The month of Ramadhan is approaching and the majority of us will have to continue our usual lifestyles to some extent; we will have to attend school whilst others will have to go to work; the women in the house will also have their daily household duties of cooking and cleaning.
However, the month of Ramadhan necessitates and demands a change in our day-to-day life; a change which will enforce upon us self control and spiritual recognition.
Ramadhan brings with it opportunities for a fresh start; it is a cocktail of mercy, forgiveness, salvation and blessings. This cocktail contains all the ingredients that are required for spiritual increment and fortification.
Therefore, a person is required, by Shari’ah, to ensure that preparations have been made to fulfil all the requirements for an uplifting Ramadhan, and that a person continues to strive in the month of Ramadhan to gain the salvation from the Fire of Hell.
As mentioned above, these preparations are an obligation upon each and every man who is present in the month of Ramdhan:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِنَ الْهُدَى وَالْفُرْقَانِ فَمَنْ شَهِدَ مِنْكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ وَمَنْ كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَى مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:185]
The month of Ramadhan is that within which the Qur’an was sent down, (it is) a guide for mankind and (contains) clear signs of guidance and differentiating (between right and wrong). Therefore, whosoever is present during this month should fast; and whosoever is ill, or on a journey, then the prescribed period (should be made up) in other days. Allah intends ease and He does not intend any difficulties (upon you). (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him In that He has guided you; and so that you may be grateful.
In the above verse Allah states that Ramadhan is the month within which the Qur’an was revealed; the book of Allah, which contains the qualities of guidance and differentiating between right and wrong. It can be depicted from this portion of the verse that the month of Ramadhan also contains the same qualities as the Qur’an and therefore it was revealed within this month to emphasise these qualities.
Ramadhan is a month of guidance, it endeavours to make man realise the path he is upon and what he can do to rectify errors in this path; effort in this month will allow an individual to manoeuvre from the path of worldly desires and satisfaction to that which leads to Allah and His pleasure.
Similarly, the month of Ramadhan improvises in increasing the judgement of an individual in a manner that it stimulates the thinking of a believer towards the commandment of Allah during the month of Ramadhan. In this month, the main prohibitions, during fasting, are of eating, drinking and intercourse. However, these are activities which are not prohibited for mankind in any other month. Thus through this prohibition we are taught a greater level of self control for an entire month. We strive to strengthen this self control in such a manner that along with those things which are impermissible in all twelve months, we also refrain from other activities which are impermissible specifically for this month.
One our will power has been strengthened, our spiritual status elevated, our self restraint fortified, our attitudes changed, our lifestyles dedicated and our vision and aim contains nothing but the pleasure of Allah through the hard work and effort placed within this month we will have achieved the true blessings of this month and will be able to continue throughout the remaining eleven months worshipping and pleasing Allah.
In the above Qur’anic verse, Allah clearly states that a person who is present in the month of Ramadhan is required to fast the obligatory fasts; this order entails the requirement to maintain the etiquettes, manners and necessities for of the fast; for fasting literally means “to abstain.” This meaning of abstention and refraining has been mentioned in the Qur’an in the following words:
فَكُلِي وَاشْرَبِي وَقَرِّي عَيْنًا فَإِمَّا تَرَيِنَّ مِنَ الْبَشَرِ أَحَدًا فَقُولِي إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنْسِيًّا َ
[Surah Maryam – 19:26]
So eat and drink and be consoled, and if you see any human being, say: ‘Indeed I have vowed a fast unto the Most Beneficent (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.’
In the above verse the word صوما is indicating that Hadhrat Maryam عليها السلام had intended to refrain from talking as opposed to eating and drinking which is evident from the beginning of the verse, ‘eat and drink and be consoled.’ Therefore, refraining from eating and drinking alone cannot be regarded as صوم but there are other criterions which have to be taken in consideration and upheld also.
