Spirit of Ramadan – part 3

The purpose of fasting is not to fast but to transform our lives and put ourselves on the path of success in this world and the next.  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 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. That is the first lesson.

 Obedience is the essence of Islam. When Allahﷻ revealed:

لِّلَّهِ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُوا۟ مَا فِىٓ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ ٱللَّهُ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَآءُ وَٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Baqara 2: 284    To Allah ˹alone˺ belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Whether you reveal what is in your hearts or conceal it, Allah will call you to account for it. He forgives whoever He wills and punishes whoever He wills. And Allah is Most Capable of everything.

When this Ayah was revealed, the Sahaba went to Rasoolullahﷺ and knelt before him and said, ‘Ya Rasoolullahﷺ, Allahﷻ has said that He will hold us accountable for our thoughts, desires, and emotions. We have control over our speech and actions. But we have no control over our thoughts and desires. If Allahﷻ punishes us for that, we will be destroyed.’ Ask yourself if this doesn’t sound like a reasonable plea. But see the response of Rasoolullahﷺ to this. His blessed face became red with anger. He asked them, ‘Will you be like those who when they received a command of Allahﷻ would say, ‘We hear but we will not obey.’ Say, ‘We hear and we obey. Forgive us, Our Rabb. To You is our return.’ The Sahaba didn’t argue. They didn’t make excuses. They didn’t even hesitate. They obeyed him instantly.

Ask what happened then? Nothing happened. Nothing happened for one year. For 12 months, the Muslims lived with the knowledge and belief that Allahﷻ would hold them accountable even for their thoughts and desires. That was the toughest training imaginable to inculcate the fundamental and greatest of all virtues, obedience to Allahﷻ in the way of Rasoolullahﷺ. Then after 12 months, Allahﷻ revealed:

ءَامَنَ ٱلرَّسُولُ بِمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِۦ وَٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَمَلَـٰٓئِكَتِهِۦ وَكُتُبِهِۦ وَرُسُلِهِۦ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِۦ وَقَالُوا۟ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ ٱلْمَصِيرُ

Baqara 2: 285    The Messenger ˹firmly˺ believes in what has been revealed to him from his Rabb, and so do the believers. They ˹all˺ believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. ˹They proclaim,˺ We make no distinction between any of His messengers. And they say, We hear and obey. ˹We seek˺ Your forgiveness, our Rabb! And to you ˹alone˺ is the final return.

The reward of obedience is sweet and honorable. When they obeyed Him, Allahﷻ honored them by repeating the words of Rasoolullahﷺ and the Sahaba as His Word, to be recited in Salah until the end of time. Allahﷻ gave the Sahaba relief and honored them by teaching them this beautiful dua. Let’s reflect on the value of dua that is taught by the One who will accept it.

لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا ٱكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَآ إِن نَّسِينَآ أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلَا تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَآ إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُۥ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِۦ وَٱعْفُ عَنَّا وَٱغْفِرْ لَنَا وَٱرْحَمْنَآ أَنتَ مَوْلَىٰنَا فَٱنصُرْنَا عَلَى ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ

Baqara 2: 286    Allah does not require of any soul more than what it can afford. All good will be for its own benefit, and all evil will be to its own loss. ˹The believers pray,˺ Our Rabb! Do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake. Our Rabb! Do not place a burden on us like the one you placed on those before us. Our Rabb! Do not burden us with what we cannot bear. Pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our ˹only˺ Guardian. So grant us victory over the disbelieving people.

Fasting comes to reinforce this primordial and foundational message, that all virtue, blessing, and success starts with obeying Allahﷻ and making His Will be the guiding light in our lives. I ask Allahﷻ to illuminate our hearts with His Light and to drive out the darkness of fear, depression, and despair. As we face a hostile world, it must be clear that the only source of support and protection we can rely on is Allahﷻ. So, let’s repair our bridge to Him.

The first ten days of Ramadan are over, and we have entered the second Ashara. It is important to take stock of where we are and what we need to do to ensure that we finish strong. Here is what I suggest for us all.

  1. Revisit the goals we set for Ramadan. If you did not set any goals, do so now. Check how you are doing with respect to achieving your goals.
  2. Identify the blocks and retardants to your success and remove them. They will be time wasters, pointless conversation about things not in our control, low achiever friends who will drag you down to their level, distractions in your day combined with the inability to say, “No.”
  3. Apply the Start-Stop-Continue standard and see what we intended with each and if we are on track. What are the measurable changes in our lives? Remember that metrics is evidence of existence. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. Good intentions that are not followed by action are useless.
  4. Finally, having identified these, turn to Allahﷻ in Tahajjud and ask for His help to get closer to Him because that is the purpose of Ramadan.

