I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan.
With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.
” The month of Ramaḍān is the one in which the Qur’ān was revealed as guidance for mankind and as clear signs that show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong. So those of you who witness the month must fast in it…” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:185)
The blessed month of Ramaḍān is about to begin in a few days. Who among the Muslims does not know the greatness and blessedness of this month! The extent of His Mercy that descends upon His servants is unfathomable.
Allah Almighty has made it a month of worship. In this month, there are those actions that every Muslim knows and fulfills. For example, Muslims observe the fast in this month and they also know that the tarāwīḥ prayers are from the Sunnah. All praises are due to Allah that He gives Muslims the tawfīq to fast and He grants them the honor of attending the tarāwīḥ prayers. However, right now I want to shed light upon another aspect of this blessed month.
Ramaḍān is commonly viewed as only a month of fasting and tarāwīḥ, and that there is no other significance to it. Without a doubt, the fasting and the tarāwīḥprayers are two major acts of worship in this month. However, the reality is that the blessed month of Ramaḍān demands more from us!
“I did not create the Jinns and the human beings except for the purpose that they should worship Me.” (Surah al-Dhāriyāt, 56)
Were Angels Not Enough To Worship God?
Some people raise an objection that if the sole purpose behind the creation of human beings is to worship Allah, then why was there a need for creating humans in the first place, as the angels were fulfilling this role quite stupendously. When Allah said to the angels, “I am going to create a deputy on earth!” They asked: “Will You create there one who will spread disorder on the earth and cause bloodshed, while we proclaim Your purity, along with Your praise, and sanctify Your name?” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:30). Just as the angels questioned Allah regarding the humans, similarly, these people raise this objection.
The worship of Allah by the angels is of a different category than the worship of Him by humans. This is because their worship of Allah is without free-will. It is impossible for them to not worship Allah even if they do not want to. Allah has taken away from them the ability to commit a sin, feel hunger or thirst, and they have no sexual desires. So much so that they do not have the temptation to sin. Therefore, Allah has placed no reward for their worship, because if they cannot sin, then their worship without the temptation to sin is not a special feat (on their part). Thus, they receive no reward for it.
Take, for example, a blind man who has never seen the colors of this world, who never watched a movie in his life, nor did he ever glance upon a non-mahram woman. What has he done to prevent himself from these sins? Nothing, because he does not have the ability to commit these sins.
On the other hand, there is a man who has eyesight. In spite of his heart’s desire to gaze upon the non-mahram woman, he curbs his carnal desires and seeks refuge in Allah and lowers his gaze. Even though both these men are abstaining from these sins, there is a great difference between the two – the former is unable to commit those sins, whereas the latter has the ability, yet he prevents himself from committing them.
Therefore, if the angels do not eat the entire day, it is not something significant because they do not feel hunger nor do they possess the desire for food. Human beings, on the other hand, possess these desires, so much so even the noble Prophets of Allah were in need of food. Therefore, the disbelievers criticized the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) saying, “What sort of messenger is this, who eats food and walks in the markets?” (Al-Furqan, 7) It’s clear from this verse that the Prophets of Allah had the need for food as well. Since there is a desire for food and an individual curbs their desire and abstains from it because of the command of Allah, then this act is something special.
Human beings, in spite of having the desire for food, drink, and sexual relations, curb their desires when they remember Allah. Therefore, He placed special value to this abstinence from sins by granting a reward for it. Although they want to fulfill their carnal desires, due to the fear of Allah, they lower their gaze and prevent their eyes from glancing upon that which is prohibited; they prevent their ears from listening to the sinful sounds and indecent conversations; they leash their tongue from uttering words that are inappropriate; they prevent their feet from walking towards the places of sin. Human beings have been created for these acts of worship (i.e. abstaining oneself from sins out of Allah’s fear and obedience), whereas, the angels are incapable of it.
Story of Prophet Yūsuf:
The story of Prophet Yūsuf and that which he was tested with by Zulaykha is known to Muslims. The Noble Qur’ān states that Zulaykha offered herself to Prophet Yūsuf and invited him towards sin, and during that moment both of their hearts thought of the sin.
And when Yūsuf reached maturity, We gave him judgment and knowledge. And thus We reward the doers of good. (22) And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “Come, you.” He said, “[I seek] the refuge of Allah. Indeed, he is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed.” (23)
And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants. (24)
(Surah Yūsuf, 12: 22-24)
Some among the laity think that to mention something like this about Prophet Yūsuf (may Allah grant him peace) is disrespectful towards him and find it objectionable. However, the Noble Qur’ān wants to explain (by mentioning this) that in spite of his heart thinking of the sin, Prophet Yūsuf chose to flee from her invitation out of his fear for Allah and reminding himself of His Grandeur, and by doing so he submitted himself to the command of Allah.
