Spirit of Ramadan – part 2

Ramadan is the month of self-reflection and introspection with the intention of getting our lives back on track. Our life is a journey which we hope will end in Jannah. Our parents Adam (AS) and Hawwa (AS) came from Jannah and when Allahﷻ sent them to the earth, He gave them the key to return home – Istighfaar. They said to Allahﷻ:

قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَآ أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ

A’araf 7: 23    They said, “Our Rabb! We have wronged ourselves. If You do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we will certainly be losers.”

To make Istighfaar and Tawba is to acknowledge that we have a Creator, our Rabb and to accept that we need Him to be pleased with us in all matters and therefore to humble ourselves before Him and seek his pardon. This is the key to Jannah because Istighfaar and Tawba is the first step to develop Taqwa. The mistake that our parents Adam (AS) and Hawwa (AS) made was to give precedence to their desire over the Will of Allahﷻ. They didn’t deny Allahﷻ but in that one instance they denied the superiority of Allahﷻ’s Will over their own desire. To give Allahﷻ’s Will its due place as being superior to anything and everything that we may wish for, is the essence of Taqwa. A single instance of neglect caused our parents to lose Jannah. But Allahﷻ gave them the key to return, which is Istighfaar. I begin with this primordial and fundamental incident because it is such a powerful message for us about where we need to start, to return to Allahﷻ. It is never too soon or too late.

I remind myself and you to identify the things in our lives that must change and to change them and turn to Allahﷻ and seek His Forgiveness. Change precedes and is evidence of the sincerity of seeking forgiveness.

قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Zumar 39: 53    Say, ˹O Prophet, that Allah says,˺ O My slaves who have transgressed against their souls! Do not lose hope in Allah’s mercy, for Allah certainly forgives all sins. He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Anas bin Malik (R) reported that Rasoolullah said, ‘Allah said: ‘O son of Adam, I forgive you if you worship Me (alone) and hope for My forgiveness, whatever sins you have committed. O son of Adam, I do not care if your sins reach the height of the heavens, then you ask for my forgiveness, I will forgive you. O son of Adam, if you come to Me with an earth load of sins, and meet Me associating nothing to Me, I will match it with an earth load of forgiveness.’ [Tirmidhi]

Alhamdulillah, we have a Merciful and Forgiving Rabb. Let us return to Him. The blessing of Ramadan is to help us to develop Taqwa which is the secret to solve all our worldly problems and becoming deserving of Allahﷻ’s forgiveness. Allahﷻ declared the benefit of Taqwa and said:

وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُۥ مَخْرَجًا وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ

Talaq 65: 2-3   And whoever is mindful of Allah, He will make a way out for them, and provide for them from sources they could never imagine.

Not only did Allahﷻ promise to help the Muttaqi but said that He would help him in ways that he couldn’t imagine. Imagine Ibrahim (AS) sitting in the cup of the trebuchet, trussed up in ropes, about to be flung into a huge fire. Ask why he showed no signs of fear or worry? That is the meaning of Taqwa. When a person has Taqwa, he has no will of his own. His will is the Will of Allahﷻ. He wants whatever his Rabb wants for him. In the case of Ibrahim (AS), when he demonstrated his Tawakkul, Allahﷻ directly ordered the fire to become a means of safety for him. Allahﷻ didn’t put the fire out. The fire continued to burn. The people who threw him into the fire thought that they had won. But when he walked out of it safely, they knew that they had failed and that Allahﷻ had protected His Khaleel.

وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُۥٓ

And whoever puts their trust in Allah, then He ˹alone˺ is sufficient for them. 

