Spirit of Ramadan – Part 4

Ramadan comes to help us to become Muttaqoon and become eligible for all the promises of Allahﷻ. That process begins with Istighfaar and Tawba.

فَٱسْتَغْفِرُوهُ ثُمَّ تُوبُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِ إِنَّ رَبِّى قَرِيبٌ مُّجِيبٌ

Hud 11: 61    So seek His forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance. Surely my Rabb is Ever Near, All-Responsive ˹to prayers˺.

Seeking forgiveness must be followed up with turning away from sin. We must change the basis of our choices keeping the Ridha (Pleasure) of Allahﷻ as the criterion of decisions. If it pleases Allahﷻ, we do it. If not, we don’t.

Al-Qur’an Al-Kareem begins with a reminder about Taqwa. Sura Al-Fatiha reminds us about the Glory and Majesty of Allahﷻ, our Rabb, Creator, Sustainer, Maintainer, Protector and defines our connection with Him. It reminds all humankind that we have a Creator, who is interested enough to teach us a way of life, which if we lead it, will result in a society based on justice and compassion. And reminds us that one day we will all return to Him. Just as we had no choice about coming into this world, so also, we will not have a choice about leaving it and meeting Allahﷻ. But Allahﷻ gave us the choice to make that meeting the best meeting of our existence because unlike this life, what will come after that meeting is forever. That way is called Al-Islam. Al-Fatiha is the Sura of Khashiya (Awe) of Allahﷻ. It is the Sura of Shukr (thankfulness) and the Sura of Tawba (return) to Allahﷻ. Al-Fatiha is the Sura of dua for guidance to the path of the prophets that leads to Jannah. The people to whom this will be granted are the Muttaqoon – those whose single criterion for all decisions is – does it please Allahﷻ? Taqwa is the fear of displeasing the One we love the most. Only for such people, Allahﷻ promised guidance.

ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبُ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

Baqara 2: 2    This is the Book! In which there is no doubt. A guide for the Muttaqoon

To help us to become Muttaqoon – People of Taqwa – Allahﷻ prescribed fasting and sends Ramadan.

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

Baqara 2: 183    O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful ˹of Allah˺.

Fasting helps us to inculcate Taqwa by emphasizing the fact that when in this month we could stay away from even the Halaal, only because Allahﷻ commanded us, how much more important it is to continue to obey Allahﷻ’s commands about His prohibitions throughout our lives. The reason Muslims fast is because Allahﷻ commanded it. Therefore, everything a Muslim does in his/her life must also be for the same reason; because Allahﷻ commanded it. We know Allahﷻ, we love Allahﷻ and we know that to Him is our return. So, we do only what pleases Him. This is the basis of our existence as Muslims. This is the basis of all virtue and leads to Jannah.

Taqwa is critical because it is the first right of Allahﷻ. It is His right that His creatures recognize Him, obey Him, and worship Him alone. He declared:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِۦ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ

A’al Imraan 3: 102   O believers! Have Taqwa of Allah in the way He deserves, and do not die except in ˹a state of full˺ submission ˹to Him˺.

What therefore are the signs of Taqwa? How do I know if I have it and how strong it is? Allahﷻ gave us a gauge to measure Taqwa which is the sign of a living heart.

إِنَّمَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ ٱلَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ ٱللَّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ ءَايَـٰتُهُۥ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَـٰنًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ

ٱلَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَـٰهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

Anfaal 8:2-3    The ˹true˺ believers are only those whose hearts tremble at the remembrance of Allah, whose faith increases when His revelations are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Rabb. ˹They are˺ those who establish prayer and donate from what We have provided for them.

Let us ask ourselves what happens to our hearts when Allahﷻ is mentioned. How many times a day do we think of Allahﷻ? What happens to us when we listen to the Qur’an? What happens to us when we read the Qur’an? With what attitude do we read and listen to the Qur’an? What is the state of our heart with respect to the world and its tests?

Are we afraid or are we content that the One who can do anything and who owns everything, the One without whose Will not a leaf can fall, controls our affairs, and has decreed for us that which is beneficial for us, even if we don’t see it ourselves. When there is a command of Allahﷻ to be obeyed, do we try to obey it in the best possible way, or do we look for excuses to disobey? Are our hearts content and filled with the light of Khashiyatullah or with the darkness of fear, depression, and despair? What is our attitude towards Salah? Do we see it as an honor, a time to connect with Allahﷻ and to affirm our allegiance to Him, to ask Him for our needs, to tell Him our story? Or as a burden to be discharged if there is no way to delay or avoid it? Likewise for all that Allahﷻ made Fardh. Do we keep Allahﷻ’s prohibitions uppermost or do we look for ways to bypass them?