On the contrary, if there is no desire in the heart towards the sin, no ability to commit it, and there is no urge to fulfill desires, then refusing the invitation of thousands of Zulaykhas is of no significance! It is, however, important when there is the temptation, the heart desires it, and the environment encourages it, and then in submission to the command of Allah one says, “مَعَاذَ الله” “I seek refuge of Allah” (Surah Yūsuf, 12:24). This is the worship that Allah has created mankind.
Our Lives Have Been Traded:
Since the purpose behind the creation of humanity is to worship Allah, it should have been that we worshipped Him day and night without having permission to do anything else.
“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise.” (Surah al-Tawbah, 9:111)
Since our lives have already been traded as the verse explains, we have no claim of ownership on our life, rather it is a sold product. Had Allah commanded us to worship Him day and night, prostrate to Him long hours, and had he prohibited us from busying ourselves with any other activity besides His worship, it would have been a just command, because we have been created for the sole purpose of worshipping Him.
However, my life be sacrificed for Allah, He bought our lives and wealth, and He gave a full price of it in exchange of Jannah, and then He returned the lives and wealth to us. Moreover, He allowed us to eat, drink, and earn a livelihood. With that, He just commanded us to establish the five daily prayers (along with a few other obligations) and He commanded us to abstain from a few things. Besides these obligations and a (few) prohibitions, we were given liberty to live as we please. All of this is from His Mercy and His Grant.
Come Towards Your Purpose In This Month:
Allah knew that by allowing human beings to engage in earning livelihood their hearts would slowly be covered with heedlessness. Therefore, from time to time, Allah placed opportunities for His servants to remember Him and turn back to Him.
For eleven months, we work, trade, do labor, farmlands and grow crops, enjoy our family and friends, eat and drink, and as a result, we begin to become heedless. So Allah placed this month of Ramaḍān to remind people of their purpose of life, the purpose for which they have been created and sent to earth. So that they could engage in worship and reconnect with Him, and seek forgiveness for the sins that have accumulated in the past eleven months. So that they can uncover the curtains of heedlessness that have enveloped their hearts, and cleanse their hearts of darkness so that they can reach the potential (for which they were created).
What Does “Ramaḍān” Mean?
The correct pronunciation of Ramaḍān is with a fatḥah (zabar) on the letter meem (م), i.e. رَمَضَان (Ramaḍān). To pronounce it with sukūn on the letter meem, i.e. رَمْضَان (Ramdan) is incorrect. As for its meaning, much has been stated, however, linguistically it means scorchedness, extreme heat that burns. The very first time this month was being named, it was during a scorching summer, therefore, they called it “Ramaḍān”.
However, the scholars explain the reason for naming this month as Ramaḍān is that in this month Allah burns the sins of His servants out of His Mercy and Benevolence. Therefore, remove the curtain of heedlessness from your heart and cleanse it from the darkness of sins. Repent for the sins committed in the past eleven months and seek forgiveness in this month for the mistakes and shortfalls. Come back to Allah and begin a new chapter in your life!
The Noble Qur’ān states:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:183)
This means that the fast of Ramaḍān is made obligatory in order for us to develop taqwa and put an end to the life of heedlessness. Just as a machine needs servicing for its parts to function properly, Allah has made this month a means to “overhaul” His servants’ hearts so that they can live with renewed conviction.
Take A Break:
Therefore, this month demands from us that we make time for it. Just the fast and tarāwīḥ prayers would not be enough, rather we must free ourselves from other obligations that have kept us busy in the past eleven months. We should focus upon our life’s purpose and the purpose of our creation.
If for some reason, we are not able to free up this month solely for the worship of Allah, then we must make as much time as possible, however much our circumstances allow us, and we need to utilize it in the worship of Allah. For this, we would need to plan ahead and have a (personal) Ramaḍān program.
How to Welcome Ramaḍān?
There has been a practice of welcoming Ramaḍān that originated from Egypt and Syria and now has spread in many countries. Basically, a couple of days prior to the beginning of Ramaḍān, a community event is hosted to welcome the month. It is hosted with sincerity and noble intentions. However, it is often those very practices that begin with noble intentions that later take the form of reprehensible religious innovation, and in a few places, it has taken such a form already.
