By Khalid Baig
02 June 2017
FASTING during Ramazan was ordained during the second year of Hijrah. Why not earlier? In Makkah the economic conditions of the Muslims were bad. They were being persecuted. Often days would go by before they had anything to eat. It is easy to skip meals if you don’t have any. Obviously fasting would have been easier under the circumstances. So why not then?
The answer may be that Ramazan is not only about skipping meals. While fasting is an integral and paramount part of it, Ramazan offers a comprehensive programme for our spiritual overhaul. The entire programme required the peace and security that was offered by Madinah. Yes, Ramazan is the most important month of the year. It is the month that the believers await with eagerness. At the beginning of Rajab — two full months before Ramazan — the Holy Prophet (PBUH), used to supplicate thus: “O Allah! Bless us during Rajab and Shaban, and let us reach Ramazan (in good health).”
During Ramazan the believers get busy seeking Allah’s mercy, forgiveness, and protection from Hellfire. This is the month for renewing our commitment and re-establishing our relationship with our Creator. It is the spring season for goodness and virtues when righteousness blossoms throughout the Muslim communities. “If we combine all the blessings of the other eleven months, they would not add up to the blessings of Ramazan,” said the great scholar and reformer Shaikh Ahmed Farooqi (Mujaddad Alif Thani). It offers every Muslim an opportunity to strengthen his Iman, purify his heart and soul, and to remove the evil effects of the sins committed by him.
“Anyone who fasts during this month with purity of belief and with expectation of a good reward (from his Creator), will have his previous sins forgiven,” said Holy Prophet (PBUH). “Anyone who stands in prayers during its nights with purity of belief and expectation of a reward will have his previous sins forgiven.” As other Ahadith tell us, the rewards for good deeds are multiplied manifold during Ramazan.
Along with the possibility of a great reward, there is the risk of a terrible loss. If we let any other month pass by carelessly, we just lost a month. If we do the same during Ramazan, we have lost everything. The person who misses just one day’s fast without a legitimate reason, cannot really make up for it even if he were to fast everyday for the rest of his life. And of the three persons that Holy Prophet (PBUH) cursed, one is the unfortunate Muslim who finds Ramazan in good health but does not use the opportunity to seek Allah’s mercy.
One who does not fast is obviously in this category, but so also is the person who fasts and prays but makes no effort to stay away from sins or attain purity of the heart through the numerous opportunities offered by Ramazan. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) warned us: “There are those who get nothing from their fast but hunger and thirst. There are those who get nothing from their nightly prayers but loss of sleep.”
Islam does not approve or ask us to permanently isolate ourselves from this world, since our test is in living here according to the Commands of our Creator. But it does ask us to take periodic breaks from it. The mandatory Salat (five daily prayers) is one example. For a few minutes every so many hours throughout the day, we leave the affairs of this world and appear before Allah to remind ourselves that none but He is worthy of worship and of our unfaltering obedience. Ramazan takes this to the next higher plane, providing intense training for a whole month.
This spirit is captured in Itikaf, a unique Ibadat associated with Ramazan, in which a person gives up all his normal activities and enters a mosque for a specific period. There is great merit in it and every Muslim community is encouraged to provide at least one person who will perform Itikaf for the last ten days of Ramazan. But even those who cannot spare ten days are encouraged to spend as much time in the mosque as possible. Ramazan is the month for rebuilding our spiritual strength. How much we benefit from it is up to us. —