The above has also been emphasised in a Hadeeth:
ليس الصيام من الأكل والشرب، إنما الصيام من اللغو والرفث، فإن سابك أحد أو جهل عليك فقل: إني صائم.. إني صائم
صيام is not the name of forsaking food and drink, in reality, it is the forsaking of idle and shameless talks. Thus if someone swears you of acts in an ignorant manner with you, then say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’
Similarly, it has been mentioned in another Hadeeth:
كُلُّ عَمَلِ ابْنِ آدَمَ لَهُ اِلاَّ الصَّوْمَ فَإِنَّه لِيْ وَ اَنَا اَجْزِيْ بِهِ، والصِّيَامُ جُنَّةٌ، فَإذَا كَانَ يَوْمَ صَوْمِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَلاَ يَرْفُثْ وَلاَ يَصْخَبْ؛ فَإنْ سَابَهُ أَحَدٌ أوْ قَاتَلَهُ، فَلْيَقُلْ: إنِّي صَائِمٌ، إنِّي صَائِمٌ؛ وَ الَّذِيْ نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٌ بِيَدِهْ لَخُلُُوْفُ فَمِ الصَّائِمِ اَطْيَبُ عِنْدَ اللهِ مِنْ رِّيْحِ المِسْكِ؛ لِلصَّائِمِ فَرْحَتَانِ يَفْرَحُهُما: اِذَا اَفْطَرَ فَرِحَ بِفِطْرِهِ، وَاِذَا لَقِيَ رَبَّهُ فَرِحَ بِصَوْمِهِ
Every (good) deed of the son of Adam is for him except for fasting; for indeed that is for me and I shall recompense for it. And fasting is a shield (from sins and consequently Hell Fire). Therefore, when any one of you is fasting, let him not utter obscenities or raise his voice with immoral talks, and if anyone should insult him or desires to fight or argue with him, then he (the fasting person) should say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’ By Him within whose hands lies the life of Muhammad, the smell from the mouth of a fasting person is more pleasing to Allah than the fragrance of Musk. For the fasting person there are two times he will be pleased; When he breaks his fast he will be pleased and (the second time) when he meets his Lord, he will be pleased with his fasting.
It is clear from the above Hadeeth that the fast has been made obligatory upon a person so that it can act as a shield from sins and through its blessings and honour a person refrains from any act of sin and, by doing so, attain Taqwa (piety).
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ َ
O you who believe! Fasting has been made an obligation upon you as it was (made obligatory) for those before you, so that you may acquire Taqwa (piety).
[Surah al-Baqarah – 2:183]
So what is Taqwa? It is a term that can never be easily translated into English; it is a compound of many characteristics, the most common are the fear of Allah and the refraining from sins.
سَأَلَ عُمَرُ كَعْبًارَضِيَ الله عَنْهُمَا فَقَالَ لَهُ: مَا التَّقْوى؟ فَقَالَ كَعْبٌ: يَا أَمِيْرُ المُؤْمِنِيْنَ أَمَّا سَلَكْتَ طَرِيْقًا فِيْهِ شَوْكٌ؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ. قَالَ: فَمَاذَا فَعَلْتَ؟ فَقَالَ عُمَرُ : أَشَمِّرُ عَنْ سَاقَيَّ، وَانْظُرُ إِلى مَوَاضِعِ قَدَمَيَّ وَأُقَدِّمُ قَدَمًا وَأُؤَخِّرُ أُخْرى مَخَافَةً أَنْ تُصِيْبَنِيْ شَوْكَةٌ. فَقَالَ كَعْبٌ: تِلْكَ هِيَ التَّقْوى.
Hadhrat Umar once questioned Hadhrat Ka’b رضي الله عنهما, so he said, ‘What is Taqwa’, in reply Hadhrat Ka’b questioned, ‘O leader of the believers! Have you ever treaded upon a thorny path?’ Hadhrat Umar replied, ‘yes’. Thereafter Hadhrat Ka’b asked, ‘What did you do?’ In reply, Hadhrat Umar stated, ‘I gathered my clothing and lifted it up to my shin, thereafter I kept my glance towards my feet and I put one foot forward followed by the other whilst fearing that a thorn should prick me.’ Hadhrat Ka’b responded, ‘This is Taqwa’.