The best way to welcome the month of Ramaḍān is to reschedule your daily routine for the coming month to give you the most time for worshipping Allah. Before Ramaḍān begins, think of all those activities that can be reduced in the upcoming month that can free you up for increased worship. If someone is able to free up their entire month then Subḥān-Allah, otherwise, free yourself up as much as you can by abandoning that which can be abandoned or delaying that which can be delayed until after the Eid, so that you can spend as much of your time in the worship of Allah.
This is the best way of welcoming the month of Ramaḍān. If by the Will of Allah, someone is able to reorganize their routine for Ramaḍān then they will be able to avail the most of this month by reaching its true spirit and the abundance of blessings that come with it. Otherwise, the month will pass by and you will not be able to benefit from its true spirit and blessings.
What To Do With The Free Time
When you have made yourself a Ramaḍān routine and freed yourself up with extra time, how would you utilize this time?
The fast of Ramaḍān is obligatory, that much is certain. As for the tarāwīḥprayers, it’s importance is also known. Whoever has an atom’s weight of imān, and honor and respect for the blessed month of Ramaḍān, they increase their acts of worship in this month. It is because of this reason that we see people who normally do not pray the five daily prayers in the mosque outside of Ramaḍān are also among those who stand in the long tarāwīḥ prayers. All thanks are due to Allah that because of the blessings of this noble month, the believers increase their ṣalāh, dhikr (remembrance) of Allah, and the recitation of the Noble Qur’ān. However, one important aspect that gets neglected, when it should be the top-most priority for this month, is abstaining from sins and trying to make Ramaḍān a sin-free month.
We should make sure that we protect our gaze by not looking at inappropriate things. We should protect our ears and tongues from listening and speaking that which darkens our hearts, and in this blessed month of Ramaḍān we should try to completely abstain from the disobedience of Allah. If you are able to spend this noble month free from sins then you are worthy of being congratulated and you have attained the blessings of this noble month, even if you did not offer a single supererogatory (nafl) prayer, nor did you increase the recitation of the Qur’ān or engaged yourself with the dhikr.
We have spent the past eleven months the way we have; Allah is offering this month to cleanse ourselves from our sins. Commit to yourself that you will not disobey Allah, that you will not lie in this month, nor would you backbite, or have an evil glance. Decide now that you will neither engage with bribery nor would you misuse your ears by listening to that which is prohibited, and that you will not consume riba (interest) for this one month alone!
Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi (d. 1943 CE/1362 AH) once stated:
“Let me tell you something that you probably would not hear from anybody else. In this month, try to appease your nafs (inner-self) by telling it to abstain from sins and then you are free to do as you please. It is hoped from the Mercy of Allah that when this individual spends a sin-free Ramaḍān, Allah will put in their heart the urge to abandon the sins completely.”
Make a commitment to yourself that this is a month of Allah, the month of worship, the month to acquire taqwa. Every individual must self reflect on what kind of sins they are engaged in and then they must commit to themselves that they would abandon these sins in this blessed month.
What Kind of Fast Is This?
Fasting means to abstain from eating, drinking, and fulfilling sexual desires. All of these are by nature permissible in Islam – eating and drinking are permissible and for a man and a woman to fulfill their sexual desires through the institution of marriage is also permissible.
However, while fasting if you abstain from these three things, which are otherwise permissible, but you do not abstain from that which is already prohibited, e.g. lying, backbiting, evil glances, is this fasting? If someone is fasting from these three things, but they are lying or backbiting, or in order to pass the time they are watching indecent movies, would this be called a fast? They have abandoned that which was permissible but they did not abstain from that which is otherwise prohibited. It is, for this reason, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 1804).
It is true that from the legal point of view their fast would be valid, and if they were to ask a mufti, they would not be obliged to make up that fast after Ramaḍān. However, even though there is no making up for such a fast, they certainly have washed away the reward and blessings that accompany it. Therefore, such an individual failed to acquire the spirit of the fast.
The Purpose of Fast Is To Kindle The Light of Taqwa:
As mentioned earlier that the Qur’ān says, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:183). This verse mentions the purpose of fasting is to kindle the light of taqwa.
Some scholars have said that the way fasting instills taqwa is by breaking the powerful hold of base human and animal desires. When a fasting person bears hunger, it crushes within them their base desires, which makes acting upon a sin, less attractive to them.
