Ramadan Checkup (Part 0ne)
The Need for Knowledge
By Ibn Abee Omar
As the last ten nights are now upon us, it is time to re-evaluate how far we have come. Two-thirds of the month have already passed and will not return. However, we still have enough time to make a final push in this month, to maximize the benefit that we can attain, and draw closer to Allah the Almighty.
One of the main goals of our fasting is the inculcation of taqwa (piety),
(O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become pious [people of Taqwa].) (Al-Baqarah 2:133)
`Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) defined taqwa as follows: “Taqwa is to fear the Most Exalted One, work upon His revelation, become content and ascetic and always prepare for the departure from this life.”
Taqwa means to be constantly aware of Almighty Allah and to worship Him with love, fear, and hope. Taqwa is also one of the main objectives of the revelation of the Qur’an, and our fasting is not complete without reciting it. There is a triangle of virtue formed with taqwa in this month: the revelation of Quran and fasting in this month.
The main purpose of fasting is to give us constant awareness and fear of Almighty Allah, as well as protection against evil. It is something that becomes ingrained in our minds at all times.
Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:
(And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for the people of Taqwa.) (Aal `Imran 3: 133)
Allah the Almighty has prepared paradise specifically for pious people. The beginning of the ayah is an encouragement to action; to have taqwa does not mean idleness, it means constant activity.
Ramadan trains us for this. It teaches us to be consistent in worship, to fast every day, to go to the masjid every night, to retrain ourselves to be mindful of what we say, watch, and do.
If we cannot derive spiritual benefit during the month of Ramadan, then in what other month can we find benefit? If we are lazy to do good deeds now, then when will we do them?
If we compare Ramadan to the rest of the year, we will see that our worship increases on a daily basis. This is training us to establish a regiment of worship, and focus – both mentally and physically – to sustain us throughout the rest of the year. This is also similar to what we often see in our work place when we have training every year or two. In the context of the work place, if we do not increase our knowledge or skills, we could lose your license or certification.
Ramadan has shown us what we are capable of doing when we push ourselves, and this is what we have experienced up to this point. Then, in the last ten nights we receive yet another push. Allah the Almighty says:
(Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.) (Al-Qadr 97: 1-5)
The theme of this surah is devotion in worship.
In the last ten days of Ramadan, there is Laylat Al-Qadr (The Night of Power). Whoever prays during these nights, believing in it, and hoping for its reward from Almighty Allah, He will forgive all his previous sins. Whoever misses this night and deprives himself of its good, has only himself to blame.
Laylat Al-Qadr is one of the last ten nights, and in some narrations one of the last ten odd nights. Of its signs is that it is not too hot, or too cold, and the heat of the sun is not intense.
These signs show that we should be devoted in worship throughout the ten nights, and not just one. For this reason, the signs that show Laylat Al-Qadr are towards the end of the night, and not before.
Almighty Allah did not specify its order among the ten nights so that people may exert their utmost efforts throughout all the ten days in worship. This is similar to the hour on Fridays when prayers (du`aa’ are accepted), performing optional night prayer, reciting the Glorious Qur’an and doing righteous deeds.
In the last ten nights – the best and most blessed nights of the year – we push ourselves even more than we did during the first twenty. It is like Allah the Almighty is showing us what our real potential is to worship Him. After all, this is the purpose of our creation:
(And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).) (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)
Part of this worship is knowing how to worship Allah the Almighty properly. For example, a person who has knowledge of Ramadan and Laylat Al-Qadr will know that it is hidden, and will understand the reasons why this is so. In this way, the person will know when to seek it, whereas someone without knowledge will simply come to the masjid on the twenty-seventh night only and do one night of worship. Only the person with knowledge can maximize his efforts in worshipping Almighty Allah, and obtain the reward.
Such a person knows that the twenty-seventh night is not a lottery jackpot, but a culmination and bonus for the one who has persisted in doing good deeds.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that Allah the Almighty says,
“My servant does not draw close to Me with anything as he does by carrying out what I have made obligatory upon him. My servant continues draw closer to me by performing optional deeds such that I love him, and when I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me I would surely give him and were he to ask Me for refuge I would surely grant it to him.”
A person cannot expect to not be constant in the five daily prayers and then receive eighty-three years worth of rewards from one night alone. Similarly, a person cannot skip fasting in Ramadan, and then fast six days of Shawwal thinking he will have a whole year’s worth of fasting recorded for him.
Allah the Almighty says,
(Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allah’s Signs and Verses). (Az-Zumar 39:9)
So, here Allah the Almighty gives two examples –a worshipper with another person who does not worship, and then couples it with one who knows and one who does not. Indeed, both of these go hand in hand. It is only when we combine the two that we can reach the highest stages of worship and attain success in this life and the Hereafter.
Knowledge cannot be attained without devotion, and devotion is not complete without knowledge. As Ramadan inculcates taqwa, one of the descriptions Allah the Almighty gives to those who practice it is:
(Verily, those who are pious, when an evil thought comes to them from Satan), they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).) ( Al-A`raf 7: 201)
One example of this could be, for example, the trial of Dajjal, as only the knowledgeable and pious will be able to see through his plots while those who are ignorant will be misled. In this context, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When Allah desires good for someone, He gives him understanding of religion.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Ramadan Checkup (Part Two)
By Ibn Abee Omar
Every Ramadan we make plans to improve ourselves as Muslims, but those plans do not always come to fruition later because the surge of faith that we have now is severely lacking outside this blessed month.
