Saturday, June 25, 2016

Forgiveness of Ramadan: Reflections on the second part of the fasting month

[Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam on July 17th, 2016 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

Ramadan quickly ending

As hard as it is to imagine, we are nearly half-way finished with Ramadan. There is a hadeeth of the Prophet, in which he divides the month into three parts, each part consisting of ten days. The first ten days are mercy, the second forgiveness, and the third emancipation from Hell-fire. The initial entry into Ramadan itself, for a believer, is in itself a mercy from God. The second part [forgiveness] is where we want to focus. All religions teach their adherents to seek out Allah's forgiveness, and indeed, the Qur'an and the Sunnah are filled with such pleas. Another approach to take in this regards  is ourselves being forgiving towards each other.

This is also found throughout the Qur'an, Ahadeeth, and the teachings of other faith traditions. Thus, while Ramadan is certainly a personal journey, it is experienced in a wide community of fellow travelers. The travelers all share a bus, a train or an airplane, but upon leaving that mode of transport will go to different places and varied interests.

Forgiveness of others is important because holding onto anger, bitterness and resentfulness can be quite damaging. Most importantly, these things can become ever-consuming and limits spiritual growth, even if knowledge is present.

Look at the Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam. He entered Makkah, the enemy capital, after years of persecution, war, slander, assassination attempts and the murder of his family members and followers. One would imagine that he would at least have some individuals executed. However, he declared an amnesty, one which even extended to those responsible for the death and mutilation of his uncle, Hamza. The Prophet did not hold on to that bitterness.

How can we apply this Sunnah today? It's easy to apply the Sunnah associated with things such as dress and beard, and even the Sunan associated with worship, but how can we repeat the actions of the Prophet here? By avoiding being overly judgemental, critical and argumentative. Be more accepting, forgiving and tolerant.


Another aspect worth exploring is self-forgiveness. We can be very hard on ourselves. Well, we all have baggage in life, and the past cannot be changed.  We can only hope to do better in the future.

Many of us take a very wrong approach. We declare ourselves absolved of sins and dedicate ourselves to be judges over other people's sins and issues. Yet we have to look at the Prophet's statement. He says : "Among the pleasant aspects of Islam is to leave that which has no meaning for him.

This is shorthand for the American expression "mind your own business". This is not simply for protecting an individual's right to privacy, even though we admit that such teaching is found throughout the Qur'an and Sunnah [ Soorat an Noor and Soorat al Hujuraat for example] , it is a teaching useful for our own spiritual state. We need to address our own issues and conditions. May this month be a period wherein we can accomplish that.

Demons are locked away yet their mouths are still at work

The demons [Shayateen], we are told, are locked up in the month of Ramadan.  While it is understood that their bodies are locked up, yet their voices are still heard.  Indeed, Allah says in the Qur'an that the Kuffar seek to blow out God's light with their mouths.

So this Ramadan, we have to recognize that there are voices out there who seek to call us, distract us away from Allah, from self-reflection and improvement. They want us to be stagnant, weak and always on the defensive. The strong among us will only be slightly affected by these voices. There are those among us who are affected in a great way by these voices, and these are the weak among us. If we are affected, we have to ask why, we have to ask where our weaknesses are. Ramadan should be the time when we are asking these tough questions. We need more prayer, more reflection [Tadabbur] on the Qur'anic verses. We need to be serious in finding the spiritual truths that are relevant to us, and learn to act upon those truths, as taught by the Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him]

Speaking without knowledge

Many people today speak on subjects without having even an elementary knowledge of that subject. Among them are the majority of our media pundits and politicians. Speaking without knowledge is very dangerous. Thus, the Qur'an repeatedly says "And do not speak about Allah what you do not know" as well as "So ask the people of knowledge if you don't know."

If we really don't know, there is no shame in being silent or asking those who do have information on that subject. We live in a culture that asserts that all opinions are equal and valued, but this is simply a Cultural lie!

We cannot take scientific opinions from a factory worker, simply because they have not studied or mastered this branch of knowledge. Common sense would tell us that we would trust a scientist when teaching on his field, rather than someone who has not taken the time to even a minimum of information. Let this Ramadan be a time of the removal of all self-delusions, when we can become, by hard work, a people that deserve Allah's paradise.