By Shaykh Muhammad Jebril | Translated by Shazia Ahmad
Many of us spend a good portion of our Ramadan nights with our hands raised in du`a’ (supplication), listening to the heart-felt words of our imam or shaykh calling on Allah in the witr prayer. For those of us who don’t speak Arabic, it is a time when we often long to understand the meaning of the words being said with such evident intensity and feeling.
It is for this reason that we would like to present a beautiful du`a’ of Sh. Muhammad Jebril of Cairo, Egypt – said at the completion of his recitation of the Quran in Ramadan – accompanied by an English translation.
This du`a’ was performed at Masjid `Amr ibn Al-‘Aas in Cairo, Egypt in Ramadan 1410/1990.
Click here to read the du`a’.
The month of Ramadan is a time when we, despite the struggle, keep ourselves away from that which is otherwise permissible and a necessity in our life. For the past eleven months, at some level we have given preference to our physical self, in terms of nourishment, than our soul. We’ve done things we shouldn’t have, we’ve probably neglected some duties towards Allah (Exalted is He) that we shouldn’t have. Maybe we haven’t been reciting much of the Qur’an or maybe we’ve been neglecting some of the prayers.
This month is a time when Allah commands us to limit our physical nourishment and instead focus on the spiritual – in order to give life to our hearts and fix and improve our spiritual state. This is the time to rise up and acknowledge our deficiencies during the past months and resolve to move ahead with the aim to improve our relationship with Allah, with His Book, and with His Messenger (peace be upon him).
Ramadan, as an institution, is designed as a whole to bring our hearts back to life, thus allowing the light of taqwa (God-consciousness) to illuminate itself within us. The fasting during the day reminds us that our purpose in life isn’t merely to satisfy the desires of our self (nafs) and this reminder leads us to focus instead on feeding our soul. We are taught during the day to empty our hearts from the desires of our nafs so that at night we can fill it up instead with the light of the Qur’an.
Therefore, we find the next logical step is the Taraweeh (the night prayer offered in Ramadan) where we stand after a long day listening to the Qur’an being recited in prayer in order to give our soul its much required nourishment. As we get in tune with this during the early phases of the month and our hearts are revived and rejuvenated, the bar is raised and during the final ten nights we stand even longer and even later in prayer in the Tahajjud (late night prayer) seeking the rewards of the Laylat Al-Qadr, reciting Qur’an and engaging in `ibadah (worship) so as to fill our hearts with the sweetness of worship.
The month of Ramadan (is that) in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion… (Al-Baqarah 2:185)
The interesting thing to note about this ayah (verse) here is that Allah at the mention of Ramadan didn’t talk about fasting first. When we think about Ramadan, what comes to our mind immediately? Usually, our first thought is fasting right? But we find that Allah instead couples Ramadan firstly with the Qur’an as if to say that Ramadan’s first and foremost role in our lives should be to increase our relationship with the Qur’an and only then does He follow it with the command to fast in the month.
The goal of fasting is taqwa, but what actually allows us to establish taqwa in our lives if not the Qur’an? So the logical step for us is that we need to try and prepare ourselves towards establishing a relationship with the Book of Allah. As mentioned earlier, fasting trains us to empty our hearts from desires and aspires towards a loftier goal and that goal can only be achieved with the soul food that the Qur’an provides.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
And We made firm their hearts when they stood up and said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have certainly spoken, then, an excessive transgression”. (Al-Kahf 18:14)
This verse is talking about the story of the Youth of the Cave when they stood up and said to the people in their vicinity that they only worshipped Allah. They were able to do that only because Allah strengthened their hearts. However, the interesting thing to notice here is that they made the first move to get closer to Allah – Allah only strengthened their hearts when they stood up. Meaning, they had to commit to following the truth and when this commitment was proven by their action, Allah made their efforts easy for them.