That is why in the middle of the Ayaat related to fasting, Allahﷻ revealed:

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا۟ لِى وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

Baqara 2: 186    When My slaves ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about Me: I am truly near. I respond to their prayer when they call upon Me. So let them obey Me and believe in Me, perhaps they will be guided ˹to the Right Way˺.

See the mercy of Allahﷻ that when the slave only asked about Him, Allahﷻ tells Rasoolullahﷺ to assure him that He is near. When the slave is close to Allahﷻ, He asks Allahﷻ for his needs and Allahﷻ assures the slave that He will answer his supplication. Then Allahﷻ shows him what makes the supplication worthy of being accepted and answered. Allahﷻ shows us the conditions for dua to be accepted. ‘Let them obey Me and believe in Me’. Obedience is the key and obedience with knowledge of who Allahﷻ is, engenders and strengthens belief (Imaan). Obedience is the proof of Imaan.

When the heart of the slave is illuminated by the Noor of the Glory and Magnificence of Allahﷻ filled with gratitude to Him for all His blessings, the first and most critical of which is Tawheed, then his immediate response is to make Istighfaar and seek forgiveness. The surest sign of Khashiyatullah is the frequency of Istighfaar that a slave makes. Making Istighfaar is also a sign of Allahﷻ’s Mercy. Imam Ibn Al Qayyim said, ‘When Allah loves a slave and wants to do him a favor, He reminds him of his sins frequently, so that he can seek forgiveness again and again.’ Allahﷻ ordered:

 فَٱعْلَمْ أَنَّهُۥ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ وَٱسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنۢبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَٱلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ وَٱللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَىٰكُمْ

Muhammad 47: 19   So, know ˹well, O Prophet,˺ that there is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except Allah. And seek forgiveness for your shortcomings and for ˹the sins of˺ the believing men and women. For Allah ˹fully˺ knows your movements and places of rest ˹O people˺.

Sura Muhammad is a Madani Sura. Rasoolullahﷺ and the Sahaba spent 13 years perfecting their Imaan in Makkah before going to Madina. Yet Allahﷻ is emphasizing Tawheed for Rasoolullahﷺ and ordering him to seek forgiveness for himself and his followers, the believing men, and women among whom we ask Allahﷻ to count us. This is an Ayah of blessing and mercy for Rasoolullahﷺ and us and so let us make Istighfaar often.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ وَأَتُوبُ إِلَيْهِ فِي الْيَوْمِ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ سَبْعِينَ مَرَّةً

Abu Huraira (R) reported: Rasoolullah  said, “By Allah, I seek forgiveness from Allah, and I repent to Him more than seventy times in a day.”

As I mentioned last Friday, Ramadan is a time for reflection and introspection. A time for not only incremental change but transformation. A time for reorienting ourselves to Jannah. A time to reset our goals and our lives such that we achieve those goals. Let us not waste that opportunity because it will soon be gone. Change means action. So, let’s act. The reward for following the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ and seeking forgiveness is Allahﷻ’s protection from punishment. Allahﷻ said:

وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنتَ فِيهِمْ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

Anfaal 8: 33    But Allah would never punish them while you ˹O Prophet˺ were among them. Nor would He ever punish them if they prayed for forgiveness.

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَنْ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ الِاسْتِغْفَارِ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُ مِنْ كُلِّ هَمٍّ فَرَجًا وَمِنْ كُلِّ ضِيقٍ مَخْرَجًا وَرَزَقَهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ

Ibn Abbas (R) reported: Rasoolullah said, “Whoever increases his prayers for forgiveness, Allah will grant him relief from every worry, a way out from every hardship, and provide for him in ways he does not expect. [Sahih, Musnad Ahmad]

Tafseer Al-Qurtubi states: A man complained to Al-Hasan Al-Basri (RA) about a drought, and he said to him, “Pray to Allahﷻ for forgiveness.” Another man complained to him of poverty, and he said to him, “Pray to Allahﷻ to forgive you.” Another man said to him, “Pray for me for Allahﷻ to bless me with a child.” He said, “Pray to Allahﷻ for forgiveness.” Another complained to him that his garden was dry. He said to him, “Pray to Allah for forgiveness.”

He was asked about this, and he said, “This is not my opinion, because Allahﷻ says in Surah Nuh (interpretation of the meaning): Ask forgiveness from your Rabb, verily, He is Oft Forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance. And give you an increase in wealth and children and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers. Tafseer Al-Qurtubi (18/301-302)

I ask Allahﷻ for forgiveness and His Mercy for us all.