Praise and thanks to Allah who has made us reach the blessed month of Ramadan yet again this year. He made it a month of mercy, forgiveness, du’aa and multiplied rewards. Every night of this blessed month, He invites the fortunate ones who witness it, to race and compete with each other in doing righteous deeds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “On the first night of the month of Ramadan, the devils are chained, the jinn are restrained, and the gates of Hellfire are closed and none of its gates are opened. The gates of Paradise are opened and none of its gates are closed. A caller announces: O seeker of good, come near! O seeker of evil, stop short! Allah will save them from the Hellfire and that is during every night of Ramadan.” (At-Tirmidhi-682)
How amazing is that? Could our names be among the ones whom Allah removes from the list of people going to Hell? Insha Allah, Yes! With the devils being chained and the entrance to Paradise made so easy, racing to do all that Allah has commanded and trying our best to avoid all that He has forbidden has been made easy for us in this blessed month. Ramadan is without doubt a golden opportunity for all of us who hope to be saved from the Hell fire and yearn to dwell in Paradise, where we will have all that we desire. This is not a month of socializing and feasting even though it is common to see this around us. This is a month of competing with each other in improving our relationship with our Creator – A month where we ignore all distractions and race to him by doing lots of good deeds. Allah says, “And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden [i.e. paradise] as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:133)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There has come to you the month of Ramadan, a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with grace, sending down mercy, forgiving sins and answering supplication. Allah looks at your competition in doing good therein, and boasts of you before His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for truly the wretched person is the one who is deprived of the Mercy of Allah during this month.” (At Tabarani)
The Messenger (peace be upon him) and his companions would pray, fast, spend time with the Qur’an and be obedient to Allah all year round but in Ramadan, they would maximize their efforts to excel in various good deeds. Nothing can be better for us than following their footsteps in this world and then being rewarded by having their company in the Hereafter. The Messenger (peace be upon him) mentioned many actions which, if performed sincerely, grant us great rewards.
The best of such actions in Ramadan is fasting, which has been made obligatory by the Almighty. The exact reward for fasting has not been specified but it is expected to be tremendous because of the way this hadith describes it: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied between ten and seven hundred times. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, said: Except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it. He gives up his desires and his food for My sake.” (Muslim-1151) SubhanAllah! We need to perfect our fast by not just avoiding food and drink but also false and hateful speech and deeds so the rewards can be maximized. According to another hadith, there is a gate to Paradise that is called Ar-Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection it will say: ‘Where are those who fasted?’ When the last [one who fasted] has passed through the gate, it will be locked. [al-Bukhari and Muslim].
The blessed month of Ramadan is a celebration of the Qur’an as the blessed Book was revealed in it. Striving hard to spend the month in reading, reciting and listening to the Qur’an carries huge rewards. Regarding reciting it, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward, and this reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that ‘Alif, Laam, Meem’ is a letter, rather I am saying that ‘Alif’ is a letter, ‘Laam’ is a letter and ‘Meem’ is a letter.” (Tirmidhi-2910)
While for the one who listens to the Qur’an attentively (in prayer at the masjid or elsewhere), it was said that mercy does not come quicker to anyone than the one who listens to the Qur’an according to the words of Allah: “So when the Qur’an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.” [Qur’an 7:204] The words “you may” make it mandatory for Allah! (Tafsir Al Qurtubi)
In addition to studying the Qur’an, there is a narration by Ibn Abbas that emphasizes the need to be generous in giving all kinds of charity in Ramadan: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of people and he was the most generous in the month of Ramadan, when Jibril would meet him. Jibril used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur’an.” (Bukhari-1716, Muslim-4268)
Speaking of charity, you can also easily get the reward of fasting not just 30 fasts in the blessed month, but 60, 90 and so on! Surprised? Well, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Whoever gives a fasting person (food or drink to break their fast), they will have similar to the reward of the one who fasted, without any decrease for the one who fasted.” (At-Tirmidhi-Authenticated by Al Albani) Buy some dates and hand them over at some masjid, for the worshippers at the time of breaking the fast or hand over bottles of cold water and small packets of dates on the road sides at the time of Maghrib. If you are unable to do any of that, then just helping out in the kitchen and setting up Iftar with dates and cold water for your family will bring a similar reward insha Allah.
