How do we receive the blessed month of Ramadan? Allah the Almighty says, "You who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you asit was prescribed for those before you that you may attain piety" [Qur'an 2:183].
My esteemed brother and sister, Allah has distinguished Ramadan from other months with many merits and virtues which include:
The bad breath from the mouth of a fasting person is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk.
The angels ask forgiveness for those fasting until they break their fast.
Allah beautifies His Paradise each day and says, "My righteous servants are about to be spared suffering and harm, then they will be sent to you."
The devils are chained during the month.
The doors of Paradise are opened while those of Hell are locked.
The night, Laylat al-Qadr, which is better than a thousand months occurs in this month. Whoever is deprived of the good of this night has indeed been deprived of goodness altogether.
Those fasting receive forgiveness on the last night of Ramadan.
Allah saves people from Hellfire during each night of Ramadan.
My esteemed brother and sister: How then do we receive the month containing these merits and virtues? Is it by occupying ourselves with playfulness and spending our nights with non-beneficial things? Or do we feel burdened and panic at its arrival? We seek refuge with Allah from such attitudes. The righteous servants of Allah welcome it with repentance and true determination to reap its benefits and fully utilize its precious time. They ask Allah to help them perform their acts of worship in the best manner. I therefore present to you my dear brothers and sisters, the righteous deeds that are stressed during Ramadan.
1. Fasting (Sawm):
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Every good deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied. He will receive ten-fold to seven-hundred-fold reward for a good deed. Allah the Glorious and Majestic has said 'but fasting is exceptional, for it is done for Me and I will give reward for it, since one abandons his passion and food for My sake. There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts, joy when he breaks it and joy when he meets his Lord; and the breath (of an observer of fast) is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk." [Related by AI-Bukhari and Muslim].
Undoubtedly, this great reward will not be for those who only abstain from food and drink, but as the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever does not abandon obscene speech and evil action, Allah does not need his refraining from eating and drinking." [Related by Al-Bukharij. The Prophet (pbuh) also said, "Fasting is a shield. When anyone of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise his voice; rather if anyone reviles him or quarrels with him, he should say, 'I am fasting."' [Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Therefore when you fast, servant of Allah, let your hearing, sight, tongue and all your limbs fast, so that your fasting and non-fasting days are not the same.
2. Praying Qiyam Al-Layl:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh.) said, "He who observes the fast of the month of Ramadan with sincere faith and hope for the reward of Allah will have his past sins forgiven." [Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Also, Allah says, "And the servants of Allah most gracious are those who walk on the earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say (Peace); Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrating and standing" [Qur'an 63-64]. Thus, waking up in the night to pray qiyam al-layl i.e. performing prayer in the middle of the night, was a regular act of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said, "Do not abandon qiyam al-layl, forthe Messenger of Allah (pbuh) never left it. If he as not well or he felt heavy, he prayed sitting."
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, used to pray at night what he wished, until it was in the middle of the night, when he would wake up his family to pray; then he would say to them "prayer.. prayer", and would recite this verse of the Qur'an, "Enjoin prayer on your people, and be constant therein. We ask you not to provide sustenance: We provide it for you. But the fruit of the Hereafter is for righteousness" [Qur'an 20:132].
Ibn Umar used to recite, "Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of the night, prostrating himself or standing (in adoration), who takes heed of the Hereafter, and who places his hope in the Mercy of his Lord like one who does not?" [Qur'an 39:9]. He said that was referring to Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him). Ibn Abi Hatim said Ibn Umar said that it was due to the length of the prayer of the commander of the faithful, Uthman, at night and his recitation to the extent that he may have recited the entire Qur an in one rak'ah.
Alqamah Ibn Qays narrated, "I slept with Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud (may Allah be pleased with him) one night. He woke up in the early part of the night and began to pray. He recited with a recitation similar to that of the neighborhood imam with a medium regular pace. Those around him could hear him and he continued until what remained of the night's darkness was equal to the time between the adhan (call) for maghrib prayer and the end of the maghrib prayer time, i.e. a short time before daybreak. He then performed witr prayer.