Likewise, in Ramadan, we need to make sure to put in the effort to establish that bond with the Qur’an. Once we start making the effort, Allah will make it easier for us and we will start tasting the sweetness of servitude. We need to go into this month not just with the intention of improving ourselves, but with actual preparation by increasing in good so that our good actions are a reason by which Allah gives us the ability to come out of Ramadan improved and forgiven. As the Messenger told us, ”Whoever fasts Ramadan out of iman (faith) and seeking Allah’s reward then his past and future sins are forgiven.” (Ahmad)
Let’s try and set some goals for ourselves with regards to the Qur’an. If we don’t know how to read it correctly, let’s try to learn. If we don’t recite it often, let us take the time out every day to recite. If we are already reciting, then we can try and add some more or increase the frequency. If we listen to music in our iPods, in our cars and on the way to school or work, then let’s empty our hearts and devices from music and instead try and fill it up with the Qur’an for this month.
Let’s begin to reflect upon the guidance in the Qur’an and try to internalize the lessons therein. Let’s aim to set a powerful foundation for the Qur’an in our lives by which we can establish routines that will allows us to begin a functional relationship with the Qur’an in Ramadan and continue it thereafter so that once the devils are let out, we have a solid defense mechanism, taqwa, within our hearts to help us.
After all, this is the month of the Qur’an and that necessitates that we give special attention to this Book during the month. Our aim should be to build this relationship, not just for the 30 days of Ramadan but rather setting a strong, deep, unshakeable foundation for a relationship that will flourish for the next eleven months.
By Jamaal Diwan
Discussing the objectives of our actions is an important thing because to do so is to discuss the actions in a true and deep way. It is possible that if we do not know why we are doing certain things, we could miss the entire point behind the action itself. So, what are the objectives of fasting in Ramadan?
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said about this concept, “Maybe a fasting person gains nothing from his fast except hunger and thirst. And maybe a person who prays in the night gains nothing from their Prayer except staying up late.” (At-Tabarani) So this is a person who does an action but gets no result from it.
This is because if someone does an action without knowing why they are doing it or what the objective behind it is, then it is possible that the action will be useless. This is because, as Imam al-Shatibi said, “Actions without objectives are like bodies without souls.” So in this article we will discuss some of the general objectives of fasting and Ramadan.
1. Attaining Taqwa
This is the major objective of fasting in Ramadan as clarified by the Qur’an. God said,
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous (muttaqun). (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Fasting also teaches a person how to have taqwa because while one is fasting they are careful about all kinds of things. They watch what comes out of their mouth, what they look at, and all that they do. As a result, the person learns how to have a certain level of restraint regarding their actions. This helps them build their taqwa by making them watchful over everything that they do.
As to the definition of taqwa, the clearest way to understand it is through the definition that was provided by Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him).
Someone came to him and asked, “What is taqwa?” He responded by asking the man if he has ever walked through a thorny road. He said, “Yes.” He asked, “What did you do?” He replied, “Whenever I saw thorns I would avoid them or adjust my clothes to keep them safe.” Abu Hurayrah told him, “That’s taqwa.”
2. Fasting is a Shield
The Prophet said in an authentic hadith (narration) that “fasting is a shield.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Even the word shield in Arabic has the connotation of protection and this is one of the meanings of the word taqwa. The Prophet also said, “O youth! Whosoever amongst you can afford to get married, let them get married. And whoever cannot afford to do so then they should fast because it will help him control his desires.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
This protection that fasting gives cannot be accomplished by just reducing one’s food intake because it is the material and immaterial elements of fasting that aide one in controlling themselves. For this reason Imam al-San`ani said about this, “It is for a secret that God put in fasting, so just reducing how much food you eat will not be enough.”
3. Fasting and Patience
Another thing that we should learn in Ramadan is to be patient with what we face in our daily lives. The Prophet said in a hadith, “Fasting the month of patience, and three days of every month is equivalent to fasting the entire year.” (Al-Nasaʾi and Ahmad) In this hadith, the Prophet refers to the month of Ramadan as the month of patience, emphasizing the importance of patience in this month.