Making extra voluntary prayer along with the 5 obligatory ones is another way to race to Paradise according to the narration of Rabi’a b.Ka’b who said: I was with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) one night and I brought him water and what he required. He said to me: ‘Ask (for anything you like)’. I said: I ask for your company in Paradise. He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Or anything else other than it?’ I said: That is all (what I require). He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Then help me to achieve this for you by devoting yourself to frequent sujood [prostrations].’ “(Muslim-990) Let’s rush to the pleasure of Allah and His Paradise by spending the nights of Ramadan in prayer as whoever prays qiyaam – i.e., Taraweeh – with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer.” (Hadeeth classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)
According to a hadeeth, performing an Umrah in Ramadan is like accompanying the Prophet (peace be upon him) on Hajj.” (Bukhari-1764) But as for those who live far away from the blessed land of Makkah and feel sad because they cannot perform Umrah in this blessed month, well you can get the ultimate rewards of Hajj and Umrah, from right where you are. According to a hadeeth, whoever prays Fajr Prayer in congregation, and then sits and remembers Allah until the sun rises, and then prays 2 units of voluntary prayer (Al-ishraq), he will gain a reward equal to that of performing a perfect, perfect, perfect Hajj and Umrah. (Al-Albaani, Saheeh Al-Jaami’-6346)
“Race to [all that is] good.” says Allah in the Qur’an (2:148) and one can think of no better time to do this except in the blessed season that we find ourselves in. Restraining our temper and our tongues from evil or idle talk, helping those in need, being patient in upholding ties with relatives even if they are rude to us will make us gain not just tremendous rewards but also the pleasure of Allah and His Paradise in this blessed month. Some short but beautiful and meaningful phrases of praising, glorifying and exalting Allah taught by the Prophet should also be recited in Ramadan to get those extra rewards. He (peace be upon him) said:
- “Whoever says Subhaan Allaah il ‘azeem wa bi hamdihi (Glory and praise be to Allaah the Almighty), a palm tree will be planted for him in Paradise.”(Tirmidhi)
- “There are) two words which are dear to the Most Merciful (Allah) and very light (easy) for the tongue (to say), but very heavy in weight in the balance. They are: Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdihi, Subhan-Allahil-Azim (Glory and praise to Allah, and Glory to Allah the Almighty)’. (Bukhari)
- “Glorify Allah a hundred times by just saying Subhanallah (Glorified is Allah) and a thousand good deeds will be written for you, or a thousand sins will be wiped away.” (Muslim)
- “Say ‘Laa Hawla Wa Laa Quwwataa Illaa Billaah’ (There is no might or power except with Allah) in abundance, for indeed it is from the treasures of Jannah.“ (Bukhaari) This means that this phrase is a treasure that will be preserved and rewarded to the servant in Jannah if he utters it.
How Merciful is our Lord, Who enlightened us to countless good deeds that lead to His pleasure and Paradise – Alhamdulillah! Regardless how much we do and how much we offer we will always fall short fulfilling Allah’s rights upon us, therefore we must increase in seeking His forgiveness and always seek His guidance and help in doing good for His sake. He says: “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways (the means to attain the acceptance and pleasure of Allah). And indeed Allah is with the doers of good.” (Qur’an 29:69)
May Allah grant us the strength and tawfiq to make the most of this blessed month and be winners in this race to be among His beloved ones. Ameen.
– Written Mariam Anwer
A condensed version of this article originally published in Arab News
At certain instances in his life, a believer might feel like an individual walking in the blinding darkness of an endless tunnel – scared, tired, thirsty, with hardly any hope left in him to find light or a way out. But there’s something in him that always cures and heals his aching soul. It is his faith and trust in His Master that He – the One who has been taking care of Him all this while, is with Him and will never desert him. Whenever a crisis comes his way, he utilizes his faith and good expectations of Allah in order to hold on and be strong in repelling the whispers of shaytan to give up. The Prophet (peace be upon him) related to us in a hadith narrated by Muslim that Allah says: “I am as My servant thinks of Me.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6856) and Sahîh Muslim (4832)]
These good expectations of Allah bring him closer to relief. No matter what worries, concerns, anxiety, distress, apprehension, or calamities touch him he will find extreme peace, contentment, joy, and solutions through the belief that Allah is with him and that He will guide him to everything that is good for him even if it is by making him suffer all that he dislikes.
