A Timely Guide For Ramadan

July 20, 2012   

What’s Ramadan?

Ramadan (Sawm) is one of the five pillars of Islam and the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The meaning of Sawm is to ‘abstain’. In this month, Allah Subhana Wa Taala (SWT) has made it compulsory that the fasting be observed by day, and he has made the ‘Taraweeh’ (Ramadan nightly prayer) a ‘Sunnah’. Fasting during Ramadan is to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and conjugal relations from dawn till sunset.

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “There is a gate in Paradise called ArRaiyan, and those who observe fasting will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it”.
(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 120)

During the month of Ramadan, the Prophet (pbuh) used to apportion to Ramadan a degree of worship that was not set aside to any other month. The Prophet (pbuh) spent his day in remembrance, recitation, learning and providing advice and training. His nights were spent in supplication and humiliation unto Allah (SWT), seeking His help, support, victory and guidance.

Ramadan is an annual training programme to refresh us for carrying out our duties towards Allah (SWT). Fasting develops self-control and helps us to overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. This month of patience gives us an opportunity to experience for ourselves what it is like to have an empty stomach. This develops our feeling for the poor and hungry people. Fasting teaches us to control the love of comfort.

If difficulty is experienced in fasting during Ramadan, one should bear it cheerfully and not complain. Should we feel fatigued at the time of Taraweeh (Ramadan nightly prayer), this too should be borne with fortitude.
It should also be borne in mind that fasting does not aim at inflicting punishment upon people or taking on unbearable burdens. The underlying idea behind it is to teach moderation and spiritual discipline so that human temptations may not become so wild and uncontrollable as to flout the commands of the Great Master. To be a true servant of Allah (SWT), it is essential that man should be able to conform his behaviour to the moral and spiritual discipline embodied in the Shari’ah of Islam. Fasting is
indispensable for this moral and spiritual training.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of mercy are opened and the gates of Hell are locked and the devils are chained”. (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2361)

The wisdom behind fasting

Fasting in Ramadan is not merely physically restraining from the obvious food and drink, but the total commitment of the servant’s body and soul to the letter and spirit of fasting.

1) The fast of the self, means to be free from all carnal desires.
2) The fast of mind is avoiding thoughts about things other than Allah (SWT).
3) The fast of the hand is not touching/taking what does not belong to it.
4) The fast of the nose means not sniffing or smelling unlawful things.
5) The fast of the feet is not going places where sinful acts are propagated.
6) The fast of the eye is to prevent it from seeing forbidden things.
7) The fast of the tongue is guarding against lying, backbiting, slandering, reviling, abusing others, cursing, indecent conversation, swearing and false evidence.
8) The fast of the ears is not to listen to idle talk, gossip, lyrics and notes that contain obscene and indecent things. Listening to Al-Qur’an bears the fruit of faith, guidance, light and prosperity. It fills the heart with wisdom, tranquillity, intimacy and contentment. It is a source of protection from the dangerous, deviant and sinful thoughts.
9) The fast of the heart means casting out from it the love of worldly things and by emptying it of all corrupt material such as, false beliefs, evil suggestions, filthy intentions and degenerate thoughts.

What does and doesn’t break fasting

There are certain things that break a person’s fast, the most obvious being those things that are explicitly forbidden during fasting, i.e. eating, drinking, sexual relations and during menstruation, for females. However, if one eats something forgetfully, then this fast does not have to be made up:
The Prophet said, “If somebody eats something forgetfully while he is fasting, then he should complete his fast, for Allah has made him eat and drink.” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 154)

A certain degree of affection is allowed between spouses as this Hadith shows:
‘A’isha reported, “The Prophet (pbuh) used to kiss me while observing fast and who among you can control his desire as the Prophet (pbuh) could control his desire.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2438)
However, the Prophet (pbuh) did report the following Hadith:
A man asked the Prophet (pbuh) whether one who was fasting could embrace (his wife) and he gave him permission; but when another man came to him, and asked him, he forbade him. The one to whom he gave
permission was an old man and the one whom he forbade was a youth.
(Abu Dawud, Book 13, Number 2381)

Recitation of Quran during Ramadan

Allah (SWT) says in Al-Qur’an, ** “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down Al-Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgement (Between right and wrong)”. (Al-Qur’an 2:185)

The entire month of Ramadan is in essence a celebration of Al-Qur’an’s revelation, which is described as a “Guide and Mercy for those who do good.” (Al-Qur’an 31:3). Ramadan celebrates God’s Mercy by which He sent a guiding light in Al-Qur’an that leads human life towards the path of good and virtue and protects the human soul from evil and vice. Al-Qur’an is life, spirit, salvation, happiness, reward and recompense. It is a divine teaching, a constitution and eternal wisdom.