It is also said that fasting is half of patience. This is because patience basically consists of staying away from bad deeds and persisting in good deeds. In the month of Ramadan, one of the major things that we seek to do is stay away from as many bad deeds as possible so that our fasting is half of patience.
4. Ramadan is the Month of the Qur’an
In the month of Ramadan, we spend more time with the Qur’an than in any other part of the year. We spend time reading it by ourselves, we spend time studying it, we spend time listening to it during Tarawih Prayers, and so on. In this month, the revelation of the Qur’an began and a civilization of learning and knowledge was born.
5. A Month of Generosity
It is narrated that the Prophet was the most generous of people and his most generous time was Ramadan. In doing this, the Prophet was combining between a personal act of worship, like reading the Qur’an, and a social act of worship, charity. Thereby, he showed what it means to live a comprehensive existence as someone who worships God. In doing so, he shows that our responsibilities are not only limited to ourselves but also include those around us.
6. The Importance of Time
We also learn in Ramadan that time is one of the most important blessings that we have in our lives. The Prophet said, “Two blessings, many people are at a loss regarding them: health and free time.” (Al-Bukhari) The major acts of worship in Islam are all related to specific times. We pay our zakah at a particular time. We pray at specific times. We start fasting at a particular time, in a particular month, and we break our fast at a particular time. We go on hajj at a particular time. All of these specifications are meant to teach us, among other things, the importance of time.
For this reason al-Hasan al-Basri said, “O son of Adam! You are nothing but a compilation of breaths, so every time you inhale and exhale, a piece of you is lost.” The believer is strict with their time and the more a person’s faith increases, the more their observance of their time increases. The responsibilities we have are more than the time we have to carry them out, so we should try to be as strict with our time as possible.
These are just some of the objectives of fasting and Ramadan that we should seek to actualize. We can use these as a measuring stick for our month and see how we add up. If we look throughout and see that we are improving in these aspects then we should thank God for His bounties upon us, and if we find that we are not, then we should seek His forgiveness and grace and work harder.
May Allah accept from us all our good deeds in this month and forgive us for our shortcomings. Ameen.
Note: Most of the this article is taken from an article on the topic that was written by Shaykh al-Raysuni.
Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan? What are the spiritual goals of fasting? Why do Muslims pay attention to the Qur’an during Ramadan?
Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance you shall be grateful. (Al-Baqarah 2:185)
Watch this video by Imam Suhaib Webb to know why Muslims fast during the Month of Ramadan…
By M. Fethullah Gulen
Like rain pouring on the earth, Ramadan comes with streams of meanings and emotions that water dried and thirsty hearts.
At this time when we experience occasions, of much sorrow and some contentment, we sense the promise in the advent of Ramadan, the month of mercy and forgiveness. In the climate of this month of light, we feel both spring and autumn at the same time in our inner worlds, seasons of lovely expectations and longing.
With their profound, spiritual breezes, every sound and breath of air in Ramadan announces in a most exalted and exhilarating style all the pleasures we would like to taste in life and the hopes of good we deeply cherish.
Coming like successive rays of light, the smiling days of Ramadan envelop us with the expectations, hopes and joys they carry from the worlds beyond, and present to us samples from Paradise.
When Ramadan begins, our inner life, its thoughts and feelings, are renewed and strengthened. Breezes of mercy, coming in different wavelengths, unite with our hopes and expectations, and penetrate our hearts. In the enchanting days and illumined nights of Ramadan, we feel as if all the obstacles blocking our way to Allah are removed and the hills on that way are leveled.
Like rain pouring on the earth, Ramadan comes with streams of meanings and emotions that water dried and thirsty hearts, making the inner worlds of people propitious for new meanings and conceptions. By means of the light of the days, hours and minutes of this blessed month, hearts attain such spiritual depth and become so purified that they never desire to leave its climate of peace.