Meaning that we should become such that our gaze is constantly upon the path we are walking, the path leading to Jannah, ensuring that we take full precautions whilst upon this path that Shaytaan does not deviate us from this path. This is the purpose of Ramadhan, to instill Taqwa within the hearts of the believers so that every month, be it Ramadhan or not, we are constantly aware of the presence of Allah and respond to that awareness in the correct manner, by observing our obedience to Him and refraining from matters that will displease and anger Him.
However, in order to acquire this Taqwa we have to ensure that our fasts are in accordance to the teaching of the Shari’ah, that we observe the commandments placed by Allah in regards to our fasts and our daily lives and avoid those matters and actions which will classify our fasts as void or devoid us from obtaining the benefits of the fast. Our beloved Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم has indicated towards these criterions in the following words:
مَنْ لَمْ يَدَعْ قَوْلَ الزُّوْرِ وَ الْعَمَلَ بِهِ فَلَيْسَ للهِ حَاجَةٌ فِي أَن يَّدَعَ طَعَامَهُ وَ شَرَابَهُ
Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.
And in another Hadeeth it is mentioned:
رُبَّ صَائِمٍ لَيْسَ لَهُ مِنْ صِيَامِهِ اِلاَّ الظَّمَأُ
There are many who fast but who do not gain anything from their fast except for thirst.
In the first Hadeeth the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم has mentioned two qualities that deems the rewards of a person negated; the act of lying and acting upon these lies. The Muhaditheen (commentators) have mentioned that the by قول الزور the meaning is that of every sin committed through the tongue whilst عمل به refers to any sin which is carried out. A person who commits such atrocities in the month of Ramadhan will deprive himself of the rewards of fasting and its benefits and consequently the purpose of the fast will not be achieved; and if this is the case then Allah is in no need of Him leaving his food and drink for the leaving of the eating and drinking is not the aim but to achieve control over our Nafs (Self Desire) is the actual intent.
In the latter Hadeeth there is further emphasis on this notion within which our Beloved Nabi صلى الله عليه و سلم mentions the state and rewards of those people who outwardly perform good deeds in Ramadhan by fasting whilst neglecting the actual purpose of these fasts, he صلى الله عليه و سلم states that there are many people who fast during the month of Ramadhan but they achieve nothing from these fasts except for hunger and thirst. Meaning that their fast does not bear any reward neither does it elevate their ranks or increase their spiritual status; instead the only achievement is that which they observed and took consideration over, the leaving of food and drink.
Our days of fasting and our days of not fasting should never be the same:
وَ لاَ تَجْعَلْ يَوْمَ صَوْمِكَ وَ يَوْمَ فطْرِكَ سَوَاءٌ
Make not you days of fasting the same as the days you do not observe a fast.
We should remember that just as the month of Sha’baan is a month for the preparation for Ramadhan, similarly, the month of Ramadhan is for the preparation for the remaining eleven months, which in turn are for the preparation of the grave and Hereafter. A person who fails to prepare for Ramadhan may lose the blessings of the month of Ramadhan and the person who misses the blessings of Ramadhan will falter through the eleven months and in turn will destroy his Hereafter. It is for this reason that Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم states in the famous Hadith where he ascended the Mimbar and said Aameen:
إن جبريل عليه السلام عرض لي فقال : بعدا لمن أدرك رمضان فلم يغفر له .قلت : آمين
Indeed Jibraeel عليه السلام approached me and said, ‘Destruction be to that person who attains the month of Ramadhan but is not forgiven. I replied, Aameen.
May Allah give us all the inclination to acquire Taqwa through Ramadhan and reap the benefits of this blessed month. Aameen.