Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Concluding the month of RAMADAN:some thoughts on the benefits of the fasting month

In beginning this article, it is necessary to share the Prophetic tradition that beautifully describes some of the benefits of Ramadan. It reads " This is a month, the first part of which brings the mercy of Allah, the middle part bringing Allah's forgiveness, the last part bringing emancipation from hellfire." [Saheeh Al-Bukhari]

As this month comes to an end, we would like to share some thoughts on other benefits, or perhaps lessons is a better expression, on this blessed occasion.

[1] Gratitude.

The Qur'an speaks repeatedly of gratitude. Indeed, it is one of the real signs of a believer. From the Quranic viewpoint as well as the usage given in the Arabic language [the language of the Qur'an], Kaafir has the meaning of one who is ungrateful, who covers up the fact that he or she has been given something [in this case, by God]. Here, we wish to share just one small sentence from the Islamic scripture. "And recall the favors of God to you..." [ Q 3:82].

It is our view that the first thing to be grateful to Allah for is [A] Having access to Islam. Even if we are not good Muslims all the time, nonetheless we have access to the Qur'an, to Muhammad's example , may Allah's peace and blessings be on him. Thus, the Qur'an says " They consider it a favor to you that they have accepted Islam. Say, "Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful."[ Q 49:17, Saheeh international translation].

[B] Be grateful for all that you have. Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] says to assert "praise belongs to Allah, in every situation". Knowing this is overused, nonetheless we have the famous saying about the man who complained about not having shoes, until he met a man who had no feet!

[2] Discipline:

Fasting, in a way, is an exercise in self-control. If we can do that in Ramadan, we can do that all the time. Cigarettes are a perfect example. While we do admit that among the Muslim jurists [Fuqahaa'] there are differences of opinion as to whether smoking is Halaal or Haraam, nonetheless all hands admit its overall harm. Giving it up in the fasting period can teach us to give it up totally!

[3] Laylatul Qadr

"Laylatul Qadr[ft.1] is more beneficial than a thousand months" says the Qur'an [97:3]. The religious aspect of it we are to observe, search for it during the last ten nights of Ramadan. We search for it via extra prayers, Qur'anic reading and recitation, spending the nights in remembrance and contemplation on Allah. There is also the social manifestation of Laylatul Qadr, in the sense that it can be life changing. The Laylatul Qadr can be the climax of the fasting month, in which we have decided to abandon sin, bad habits and the like [as described above when speaking on smoking], which, in turn, invites more of a Godly, spiritual presence in our lives. " The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter" Q 97:4, Saheeh international translation].

[4] Forgiveness

As cited above, forgiveness is a quality of this month, as narrated in the hadeeth literature. If we are seeking God's forgiveness in this month, expecting and hoping for his forgiveness, we can also forgive others! In addition to this, there is also the aspect of self-forgiveness. We can be hard on ourselves, whereas God does not wish that. Forgiveness can be a means to move forward, both mentally and spiritually!

There is a Prophetic supplication which teaches us to say "O Allah, make my reckoning an easy reckoning". The hadeeth goes further to say this means that we hope for no questions to be asked of us by God on the day of resurrection, but even if we omit this particular part of the narrative, there is a lesson in this Du'a! If we want God to be easy with us, we should be easy with others. Stop attacking so much, being critical and argumentative with others. Smile more, accept people where they are more, display forgiveness in action!

In this regards, we wish to conclude by sharing another Prophetic supplication, traditionally called the "leader in prayers seeking forgiveness" [Sayyid ul Istighfaar]. The entire supplication reads " O Allah, you are my Lord, none is to be worshiped except you. You created me, I am your servant and I am faithful to my covenant and promises to you as much as I can. I seek refuge with you from all the evil I have done, I acknowledge before you all the blessings you have bestowed on me, as well as my sin, so forgive me, none forgives [sins] except you." 

We would like to emphasis the line " ..I am faithful to my covenant..as much as I can." In this Du'a, the Prophet teaches us to pray to Allah acknowledging that we are not perfect, that we have weaknesses and faults. Nonetheless, we ask for Divine forgiveness.

So, seek Maghfirah from God, bestow Maghfirah on one another, and upon one's own self. 


[1] Laylatul Qadr is usually translated "night of power" or "destiny". We prefer the rendering "Night of decree or measure", with preference to the latter word.The overwhelming majority of Mufassireen [Qur'an commentators] give, in their explanation of Soorah Al Qadr [#97], the religious ritual aspect of Laylatul Qadr. The social manifestation of it should also be given, which we have done here in this article. It is also important to remember that Allah began the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad in the month of Ramadan, on a blessed night. The Qur'an itself served as a genesis for great social change, not only for the immediate companions of the Prophet, or even just the Arabian peninsula, rather, for all mankind. Countless benefits and blessings were bestowed when Qur'an came into the picture. And God knows best.