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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Beyond Fasting: Embracing the Essence of Ramadan

The month of Ramadan stands as a divine blessing from Allah Almighty, a time when Allah's light and blessings cascade upon us like a torrential rain. Yet, amidst the clamor of worldly pursuits, many fail to grasp the true value and significance of this sacred period. It is only those whose hearts yearn for the Hereafter, who recognize the unparalleled significance of this blessed month.

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By: Aubaid Ahmad Akhoon

Ramadan, a Month of Piety and Salvation: Let this Ramadan mark a pivotal moment in your life—a liberation from the illusions of the world and an immersion into the profound sweetness of faith.

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The month of Ramadan stands as a divine blessing from Allah Almighty, a time when Allah’s light and blessings cascade upon us like a torrential rain. Yet, amidst the clamor of worldly pursuits, many fail to grasp the true value and significance of this sacred period. It is only those whose hearts yearn for the Hereafter, who recognize the unparalleled significance of this blessed month.

As the month of Rajab approaches, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would fervently supplicate:

“O Allah, bless us in the months of Rajab and Sha’ban, and grant us the arrival of Ramadan—extend our lives so that we may witness its arrival.”

Two months prior to the advent of Ramadan, the anticipation and eagerness for its arrival palpably resonate, as prayers ascend for its swift arrival and blessings.

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The etymology of the word “Ramadan” itself, originating from Arabic, signifies “scorching,” indicative of the intense heat during its inception in Islamic history. However, scholars also assert that it symbolizes Allah’s special mercy, ablaze with forgiveness for His fasting servants.

Ramadan emerges as a beacon of divine mercy, bestowed upon humanity to alleviate the spiritual stagnation that permeates our hearts during eleven months of worldly preoccupation. Through dedicated worship and introspection, we cleanse our souls of neglect and rust, rekindling our connection with Allah Almighty and embarking on a transformative journey towards spiritual renewal.

Fasting, enjoined upon the last ummah, serves as a conduit to attain piety, with its prescribed duration from sunrise to sunset. This blessed month not only commemorates the revelation of the Holy Qur’an but also heralds the Night of Decree (Laylat al-Qadr), a night brimming with boundless blessings. Furthermore, the establishment of Taraweeh prayers amplifies the sanctity and efficacy of this sacred time.

In the profound words of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “Whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, their past sins shall be forgiven.”

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As Ramadan approaches, anticipation mounts, for it is a month of boundless blessings, forgiveness, and divine mercy—a time when inner peace envelops us in its pure embrace.

Ramadan is not merely a temporal event but a transformative journey, a sacred odyssey toward spiritual awakening and divine closeness. It is a month of introspection, a time to recalibrate our priorities and realign our hearts with the eternal truths of faith. Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, Ramadan beckons us to pause, to reflect, and to reconnect with our Creator.

In the quiet moments of predawn suhoor and the solemnity of iftar gatherings, we find solace in the remembrance of Allah and the fellowship of fellow believers. Through fasting and prayer, we purify our souls and cultivate a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for those less fortunate. Ramadan is a time of self-discipline, a spiritual boot camp where we train our bodies and minds to resist temptation and strive for righteousness.

But Ramadan is not just about abstaining from food and drink; it is about cultivating a state of inner peace and contentment that transcends the material world. It is a month of heightened spiritual awareness, a time when the barriers between the seen and unseen worlds are lifted, and the divine presence is palpably felt. In the darkness of the night, as we stand in prayer, we are reminded of our mortality and our utter dependence on Allah’s grace and mercy.

“Ramadan doesn’t just rearrange our daily routines; it’s a sacred invitation to transform our hearts.

The essence of fasting during Ramadan extends beyond abstaining from food and drink. It’s a profound journey of self-discipline, aiming to elevate our souls and deepen our connection with the Divine. Across various faith traditions, fasting has been a cornerstone of spiritual practice, fostering humility and compassion.

Through fasting, we learn to restrain our desires and impulses, nurturing a sense of inner peace and contentment. By resisting the temptations of the material world, we cultivate ‘taqwa’ — a heightened awareness of Allah’s presence and a shield against wrongdoing.

In fasting, we follow in the footsteps of the noble angels, who embody purity and obedience to divine command. By abstaining from food, drink, and intimate relations from dawn to sunset, we aspire to emulate their unwavering devotion.

As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasized, ‘For everything there is Zakat, and the Zakat of the body is fasting.’ Fasting becomes a form of spiritual purification, cleansing our souls of impurities and drawing us closer to Allah. Additionally, the Prophet taught us that ‘Fasting is half of patience,’ highlighting its role in developing resilience and fortitude.

“Ramadan presents a golden opportunity to fortify our faith. Let’s ready ourselves to rejuvenate our ‘imaan.’

However, fasting isn’t solely about abstaining from food and performing Taraweeh prayers. The essence of this blessed month lies in lifting the veil of heedlessness from our hearts, reconnecting with our true purpose of existence, and seeking forgiveness for our past transgressions. Over the next eleven months, let’s engrain within ourselves a fervent determination to shun sin, driven by a profound sense of accountability to Allah Almighty and a mindful awareness of the Hereafter — a state known as ‘Taqwa.’

