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How to Understand Ramadan?

EsinIslam Ramadan Explorer

All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of mankind, jinn and all that exists, and peace and blessings of Allah be upon the most honorable of all Prophets and Messengers; Muhammad.

After a few days we will receive a noble guest, a generous month and a great season. Allah has distinguished it from other months with honor and nobility. He revealed the Quran in it and imposed its fasting. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has established the Sunnah of staying at its nights in praying, worshipping and remembering Allah. It is the month of blessings and goodness; the month of fasting, praying at night and reciting the Quran; the month of salvation from Hellfire and forgiveness; and the month of charity and Al-Ihsân (i.e. to be patient in performing your duties to Allah, totally for Allah's sake and in accordance with the Sunnah (legal ways) of the Prophet (peace be upon him in a perfect manner). In Ramadan, the rewards for good deeds are multiplied, slips are pardoned, invocations are accepted, degrees are raised, and sins are forgiven. In Ramadan the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are closed and the devils are chained.

For a month of such virtues, we must, full-heartedly, prepare for it. We must receive it with joy and happiness; with the sincere intention to fast and spend its nights in praying and invoking Allah and remembering Him. We must hasten to compete for goodness and honest repentance from all sins and evil deeds and from whatever may affect our fasting such as amusement, idle talk, futility, and committing the forbidden. We should utilize each and every moment in increasing our performing of righteous deeds such as reciting the Quran, remembrance, praying, invocation, giving alms and all acts of worship. This is a great month which Allah has made a field for His slaves to compete in performing all acts of obedience and all kinds of righteousness. It is just one month in the year, so shall we be miser to ourselves and not to benefit from exerting efforts and increasing performing the acts obedience and those of worship?

Ramadan has a great status in our True Religion. It is the fourth pillar of this religion. It has a major aim which Allah, Glorified and Exalted has shown in His Holy Book. He, the Almighty has said, {O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqűn (the pious).} [Surat Al-Baqarah 2:183]

{يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ} البقرة: 183

Transliteration: Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo kutiba AAalaykumu alssiyamu kama kutiba AAala allatheena min qablikum laAAallakum tattaqoona

The aim of fasting is not to torture and hunger the self. The aim, rather, is to achieve piety, to cultivate, refine, and raise the degree of self, to accustom it to be free from desires and lusts, to train it for patience, enduring pain, keeping away from prohibitions and to be far above beasts whose main aim is to eat, drink and satisfy the instinct.

Piety to Allah, Glorified and Exalted, is by following His orders and avoiding His prohibitions.

Achieving Ramadan is a major blessing for this who reached the month and acted dutifully in it. This is achieved through returning to Allah in repentance from disobeying Him to obeying, from negligence to remembrance, and from being away from Him to repenting to Him. Have we fasted the true fasting, and realized the secret of fasting? Have we accepted the Devine gift and benefited from it? Our ancestors have reaped the sweetest fruits from Ramadan. Their hearts abstained from sins, their souls abstained from performing acts of disobedience, their hands abstained from harm and evil, their tongues abstained from swearing, cursing and obscenity. Their souls were refined and their morals became good. On the other hand, in this age, most people do not like to swear but while they are fasting. We often see quarrels, bickering, anger, and grief in marketplaces, offices and public places because they claim that their stomachs are fasting from food. They are right; their stomachs, not their brains, control those people. When their stomachs are empty, their morals turn bad; especially those of the smokers', may Allah guide them and us.

Intention and hoping of reward in Ramadan

Devotion and intention are a must in fasting and all other acts of worship; otherwise they will just become a habit for which man will not be rewarded. Reward is given only according to the intention. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has said, ''The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.'' [Agreed upon]

«إنّما الأعمال بالنيات وإنّما لكل امرء ما نوى» متفق عليه

A Muslim must fast out of faith and hoping of reward, not out of hypocrisy, imitation or following of others; so that he will gain the major virtue and great reward of fasting as mentioned by the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, ''Whoever observes fast during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards (not for showing off), then all his past sins will be forgiven.'' [Agreed upon]

«من صام رمضان إيماناً واحتساباً غفر له ما تقدم من ذنبه» متفق عليه

''Out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards'' means that to intend to fast Ramadan out of believing with the hope of attaining the reward of Allah's, willingly, without compulsion, and without feeling irritated from fasting or feeling that its days are long.