Prophet (pbuh) said, “Read Al-Qur’an for surely it will be an intercessor for you on the Day of Judgement”. (Sahih Muslim Book 4 No 1757)

In his final year, the Prophet (pbuh) recited the Al-Qur’an twice in Ramadan. Muslims should try to read the entire Al-Qur’an at least once during Ramadan.

Taraweeh Prayers

Muslims should during this month make an extra effort to perform Taraweeh Prayer (Ramadan nightly prayer), preferably in congregation. Taraweeh has a special merit over other nights. Taraweeh is part of physical and spiritual training, for its observation soon after Iftaar insures timely and proper digestion of food.
There are also spiritual rewards awaiting the observers of this prayer. It must be mentioned here that Taraweeh prayers, although very beneficial to read, are not compulsory as stated by the Prophet (pbuh) himself.
‘A’isha reported that Prophet (pbuh) prayed one night in the mosque and people also prayed along with him. He then prayed on the following night and there were many persons. Then on the third or fourth night (many
people) gathered there, but the Prophet (pbuh) did not come out to them (for leading the Tarawih prayer). When it was morning he said: “I saw what you were doing, but I desisted to come to you (and lead the prayer) for I feared that this prayer might become obligatory for you”. (He the narrator) said: It was the month of Ramadan.
(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 13, Number 46)

Charity in Ramadan

Allah (SWT) has given you, so Muslims should try to give generously in Ramadan, both Sadaqah (optional charity) and Zakaah (obligatory charity).
Every time a servant of Allah (SWT) gives something in charity Allah (SWT) eases his physical, spiritual and mental conditions. He expands for him His sustenance. Sadaqah does not only have to be money. It can also be a good deed—such as helping another person—done for the sake of Allah (SWT) and without expecting any reward from the person. Even a smile is considered charity in Islam. Most Muslims pay their Zakaah during Ramadan because the reward is so much greater in that month. Wealth is like water, if its flow is
obstructed it becomes brackish, and if it flows, it becomes sweet and fresh.

Because of the great reward for feeding a fasting person, in many places ‘Iftaar’(the breaking of the fast at sunset during Ramadan) is served in mosques, with the food donated or brought by individuals to share. This contact between the various levels of society helps to create a real bond of brotherhood in the Muslim community.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “When a man dies all of his deeds come to an end, except for three: ongoing charity, knowledge which is benefited from, or pious offspring who pray for them.”
(Sahih Muslim, Book 013, Number 4005)
The Prophet (pbuh) enjoined Zakaah on those who fast to purify them from any indecent act or deeds. It is a sort of purification of the soul on the individual level, a cure against miserliness, and a social safety net. The rich are obliged to come in contact with the poor and the poor with the even less fortunate. Zakaah provides for the poor and spares them the humiliation of asking for charity.

Etiquette of Ramadan

We should try our best to get up for Sehri.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Eat a little before dawn (Sehri) as there is blessings in taking meal at that time.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2412)
Many people are deprived of this great blessing because of their own laziness. Even if there is no food, then one date should be eaten or a drink of water taken. The period before dawn is considered blessed because it is in the last third of the night, the time of divine descent and forgiveness. It is
another special time when du’as are accepted.

We should hasten to break our fasts.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The people will remain on right path as long as they hasten breaking of the fast (Iftaar). (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 178 & Muslim, Book 006, Number 2417)</p> </strong>
To eat dates to break one’s fast is a Sunnah.

It is also very important that we do not delay the Maghrib salah unnecessarily and pray soon after breaking the fast.

It is a Sunnah to use Miswaak.
It is recommended to take care of the mouth, teeth and gums all the time, and more so during fasting. This can be achieved by the use of Miswaak, a special stick or root (from Arak tree) that is used to cleanse the teeth and strengthen the gums.

