For some, this will be learning and for some, refreshing, Insha’Allah.
Ramadan is the most blessed month for Muslims. It is the month in which the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Salaam). It is a month of mercy, of forgiveness, and of freedom from the fires of Hell.
On the authority of Abu Huraira (RA), Allah’s Messenger said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the Shayteen are chained.”
This is a month that gives us the opportunity to increase our knowledge of the Qur’an and of the Sunnah of our most beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and to put it into practice. It is our opportunity to become closer to Allah (Subhannahu Wa Ta’ala) by increasing our ibadah (worship), increasing our knowledge of this beautiful Deen, increasing our self-restraint, and increasing our charitable acts, Insha’Allah.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the lunar year. Since we follow the calendar according to the phases of the moon, each year Ramadan falls a bit earlier than the previous year. This actually balances out our experiences so that Muslims from all over the world, over a period of years, will experience Ramadan during both winter and summer months, SubhanAllah.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe fasting through the entire month, each and every day, from just before the break of dawn until sunset. We not only abstain from eating and drinking, but from sexual relations with our spouse, from backbiting and foul language (which we should avoid always), and we refrain from looking or listening to anything that will turn our attention away from Allah.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
“O, you who believe! Observing As-Saum (fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious). (2:183).
In this day and age, where media and advertising are everywhere, it can be very challenging to not look as it is put right there in front of our eyes! Giant billboards cover our highways with degrading pictures. Stores and television shows highlight uncovered bodies, sex, and violence, and the world itself is in turmoil!
During this month, we make an extra effort to stay away from these worldly desires by refraining from activities that may invite them, such as participating in social events that are not beneficial for us, and refraining from television, movies, and Internet usage that is not beneficial.
The mandatory fast of the Muslim are straightforward. No food, drink, or sexual relations during the daylight hours. We also strive to stay away from anything that turns our attention to material things. Our most beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Salaam), stayed away from his wives for the entire month of Ramadan, and spent hours upon hours in worship seeking forgiveness and seeking the blessings of Allah (SWT).
I recently heard a wonderful lecture on “Ramadan Preparation” given by Mufti Ismail Menk. In this lecture, he gave a down to earth description of the prescribed fast and he defined the “prescription” as similar (in its formula) to the prescription given by a doctor to cure an illness.
Our prescription is: To Fast.
Prescribed by: Allah (SWT).
Remedy for: Achieving piety, and to be forgiven for our sins.
Course of prescription: Fast from dawn till dusk (Abstain from food, drink, and sexual relations with spouse).
Duration: For the entire month of Ramadan. Be sure to fulfill the entire prescription; Do not stop until complete!
Here is the video just in case you need some Ramadan inspiration:
Through fasting of food and drink, we do experience some hunger during the day, but this only increases our awareness of those who are truly suffering and who experience real hunger each and every day. I have learned over the years never to say, “I’m starving” (which we have all said from time to time if we haven’t eaten for a just few hours). Whenever I have slipped up and said this, I immediately feel so ridiculous, I have no idea of the true feeling of hunger! I know that my hunger, my MINOR discomfort from fasting, is trivial compared to true hunger that is experienced by people, all over the world, each and every hour of every day.
Besides the minor hunger and discomfort that we experience, fasting also provides us with a much more transformational effect. The following explanation, found in the book Islam- Religion of Life, is quite powerful. It states that fasting “ engenders a sense of detachment from the world. Physical separation, as a powerful symbol, brings about in the mind and the heart that appreciation of distance which is one of the states most cherished by spiritual seekers everywhere. When Fasting, the Muslim acts with a new sense of confidence, able more fully to concentrate his attention on his material as well as his spiritual life. Temporarily despairing of food and drink, he is able to devote himself more fully to the One who is the source of all his sustenance. Thus during Ramadan, the Muslim finds that he religious life takes on new meaning. The Qur’an yields new secrets and treasures; in fact, every devotional practice functions more efficiently during the Fasting months. Thus the optional acts of worship are practiced more consistently, until the whole day becomes infused with religious meaning (Shalabi, 1989).”