By nurturing this consciousness, we can truly imbibe the essence and blessings of Ramadan. Otherwise, the month may pass by without yielding its intended spiritual benefits, leaving us unchanged as before. To ensure we derive the utmost benefit from fasting, let’s adhere to a few guiding principles that lead to the attainment of piety (‘taqwa’) and the enlightenment bestowed by Ramadan.

In the subsequent part, I’ll elucidate how we can cultivate piety during Ramadan, drawing closer to the grace and mercy of Allah.”

“Allah comprehends our sincerest intentions, observes our endeavors, and empathizes with our struggles to maintain focus and steadfastness. He perceives our dedication even when others may not. He acknowledges our triumphs and understands the underlying hardships. Simply knowing that Allah understands is enough to embolden us on our journey.”

Embracing the Blessed Arrival of Ramadan

“The arrival of Ramadan is not solitary; it brings with it abundant joy and blessings. May we all embrace the opportunity presented by this noble month.

As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated: ‘When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of Heaven are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained.’ (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 30, Hadith 9; Sahih Muslim, The Book of Fasting)

The Quran, in Surat Al-Baqarah (2:183), decrees: ‘O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.’ With this verse, it is made clear that fasting is ordained compulsory for all Muslims, serving as a pathway to righteousness.

May we heed the call of Ramadan, embracing its blessings and striving to attain righteousness through fasting.”

How we attain piety in ramadan

(1) Increase in Worship:

To attain the blessings of Ramadan, we must elevate our worship. Incorporating additional prayers, such as Nawafil, is essential during this sacred month. After Maghrib, strive to perform at least six (6) Rak’ats of Sunnah. Arrive a few minutes before Isha prayers to recite two or four Rak’ats of Nafl. Cultivate the habit of waking up a few minutes earlier for Sehri and engage in four Rak’ats of Tahajjud. Similarly, consider offering the prayers of Ishraq, and if sleep prevails, engage in a few Rak’ats of Chasht. Post-Zuhr, recite two Rak’ats of Nafl with two Sunnahs, and four Rak’ats of Nafl before Asr. The essence of prayer is to establish a profound connection with Allah, as articulated in the hadith narrated by Hazrat Abu Hurayrah: “The worshiper is closest to his Lord in prostration.”

(2) Abundance of Quran Recitation:

During Ramadan, prioritize the recitation of the Holy Quran, for this month holds special significance in relation to the divine scripture. It was during Ramadan that the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), serving as a beacon of guidance for Muslims worldwide. The Quran is not merely a book; it is a comprehensive guide encompassing all aspects of faith and life. It serves as a source of healing, enlightenment, guidance, and mercy for humanity. Despite attempts throughout history to extinguish its light or distort its message, the Quran has remained unaltered, a testament to its divine preservation. The Prophet (PBUH) himself engaged in increased Quranic recitation during Ramadan, as evidenced in Bukhari Sharif. Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa, revered for his piety, completed multiple recitations of the Quran daily during Ramadan. It is incumbent upon us to follow their exemplary devotion by increasing our Quranic recitation during this blessed month. Even the layperson should strive to recite at least three verses daily, ensuring a continuous engagement with the Quran throughout Ramadan.

(3) Correct Recitation of the Holy Quran in Taraweeh:

During this blessed month, it is imperative for every believer to ensure that the recitation of the Quran in Taraweeh prayers is conducted with utmost care and reverence. Rushing through the recitation is contrary to the majesty of Almighty Allah, and the Quran itself admonishes those who recite it haphazardly. Sadly, there have been instances where the Imam, due to haste, fails to enunciate the words of the Quran correctly. Surah Al-Fatiha is sometimes recited in a single breath, and the bowing, prostration, and Tashahhud are not performed properly. Furthermore, Taraweeh prayers are hurriedly concluded within forty or fifty minutes, while lengthy discussions ensue for hours afterward. This disregard for the sanctity of Quranic recitation not only deprives individuals of blessings but also incurs the Quran’s disapproval. Let us strive to avoid such negligence and ensure that our recitation and listening of the Quran during Taraweeh is conducted with diligence, precision, and proper pronunciation.

“Ramadan: Fasting for Spiritual Nourishment”

(4) Abundance of Seeking Forgiveness:

One of the crucial aspects of Ramadan is seeking forgiveness for one’s sins. A famous hadith narrated by Hazrat Ka’b bin Ujrah recounts an incident where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended the pulpit and exclaimed ‘Amen’ three times. When questioned about it, he revealed that Angel Jibreel (PBUH) had invoked curses upon those who do not seek forgiveness in Ramadan, to which the Prophet (PBUH) responded ‘Amen’. This emphasizes the urgency of seeking repentance and forgiveness during this blessed month to avoid misfortune.

(5) Arrangement of Prayers:

Arranging prayers is essential to receive the blessings of Ramadan. It is believed that the prayers of fasting individuals are readily accepted. According to a tradition narrated by Abu Hurayrah, the supplications of three individuals are guaranteed acceptance: a fasting person until they break their fast, a just ruler, and the oppressed. (Tirmidhi Sharif; Musnad Ahmad) Fasting, as enjoined in Surat Al-Baqarah (2:184), not only brings blessings but also offers numerous health benefits, as validated by science and medicine. It is a means of cleansing the body and enhancing mental well-being. Allah (SWT) is with those who exercise self-restraint, as stated in the Quran (16:128).