Furthermore, Al-Sa'ib Ibn Zayd narrated in a hadith that the reciter would recite (the Qur'an) with hundreds of verses such that we supported ourselves with staves due to the lengthiness of the prayer and did not leave until the time of fair (dawn prayer).
Caution: Brother Muslim, you have to complete the tarawih prayer with the imam in order to be reckoned as one of those who stood (the night) in prayer. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever stays with his imam until he completes the prayer, will have the night written for him as one who performed qiyam al-layl, i.e. one who stood the night in prayer." [Related by compilers of sunan books].
3. Charity (Sadaqah):
The Prophet (pbuh) was the most generous of people, and he was most generous during Ramadan. He was more generous with good deeds than the blowing wind. The Messenger of Allah also said, "The best charity is one given during Ramadan." [Related by Al-Tirmidhi from Anas].
Zayd Ibn Aslam narrated from his father as saying, "I heard Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) say, 'The Messenger of Allah ~buh) commanded us to donate to charity, so I gave some of my wealth. Then I said, 'Today I will compete with Abu Bakr if I can ever do so.' Then I donated half of my wealth. The Messenger of Allah ~buh) asked me, 'What did you leave for your family?' He said, 'I said the same as what I gave out.' But Abu Bakr brought all of his wealth and the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked him, 'What did you leave for your family?' He replied, 'I left them with Allah and His Messenger,' I said, 'I will never compete with you for anything again.
Talha Ibn Yahya Ibn Talha narrated, "My grandmother Sa'da bint Awf AI-Mariyah who was the wife of Talha Ibn Ubaydullah related to me, 'Talha came to me one day disconcerted. So I asked him, 'Why is it that I see you with a gloomy face? What is the matter with you? Is there anything that I can help you with?" He said, "No, you are a faithful Muslim wife." I said, "Then what is the matter?" He said, "The wealth that I have has increased and that disturbs me." I said, "Don't worry, distribute it." She said, 'He divided it until not even a single diniam was left." Talha Ibn Yahya said: "I asked the custodian of Talha's property how much the amount was." He said, 'Four hundred thousand."'
Therefore dear brother, charity during Ramadan has special significance, so hasten to give it out according to your means. Charity takes many forms.
Feeding the Needy:
Allah the Almighty says, "And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, (saying), 'We feed you for the sake of Allah Alone. No rewards do we desire from you, nor thanks. We only fear a Day of frowning and stress from the side of our Lord.' But Allah will deliver them from the evil of that day, and will spread over them brightness and a (blissful) joy. And because they were patient and constant, He will reward them with a garden (and garments of) silk" [Qur'an 76:8-12]. The Salaf used to ensure feeding others and they placed it before many acts of worship, and it is equally rewarded whether you feed a hungry person or a good Muslim brother of yours. Hence, poverty is not a condition for feeding a person.
The Messenger of Allah (')buh) said, "When a believer feeds a hungry believer, Allah will feed him from the fruits of Paradise. And when he quenches the thirst of a believer, Allah will make him drink from the pure sealed wine of Paradise." [Related by Al-Tirmidhi with a good chain of narration].
Some of our pious predecessors said, "For me to invite ten of my friends and feed them with a meal that they like is better for me then freeing ten of the descendants of (Prophet) Isma'il." Many among the Salaf used to leave their food for breaking the fast for others. They included Abdullah Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), Dawud Al-Ta'i, Malik Ibn Dinar and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. Ibn Umar did not break his fast except with the orphans and the needy. Sometimes, if he learned that his family had turned back the orphans and the needy, he would not break the fast that night. Also among the Salaf were those who fed their brother Muslims while they still continued to fast. They also served them and attended to their well-being. Among them were AI-Hassan Al-Basri and Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak.
Abu Al-Sawar Al-'Adwi said, "Some men from Banu Adiy tribe used to pray in the mosque. None of them ever broke the fast alone with his food. If he found someone to share with, he ate with him, if not, he would take it to the mosque, so that others ate with him and he ate with others. Feeding other people is an act of worship which triggers many other acts of worship. Ties of love and brotherliness are strengthened between you and the person you feed and that may lead you to Paradise." The Prophet (pbuh) said, "You will not enter Paradise until you believe and you will not believe until you love one another." This deed will keep you close to righteous people and Allah will reward you as the food you provide helps them with their acts of obedience (to Allah).