The reward of Taqwa is Tawakkul. When the slave is concerned about the pleasure of Allahﷻ and makes effort to gain it, Allahﷻ grants him peace of mind and freedom from all anxiety and stress. Tawakkul is to have total trust in Allahﷻ and the reward for it is that Allahﷻ will help us to feel His sufficiency for us. I remind myself and you that this sufficiency is not only for this life but much more importantly for the Hereafter where we will need it the most. What can you say about the one who Allahﷻ assured that He would be sufficient? I ask Allahﷻ for this for us all. To make us Muttaqoon, solve our problems and extract us from our difficulties, to keep us in the ranks of the Mutawakkiloon and to fill our hearts with His Noor and Grace and Love and to be sufficient for us in this world and the next. I ask Allahﷻ to make this Ramadan the best in our lives and enable us to maximize its blessings and earn the Ridha (Pleasure) of Allahﷻ.

Ramadan comes to reset our standard, the criterion of what has value and what doesn’t. When we stay away from even the Halaal during the hours of daylight we are emphasizing for ourselves that what makes something good and valuable is not the thing in itself but whether it pleases Allahﷻ or not. That is the meaning of Uboodiyah. The slave has no will of his own. His will is the Will of his Creator, Allahﷻ. He wants whatever Allahﷻ wants for him and not only accepts it but is pleased with it. This is the essence of Ridha bil Qadha – to be pleased with the destiny that Allahﷻ wrote for us. We see the most powerful example of this in the incident of Suleh Hudaybiyya.

Let’s us put ourselves in the caravan going with Rasoolullahﷺ for Umrah. He invited us and we knew that invitation was the result of Wahi and so we were going with complete belief that we would be able to do Umrah. And then thank Allahﷻ that this didn’t happen and Allahﷻ saved us from this test. Because not only were Rasoolullahﷺ and the Sahaba stopped at Hudaybiyya but Rasoolullahﷺ signed a one-sided treaty and they had to return to Madina without performing Umrah. As we know from the details of the story, the Sahaba were very upset, and sad, at this unexpected turn of events. Imagine the severity of the spiritual and emotional test they faced.

To the extent that Sayyidina Omar ibn Al-Khattab (R) even questioned Rasoolullahﷺ about it. Imagine the severity of this test. Here they were, following Rasoolullahﷺ who they believed in, who had promised them that they would make Umrah. But it turns out that they would not be able to do so. Their desire was pure. What is purer than the desire to worship Allahﷻ? Yet they were stopped by the Quraysh and refused entry into Makkah and Rasoolullahﷺ accepted this and signed a one-sided treaty.

So, when Rasoolullahﷺ ordered the Sahaba to shave their heads and sacrifice the animals, nobody moved. They didn’t refuse to obey, but they didn’t move. Rasoolullahﷺ was shocked but he didn’t insist or repeat his command out of his mercy for his Ummah. Because to deliberately disobey a command of Rasoolullahﷺ is Kufr and takes you out of Islam. He got up from where he was sitting and went inside his tent. His wife, our mother Umm Salama (RA) saw his expression and asked him what was wrong. He said, ‘My Ummah is destroying itself.’ She asked him what had happened. When he told her, she said, ‘Ya Rasoolullahﷺ please go out and do it yourself and InshaAllah they will follow you.’ Rasoolullahﷺ took her advice and did that. On a sidenote, pause for a moment and think of this beautiful relationship between Rasoolullahﷺ and his wife. He didn’t argue with her or pull rank on her. He listened to her and accepted her advice. And so, it happened. He came out of his tent and called Sayyidina Ali bin Abi Talib (R) to bring the sacrificial animals to be slaughtered and to shave his blessed head.

The Sahaba got up and followed his actions. Nobody argued or dissented. With tears flowing down their cheeks, they shaved each other’s heads and made their sacrifices. Not even one of them refused to obey Rasoolullahﷺ. When the Sahaba accepted Rasoolullahﷺ’s decision and returned to Madina, Allahﷻ called it a manifest victory and revealed Sura Fath. The real victory there was the victory over the Nafs, over personal desire. In this case the desire was noble and pious but with Allahﷻ their obedience to Him and Rasoolullahﷺ was more worthy of reward. The reward was that though the treaty was for the suspension of hostility for a period of ten years, Allahﷻ gave the Muslims Makkah itself after two years.

