Allah, The Most High, said:
"The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance of the Criterion between right and wrong. So whosoever of you sights the crescent for the month of Ramadan, he must fast that month." (Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:"
Islam is built upon five: Testifying that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the Prayer, giving the Zakah, performing Hajj to the House, and fasting in Ramadan." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
"There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month, in which Allah has made it obligatory to fast. During it the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hellfire are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained. In it is a night (Laylatul Qadr) which is better than a thousand months. He who is deprived of its good truly has been deprived." (An-Nasa’i)
From the many important lessons to be learnt from fasting are:
Fasting has been legislated in order that we may gain taqwa:
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed upon those before you in order that you may attain taqwa." (Al-Baqarah, 2:183)
Talq ibn Habeeb, may God have mercy on him, said: "When fitnah (trials and tribulations) appears then extinguish it with taqwa." So he was asked as to what taqwa was, so he replied: "Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light (i.e. Iman, faith) from Allah, hoping in the Mercy of Allah. And taqwa is leaving the acts of disobedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, due to the fear of Allah."
This is one of the best definitions of taqwa. For every action must have both a starting point and a goal. And an action will not be considered as an act of obedience, or nearness to Allah, unless it starts from pure Iman (faith in Allah). Thus it is pure Iman – and not habits, desires, nor seeking praise or fame, nor it’s like – that should be what initiates the action. And the [goal of the] action should be to earn the reward of Allah and to seek His good pleasure."
|Has this fasting made us more fearful and obedient to Allah?|
So fasting is a means of attaining taqwa, since it helps prevent from many sins that one is prone to. Due to this, the Prophet said: "Fasting is a shield with which the servant protects himself from the Fire." So we should ask ourselves, after each day of fasting: Has this fasting made us more fearful and obedient to Allah? Has it aided us in distancing ourselves from sins and disobedience?
Nearness to Allah
The Prophet said:
"Allah said: Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the obligatory duties that I have placed upon him. My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with optional deeds so that I shall love him." (Al-Bukhari)
"Whosoever reaches the month of Ramadan and does not have his sins forgiven, and so enters the fire, then may Allah distance him." (Musnad Ahmad)
So drawing closer to Allah, the Most Perfect, in this blessed month, can be achieved by fulfilling one’s obligatory duties; and also reciting the Qur’an and reflecting upon its meanings, increasing in kindness and in giving charity, in making du’as (supplication) to Allah, attending the tarawih prayer, seeking out Laylatul-Qadr (the Night of Power), a night which is better than a thousand months, attending gatherings of knowledge, and striving in those actions that will cause the heart to draw closer to its Lord and to gain His forgiveness.Thus, our level of striving in this blessed month should be greater than our striving to worship Allah in any other month, due to the excellence and rewards that Allah has placed in it.
Likewise from the great means of seeking nearness to Allah in this month is making I`tikaf (seclusion in the mosque in order to worship Allah) – for whoever is able.
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim, may God have mercy on him, said: "Allah also prescribed I`tikaf for them, the objective being that the heart becomes fully preoccupied with Allah, concentrated upon Him alone, and cut-off from being preoccupied with the creation. Rather, the heart is only engrossed with God such that loving Him, remembering Him, and turning to Him takes the place of all the heart’s anxieties and worries, so that he is able to overcome them. Thus all his concerns are for Allah, and his thoughts are all directed towards remembering Him and thinking of how to attain His pleasure and what will cause nearness to Him and what leads him to feel contended with God instead of people. This in turn prepares him for being at peace with Allah alone, on the day of loneliness in the grave, when there will be no one else to give comfort, nor anyone to grant solace, except Him. So this is the greater goal of I’tikaf.”
|With patience we are able to strengthen our resolve to worship Allah alone, with sincerity, and also cope with life’s ups and downs|
Imam Ahmad, may God have mercy on him, said: "Allah has mentioned Sabr (patience) in over ninety places in His Book."
The Prophet said:
"The month of Patience and the three days of every month are times for fasting." (Ahmad and an-Nasa’i)
"O youths! Whoever amongst you is able to marry then let him do so; for it restrains the eyes and protects the private parts. But whoever is unable then let him fast, because it will be a shield for him." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
So fasting is a means of learning self-restraint and patience. With patience we are able to strengthen our resolve to worship Allah alone, with sincerity, and also cope with life’s ups and downs. So – for example – with patience we are able to perform our Prayers calmly and correctly, without being hasty, and without merely pecking the ground several times! With patience we are able to restrain our souls from greed and stinginess and thus give part of our surplus wealth in Zakah (obligatory charity).