Dua’s of a Fasting Person

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “There are three whose supplication is not rejected, one who has just ended a fast, a just imam, and one who has been wronged whose supplication is raised by Allah above the clouds
and for which the gates of Heaven are opened. Allah says, ‘I swear by My might that I shall certainly help you, though it be after some time.’” (Tirmidhi Hadith 2248)
The du’as of a fasting person is never refused. The final hour before the setting of the sun is one of the greatest hours of the day. Therefore submit before Allah (SWT) all your needs. However Muslims are generally so absorbed in eating that we neglect this opportunity.
The Prophet (pbuh) informed us that when a fasting Muslim prays for anything from Allah (SWT), he definitely receives one out of the following three things: He gets exactly what he asked for. Or Allah (SWT) either removes from his path some great calamity in exchange for what he desired. Or the reward for
that which he prayed for is stored for the Hereafter.
Therefore, du’a is indeed very important, and to neglect it at any time is a matter of great loss. Should Allah (SWT) find that granting us what we beseech from Him is in our welfare and interest, He grants it, otherwise not. It should be borne in mind that there are certain conditions under which du’as are accepted, in the absence of these, du’a may be often rejected. When ‘Haraam’ is consumed, the du’as are not accepted. A person who fasts and breaks his fast with “Haraam” food, is like a sick person, who takes medicine as a cure, also adds a little poison, which destroys him.

Asking Forgiveness in Ramadan

The Prophet (pbuh) termed the first 10 days of Ramadan as period of Mercy, whereby Allah (SWT)’s mercy is showered on the believers. Those who express their gratitude to Allah (SWT) for his bounties, receive them in large measure as Allah (SWT) says in Al-Qur’an says,
“If you are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you, But if you show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.” (Al-Quran 14:7)
The second 10 days of Ramadan is when forgiveness is granted to the believers as reward for the fasting during the first part. The last 10 days of Ramadan brings immunity from Hell. In Ramadan, you should endeavour to perform three things in great number:

1) ‘Kalima Tayyiba’ (Laa ilaha illala hu muhamadur rasulullah). If the seven heavens, the earth and all its occupants were placed in one pan of a scale and this ‘Kalima’ on the other, the ‘Kalima’ would outweigh everything.
2) ‘Istighfaar’ (Beg for Allah (SWT)’s forgiveness). Whoever says a great deal of ‘Istighfaar’, Allah (SWT) opens a way out for him from all difficulties and releases him from sorrows.
3) Beg for entry into Paradise and seek refuge with Allah (SWT) from the fire of ‘Jahannam’ (Hell).

The night of “Laylatul Qadr” is described as being greater in blessedness and spiritual virtue than 1,000 months. Therefore fortunate is that person who attains the full blessings of this night by spending it in the worship of Allah (SWT).
During the last third of Ramadan, one should read more of Al-Qur’an and remember Allah (SWT) more often, even constantly. For Muslims, the last ten days should be a time to perfect one’s fast and avoid anything that may break it. It is a time to give more charity and to settle disputes and forgive one
another. It is also a time for soul searching, evaluating one’s life, supplicating, and asking forgiveness. This should be done sincerely because if Allah (SWT) accepts the supplications, the reward is the remission of one’s sins. The best time to do it is in the last part of the night.

Allah (SWT) has concealed the exact date of the Night of Power so that we would double our efforts during the last ten days. He is also testing the serious and the non-serious. The seriously interested person will search for it late at night and in the early hours until he or she attains it, regardless of the hardship.
It is recommended to seek the night and spend it diligently in devotion, including night Sunnah prayers (Tahajjud) and recitation of Al-Qur’an. This citation indicates that regardless of whether a person knows the night or not Allah (SWT) will grant forgiveness for previous shortcomings.
During this time, he limited his contact with people and intensified his supplications and du’as to Allah (SWT). The Prophet (pbuh) did this in order to attune his heart even more with Allah (SWT) and to free his mind from the concerns of the world.

Fasting in Shawwal

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever observes the Ramadan fast and follows it with six days of fast in Shawwal, it is as if he has fasted Dahr(the whole year)”. (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2614)
Shawwal is the tenth month in the lunar calendar. The first of Shawwal is Eid- ulFitr. After the festivity of Eid it is recommended to observe six days of fast. This fast may be observed continuously non-break, or it may be observed one day at a time.

**Ramadan **Kariim to all Muslims all over the world.

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