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A Guide to Ramadhan and Fasting

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The Virtues of Ramadhan

RAMADAN (literally meaning heat and dryness in Arabic) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar entirely devoted to committed ibadah (worship) including sawm (fasting). Fasting during the month of Ramadan was first prescribed in the second year of Hijrah:

You who have iman! fasting is prescribed for you. it was prescribed for those before you so that hopefully you will have taqwa. (2:'183)

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. (2:'185)

Ramadan is the springtime of the Islamic year. just as the earth comes into bloom in spring, so the spiritual side of our nature is renewed and refreshed in Ramadan. This is a time for re?ection, intense worship and strengthening family and community ties. This is a time when the mosques are thronging with people and there is a feeling of warmth, compassion and joy in the air. Muslims look forward to Ramadan because it brings with it the numerous blessings of Allah. Describing this prosperous time of worship, Abu Huraira narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:

Ramadan a blessed month has come to yon, whose fasting Allah has made obligatory for you, in which the gates of Heaven are opened and the gates of jahim are locleed, and the rebellious shaytans are chained up. Allah has in it a night which is better than a thousand months and whoever is deprived of it has certainly been deprived. (An-Nasa�i and Ahmad)

Since fasting is no ordinary act of worship, the potential rewards are also exceptional. The Messenger of Allah said:

Allah says, �All the deeds of the son tn� Adam are for him: the good deeds will be multiplied ten times to seven hundred times, except fasting, which is for .-l/le and I will reward himfor it accordingly. He abandons his (sexual) desire, food and drinlefor Me.� (Muslim)

Allah is most generous in bestowing His favours upon the fasting person in the month of Ramadan and the Prophet mentions five special favours of Allah. Abu Huraira reported the Messenger of Allah -?t as having said:

My community have been given jive qualities in Ramadan which no community before them have been given: the bad breath ofthefasting person is morefragrant to Allah than the scent of musk, the angels seele forgiveness for them until they break the fast, and Allah beaatifies His Garden every day..., and in it the rebellions shaytans are shacleled..., and they are forgiven in the last night. (Ahmad)

The ?rst favour is that the bad breath coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better than musk, a valuable perfume. There are three commonly accepted interpretations to this point. One is that in the Hereafter Allah will reward the person who fasted with breath smelling of musk; or that on the Day of judgement the one who fasted will be raised with their breath smelling of musk; or simply that in this world, to Allah the smell from the mouth of the fasting person is sweeter than the smell of musk, purely out of love for His obedient fasting servant.

The second favour is that, by Allah�s command, the angels make du�a for the fasting person.

The third favour is that Allah adorns Heaven every day in anticipation of His servant, just as We might decorate our home in anticipation of a special guest. The fourth favour and an important feature of Ramadan is that rebellious shaytans are chained. Some scholars are of the opinion that only the major shaytcms are chained, While others believe that all of them are chained. Despite this reassurance, evil acts are still committed throughout Ramadan. A possible explanation for this is that, while the shaytans may indeed be chained, men who have acquired the characteristics of shayrans, by living a life full of wrong action, are still free to act as they please. Having committed wrong actions for the past eleven months, they will continue to do so during Ramadan because their hearts are blackened and they feel no remorse or shame.

The final favour is that Muslims are forgiven their wrong actions on having completed a Ramadan full of sincere ibadah.

Ramadan is also sometimes referred to as �The Month of the Qur�an� because:

The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur�an was sent down as guidance for mankind,... (2:185)

Truly We sent it down on the Night of Power (Laylat ul- Qadr). (97:1)

These ayat show the inseparable link between the Quran and Ramadan. It is said that 'Atiyya ibn al-Aswad once questioned Ibn Abbas as to the explanation of these ayat since sections of the Qur'an are known to have been revealed in other months. Ibn Abbas said, "The Qur'an was sent down as a single whole from the Preserved Tablet (al Lawhal Mahfuz) on Laylat al-Qadr in Ramadan. It was there upon installed in the House of Glory (Bait al-Izzat) in the heaven of the lower world. Then ]ibril brought it down and revealed it to the Prophet in a series of instalments over a period of twenty-three years."

One year, the Prophet summarised the many merits of Ramadan in a lehutbah delivered on the last day of Sha'ban:

"O people! Agreat and most blessed month comes upon you now, wherein lies a night greater in worth than a thousand months. Fasting during this month is obligatory and extra prayers at night are optional. Whoever draws near to Allah by performing any virtuous deed in this month will have such a reward as he had pegtormed an obligatory duty at any other time of the year. And whoever performs an obligatory duty shall have the reward of seventy such duties at any other time of the year."

"This is indeed the month of steadfastness (sabr) and the reward for true steaafastness is the Garden. It is the month of sympathy with one's fellow men. It is a month wherein a believer's livelihood is increased. Whoever feeds a fasting person in order to break the fast at ifar will be forgiven his wrong action andf reed from the Fire and he will receive a reward equal to the fasting person, without that person's reward being diminished in the least".

Some of the companions then said, "Not all of us possess the means whereby we can provide enough for a fasting person to break his fast". The Prophet -lit replied. "Allah grants the same reward to him who gives a fasting person a single date or a sip qfrnille or a drirtle ofwater to break the fast. "

This is a month the first part of which is mercy, the middle of which is forgiveness and the last part of which is jreedom from the Fire. whosoever lessens the burdens of his servants in this month Allah will forgive him and ?ee him from the Fire. And four things you should endeavour to perform in great number, two of which are to please your Lord while the other two are those you cannot malee do without. The first two qualities are to bear witness that there is no god but Allah and to ask for forqiveness. And as for the two you cannot do without: ash Allah for the Garden and seele refiige from the Fire.

And whoever gives a fasting Muslim water to drinle at lfifar, Allah will grant him a drink during the Day ofjudgement?orn thefountain qfMuhammad a?er which he shall never again feel thirsty until he enters the Garden�. (Ibn Khuzaymah, narrated by Salman Al'Farsi)

It is clear from this lehutbah that Ramadan is more than just a month of abstention from food and drink during daylight hours. This abstention coupled with acts of sincere ibadah helps to redirect the body's energy from the worldly to the divine. Special mention is made in the lehutbah of the merits of extra prayers at night, dhiler and du'a and also of feeding a fasting person at iftar. Allah has promised to magnify the reward of any good deed in this month, so We should avail ourselves of this unique opportunity and engage in sincere and committed acts of worship, fulflling both the rights of Allah and of our fellow human beings. This will cultivate self-discipline and generosity, and empathy with the suffering of the poor. Not only is the reward of such a believer increased in the Hereafter but his livelihood is also increased in this world.

It is difficult to exaggerate the bounties of this month but suffice it to say that of the three persons that the Prophet cursed, one is the unfortunate Muslim who finds Ramadan in good health but does not use the opportunity to seek Allah's mercy.