My very first Ramadan experience seemed quite uneventful. If I remember correctly, I had embraced Islam about 2 weeks before Ramadan knowing that I would have to fast; however, I did not truly understand the true meaning of the blessings of this wonderful month and missed out on much of the ibadah as my focus was mainly on fasting. The month went by rather quickly, and I went “with the flow”, not really grasping any understanding of this blessed month. Alhamdulillah, by the time the next Ramadan came, I was much more prepared and more knowledgeable and gained much more insight.
Now, although I still continue to learn of the blessing of this month (and will always continue to seek knowledge, Insha’Allah), I always look forward to it with anticipation and, once it is here, I do not want the month to end.
I want to continue to keep my focus on my salah, on increased worship and praise, and on continued blessings; however, when Ramadan is over, I find it so hard to stay on track once the daily grind, the dunya, and the shayteen, quickly creep back into my life.
This Ramadan it is my intention, to improve my fasts, my Ibadah, my knowledge, and my acts of charity, and Insha’Allah I will be able to carry over these acts, with stronger conviction, throughout the rest of the year.
One of my Duaa’s during this most blessed month will be to ask Allah (SWT) to help me to work towards the highest form of fasting, “the fast of the soul.” It is this highest level of fasting that will allow me to become closer to my Creator, to help me to think only of Allah (SWT), and to increase my ibadah during this blessed month. I understand that this form of fasting may take me many years to obtain.
Insha’Allah I will be able to get to this level.
This year, in my neck of the woods, Connecticut, USA, Ramadan will fall during the hottest and longest days of the summer; however in other parts of the world, Muslims will be in fasting in much hotter climates while others will be experiencing winter and much cooler weather.
Insha’Allah, during this most blessed month, I will wake up very early in the morning, before the sun begins to rise, to eat a small meal called Suhur (at approximately 3:30am depending on the date). This small meal will consist of some fruit, a protein (maybe a hard-boiled egg or some oatmeal), and water or juice. I will not eat again until the sun begins to set for the evening (approximately 8:15-8:30pm).
There will be a bit of time between when I eat Suhur and when I pray the early morning, Fajr, Salah. Insha’Allah, I will take advantage of this time to read some chapters of the Qur’an and listen to some Qur’an recitation. This is a beautiful way to start the day, and I strive to do this often throughout the year. The world is quiet and peaceful at that time, and I feel so much more connected to what I am reading. Each time I open this book, each time I read or re-read a Surah, I gain new wisdom and insight into the beautiful meanings of each and every ayat. Each time I listen to tafsir of a Surah in the Qur’an, I am amazed by the beauty of this book and of the Arabic language.
Insha’Allah, when I break my fast in the evening, I will typically do it with dates and water. If no dates are available, then I will have just a few sips of water. And, SubhanAllah, I usually feel full and quite satisfied from eating just 3 dates and a glass of water.
When I break my fast at sunset each day it feels so wonderful to know that I do this all for the sake of Allah (SWT) and that I break my fast with the sustenance that only He has provided me.
There is also a special salah, the Taraweeh salah that is done during the month of Ramadan. This salah can be done in the home, or it can be done in congregation. This prayer occurs after the last salah of the day, the Isha salah (Usually around 10pm). When I offer this salah at home, I only am able to recite the few Surah’s that I know, however, in congregation, the entire Qur’an is recited from beginning to end starting with the very first evening of Ramadan and lasting through the entire month. This salah, if done in congregation, takes quite a while to complete each night, but the rewards for standing in salah are amazing.