Providing Food to Break the Fast:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "Whoever feeds a fasting person will have a reward equal to that of the fasting person, without any reduction in his reward." [Related by Ahmad and Al-Nasai. Also verified by Al-Albani as sahih]. In a hadith narrated by Salman Al-Farisi, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever feeds a fasting person, will be recompensed with forgiveness of sins and salvation from Hell.
He will receive the same reward as the fasting person without causing him any reduction (in his reward). (The Companions) said, 'Messenger of Allah, not all of us can find something to feed a fasting person.' The Prophet (pbuh) said, 'Allah will give this reward to he who feeds a fasting person with a sip of milk or a piece of dates, or a sip of water. And Allah will make him who quenches the thirst of a fasting person to drink from my cistern a drink that he will never feel thirsty until he enters Paradise (where there is no thirst)."
4. Intensifying the Recitation of the Qur'an:
I will remind you dear brother of two actions of the pious Salaf of this Ummah:
Undertaking Much Recitation of the Qur'an:
The month of Ramadan is the month of the Qur'an. The Muslim must therefore recite the Qur'an a great deal. The Salaf used to pay particular attention to the Book of Allah, and angel Jibril (Gabriel) used to study the Qur'an with the Prophet (pbuh) during Ramadan. Uthman Ibn Affan used to complete reciting the Qur'an once each day. Some of the Salaf also completed the Quran in their qiyam prayer every three nights. Others completed it every seven days, while some others completed it every ten nights. They used to recite the Qur'an during prayers and at other times. During Ramadan, Al-Shafi'i used to complete reciting the Qur'an sixty times, excluding prayer times. AI-Aswad used to complete reciting the Qur'an every two nights. Qatada regularly completed the Qur'an within seven nights, while during Ramadan, he completed it every three nights, but in the last ten days of Ramadan, he completed it every night. When Ramadan came, Al-Zuhri left studying the hadith and study circles with scholars and he concentrated on reciting the Qur'an from the book (i.e. not from memory).
Also, when Ramadan came,Sufyan Al-Thawn left all other acts of worship and concentrated on the Qur'an.
Ibn Rajab said that it was reported from the Prophet (pbuh) that the Qur'an may not be completed in less than three days by those who recite it constantly. As for the blessed times such as Ramadan, especially during the nights of expecting laylat al-Qadr or when in holy places such as Makkah for those not inhabiting it, it is recommended that the recitation of the Qur'an be increased in order to benefit from the blessings of the time and the place. This is the opinion of Ahmad, Ishaq and others among the distinguished scholars. As we indicated earlier, the actions of other scholars also support this view.
Weeping During the Recitation of the Qur'an:
It was not reported from the Salaf that they chanted the Qur'an like poetry without pondering and understanding (its meanings); rather, they were moved by the Words of Allah, and they in turn changed the hearts of others with it. In a hadith in AI-Bukhari, Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, 'Recite (the Qur'an) to me.' Then I said, 'How can I recite to you when it was revealed to you?' The Prophet (pbuh) said, 'I like to hear it from someone else."' Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud said, "I recited the Qur'an from Surah Al-Nisa' until I reached the verse that says, 'How will it be then, when We bring from every nation a witness and bring you to witness over all of them"' [Qur'an 4:41]. The Prophet (pbuh) said, 'That is enough.' I turned to the Prophet (pbuh) and found his eyes flooding with tears."'
Al-Bayhaqi related from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "When the verse of the Qur'an that says 'Do you then wonder at this recital (the Qur'an) and you laugh at it and weep not.' [Qur'an 53:59-60] was revealed, the Companions residing in the Suffah, (the courtyard of the Prophet's mosque) wept until tears began to trickle down their cheeks." When the Prophet (pbuh) heard their weeping, he wept with them and his weeping made us weep. The Messenger of Allah said, "The person who weeps in humility to Allah will not enter Hell."
