Ramadan: a time of mercy and blessing
By: Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil
The Prophet (pbuh) gave good tidings about this holy month. The first third of this Holy Ramadan contains days of mercy for all people, the second ten days are the days of forgiveness of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala, and the last one-third is when Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala frees the believers from Hell. Therefore, believers who try to keep Allah ta`ala’s orders during the days of Blessed Ramadan by fasting and during the night by praying tarawihi and tahajjud (supererogatory night prayers), may be rewarded by our Lord giving them immunity bara`a) from Hell2, and they have been given good tidings of Paradise.3
“Whoever fasted Ramadan with faith and in expectancy of reward, his previous sins are forgiven him.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
The whole spiritual structure of mankind is built on purity, and it is impossible for a person to improve his spiritual station without first attaining complete purity, physically and spiritually. Fasting is a beginning for spiritual purity. The first step is the common level of fasting: trying to free yourself from your nafs’ (low animal self) commands and control. As long as you are under the control of your nafs you remain impure.
Therefore, the first level of fasting is to compel our ego so that we may take control from its hands and put control in our own hands; therefore we abstain from eating, drinking and sexual contact in the daytime.
The first step is to avoid during the day what is halal (permitted) on every day except during Ramadan. Eating and drinking and sexual intercourse are halal, permitted; but in Ramadan, the permitted thing becomes haram–forbidden–during the daytime. That is the basic level of purity, but it is of a higher purpose to seek even greater purity.
The second step to attain greater purity, is by trying to be pure from sins: you must guard your eyes, your tongue, your ears, your hands, your feet and all the parts of your body from wrongdoing. You must tell yourself, ” O my tongue! Just as I am keeping myself from eating and drinking, but still you must be careful. Don’t say anything that is prohibited.”
That second step is to purify ourselves from all prohibited actions and sins makes us physically and spiritually lighter; we may move toward higher spiritual stations. Yet it is not enough.
The third step is for hearts: you must attend to your heart. Allah Almighty says “your heart belongs to Me. Among the Children of Adam, every part of the body belongs to him but one. Your heart belongs to Me, not to anyone else.” He says, “Therefore I am asking that it be pure, absolutely pure.”4
How can it be pure? Everything except Allah Almighty and His Pleasure must be put out of your heart. Every time you are by yourself, you can look into your heart to see if you are with your Lord or with someone or something else. Whenever you examine your heart and find yourself with your Lord, Almighty Allah, you must deem yourself fortunate. At that time divine light will enter your heart, and you will reach the true pleasure of faith, such that if that pleasure were divided among all the sad people on earth, they would jump and dance with joy. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The lustful glance is one of the poison arrows of Satan. He who because of pity abstains therefrom will receive a belief from Allah, the sweetness of which will fill his heart.”
Thus it is important for every believer to control his or her every action. Without guarding our actions, we are destined to lose. And every action begins with a thought. Satan is well-aware of the nature of mankind. In every kind of thought he has put some of his tricks.
Whoever is able to control his thoughts, may be safe from Satan’s promptings; but whoever is unable to control them will have his mind filled with evil ideas and falsehood. Whoever is under Satan’s control cannot be an obedient servant to his Lord. As Muslims and believers this must be our first concern is to control ourselves. If you find any of Satan’s control affecting yourself, in either actions or thoughts, you must strive to make them pure.
Increased Worship – A Means of Approach to Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala
When Ramadan comes to an end, we may find ourselves “crying for Ramadan”. This month gives so much pleasure to us, through our increased obedience and worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. These two are the source of all true happiness and obedience and worship. For that reason, the Prophet (pbuh) “and the coolness of my eyes is prayers (salaat)”.
Allah Almighty sent us His messages through His prophets. The summary of those messages is that people should take control of themselves. Therefore, Allah Almighty orders prayers five times a day, plus sunnah worship as well. There are the five times of prayer which Allah Almighty makes obligatory on His servants, but the Prophet, (pbuh) did sunnah-prayers by day and by night also, because when we pray we are taking control of our limbs and our hearts. Allah Almighty says in a hadith qudsi, “O My servant! If you take one step toward Me, I am taking ten towards you.”
Therefore we are in need to be active for His Sake. Make your steps more firm on the Straight Path and more powerful, day by day. It is this holy season of worshipping which will cause you to move toward Allah Almighty. “When Ramadan comes… a caller calls out every night: “Oh seeker increase worship and increase devotion.” In it are prescribed tarawih and the night prayers by means of which we may move ever closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.
We have an opportunity during Holy Ramadan more than at any other time. The one who is able to control himself during Ramadan is going to be able, with Allah Almighty’s support, to take control of himself for the other eleven months. Everything begins small and grows, good things and bad things, good habits and bad habits; for each one we have a beginning. And the beginning is difficult, but you must be patient and continue; if you know that something is right, you must continue to keep on that way, even though it may be so difficult. Difficulties may be overcome by a strong faith and strong faith is with those people who are able to control themselves. Therefore make a firm and continuous intention to increased devotion, not only for for this holy month, Ramadan, but make it a constant practice, until one day… who knows?
1.Yahya related to me from Malik that Yazid ibn Ruman said, “The people used to watch the night in prayer during Ramadan for twenty-three rak`ats in the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab (r).” [Al-Muwatta]
2. This is a month, the first part of which brings Allah’s Mercy, the middle of which brings Allah’s forgiveness and the last part of which brings emancipation from hellfire. [Bukhari]
3. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Every good deed is rewarded from ten to seven hundred times over, but Allah says fasting is the exception; it is for Me, and My servant forgoes his eating and drinking for my sake, so I Myself will reward My servant for it.”
4. This is one tafsir of the hadith qudsi: Narrated Abu Huraira (r): The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah said: The Fast is for Me and I will give the reward for it, as he (the one who observes the fast) leaves his sexual desire, food and drink for My Sake. Fasting is a screen (from Hell) and there are two pleasures for a fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord. And the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better in Allah’s Sight than the smell of musk.” [Bukhari]