On the other hand, Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi, may Allah elevate his ranks, said that the fast, not only curbs base desires, rather it is in of itself a noble means of acquiring taqwa.
What is the Meaning of Taqwa?
Taqwa means to abstain from sinning while being conscious of the greatness of Allah. In other words, to constantly remind myself that I am a slave of Allah and He is watching me, and I will have to answer in front of Him; with this in mind, when a person abandons a sin, it is called taqwa.
As Allah says:
“But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.” (Surah al-Nāzi‘āt, 79:40-41)
Hence, taqwa is when an individual out of the fear of standing in front of Allah, stops themselves from fulfilling their base and carnal desires.
My Lord Is Watching Me
Fasting is the best training for acquiring taqwa, even for a flagrant sinner, for when they fast their condition changes. In a hot summer day, when such a fasting person is alone in their room and they have their personal fridge with cold water, in spite of their desire to drink that cold water they don’t! If they do so there is no other person around to reproach them and they could very easily go out for ifṭār in the evening with friends, and no one else would know. However, they do not do it because their fasting was for Allah and they know that He is Watching.
Therefore, the Messenger of Allah said:
“Indeed your Lord said: ‘Every good deed is rewarded with ten of the same up to seven hundred times over. Fasting is for Me, and I shall reward for it.’ (Jāmi‘ al-Tirmidhi, 764).
For all of the other actions, Allah will reward tenfold or seventy fold or hundred, even up to seven hundred times for charity. However, fasting is the only action that Allah has said that He will reward it because this is an action that is done solely for His sake. This awareness is taqwa, and fasting is one of the means and the manifestation of it.
Furthermore, as you are getting trained to acquire taqwa by abstaining from drinking that cold water then why do you not take it a step further? Why do you not abstain from the unlawful when you go out to work? Just as you fear Allah for drinking that cold water while fasting, why do you not fear Allah while dealing unlawfully in your business or at work? Why do you not prevent your eyes from the evil glances and your ears from the unlawful sounds and your tongue from the unlawful speech? Your Ramaḍān training course will only be complete if you abstain from all the unlawful things.
Just as the medicine is necessary to cure a disease, so is the abstinence from that which causes it or adds to it! Allah has made fasting obligatory in this month in order for us to acquire taqwa, but that cannot be without the abstinence from sins. If you turn on the air-condition of your room, but you don’t close up your windows, it will not cool your room. Similarly, if you leave the windows of sins open, your fast will not be able to give you it’s desired benefit.
Real Objective Is To Obey
As mentioned earlier, fasting curbs the base desires within a person, however, this is a (secondary) wisdom behind it. The real objective of fasting is to obey the command of Allah and His Messenger. Whenever they command us to eat, eating at that moment is the dīn, and whenever they command us to stop eating, then at that moment the dīn is to stop. The entire dīn revolves around obeying Allah and His Messenger.
You fasted the entire day and when the command came to open it at the sunset (ifṭār), it is recommended for you to haste in opening the fast and it is disliked to delay without a valid reason. The real objective of fasting is to obey Allah’s command and not to follow one’s desires. In regular circumstances, greed is a reprehensible characteristic. However, when He commands us to be greedy then acting upon it has it’s unique pleasure. A poet says:
چوں طمع خواہد زمن سلطان دیں
خاک بر فرق قناعت بعد ازیں
When the King commands to be greedy,
Dirt be upon being content.
When the Rabb of the worlds is commanding us to be greedy in ifṭār (by hurrying) then there is no pleasure in delaying it. On the other hand, if someone eats a morsel a minute prior to the sunset then they have broken their fast and now they will be sinful along with a penalty (kaffārah) of fasting sixty consecutive days. The issue here is not of eating a morsel or a minute prior to the sunset, rather it is the disobedience of Allah. The command of Allah was to open the fast after the sunset, which they disobeyed, therefore, they are now obligated to pay the penalty in the form of sixty consecutive fasts.
Likewise, for suhūr (the pre-dawn meal), it is recommended to delay closer to the dawn. Some people have dinner around 10 pm or 12 am and then they go to sleep until Fajr. This is contrary to the Sunnah. The practice of the Companions was to delay the suhūr and eat until it’s last minute because this is the time in which eating is not only permissible but rather it is commanded by Allah. Therefore, as long as the time remained, they would consume their pre-dawn meal because this is in conformity and obedience to Allah’s command.