According to Hadrat ‘Abdullah bin Umar (RA), the Prophet said, “The Fast and the Qur’an will intercede for the believer (on the Day of Judgment). The Fast will say: ‘My Lord! I stopped this person from eating and drinking and gratifying his desires during the day and he abstained from these, so do accept my intercession on his behalf’; and the Qur’an will say: ‘I stopped him from seeking ease and comfort during the night, and he abstained from sleep and kept standing in Thy presence, reciting the Qur’an; so my Lord! Do accept my intercession on his behalf’. So Allah will accept the intercession of both.”
As you can see from the above Hadith, both Fasting and Qur’an recitation, if done correctly with the proper intention, are filled with blessings and great rewards from Allah (SWT).
In the lecture by Mufti Menk that I mentioned above, he discussed the need to seek knowledge of Islam and knowledge of our Creator, and that we should take the opportunity to do this often during this most blessed month. He suggested that we attend lectures, read Qur’an often, and seek knowledge!
He mentioned that he has had the opportunity to help many brothers and sisters who have reverted to Islam. SubhanAllah. He tells them “My brother/my sister, Islam is a religion. The more you know about it, the more you will love it, the more you will want to put it into practice. The less you know about it, the further away you will drift. So, remember, it is up to you to make an effort to look that which is from the Qur’an and Sunnah.”
This is so true. Without continually seeking true knowledge and understanding, from an authentic source, one will never know the true greatness of Islam and of our duty to our Creator. One can be so easily misguided if he or she does not become educated, especially today when there is so much corruption of this religion by fanatics and by people who have been misguided themselves. It is our duty to Allah (SWT) to learn!
As I seek knowledge during Ramadan, I will have many sources available to me, Insha’Allah. I always have the Qur’an, Hadith information, Tafsir of Qur’an, and a variety of books available. I will also listen to lectures on the internet that are from trustworthy sources and I plan attend Taraweeh salah to hear further explanation of Qur’an, Insha’Allah.
There is so much information available (both good and authentic and bad), due to the internet (especially YouTube and Google) that one needs to have the ability to know what information is true and what is false. One needs to be extremely careful! This is why we have the Qur’an and the Sunnah to follow. If it is not in the Qur’an and not part of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, then we should stay away from it. And, if we have any doubt, the Prophet (SAW) has said:
Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.” (Tirmidhi)
What I have forbidden to you, avoid; what I have ordered you [to do], do as much of it as you can. It was only their excessive questioning and their disagreeing with their prophets that destroyed those who were before you.”(Bukhari/Muslim)
Fairly simple, huh? This is one of the reasons that Islam appealed to me at first, everything is spelled out for me and if I have doubt about something, and I cannot find any clarification according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, I stay away from it!
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of ) the month of Ramadan, he must observe Saum (fasts) that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number of days which you did not observe Saum must be made up from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number of days and that you must magnify Allah (i.e. say Takbir (Allahu Akbar; Allah is the Most Great) on seeing the crescent of the months of Ramadan and Shawwal for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him. (2:185)
My intentions during the upcoming blessed month of Ramadan, along with mandatory fasting, Insha’Allah:
- Increase my charitable efforts
- Increase my Ibadah
- Read the entire Qur’an (in English and some Arabic)
- Perform Taraweeh Salah and attend Taraweeh at the masjid when I am able to go
- Learn and memorize more Duaa
- Learn and memorize more Verses of Qur’an
- Continue to develop my Khushoo in Salah
- Limit my time on daily “dunya” activities. Television and Internet are full of distractions that I should not be viewing. Keeping them off will curtail the things that sometimes catch my eye that I could have done without seeing!
- Eat light and only eat a full meal if I am hosting or attending a gathering. You have to try everything that is offered right? So, I will try just a little, Insha’Allah!
The days are passing, the month of Ramadan is near.
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam, may Allah (SWT) reward you with all that is good and may your fasts and ibadah during this most Blessed month be accepted. Ameen.
Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) various sources
Shalabi, Abdul Wadod (1989) Islam: Religion of Life. Starlight Press: England