That is why I call Suleh Hudaybiyya, the final qualifying exam of the Sahaba. This reiterates the fundamental criterion of right and wrong in Islam. That the Ridha (Pleasure) of Allahﷻ decides if something is right or wrong. Not the thing itself but whether it pleases Allahﷻ or not. Virtue is to do what Allahﷻ wants us to do. Sin is to do the opposite. It is not the action but whether it pleases Allahﷻ or not. When the Sahaba followed Rasoolullahﷺ despite whatever difficulty or reservations they may have had, Allahﷻ called it a manifest victory and opened Makkah for them. That is why Allahﷻ declared that to obey Rasoolullahﷺ is to obey Allahﷻ. He said:

مَّن يُطِعِ ٱلرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ ٱللَّهَ وَمَن تَوَلَّىٰ فَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَـٰكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا

Nisa 4: 80    Whoever obeys the Messenger has truly obeyed Allah. But whoever turns away, then ˹know that˺ We have not sent you as a keeper over them.

وَمَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمُ ٱلرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَىٰكُمْ عَنْهُ فَٱنتَهُوا۟ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلْعِقَابِ

Hashr 59: 7    Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it. And whatever he forbids you from, leave it. And fear Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment.

This is the spirit of Ramadan and the essence of Taqwa. In Ramadan, we make what is normally Halaal, Haraam on ourselves only because Allahﷻ ordered it. There is no other reason. That emphasizes for us the foundation of Islam – Uboodiya – complete submission to Allahﷻ in everything. And as it happened in the case of the Sahaba at Hudaybiyya, it will happen with us. Allahﷻ granted them success in this world and honored them in the Aakhira by declaring that He was pleased with them. Allahﷻ acknowledged the value of their obedience to Rasoolullahﷺ and called it obedience to Himself.

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يُبَايِعُونَكَ إِنَّمَا يُبَايِعُونَ ٱللَّهَ يَدُ ٱللَّهِ فَوْقَ أَيْدِيهِمْ فَمَن نَّكَثَ فَإِنَّمَا يَنكُثُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِۦ وَمَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِمَا عَـٰهَدَ عَلَيْهُ ٱللَّهَ فَسَيُؤْتِيهِ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

Fath 48: 10   Surely those who pledge allegiance to you ˹O Prophet˺ are actually pledging allegiance to Allah. Allahs Hand is over theirs. Whoever breaks their pledge, it will only be to their own loss. And whoever fulfils their pledge to Allah, He will grant them a great reward.

And He said:

لَّقَدْ رَضِىَ ٱللَّهُ عَنِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ يُبَايِعُونَكَ تَحْتَ ٱلشَّجَرَةِ فَعَلِمَ مَا فِى قُلُوبِهِمْ فَأَنزَلَ ٱلسَّكِينَةَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَثَـٰبَهُمْ فَتْحًا قَرِيبًا

Fath 48: 18    Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you ˹O Prophet˺ under the tree. He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down serenity upon them and rewarded them with victory at hand.

That is the value of obedience which is the essence of Islam. Today as we face a hostile world and different problems as the Muslim Ummah, we seek solutions in worldly means. We look to politics, political leadership, material wealth, and technology for solutions. In the process, we forget that the effectiveness to the solution comes only from Allahﷻ. It is like wiring up a whole house with the latest technology and expecting it to work without connecting it to the power source. Without the power from the transformer, the house will remain dark. That transformer in our case is Taqwa and Ramadan comes to connect us to it, so that our lives can be illuminated and empowered with this connection. Total obedience is the fundamental, conditional step. Total obedience out of love. Out of tasting and reveling in the Glory and Majesty of Allahﷻ and in our connection with Him which He gave us, through his Messenger Muhammadﷺ. That comes first. The rest, like in the case of Ibrahim (AS) follows. Success is not difficult. It is inevitable for the Muttaqi. But only for the Muttaqi. I ask Allahﷻ for His Mercy and His Protection from all disobedience, which is the real danger.