As Ramadan approaches, we live the delight of anticipation and preparation for it. The food and drink that come into our kitchens in the days before Ramadan comes, put us in mind of it with a thrill of expectation. And then it comes at last, laden with mercy and forgiveness. As soon as it honors us, each of us finds himself in a spiral of light rising toward the heavens and advances toward the Unseen Existent One in a new spiritual mood in the night-time and in another, different spiritual mood in daytime. We open our eyes to each of its days with a different solemnity and self-possession and reach every evening in an enchanting, delightful serenity.
The pleasant nights of Ramadan receive warmest welcome from all souls. Eyes look more deeply in them and people feel deeper love for each other. Everyone desires to do good to everyone and passions and ill-feeling are subjugated to a certain extent. In Ramadan, everyone feels so much more attached to Allah and is so careful in his relations with others that it is impossible not to see this.
Believing souls taste the contentment of belief more deeply and experience the blessing of the good morals prescribed by Islam and the spiritual ease of doing well to others.
Moreover, they try to expand, to share, this contentment, blessing and ease with others. Since these souls at rest are convinced that one day will come when this life will end in an eternal happiness and whatever they suffer and sacrifice here for Allah’s sake will be returned with very great reward, they struggle against their animal appetites in a mood of doing an act of worship.
The meals they take at sunset to break the fast give them the pleasure of worship and are followed by early night prayer with the addition of the supererogatory service of worship particular to Ramadan. The meals they take before dawn to start fasting are united with supererogatory night prayer (Tahajjud) and become a dimension of their nearness to Allah.
Streets are filled with the people going to and returning from mosques, in which declarations of ‘Allah is the Greatest’ resound as in the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah. You would think that the streets are each a mosque and each mosque is Ka`bah. The people shaped by Ramadan in this way, though mortal in nature, gain a sort of eternity and each of their acts done in the consciousness of deliberate worship becomes a ceremony pertaining to the Hereafter.
Nights are experienced more deeply and in consideration of the afterlife, and days are spent as portions of time dominated by resolution and strong will-power. Those fasting for Allah’s sake feel a thrill of joy, and spend every and each day in the excitement of a new re-union. They reach every morning in an indescribable feeling as if they were called to a new testing. You can discern on their faces a sign of humility mixed with solemnity, a feeling of nothingness before Allah together with serenity and seriousness and melancholy combined with a feeling of security. Their every act reflects spiritual peace and exhilaration coming from adherence to Allah’s will and confidence in Him, and sincerity and kindness acquired by being cleansed in the cascades of the Qur’an. As if created from light and consisting in only their shadows, they are very careful to give no one any harm or trouble. Respect and courtesy are so much a part of their nature that, even after a day of thirst and hunger and resisting their carnal desires, they remain gentle and pure-hearted. They display a mood shaped by fear and reverence, discipline and contentment, solemnity and politeness. They are respectful and reverent toward the Almighty and well-mannered and sincere toward one another.
Their faces and eyes reflect different degrees and dimensions of depth of spiritual realms and are radiant with the lights of the unseen world. Though each individual may have been shaped by a different climate and different ideas, all of them, including the intelligent and pure-hearted, those used to a disciplined, careful life and those a bit untidy and careless, the nervous and the calm, those very sensitive to problems of the age and those a little unfeeling, the rich and the poor, the happy and sorrowful, the healthy and the ill, the white and black, share almost the same feelings in Ramadan.
They reach the night and morning together, listen to the call to prayers and perform the prayers together, take the meals before dawn and break their fasts together. They feel together one of the two instances of rejoicing promised for those who fast. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There are two instances of rejoicing for the person who fasts: one when he breaks his fast, the other when he will receive the reward of fasting in the Hereafter”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
All Muslims, whatever their nationality or country of origin or temperament or social status or physical state, come together and breathe the same ‘air’ in the climate of Ramadan. In it, their souls are shaped in a way particular to that climate, and they share a sort of deeply-felt happiness which can be experienced only by spirit beings. Ramadan has a fascinating effect on Muslims that leaves its positive imprints on even the souls of the poorest and most oppressed people.