The complete right Islamic fasting

The right fasting is not just confined in avoiding food, drinks or sexual intercourse as some may think. The body organs must refrain from performing sins, evil and acts of disobedience. Therefore, man must be aware and keep away from sins and acts of disobedience that may affect fasting, decrease its reward and cause the anger of the Lord, Glorified and Exalted, such as neglecting prayers, usury, injustice, undutifulness to parents, severing ties of relationship, backbiting, gossiping, lying, perjury, smoking, listening to music, watching the forbidden in television and the alike matters that Allah has forbidden; in order to achieve the right meaning of fasting. Unfortunately, some people think that once they have broken the fast; all the forbidden has become allowed, so after breaking the fast they watch and listen to the prohibited in TV, that is in case that they do not do that during fasting as some people who have not yet understood the meaning of fasting. One is afraid that such people may meet the words of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, ''Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)'' [Reported by Al-Bukhari]

«من لم يدع قول الزور والعمل به فليس لله حاجة في أن يدع طعامه وشرابه» رواه البخاري

Forged speech is not only perjury, as some may think. It rather includes each words or deeds that may cause the anger of the Lord, Glorified and Exalted.

Ramadan is a training course for the believers

Ramadan is considered a training course from Allah Almighty for His believing slaves to practice performing good deeds and repentance from sins and evil actions. The Muslim exercises fasting, praying at night, expenditure, kindness, giving money and other acts of obedience. He also exercises quitting sins, lowering the gaze, guarding his hearing from listening to forbidden talk, training his tongue to abstain from swearing, cursing and gossiping and other sins and wrongdoings. Therefore, after the end of Ramadan the Muslim will become accustomed to performing acts of obedience and avoiding performing sins and acts of disobedience. The Muslim will be accustomed to the morals of the believers to start an integrated faithful life after Ramadan. It is worthy of such people that Allah will accept their fasting and praying at night. In other words, their status after Ramadan is better than that before Ramadan.

What hurts the heart is that many Muslims do not seize such opportunity by being accustomed to performing righteous deeds and repenting from performing the prohibited. Rather, you see them by the end of Ramadan ending their relation with good deeds and returning to sins and performing acts of disobedience, as if Allah is not worshipped but only in Ramadan.

Those people of seasonal worshipping may not be benefited by their acts of worship on the Day of Resurrection, because Allah orders us to worship Him till we meet Him. Allah Almighty has said, {And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty (i.e. death).} [Surat Al-Hijr 15:99],

{وَاعْبُدْ رَبَّكَ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ} الحجر: 99

Transliteration: WaoAAbud rabbaka hatta yatiyaka alyaqeenu

This means that until death comes to you, not until Shawwal comes to you. How bad these people are who do not know Allah but only in Ramadan!

If man will disobey Allah after Ramadan, so what is the value of Ramadan for him then? Such kind of people spends Ramadan in eating, drinking, staying late at night, sleeping, amusement and playing. Ramadan ends without achieving the meanings for which it has been decreed. In addition, what is the benefit from doing good deeds and following that with contradictory acts? Those people are like those described by the poet:

You destroy what you build arduously by hand
You through the days build and destroy

The wrong understanding to Ramadan

Sadly, a lot of many people have understood Ramadan incorrectly. They understand it in a different way than Allah wants. Instead of being a month of hunger, suffering, hard work and patience, it has become for them a month of mastering making premium variety of foods, that it has turned into the month of surfeit, fatness and stomach illnesses. Ramadan has also turned from the month of feeling and consolation of the hungry, poor and miserable to the month of indulging deeply into pleasures and lustrous desires. When Ramadan approaches, you find them heading to the markets and filling their houses with different kinds of food. Some, rather, buy more than what they need and what they used to buy in the previous months, as if they are hungry all the year and they do not eat but only in Ramadan. They have made such a noble month a season for eating, drinking and filling stomachs, though it is originally, a month decreed by Allah in order for a person to feel the bitterness of hunger and stinging of pain so that they can notice their brothers in most Muslim countries; those who starve, fast forcibly the whole year, know only the name of food and taste only its shape. We do not mean at all to forbid eating and drinking; the human body indispensably needs eating and drinking. But we mean that it should be within rational limits and without extravagance. It is noticed that most food prepared in Ramadan is not eaten. Only a small portion is eaten and the rest is thrown in wastebaskets. Such action does not satisfy neither Allah nor His Messenger; it is being ungrateful for blessing, for which Allah has said, {And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: ''If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but Allâh), I will give you more (of My Blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily My punishment is indeed severe.''} [Surat Ibrâhîm 14:7]

{وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ} إبراهيم: 7

Transliteration: Waith taaththana rabbukum lain shakartum laazeedannakum walain kafartum inna AAathabee lashadeedun