Ibn Umar read surah Al-Mutaffifin until he reached '...the Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds...' [Qur'an 83:6]. He wept to such an extent that he fell to the ground and could not move on to the next verses. Furthermore, Muzahim Ibn Zafar related, "Sufyan Al-Thawn lead us in maghrib prayer, and when he reached 'You (Alone) do we worship and You (Alone) do we ask for help' [Qur'an 1:5], he began to weep so that his recitation was disrupted. So he started from Alhamdulillah again."
It has been reported that Ibrahim Al-Ash'ath said, "One night, I heard Fudhayl Ibn Ayadh reciting this verse of the Qur'an, repeatedly as he wept, 'And We shall try you until We test those among you who strive their utmost and persevere in patience, and We shall test your facts (whether true or false)' [Qur'an 47:31] But he kept on saying the words of Allah, 'And We shall test your facts', then he would say, 'And You will test our facts? If You test our facts, You will disgrace us and expose our secrets. Indeed ifYou do that, You will destroy us and punish us,' and he would continue crying.
5. Sitting in the Mosque Until Sunrise:
"When the Prophet (pbuh) prayed fair prayer, he sat in his prayer place until sunrise." [Related by Muslim].
AI-Tirmidhi narrated from Anas that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever prays fair in the congregation and remains seated, remembering Allah until sunrise, then performs two rak"at; it will be for him as the reward of complete...complete...complete Hajj and Umrah."
This is the reward promised for everyday, so how will it be for Ramadan?
Dear brother, may Allah protect you, have a good sleep at night to assist you in getting this great reward. Also, emulate righteous people and train your soul to strive for the pleasure of Allah. Have high aspirations to reach the highest of the grades of Paradise.
6. Observing I'tikaf:
The Prophet (pbuh) used to observe I'tikaf during ten days of Ramadan. But in the year of his death, he stayed in I'tikaf for twenty days." [Related by Al-Bukhari). Thus, I'tikaf which means staying in the mosque continuously for a certain period of time, is an act of worship that embraces many acts of bedience to Allah, such as reciting the Qur'an, praying, remembering Allah, supplicating, etc.
The person who has not experienced it might think that is difficult to bear, but it is easy for whomever Allah makes it easy. Thus, whoever arms himself with good intentions and true determination, Allah helps him undertake the task with ease. I'tikaf is stressed more during the last ten days of Ramadan in anticipation of laylat al-Qadr. It is a permissible form of seclusion as the person observing it holds himself in seclusion out of obedience to Allah and His remembrance. He also cuts himself off from anything that would distract him from the observance of I'tikaf His heart is set on all deeds that draw him closer to Allah and the only desire he has is to do what pleases Allah.
7. Performing Umrah During Ramadan:
It has been established that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "An Umrah performed in Ramadan is equal in reward to Hajj." [Related by AlBukhari and Muslim). In another version the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The same (reward) as performing Hajj with me." So, congratulations to you my brother (who succeeds) in performing a pilgrimage with the Prophet (pbuh).
8. Anticipating Laylat Al-Qadr:
Allah the Almighty says, "We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power. And what will explain to you what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months" [Qur'an 97:1-3). The Prophet (pbuh) said, "He who observes laylat al-Qadr with sincere faith and hope for the reward of Allah will have his past sins forgiven." [Related by AI-Bukhari and Muslim). The Prophet (pbuh) used to look out for laylat al-Qadr and commanded his Companions also to look out for it. He used to wake up his family members during the last ten nights in the hope that they would succeed in meeting the blessed night (in worship).
It is related in Musnad Ahmad from Ubada that the Prophet (pbuh said, "Whoever stays awake in anticipation of laylat al-Qadr, and succeeds in getting it, will have all of his sins both past and future forgiven." [AlNasai reported a similar hadith, while Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar said that its chain meets the conditions for authenticity].
It has been reported that some of our predecessors among the Companions and their successors took a complete bath and used perfume during the last ten nights (of Ramadan) in anticipation of laylat al-Qadr, which has been highly honored by Allah.
So those of you who have wasted their time with nothing beneficial, make up for what you have missed by observing the night of laylat atQadr, as it is reckoned from your age. Good deeds undertaken in this night are better than (the deeds of) a thousand months, and whoever is deprived of its benefits has indeed been much deprived.
