeini’s demise published as 6th June, 1989 as against 4th.
Congratulations to Muslims all over the world on the advent of this great month of fasting. Ramadhan is tantamount to a school where students are trained and examined to achieve a desired result. So it is necessary for all Muslims to assess the validity of their fast vise a vise the declared goal in the light of the verse above.
WELCOMING THE RAMADAN 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, four months) Allah is great!
Fasting as a pillar in Islam is abstention from legitimate eating, drinking, and sexual pleasures from down until the cover of night. Based on a well known tradition, only Allah knows the reward magnitude of someone that fasts. Thus fasting draws one nearer to Allah provided it is done as described by the messenger (s).
The piece I of this week is on the Ramadhan fast. However, it is imperative to glance some historic events;
THE YEAR OF SORROW
In a similar month, the prophet lost his beloved wife Sayyidah Khadijah and compassionate Uncle Abu Talib, father of Imam Ali, the commander of the faithful. The year was referred as the year of sorrow in Islamic history.
Sayyidah Khadijah was the first wife of the noble messenger. She was a prominent lady known for her piety, compassion and generosity before revelation for which she was referred as pure among other names. The prophet has related the success of Islam to her wealth, sword of Ali in defense of the religion and protection of Abu Talib! She spent good fifteen years with prophet and throughout their stay he did not marry any other woman. In fact, Islamic scholars have generally related the logic of his marriages to compassionate and political grounds. Sayyida was given glad tidings of Allah’s abundant reward in the hereafter!
Abu Talib on the other hand was the father of Imam Ali. Although the enemies of his son have rejected his faith, but he believed in Allah and noble prophet. Undoubtedly, he gave unequalled care and protection to the noble prophet to the end of his life.
THE WAR OF BADR
The battle of Badr was fought on the 19th of the holy month. While fasting, the believers were faced with the persecution of Meccan pagans under the leadership of Abu Sufyan. However Allah helped them with great victory killing seventy enemies and taking similar hostages! “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
No one could imagine success for the believers with their little number and few arms when the unbelievers have multiplied them and were armed to teeth! Allah has promised similar victory to believers provided they are steadfast and sincere in faith! “O Prophet! Sufficient unto thee is Allah, And unto those Who follow thee Among the Believers” Q7:64
BIRTH OF IMAM HASAN (AS)
Imam Hasan al – Mujtaba (as) was born on the 15th of Ramadhan, 3 years after hijra to the family of the noble prophet (s). His father was the commander of the faithful, Imam Ali son of Abi Talib and mother Sayyidah Fatima daughter of the noble prophet (s).
When the young Imam was born, the prophet (s) went to the house and took the baby in his blessed arms and recited Adhan and Iqama naming him al – Hasan! The Imam was brought up under the patronage of his grandfather. But he was finally martyred on the orders of Mu’awiya!
MARTYRDOM OF IMAM ALI (AS)
The commander of the faithful, Imam Ali was fatally wounded with a poisoned sword by Ibn Muljam on the orders of Mu’awiya on 21st Ramadan, 40 years after hijra. The Imam was struck while leading the Morning Prayer at Kufa. “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 a lengthy will to his eldest son part of which; “… I advice you (both), 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…”
THE RATIONALE BEHIND 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.
No doubt application of taqwa has significant relevance at our individual and societal life. If the worship were done accordingly, self – restraint could be achieved which would result in solving predicament of our bedeviled nation. A believer sincerely observing the worship abstains from eating and drinking no matter how hungry and thirsty he/she might be because of the fear of Allah. So, it is this fear of Allah considered beginning of wisdom that is expected to be observed at all places and times. We should observe taqwa in our offices, markets, farms and all other places with regard to individual or the nation in general.
Obviously, we need to ask ourselves at this juncture, at individual and collective levels; what impact did the fasting make in my life? Does it make any difference in our socio – economic lives? It is very important that we assess the validity of the fasting vise a vise the stated goal so as to check ourselves and the society morally and spiritually in a multi – faceted perspectives.
It is very clear that lack of piety is the cause of our predicament in Nigeria. The economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC), the independent corrupt practices commission (ICPC) and Public conduct bureau were established to counter corruption but it is paradoxically on the increase. We may ask to what extent could these and other relevant agencies achieve their goals? Unfortunately, many personals are part of the corruption they are tasked to destroy!
From the political perspective, Islam considers power as a trust vested on the political power holders. As such a leader with taqwa considers self as custodian of the people and the power that he/she must seriously guard. It is pertinent to emphasize the need for all office holders to think and work in this direction. They should know that Allah is aware of all they do and cannot hide away from His vigilance. Abuse of power in any way attracts the wrath of Allah; therefore all power holders must take care to protect themselves from annihilation.
Should the president, governors and their cabinets, members of the upper and lower houses, political appointees and the local government executives on a serious note adhere to this, the story will be different! Misappropriation of public funds and embezzlement should not be the order of the day! Take lessons from your predecessors from among the dead, removed and retired so that you may act uprightly and contribute your best for the betterment of the common man in aspiration of the mercy of Allah.
Of all the acts of worship in the month, Qur’anic recitation is considered the highest. 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 everyone of You Who is present (at his home) During that month should spend it in fasting …” Q2: 185
There are so many forms of superegatory prayers performed day and night that we should stick to. We should also not relent to pray for our parents, scholars , family members and our oppressed Ummah. “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 keep all the good forms of worship we do and extend our night prayers seeking Allah’s forgiveness and mercy.
We should not forget the Islamic economic system of charity. Apart from Zakatul – fitr distributed to the less privileged at the eve of Sallah ceremony, the month generally encourages humanitarian assistance to the poor and the destitute.
THE TRADITIONAL TAFSEER
The Tafseer or Qur’anic exegesis delivered by scholars also deserves comment. It is very unfortunate that most of them do not mind the interest of the religion. In fact some are engaged in activities detrimental to the unity and cohesion of the Ummah. Their leaders draw their attention on specific areas of their interest instead of a sincere interpretation as revealed by Allah the Most High.
The scholars must fear Allah and teach their audience the message as revealed to the noble prophet. They should keep in mind that they will be accountable to Allah on the day of judgement.
THE INTERNATIONAL QUDS DAY
The International Quds day was declared by Imam Khomeini in 1979 to express solidarity and unflinching support to Palestinians and other oppressed of the world. Observed on the last Friday of every Ramadan, the event is well attended by human rights activists and civil liberties organizations across the world.
Finally, I call on all Muslims to strictly adhere to the rules to attain the taqwa, an inevitable tool for our societal reform, we should not forget to fervently pray to Allah to salvage the Ummah from its predicament.