Ramadan envelops us with many beauties: the pleasure in the supererogatory prayers performed after the prescribed night service; consciousness of the blessings of Ramadan; the light that pours on us both from the heaven and from the lights that decorate the mosques.
As if planned and commanded in order to kindle such feelings and thoughts in us, each element of the public rites in Ramadan causes the ‘strings’ of our heats to resonate: the calls made from minarets and the blessings called on the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the pronouncements of Divine Unity, Grandeur and Glory which resound in our ears, all prepare our souls for worship. They awake us to spiritual and celestial truths and enable even the crudest soul to perform its duties of worship in the way those duties are meant to be performed.
The voices rising from minarets meet with the voices of the inhabitants of the heavens and resound throughout the heavens and the earth. They penetrate our souls and take us through a climate of purest meanings and poetry, a realm of sweet imagination. In this pleasant atmosphere, we feel as if it is Ramadan which pours from the heavens, which is discerned on the faces of people and scents the air and is written in the lights of the mosques. Enchanted by this calm and peaceful atmosphere, we achieve a sort of infinitude and feel as if comprehending the whole of existence. Ramadan captivates particularly those open to eternity to such an extent that they experience nothing else than it.
I remember well that during my childhood when there was as yet no electricity in cities, people walked to mosques with kerosene lamps in the darkness of night. We imagined that Ramadan was walking around in the alleys in the lights of those lamps. Under the influence of poetry, meaning and deep spirituality which Ramadan poured into our souls, we desired that it should never come to an end. Nevertheless, despite our heartfelt desire, it flew away and the festive day followed it with all its pomp.
By Editorial Staff
The Four Sacred Months
Out of Allah’s wisdom, He gives preference to some of His creatures over others. This applies to almost all creatures. The Islamic lunar months are not an exception. There are four lunar months which Allah favored and made sacred. Allah says,
“Indeed, the (ordained) number of the months with God is twelve (lunar) months, (as was decreed) in the (Preserved Heavenly) Book of God on the day He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred – (and) that is the upright religion- so do not wrong yourselves (or others) in them.” (Quran 9:36)
The term Rajab is derived from a word that means glorification. It was so called because in the pre-Islamic period of Ignorance, Arabs used to respect and glorify this month especially the tribe of Mudar.
The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) makes it clearer which four months they are. These are the last two months of the year, Dhul-Qa’dah and Dhul-Hajjah (or Dhul-Hijjah), the first month, Al-Muharram, and the seventh month, Rajab. Narrated Abu Bakrah:
The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession; Dhul-Qa’da, Dhul-Hijja and Al-Muharram, and (the fourth being) Rajab Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month) which stands between Jumada (Al-Akhirah) and Sha’ban.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
These months are sacred so that people can perform the rites of Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah) and ‘Umrah (Lesser Pilgrimage) safely. Committing a sin in such months is much more severely punishable than other months. On the other hand, the reward for acts of obedience performed in them is greater. Also, starting a fight in these months is prohibited except only in case of defense.
The Month of Rajab
In his book, Tabyin al-‘Ajab bi-ma Warada fi Shahr Rajab[i], the great Imam and scholar Ibn Hajar mentioned eighteen names for the month of Rajab. The term Rajab is derived from a word that means glorification. It was so called because in the pre-Islamic period of Ignorance, Arabs used to respect and glorify this month especially the tribe of Mudar.
Speaking or writing about the month of Rajab, some people claim some characteristics or acts of worship specific to the month. However, many of the acts of worship that they mention are based on weak evidence.
“Concerning the excellence of the month of Rajab, fasting it (in full) or specific days of it, or performing the night prayer at a specific night of it, there is no authentic hadith to serve as evidence,” Ibn Hajar said[ii].