Fasting extends beyond abstaining from food and drinks; it entails restraining all bodily faculties, including the eyes, ears, and tongue. It involves avoiding falsehood, backbiting, cursing, and suspicion. Cultivating good morals during Ramadan is essential for traversing the Sirat (bridge) with ease. Fasting teaches self-discipline and offers a noble pathway to spiritual growth, earning the favor of Allah (SWT).

(6) Lailat-ul-Qadr: The Treasured Night of Ramadan

“Allah has made Laylat al-Qadr in this month, which is better than a thousand months…” (Al-Qadr 97:1-5)

Lailat-ul-Qadr, the Night of Decree, is the prized jewel of Ramadan. This night holds more blessings than a thousand months and offers Muslims a chance for salvation. It is a night of prayer, meditation, dua (supplication), and seeking forgiveness for past sins. Yet, it is unfortunate that often this night is treated more as a festival than a time for worship. Many spend the night in leisurely pursuits, neglecting the opportunity for spiritual growth.

According to Hadith, Lailat-ul-Qadr falls on one of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, potentially on the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or 29th night. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instructed his followers to seek it in the last ten nights, especially during the odd nights.

Hazrat Ayesha narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) advised reciting the following dua on Lailat-ul-Qadr:

“O Allah! You are the Forgiver. If you like to forgive, forgive me.”

(7) Ramadan: A Gateway to Knowledge and Faith

Ramadan provides an excellent opportunity to increase one’s knowledge of the faith. While the month is characterized by increased worship and spiritual activities, it is also crucial to prioritize learning the essentials of religion. Acquiring knowledge about Tawheed (belief in the Oneness of Allah), Prophethood, and the Hereafter enhances one’s faith and understanding of Islam.

“Ramadan is about breaking bad habits, not putting them on pause.”

This month of piety calls for arranging prayers not only for oneself and loved ones but also for the wider community and the world of Islam. It is a time to seek protection from evil and guidance towards righteousness.

“O my Lord, save us from all evil, guide us to the path of righteousness. Aameen.”

“Ramadan is not just about changing our schedules; it is about changing our hearts.” Fasting during Ramadan is a means to cultivate obedience to Allah’s commands, suppress worldly desires, and attain piety. The gates of Heaven open, the gates of Hell close, and the devils are chained during this sacred month. Fasting was ordained on all Muslims to attain righteousness, emphasizing the importance of this spiritual journey. Ramadan serves as an opportunity to build faith, seek forgiveness, and cultivate a sense of accountability to Allah.

O Ramadan, come swiftly, for we eagerly await your luminous crescent.

As the blessed month draws near, let us prepare our hearts and minds to receive its blessings. Let us rid ourselves of distractions and worldly attachments, and open ourselves fully to the transformative power of Ramadan. For in this sacred month lies the opportunity for spiritual rebirth and renewal, for the forgiveness of sins and the attainment of divine mercy. May Allah grant us the strength and steadfastness to make the most of this blessed month, and may He shower His blessings and guidance upon us all. Ameen.

Ultimately, Ramadan serves as a time of reflection, renewal, and spiritual rejuvenation. It’s an opportunity to cultivate virtues such as gratitude, generosity, and empathy, fostering a deeper connection with our Creator and our fellow human beings. Through fasting, we not only nourish our bodies but also enrich our souls, paving the way for inner transformation and spiritual enlightenment.”

This lengthy period of Ramadan is accompanied by abundant blessings, as Allah showers His mercy upon us all. Let us seize this opportunity to express gratitude to Him. Not everyone who witnessed this Ramadan will be fortunate enough to experience it again next year. May we all immerse ourselves deeply in the spiritual essence of this Ramadan and beseech Allah to bless us with its return in the future

Ramadan is a time of spiritual renewal, growth, and reflection. Let us make the most of this blessed month by seeking knowledge, strengthening our faith, and striving for piety and righteousness.

Wishing you and your family a joyous Ramadan filled with blessings, peace, and boundless happiness. May this sacred month bring you profound satisfaction and delightful moments that resonate deeply in your heart. May your days be illuminated with the light of faith and your nights adorned with the serenity of prayer. May you find joy and contentment in abundance throughout the year and beyond. Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan draws near, a celestial boon,

Awaiting eagerly, the crescent moon’s swoon.

A month of blessings, cascading like dew,

Forgiveness abundant, a divine ensue.

Mercy descends, in torrents so fine,

Allah’s grace, an endless vine.

Words fail to capture the peace within,

In this month of bliss, where hearts begin.

O Ramadan, hasten, unveil your grace,

We yearn for your light, our souls to embrace.

Come swiftly, with your radiant boon,

For in your arrival, our spirits commune.

(The author is a distinguished Educational Columnist, Motivational Speaker, and Associate Editor of the weekly educational publication Education Quill)

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