Staying at night in Ramadan

One of the wrong notions about Ramadan is that some people understand it as the month of staying late at night, playing, amusement and vanity. By the beginning of Ramadan, some start preparing the playgrounds for competition and games. Others get ready by preparing places for playing cards, listening to and viewing the forbidden in TV and satellite channels and other silly matters in which days of such gracious month are spent. For such miserable persons, the nights of such noble month turn from the nights of praying at nights, crying from the fearing of Allah and being humble between His Hands into dead nights filled with several types of playing and frivolousness. The daytime of this holy month also turns from the month of fasting, praying, patience, remembrance and reciting the Quran into the month of sleeping, laziness, sluggishness and wasting the prayers. That is how the noble days and nights of Ramadan are killed by many people without sensing the greatness and virtues of such days and nights. We mean by staying late at night as doing that for forbidden futile matters. Staying late at night, however, for allowed matter is not wrong, God willing, providing that it is not done each and every night, or that it is to stay too late for most of or for the whole night, to the extent that man exhausts himself and deprives himself from utilizing these nights performing acts of worship that would benefit and help him.

Ramadan is a chance for returning to Allah in repentance

Asking Allah for forgiveness from sins is obligatory for each Muslim in all times. Allah Almighty has said, {And all of you beg Allâh to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.} [Surat An-Nűr 24:31]

{وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعاً أَيُّهَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ}النور: 31

Transliteration:watooboo ila Allahi jameeAAan ayyuha almuminoona laAAallakum tuflihoona

Allah Glorified and Exalted accepts the repentance of His repenting slaves in all times. In Ramadan, however, His blessing and bounty over people increase. Thus, it is a chance for those who want to repent to Allah. For anyone who is afflicted by a sin or a bad habit which become familiar to their soul and leaving it has become difficult, Ramadan is a great chance for patience, persistence and striving the self against such sin and habit. The devils are chained, the self is humbled and dedicated to Allah and the soul is affected. Fasting during the day prevents man from committing any act of disobedience and forces him to abandon it during the defined period of fasting. This helps in completely abandoning it if he really aspires for that and looks forward for it. This who is used to being patient from approaching the allowed matters while Allah has permitted them for him all the time except in limited times, and he has obeyed Him in this matter; it is worthy of him to be patient and keep away from the prohibited matters that Allah has forbidden them all the times. He should obey Him, in this matter as well, by not approaching them. This who does not repent in Ramadan, when shall he repent? This who is not forgiven in Ramadan, when shall he be forgiven? And this whose neck is not freed from Hellfire in Ramadan, when shall it be freed?

A word for women

Women are sisters of men. Whatever guidance are forwarded for men are also forwarded for women except those that are unique for each sex. The word we want to say is to blame some women who announce alert and state of emergency in kitchens. You can find her standing on her feet after the noon prayer on; to prepare different recipes, although most of these kinds are left without being eaten but a very small portion due to their diversity and large quantity. The rest of the food is thrown into wastebaskets, which is considered as extravagance. Allah Almighty has said, {and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allâh) likes not Al-Musrifűn (those who waste by extravagance).} [Surat Al-A'râf 7:31]

{وكُلُواْ وَاشْرَبُواْ وَلاَ تُسْرِفُواْ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ} الأعراف: 31

Transliteration: wakuloo waishraboo wala tusrifoo innahu layuhibbu almusrifeena

In addition, due to the preparation of such a lot of dishes, women waste most of their time without utilizing from and without exploiting such month in performing acts of worship, such as reciting the Quran, remembrance, prayers, and the like. If the woman is satisfied with small quantities and dishes and distributes the dishes made on one day to several other days, it will be better and more likely to be all eaten without being bored of them and she will avoid extravagance and waste.

If it is necessary to spend most of the time in the kitchen, it is preferable for a woman to pay attention to the following matters in order that these long hours will not be considered wasted for her:

1 – Evoking the intention and sincerity in preparing the food and hoping to attain Allah's reward for the tiredness and fatigue resulting from that; the one who takes care of fasting persons has a great reward, so what about a fasting woman who spends most of the time in preparing food. There is no doubt that she is of great goodness and will attain major reward, Allah willing.

2 -She has to utilize her working hours in increasing remembrance, praising, asking for forgiveness, invoking Allah and listening to the Quran and religious lectures and the like; which contain great benefit and reward and, at the same time, it does not need a lot of time or effort. Accordingly, she will combine two good things: evoking the intention in preparing food and the plentifulness of remembrance, supplication and asking for forgiveness while she is working. That is the Grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He wills.

May Allah help us all to what He loves and accepts. May He accept our fasting and staying the nights praying and invoking Him in this month; may He free our necks from Hellfire. He is the Protector and Able to do that. And Allah knows best. Peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad.


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