To better understand the words of Ibn Hajar, we can say that no act of worship to be performed in Rajab on its own. However, the four sacred months still share a few virtues.
Now, Let us discuss if there is an act of worship specific to the month of Rajab. The reason why we do this is that the acceptance of deeds depends on two main prerequisites: sincerity and emulating the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in worship. So, we should learn which acts of worship are authentic and which are not.
There is no specific or extra prayer to be performed only in Rajab. All the hadiths that prove this are not authentic. Rajab is like all other months regarding this.
Some people claim that it is recommended to perform Salat Al-Ragha’ib on the first Thursday of Rajab between Maghrib (Sunset) and ‘Isha (Evening) prayers. Indeed, it is one of the innovations in religion which scholars have warned against.
It is recommended to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, three days of every lunar month (i.e. the 13th, 14th and 15th days), etc. However, this applies to all lunar months.
Concerning Rajab, fasting the whole month, the first three days, the first Thursday, etc. are mentioned in weak hadiths.
Moreover, ‘Umar, Ibn ‘Abbas and other companions (Allah be pleased with them) were reported to have commanded people not to fast the (whole) month.
Offering a Sacrificial Animal (Al-‘Atirah)
During the pre-Islamic period of Ignorance, people used to offer a sacrificial animal in Rajab and they called it Al-‘Atirah. Some scholars say that this custom continued for a while after the advent of Islam.
Scholars have divergent opinions concerning it. However, the correct opinion is that the ruling of offering Al-‘Atirah is abrogated. Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Neither Fara’ nor ‘Atira (is permissible)”. Al- Fara’ was the first offspring (of camels or sheep) which the pagans used to offer (as a sacrifice) to their idols. And Al-`Atira was (a sheep which was to be slaughtered) during the month of Rajab. (Al-Bukhari)
‘Umrah (The Lesser Pilgrimage)
Performing the ‘Umrah is recommended all the year round especially during the months of Hajj and the month of Ramadan. So, it is wrong to think that performing it in Rajab is better. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) never performed ‘Umrah in Rajab. Narrated Mujahid:
`Urwa and I entered the Mosque and found `Abdullah bin `Umar sitting beside the dwelling place of `Aisha.
`Urwa asked (Ibn `Umar), “How many `Umras did the Prophet (ﷺ) perform?”
Ibn `Umar replied, “Four, one of which was in Rajab.”
Then we heard `Aisha brushing her teeth whereupon `Urwa said, “O mother of the believers! Don’t you hear what Abu `Abdur-Rahman is saying? He is saying that the Prophet performed four `Umra, one of which was in Rajab.”
`Aisha said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) did not perform any `Umra but he (i.e. Ibn `Umar) witnessed it. And he (the Prophet (ﷺ)) never did any `Umra in (the month of) Rajab.” (Al-Bukhari)
The Night Journey and Ascension
There are divergent opinions concerning the exact date of the miracles of Al-Isra’ wal Mi’raj (the Night Journey and Ascension).
The first opinion is that it occurred a year before the Hijrah. Concerning the month, Ibn Hajar said that some storytellers had claimed that Al-Isra’ occurred in Rajab. “It’s a lie,” he commented.
Furthermore, He reprted that Abu Ishaq ibn Harbi said Al-Israa occurred at the 27th night of Rabi’ Al-Awwal[iii].
The second opinion is that Al-Isra’ wal Mi’raj occurred a year and a half before the Hijrah. This opinion can be understood from the words of Ibn Qutaibah[iv].
In sum, there is no authentic evidence to prove the night or month when it occurred. I think the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) kept silent about such date so that people would not attach specific acts of worship to such night. This, in turn, would be an innovation in religion.
[i] HajarAl-‘Asqalani, A. i. (852). Tabyin al-‘Ajab bi-ma Warada fi shahr Rajab (Vol. 1). (T. i. ‘Awad-Allah, Ed.) Cairo, Egypt: Mu’assasat Qortobah.