This dīn is all about the obedience and this is what a believer is getting trained for in Ramaḍān. Shaykh Thanwi used to say: “Allah is saying to the believer to eat, whereas, the believer does not eat, then this is neither obedience nor servitude. Listen! There is nothing in having suhūr and there is nothing in leaving it, instead, there is everything in His obedience! Therefore, when He commands you to eat, so eat! Do not act otherwise.”
Seek Purity in Livelihood
Another important point that I want to shed light upon is the importance of consuming halāl at least in this month. You want to avoid a situation where you open your fast from the wealth that is polluted by riba or you have your suhūr from the wealth earned through bribery. What kind of fast would it be in which the suhūr and ifṭār are from harām wealth? Therefore, prevent yourself from harām earning and seek help from Allah! Speak to Him and say, “O Allah! I want to consume halāl, save me from the harām.”
Some people have halāl livelihood, however, because of their carelessness, some harām gets mixed with their earnings. For such individuals it is very easy to avoid harām, they just need to be extra careful in this month in how they do things at work. On the other hand, there are those whose primary mode of earning is from a harām source, for example, they might be dealing with interest. Regarding such individuals, Dr. ‘Abdul Ḥayy al-‘Ārifī (d. 1986 CE/1406 AH) suggested that they should take a month leave from their work and only utilize the funds from halāl source for this month; if possible try to find another halāl work during this time. If this is not possible, then take a (non-interest bearing) loan for this month’s expenses and have a firm conviction that they will only consume and feed their family from a halāl source.
Ramaḍān is the month in which Satan gets chained and locked away. Therefore, it becomes much easier to abstain from sins. In spite of the increased worship in this blessed month, try to abandon the sins.
The third important note I would like to make before I conclude is to avoid anger in this blessed month. This month is of patience and forbearance, therefore, avoid anger so that you can abstain from the sins that follow it.
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:
“If one of you is abused by an ignorant person while fasting, then let him say: ‘Indeed I am fasting.’” (Jāmi‘ al-Tirmidhi, 764)
As for worship in this month, it is known to all the believers that the fasting and tarāwīḥ prayers are the most important acts of worship. Additionally, the recitation of the Qur’ān is also an important form of worship, because in this month Angel Jibreel would review the entire Qur’ān with the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Therefore, increase the recitation of the Qur’ān as much as you can.
In addition to it, moist your tongue with the constant remembrance of Allah while you walk, drive, run your daily errands. Recite the following:
سُبحَانَ اللهِ و الحَمدُ للهِ و لا إلهَ إلا اللهُ و اللهُ أكبر
“Subḥānallāhi wal-Ḥamdolilāhi wa Lā ilāha illallāhu wa Allahu Akbar.”
“All the praises are due to Allah, and all the thanks are due to Allah, and there is no god except Allah, and Allah is Greater.”
Also, increase the salutations upon Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), increase seeking your forgiveness and the number of supererogatory prayers. During the suhūr time, you have an ample opportunity to offer the taḥajjud prayers, therefore, wake a little earlier and offer a few taḥajjud prayers. Try to have focus in your salāt; the men should join the congregational prayers in the mosque, and above all avoid the sins.
May Allah give us the tawfīq to act upon what we have learned today, and may Allah make this Ramaḍān a month full of blessings, and allow us to fully benefit from it. Amīn.
Muhammad Taqī ‘Uthmānī, Karachi.
— Hakīm al-Ummah Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi was a twentieth-century erudite scholar from the Indian subcontinent. He was a Hanafi jurist, a scholar of hadith, an expert in Islamic philosophy, and a Sufi shaykh. His collection of Urdu fatwas “Imdādul Fatāwa” are a reference work for every South Asian Dār al-Iftā‘ that issues religious legal opinions according to the Hanafi school. He studied under luminaries of the likes of Mawlana Muhammad Qāsim Nānotwi, Mawlana Rashīd Aḥmed Gangohi, Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Maḥmūd al-Ḥasan, and threaded the spiritual path under Shaykh Ḥāji Imdādullah Muhājir Makki. Among his prominent students were Shaykh Ẓafar Aḥmad ʿUthmānī and Grand Mufti Muhammad Shafī‘ ‘Uthmānī.  Dr. ‘Abdul Ḥayy al-‘Ārifī was one of the most prominent successors of Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi in the path of tasawwuf. He was the spiritual guide of Shaykh Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmāni until he departed this world in 1986 CE. His body was laid to rest in the Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi’s graveyard.
“إنَّ اللهَ اشْتَرَى مِنَ المُؤْمِنِيْنَ أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَ أمْوَالَهُمْ بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ.