All praise is for Allah wa ta aala, the creator of the heavens and the earth and the blessings of Allah ta’ aalaa be upon His beloved Prophet Mohammed sallal -laahu alayhi wa sallam (SAW).
Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar ordained by Allah wa ta ‘aalaa for fasting. In addition to fasting, Ramadan is also the month of increased worship and prayers, reading and reciting of the Holy Quran, religious devotion, spiritual reflection and charity for the poor and needy. It is said that the spiritual rewards for such intensive extra religious acts during Ramadan are greatly multiplied.
The month- long fasting begins at dawn with the eating of a meal and broken at sunset with a meal which is shared with family members and the poor around. In addressing an assembly of followers before the commencement of Ramadan, the Prophet is quoted as saying that “O people there comes upon you a great month, a most blessed month, in which lies a night better than one thousand months. It is a month in which Allah has made fasting in the day compulsory for all able Muslims”. The Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) reiterated that Ramadan is abounding with many blessings, rewards and benefits.
Do you know that almost all of God’s (divine) scriptures (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were revealed in the month of Ramadan)? That’s how significant this month is to the creator.
Man was created purposely to worship the one true God but most are negligent of this prime responsibility to their maker. Due to man’s sinful and heedless nature, Allah in His infinite mercy, decreed that one month of the year be dedicated to fasting and prayers and the doing of good deeds in return for the expiation and forgiveness of one’s sins.
The Prophet of Islam (pbuh) said “Every man is a sinner but the best of sinners are those who repent and seek Allah’s forgiveness”. Allah says in the Holy Quran that ‘I am full of forgiveness and mercy to my slave who show remorse and repent of his sins”. Muslims are therefore enjoined to make good use of this month to attain Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.
There are numerous Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) that say that the dua’ (prayer) of a fasting person is readily accepted by God particularly in the blessed month of Ramadan because of one’s closeness to Him. Let us therefore take advantage of this special month of Ramadan to win the love and mercy of the good Lord.
Though many of us start the Ramadan quite enthusiastically, our habits prevent us from achieving a long lasting change in character and behaviour. Many return to the bad ways after the Ramadan.
Use Ramadan to repent of your sins and heedlessness and Allah will have mercy on you, forgive you your sins and open the doors of Jannah (paradise) for you. It is said that the gates of paradise are open in the month of Ramadan for sincere believers who are remorseful and are repentant of their sins.
To repent, list all the sins or wrong doings committed and for each sin e.g. cheating on your spouse, defrauding your business partner or indulging in corrupt practices at workplace , show remorse and sincerely promise not to return to those sins or wrongdoings and ask for Allah’s forgiveness.
Ramadan, for the Muslims is a very great favour from Allah ta’ aalaa. This favour can only be beneficial if we properly appreciate its spiritual significance, otherwise Ramadan will come and go without our gaining anything. The Prophet stated that “if Muslims would realize the benefits of Ramadan, they would wish that the whole year round should be Ramadan”
Allah says that ‘The reward for fasting, I will give, because it is for me alone”. Muslims are therefore admonished to devote much of this month to performing various acts of worship including day and night prayers, reciting, reading and listening to the commentary (Tafsir) of the Quran and performing righteous deeds.
During this month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures during daylight hours (about 5.00am to 6.30pm). However, what most people don’t know is that Ramadan is much more than just abstaining from eating and drinking. Significantly, every part of the body (eyes, ears, tongue and limbs) must also be in the fasting mood.
The tongue must be restrained from back-biting, gossip, lying, slandering etc. The eyes must be restrained from looking at unlawful and obscene things. The ears should be restrained from listening to vain or idle talks. The feet must be restrained from going to sinful pleasures and the hands should be restrained from committing criminal acts.
Similarly, fasting of the heart means removing from it the love of worldly things and fasting of the mind means avoiding thoughts about anything other than Allah. It should be noted that the blessings and rewards that we get from our fast are conditioned on how well we observe the Ramadan.
Ramadan is a time to purify the soul and to refocus attention on pleasing the almighty Allah by avoiding both minor and major sins and re-dedicating our lives to the service of the true God.
The Prophet (pbuh) stated that “Whosoever tries drawing nearer to Allah ta’ aalaa by performing any non-obligatory deed in this month, for him shall be such a reward as if he had performed an obligatory act in anytime of the year and whosoever performs an obligatory act, for him shall be reward of seventy obligatory acts in any other time of the year”.
In the same vein, the Prophet (pbuh) reiterated that Ramadan is a month of patience and the reward for true patience is Jannah (paradise). Hence, even if great difficulty is experienced in fasting, one should bear it cheerfully with patience and not to complain, show any frustration or anger.
Ramadan is also the month of kindness and it is said that whosoever feeds a fasting person, for him shall be forgiveness of his sins and freedom from jahannam (hell fire). Kindness should be of a practical nature and this includes kindness to the poor, the orphan, the sick, family members, the wayfarer and whoever is in need.
Use Ramadan as a watershed to make real and permanent change in your character and behaviour in accordance with the teachings of Islam.
I am using this platform to appeal to the youth of this country more particularly the Muslim youth to use this month to henceforth eschew corruption, violence, hate, drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual immorality and related social vices. In the same vein, I enjoin the elders and leaders (chiefs, politicians, public and civil servants and religious leaders) of this nation to live above reproach for the youth to emulate.
To reap the full blessings and rewards of this month, one should in addition to fasting and praying, devote a greater portion of the day and night in the remembrance of Allah (Zikrllah) by reciting in great quantity: laa ilaaha illal-laah and repeatedly ask Allah ta’ aalaa’s for forgiveness by saying astaghfirulaah. You should also be charitable in all respects to the needy and the poor.
It is stated that “Whosoever remembers Allah ta’ aalaa in Ramadan is definitely pardoned and one who seeks a favour from Him is not refused “. One is also enjoined to observe taraweeh and laylatal qadr salaah (prayers) during the night. The Quran describes the one night of laylatal qadr as being greater in blessings and spiritual value than a thousand months of worship; which means that it is more valuable than eighty three years and four months of worship. Fortunate is that person who attains the full blessings of this night by spending it in the worship of Allah, because he has obtained the reward of worship of Allah for eighty three years and four months.
The Prophet (pbuh) said that “Whosoever stands in worship on laylatar qadr with complete faith and sincere hope of gaining reward, all his previous sins are forgiven”.
The Prophet said that the first ten days of Ramadan is a period of mercy and blessings, the middle part is the period for the forgiveness of sins and the last ten days of the month brings freedom from jahannam (hell).Lets be steadfast in our worship to obtain these special divine favours.
It should be borne in mind that the acceptance of our fast and prayers is dependent on the strength of our faith and sincerity of worship. On this score, the Prophet (pbuh) said “ Many of those who fast obtain nothing through such fasting except hunger, and many a one performs salaah at night but obtains nothing by it, except the discomfort of staying awake” .
In conclusion, as we look forward to spending the remaining days of Ramadan in hoping and praying for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness, let us use the spirit of Ramadan to commit ourselves to real and permanent change in character and behaviour by reneging on all vices. May Allah accept our fast and grant us long life, peace and prosperity.
A Friday sermon by Imam Zachariah Mohammed, Gumani Mosque, Tamale (020 8517628). Translated into English by Alhaji Adams Goldwater (020 8118057), CEO, HAJGOLD GUESTHOUSE, TAMALE