Ramadan: The Blessed Month

Ramadan: The Blessed Month

By: Abdelhaq Beweley

Salman, radiya'Llahu 'anhu, said that the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, spoke on the last day of Sha'ban and said, "O people! A great and blessed month has come to you - a month in which there is a night which is better than a thousand months; a month in which Allah has made it obligatory to fast and in which He has made standing in prayer during the night a voluntary action. Anyone who draws near to Allah during it by means of a voluntary good action is like someone who performs one of the obligatory actions outside it and performing an obligatory action during it is equivalent to performing seventy obligatory actions at any other time. It is the month of sabr and the reward for sabr is the Garden. It is the month of generous giving and the month in which a believer's provision is increased, If someone gives someone fasting something with which to break their fast, that will bring him forgiveness for his wrong actions and remove him from the Fire, and he will have the same reward as the one he feeds without that diminishing their reward in any way."

There are two aspects to Ramadan. The first is the activity of fasting and the second is the nature of the time itself. There is no spiritual tradition which does not practise fasting in one form or another. Fasting is, in fact, a defining human practice. Any healthy hungry creature other than a human being will, if offered food it likes, automatically consume it. Only a human being is able, by an act of will, to abstain from eating in those circumstances. This makes it a very special act of worship which is very highly rewarded by Allah when it is done for His sake. There are many benefits to be gained from it, not least of which are the well-attested medical ones - there is no doubt that it is excellent for our bodily health. However, perhaps the greatest benefit lies in the fact that by not eating and drinking when we want to we break one of the fundamental and basic links which imprison us in this lower world.

Our primary and primal connection with the world is made when we start feeding at our mother's breast and this is continued through the eating patterns we form throughout our childhood and into adult life. The effect of breaking this pattern is to open up to us access to direct knowledge of the substructure of our own selves and beyond that to the presence of our All-Providing Lord.

Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi talks of the highest possibilities opened up to us by the process of fasting when discussing it in his seminal work, The Way of Muhammad. He says: "The whole self-pattern is opened up for the faster to see. He is aware that any constancy of self he imagined he had was merely a surface illusion buoyed up by habit pattern and behaviour structure designed to give an illusion of solidity. He begins to know himself as a shuddering, evanescent, melting, moving reality. As the veils lift the Light becomes brighter. Fasting is the opening onto the Reality; it is the melting away of the solid, the dispersal of the cloud-body and the appearance of the sun-spirit."

Perhaps this goes some way toward explaining the meaning of the hadith of the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, when he said: "Every good action of the son of Adam is multiplied by ten to seven hundred times. Allah says: 'Except fasting. It is mine and I repay it Myself. The faster abandons his food and drink for My sake.' The faster has two delights: delight when he breaks his fast and delight when he meets his Lord."

There is no doubt that Ramadan is a special time; every Muslim knows this. It is somehow qualitatively different from every other time. This is quite independent from the activity of fasting. It is not that fasting makes Ramadan different, it is rather that Allah has made it obligatory for us to fast during it so that we gain the maximum benefit from its specialness as a time. Allah ta'ala has made it the setting of a great secret - that night which is better than a thousand months - and for that reason the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa salaam, chose it for his retreats before his Prophethood began.

Then on that night the great opening occurred, the beyond time and the in time intersected; the Revelation of Allah's Book began. As several mufassirun have pointed out, a thousand months is more or less the life-span of a human being, in other words all the experience of time that any of us can have. So what is being indicated by the description in the Qur'an of the Laylatu'l-Qadr is that it is out of time, a moment in the year when a window opens for us onto timelessness, when we somehow have access to the very presence of Allah.

It is this moment which permeates the whole month so that in it the Gates of the Garden are open and a faint resonance of the soft and fragrant breezes from them waft down to us in this world; and the shayatin (demons) which usually crowd in on us, poking at us and making it difficult for us to remember Allah and act rightly, are chained up, giving our hearts a welcome taste of ease and freedom. This is why good action is so highly rewarded during the month of Ramadan, as the hadith tells us. However, as with all good news there is an element of warning mixed in with it and that is that this time is extremely precious and we cannot afford to waste a moment of it. Now, before the month has started, the whole extent of Ramadan seems to stretch out abundantly in front of us; "Plenty of time," we say to ourselves. But how often have I heard people say as the end of the last week approaches, "Oh, if only I had taken more advantage of the time!"

So let us this year be people who take full advantage of this priceless blessing from Allah. Let us increase in our 'ibada; let us be generous in our giving; let us curb our tongues and open our hearts; let us be ready and waiting when the Laylatu'l-Qadr arrives so that we can receive the gifts it offers; let us reap every benefit from this Ramadan, allowing ourselves to be changed by it in a way that will enable us to go out from it renewed and able to take on to the full the task of re-establishing Allah's deen and implementing the sunna of His Messenger, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

This article is courtesy of Aisha Beweley's Islamic Homepage.

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