When we have an opportunity to spend in the path of Allahﷻ do we rejoice or complain? Do we look at an opportunity to help someone and thank Allahﷻ for giving us that opportunity or do we say, ‘Why does he need so much?’ Do we keep track of our investment in our Aakhira (mistakenly called ‘charity’) the same way as we do for our investments in the stock market, property and so on? Is the fact that we will have to leave everything behind real for us? Is the fact that we will have to meet Allahﷻ, real for us? Is the fact that we will be questioned about our actions real for us? Allahﷻ sent us His Rasool for us to obey and emulate him. Do we do that with joy? Finally, what is the action evidence for all the answers we gave ourselves?

All of Allahﷻ’s promises are for the Muttaqoon. Allahﷻ sent Ramadan for us to become Muttaqoon. We are halfway through Ramadan. How many of the qualities of Muttaqoon have we been able to inculcate in ourselves? I remind myself and you that in the end it is only action that counts. We will not be asked, ‘What did you know?’ We will be asked, ‘What did you do?’ Knowledge that is not acted upon will become witness against us. Let us not be those who knew but did not act. Allahﷻ defined the Muttaqoon.

إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ

آخِذِينَ مَا آتَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَبْلَ ذَلِكَ مُحْسِنِينَ

كَانُوا قَلِيلًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ مَا يَهْجَعُونَ

وَبِالْأَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

وَفِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ لِّلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ 

وَفِي الْأَرْضِ آيَاتٌ لِّلْمُوقِنِينَ

وَفِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ

Zariyaat 51:15.  Verily, the Muttaqûn will be amid Gardens and Springs (in Jannah) 16. Taking joy in the things which their Rabb has given them. Verily, they were before this Muhsinûn 17. They used to sleep but little by night [invoking their Rabb (Allâh) and praying, with fear and hope]. 18. And in the hours before dawn, they were (found) asking (Allâh) for forgiveness, 19. And in their properties there was the right of the beggar, and the Mahrûm (those who need but don’t ask)20. And on the earth are signs for those who have Faith with certainty, 21. And also in your ownselves. Will you not then see?

Allahﷻ mentioned four qualities of Muttaqoon. Let’s see what we have.

  1. They spend time with their Rabb in Salah in the night and in Tahajjud

تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ ٱلْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَـٰهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَّآ أُخْفِىَ لَهُم مِّن قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَآءًۢ بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ

Sajda 32:16-17   They abandon their beds, invoking their Rabb with hope and fear, and donate from what We have provided for them. No soul can imagine what delights are kept in store for them as a reward for what they used to do.

  • They make Istighfaar and seek forgiveness

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 in their midst. Nor would He ever punish them if they prayed for forgiveness.

  • They consider the one who asks and the one who is in need but doesn’t ask –As- Sa’ail wal Mahroom – to have a right in their property.

وَيُطْعِمُونَ ٱلطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا

إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ ٱللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَآءً وَلَا شُكُورًا

Insaan 76: 8-9    And give food—despite their desire for it—to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, ˹saying to themselves,˺ We feed you only for the sake of Allah, seeking neither reward nor thanks from you.

  • They reflect on the creation of Allahﷻ both outside and within and recognize and glorify Allahﷻ and turn towards Him

سَنُرِيهِمْ ءَايَـٰتِنَا فِى ٱلْـَٔافَاقِ وَفِىٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ ٱلْحَقُّ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُۥ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

Fussilat 41: 53   We will show them Our signs in the universe and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that this ˹Quran˺ is the truth. Is it not enough that your Rabb is a Witness over all things?

Today we face a hostile world because we are Muslim. Yet, we seek solutions through worldly means alone. We look towards political leadership, material wealth, and technology to find solutions, but in the process, we forget that the effectiveness of the solution comes only from Allahﷻ. Do we see Tawba and Salah as a viable problem-solving strategy. Do we work to make our lives such that our dua will be accepted? It is like wiring up a house with the latest technology and expecting it to work without connecting it to the power source. Without power from the transformer, the house will remain dark. That transformer is Taqwa and Ramadan comes to connect us to it, so that our lives can be illuminated with this connection. The purpose of fasting is not to fast, but we fast to transform our lives. Let us try to make that happen.