With patience we are able to subdue the soul’s ill temperament, and thus endure the ordeal and hardships of Hajj, without losing tempers and behaving badly. Likewise, with patience we are able to stand firm and fight Jihad against the disbelievers, hypocrites and heretics – withstanding their constant onslaught, without wavering and buckling, without despairing or being complacent, and without becoming hasty and impatient at the first signs of hardship:
"O Prophet, urge the Believers to fight … So if there are one hundred who are patient, they shall overcome two hundred; and if there be one thousand, they shall overcome two thousand, by the permission of Allah. And Allah is with the patient ones." (Al-Anfal, 8:65-66)
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
"Whosoever does not abandon falsehood in speech and action, then Allah the Mighty and Majestic has no need that he should leave his food and drink." (Al-Bukhari)
"Fasting is not merely abstaining from eating and drinking. Rather, it is also abstaining from ignorant and indecent speech. So if anyone abuses or behaves ignorantly with you, then say: I am fasting, I am fasting."
These narrations point towards the importance of truthfulness and good manners. Thus, this blessed month teaches us not only to abstain from food and drink, but to also abstain from such statements and actions that may be the cause of harming people and violating their rights – since the prophet said describing the true believer:
"A Muslim is one from whom other Muslims are safe from his tongue and his hand." (Al-Bukhari)
Thus it is upon us as individuals, to examine the shortcomings in our character, and to then seek to improve them; modeling ourselves upon the character of the last of the prophets and messengers, and their leader, Muhammad, peace be upon him, aspiring also for the excellence which he mentioned in his saying:
"I am a guarantor for a house on the outskirts of Paradise for whoever leaves off arguing, even if he is in right; and a house in the centre of Paradise for whosoever abandons falsehood, even when joking; and a house in the upper-most of Paradise for whosoever makes his character good." (Abu Dawud and Al-Bayhaqi)
So by shunning oppression, shamelessness, harboring hatred towards Muslims, back-biting, slandering, tale-carrying, and other types of falsehood, we can be saved from nullifying the rewards of our fasting – as Allah’s Messenger said:
"It may be that a fasting person receives nothing from his fast, except hunger and thirst." (Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
|Islam lays great importance in bringing hearts together and encouraging collectiveness.|
In this blessed month we can sense an increased feeling of unity and of being a single Ummah due to our fasting and breaking our fast collectively. We also feel an increased awareness about the state of affairs of the Muslims and of the hardships that they endure, because: "During the fast, a Muslim feels and experiences what his needy and hungry brothers and sisters feel, who are forced to go without food and drink for many days – as occurs today to many of the Muslims in Africa." (Sheikh Ibn Baz)
The Prophet said:
"Fast when they fast, and break your fast when they break their fast, and sacrifice the day they sacrifice." (At-Tirmidhi)
Imam At-Tirmidhi, may God have mercy on him, said: "Some of the People of Knowledge explained this Hadith by saying: Its meaning is to fast and break the fast along with the Jama`ah (congregation) and the majority of people."
Indeed, the unity of the Muslims; their aiding and assisting one another, is one of the great fundamentals upon which the Religion of Islam is built:
"And hold fast altogether to the rope of Allah and do not be divided." (Al `Imran, 3:103).
"The Believers- men and women - are friends and protectors of one another." (Al-Tawbah, 9:44)
Thus we see that Islam lays great importance in bringing hearts together and encouraging collectiveness. This is not only reflected in the month of Ramadan, but also in the other acts of worship as well.
So, for example, we have been ordered by the Prophet to pray the five daily Prayers in congregation, and that its reward has been made twenty-seven times the reward of praying it individually. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Likewise, this similar collective spirit is demonstrated in the act of Hajj (Pilgrimage). Even in learning knowledge and studying it, blessings have been placed in collectiveness, as Allah’s Messenger said:
"No people gather in a house from the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it amongst themselves, except that tranquility descends upon them, mercy envelops them, the angels surround him, and Allah mentions them to those that are with Him." (Muslim)
Even in our everyday actions such as, eating, Islam teaches us collectiveness. Thus, when some of the companions of the Prophet said to him:
O Messenger of Allah, we eat but to do not become satisfied.
He replied: "Perhaps you eat individually?"
They replied: Yes!
So he said: "Eat collectively and mention the name of Allah. There will then be blessings for you in it." (Abu Dawud)
Thus, Ramadan is a time to increase our sense of unity and brotherhood, and our commitment to Allah and His religion. And there is no doubt that this sense of unity necessitates that: "We work together as required by Islam as sincere brothers – not due to bigoted party spirit, nor sectarianism – in order to realize that which is of benefit to the Islamic Ummah and to establish the Islamic society that every Muslim aspires for – so that the Shari’ah of Allah is applied upon His earth."
So we must examine ourselves during Ramadan and ask: What is my role – and each of us has a role – in helping this precious Ummah to regain its honor, and return to the Ummah its comprehensive unity and strength, and victory that has been promised to it? Likewise, we should reflect upon our character and actions and ask: Are they aiding the process of unity and brotherhood, or are they a harm and a hindrance to it?
So we ask Allah to grant us the ability to change ourselves for the better, during this blessed month, and not to be of those who are prevented from His mercy and forgiveness. Indeed He is the One who hears and He is the One to respond.
Related Links:Objectives of Fasting and Ramadan
Perfecting Our Character
How to Get a Ramadan Full of Blessings?
Inner Dimension of Fasting
Believers' Love For One Another