9. Remembering Allah, Supplicating and Seeking Forgiveness
Dear brother, the days and nights of Ramadan are distinguished times, so seize the opportunity by increasing your remembrance of Allah, and making supplications, especially during the chosen periods when they are more acceptable to Allah. These include:
When breaking the fast, since the fasting person's supplications are not rejected.
The last third of the night, when our Lord descends and says, "Is there anyone asking that I may give;is there anyone seeking forgiveness that I may forgive?"
Asking for forgiveness at dawn, as Allah says, "And in the hours of early dawn, they (were found) praying for forgiveness" [Qur'an 51:18].
Looking out for the chosen hour on Friday when supplications are answered. This hour is most likely to be the last hour of Friday (before sunset).
Finally, dear brother: After this round in the garden of Paradise, under the shade of righteous deeds, I would like to draw your attention to an important issue. Do you know what that is? It is sincerity. Yes, sincerity. How so many are the people who fast but benefit nothing other than hunger and thirst from their fast. And how so many are the people who stay awake in worship but get nothing other than sleeplessness and fatigue. May Allah save you and me from that kind of outcome. Consequently, we find the Prophet (pbuh) stressing this matter when he said, "(Fasting) with full faith and hoping for a reward from Allah." The Salaf therefore used to do their righteous deeds secretly in fear of falling into showing off.
Hence, we find this great Tabi'i, i.e. from the generation succeeding the Companions of the Prophet, Ayyoub Al-Sakhtiyani, about whom Hamad Ibn Zayd said, "Sometimes, when studying hadith, Ayyoub would be so moved and he would turn (away) to blow his nose. Then he would say, 'How severe this cold is! Pretending to be having a cold to hide his weeping."
It has been reported that Muhammad Ibn Wasi' said, "I have known men among whom there is one whose head would be placed beside that of his wife on the same pillow, so that the part of the pillow under his cheek would become wet from tears without his wife noticing it. I have also known men, who while in the row for prayer, tears would pour down their cheeks and the one next to them would not notice it. Ayyoub AlSakhtiyani used to remain awake for the entire night (in worship) yet he would hide it. So when morning came, he raised his voice as if he had woken up that instant. Ibn Adiy related that Dawud Ibn Abi Hind fasted for forty years without his family knowing about it. His occupation was embroidery, so he would take his lunch along with him (to work) but donate it to charity on the way. When he returned at night, he would brake his fast with the family and they did not know that he was fasting."
Sufyan Al-Thawn said, "The servant of Allah would do his deeds secretly, and the devil would persist in tempting him until he convinces him to do it openly. The devil would then continue to insist until the person wants to be thanked for the deed. So, it will be converted from a deed done openly to one done for showing off."
10. Amusement During Ramadan:
Dear brother, I think I have prolonged my admonition to you to seize this opportunity. I have taken some of your time, but let us look together at a very critical phenomenon that we all fall into, especially during Ramadan. It is the phenomenon of wasting time and spending it in ways other than obedience to Allah. This indeed means a lack of awareness and amounts to turning away from the Mercy and Bounty of Allah Who says, "But whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a life narroweddown, and We shall raise Him up blind on the Day of Judgment. He will say, 'My Lord, why have You raised me up blind while I had sight (before)?' Allah will say, 'Thus did you, when our signs came upon you, forget them; so will you be this day forgotten. And thus do we recompense him who transgresses beyond bounds and believes not in the signs of his Lord. And the chastisement of the Hereafter is far more grievous and enduring" [Qur'an 20:124-127]. One feels so much pain in his heart and is so much dismayed to find Muslim youth filling the sidewalks and playgrounds during the most virtuous nights of Ramadan.
How so many are the sins and forbidden acts committed during the nights of Ramadan! Yes, the Muslim must be truly concerned about the manner in which Muslims spend their time. He must also be disturbed to find Muslim youth spending their time in ways that are not pleasing to Allah. But do not worry. The path to your happiness and that of your Muslim brothers is to call them to apply Islamic teachings (i.e. doing da 'wah) and to make supplications for them. Yes, da'wah to those Muslims who have become unaware of their Islamic duties, and guiding them to the Straight Path. Also, make supplications for them in their absence that Allah may accept it from you and that they do not become among those deprived of guidance.