This is exactly what made the red sea part into two with the command of its Creator, thousands of years ago…to make way for an honorable believer, the servant and prophet of Allah; Musa (peace be upon him) and his followers as they crossed it and made their way to the other end. Prophet Musa’s strong faith in Allah, despite the atrocities that he and his followers faced under the oppressive rule of Pharoah was unshakable. He inspired his people to hold on to belief in Allah, His promises and be patient in tough times. On the command of Allah when he set off to move from the enemy’s land with his followers, he got stuck between pharoah and his army pursuing them and the huge sea before him, it was this relentless belief and trust in the Almighty that He will never forsake his side, which made him proclaim, inspite of all the impossibilities around him:
“Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.” (Al Quran 26:62)
What he possessed was the kind of faith which did not move mountains rather made the vast sea split in two by the order and might of the Most High, Lord of everything that exists. Allah says: Then We inspired to Musa, “Strike with your staff the sea,” and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. And We advanced thereto the pursuers. And We saved Musa and those with him, all together. Then We drowned the others. Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers. And indeed, your Lord – He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful. [Al Qur’an 26:62-68]
Indeed Allah is Great. He keeps testing His servants until the sincere believers are clearly differentiated from the weak ones. He gives His servant what is most beneficial to him with wisdom, kindness and in a loving way, even if they are through ways which he might hate. The servant’s duty is to hold on to his faith in Allah, strive in drawing closer to Him through the blessings or the tests He sends and avoid being of those whom Allah Almighty describes: “And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]. He has lost [this] world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss.” (Al Qur’an, 22:11) Being a servant of Ar Rahman, one must strive not to be of the ones who are happy in worshiping Allah as long as He showers them with blessings and bounties and turn depressed, doubtful and frustrated as soon as Allah tests them with trials and problems.
As a believer one ought to know and understand that Allah calls Himself Al Wahhab and He may gift him with things he did not expect, without asking for anything in return. He is also Al Lateef so He takes care of his worries in a very subtle, loving and gentle manner by putting trials as stepping stones in his way so that his servant’s footsteps reach a destination where he is taken by surprise by His Mercy. These trials may seem as difficult challenges in a believer’s limited vision but they may be His Form of Mercy to His servant to gain more understanding and awareness of Him and ultimately improve his relationship with his Creator. Notice how, Prophet Musa and his followers were oppressed but waited patiently for years for the help and mercy of Allah and when Allah’s help eventually arrived, it was beyond anything they ever imagined – in the form of a miracle, a supernatural phenomenon. Shaikh Abdul Aziz At Tarefe once said: “If Allah intends to grant relief, He opens its door; if it doesn’t have a door, He breaks its wall. For the command of Allah is irreversible.”
It’s clear from this, that whenever Allah deprives someone of something, it is only so that he can come closer to Him by ways of du’a and worship, persistently asking Allah to fulfill that need. And then Allah gives and fulfills that need according to his own timing, his own way it is only so that the servant can rise in faith and gratefulness. Sufyan ath Thawri (May Allah have mercy on him) rightly said: ‘Verily, when Allah withholds, He actually gives, because He did not withhold on account of miserliness or stinginess, but rather He looked at the benefit of the servant. So the fact that He withheld is actually His choice for the servant and His excellent decision.”
Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) observed Saum (fasting) on the day of `Ashura’ and commanded us to fast on this day. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: `Ashoora’ 10th of Muharram. In another Hadith, it is stated that when the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) emigrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah, he saw that the Jews were fasting on this day. He asked them why they did this on that day, and they told him that they did it for the reason that Allah granted Prophet Musa emancipation from Pharaoh on this day, and so they observed Saum in token of their joy. On this, he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said that in this happiness of Prophet Musa, Muslims have a greater right to observe Saum than the Jews. Consequently, he also observed Saum on 10th of Muharram. Then, he said that if he lived the following year, he would observe Saum on 9th of Muharram also so that they would make themselves different from the Jews. According to another Hadith, he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) ordained the Muslims to observe Saum on `Ashura’ and in addition one more Saum on 9th or 11th of Muharram in opposition to the Jews.
(Musnad Ahmad, Vol.4, P-21, edited by Ahmad Shakir; and Mujamma` Az-Zawaid, Vol.3, P-188).
Thus observance of two Saum on this occasion is a Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). These two Saum can be observed either on 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th of Muharram.
Abu Qatadah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) was asked about observing As-Saum (the fast) on the tenth day of Muharram, and he replied, “It is an expiation for the sins of the preceding year.” [Muslim].
Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “If I remain alive till the next year, I shall also observe fast on the ninth of Muharram.” [Muslim].
It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“The best fasting after Ramadaan is the month of Allaah, Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.”
(Narrated by Muslim, 1163)
With regard to the phrase “the month of Allaah”, mentioning the month in conjunction with Allaah is a sign of its great status. Al-Qaari said: it seems that what is meant is all of the month of Muharram.
But it was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not fast any month in full apart from Ramadaan, so this hadeeth is to be understood as meaning that it is it is encouraged to fast a lot in the month of Muharram, not to fast the whole month.