Part of the reason is because the devils are locked up during this month, so to repel the devils we need knowledge. Ramadan specifically is a period of worship. It is a time when families come together, make du`aa ‘together, break their fast together, and eat suhoor together. Families pray together more, and they read Qur’an. These are all acts that bring family members closer to each other, and in turn they also draw closer to Allah the Almighty.
These acts cannot be sustained until a person tastes the sweetness of faith, and that will not come until they are grounded in knowledge. This is how our belief increases, and we draw closer to Almighty Allah in this way, because when a person worships with knowledge, he worships with humbleness and firm belief.
We need activities to keep our faith on the increase. Specifically, we need to seek knowledge, especially in the west where we are faced with attacks from every direction.
Just wishing is not enough. If there is a thirst for knowledge and learning the religion, then why are we not taking advantage of the opportunity? How many people want to memorize Quran, but how many of those same people are willing to give a few hours of their time every week to review and memorize with a teacher?
It is not that these questions are unimportant, but they lack insight. We need to ask about the ruling on seeking knowledge of the religion which is obligatory upon every Muslim. Knowledge is obligatory on everyone no matter what field they are involved in; for example, you must learn the fiqh of business, and riba, before going into business or finance so that you do not fall into what is prohibited. If you have wealth, you must learn the fiqh of zakah . Every Muslim must know the rulings of wudu’ and prayer. A man must know, for example, what is obligatory upon him in regards to taking care of his wife and children
`Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Whoever has six qualities will leave no path to Paradise and be away from the Fire, but [he] will have taken it. They are,
1. He knows Allah and obeys Him
2. He knows the devil and disobeys him
3. He knows the truth and follows it
4. He knows falsehood and stays away from it
5. He knows life and avoids it
6. He knows the Hereafter and seeks it.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was commanded in the Qura’n to seek knowledge. We are only asked to increase our knowledge. He (peace and blessings be upon him) also used to supplicate Allah the Almighty to grant him beneficial knowledge, and he would seek refuge from knowledge that did not benefit.
Allah the Almighty says:
(But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what has been sent down to you (Muhammad SAW) and what was sent down before you, and those who perform As-Salah (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakah and believe in Allah and in the Last Day, it is they to whom We shall give a great reward.) (An-Nisaa’ 4: 162)
Knowledge is the Key to Establishing Endless Acts of Charity
Everyone wants to leave a legacy. This is a universal human value that we all share. Even the disbelievers share this goal with us. Almost every person has a goal of making some contribution to their family or society and being remembered for it. However, only the believer will see the benefits of this after death.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When a servant (of Allah) dies, his (good) deeds will cease, except for three (kinds of deeds): A charity with continuous effect, a kind of knowledge from which people draw benefit, and a good son who prays to Allah for him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
If we do not do this, we are like the rest of humanity and will be at a loss. This is the default situation of man, the base case scenario; he is at a loss.
(By Time, Verily Man is at a loss. Except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommended one another to the truth, and recommended one another to patience.) (Al-`Asr 103: 1-3)
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Indeed, this world, with all it contains, is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allah and what follows it from deeds that are pleasing to Allah, scholars (of religion) and seekers of knowledge.” (Tirmidhi)
The problem is that we become content with what we have, and if we look at the example of our righteous predecessors, none of them were ever content. We must take advantage and change our lives right now. There is no time to make intentions and resolve to do better. Such thinking does not exist in the workplace so why do we expect it to exist with Allah the Almighty? We must take concrete action to better ourselves and our communities.
It is only Satan who misleads us and encourages us to be lazy, and he will keep making us procrastinate so much so that the only time we gain any real knowledge is after our death.
`Abdullah ibn ‘Awn said, “Those who were before us would leave for this life what remained with them after taking care of their Hereafter. You, on the other hand, leave for your Hereafter what remains after taking care of your life.”
We have a disease in our hearts when we say “faith is in the heart” or “faith is only on the inside.” This is nothing more than a feeble excuse and a trick! We all quote the hadith “actions are by intentions” as proof for this, but it is actually proof against us. It says actions are by intention – the action comes first and then the intention of the action is judged. To merely make an intention without an action is of no benefit, especially when there is nothing preventing us from doing the action.
We cannot simply intend to establish Islamic institutions, or establish classes, seek knowledge, or teach our children about Islam. We must put it into action because when we put it into action, then we can leave a lasting legacy of that knowledge to those around us. It does not necessarily mean that you must produce some academic work, but it means to impact someone around you in a positive manner, such that, in sha’ Allah, you will benefit from your action after your death.
Tying it All Together – Example of Worshipping with Knowledge
Imam Ahmad recorded from `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), that she said, “O Messenger of Allah! If I find Laylat Al-Qadr what should I say?” He replied, “Say: ‘Allahumma innaka ‘Affu, tuhibbul ‘afwa, fa’fu’annee’ (O Allah! Verily, You are the Oft-Pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me).” (Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i)
It is recommended that we supplicate with this as we seek the blessed night that the Quran was revealed in. Have we pondered over its meanings?
Al-‘Affu is one of the Majestic Names of Almighty Allah. Linguistically, it means to pardon. ‘Aafiyah is Allah’s defense of His servant from disease, tribulation, fears, doubts, and so on.
This name occurs in the Qu’ran five times, once with the Name al-Qadir, and the rest with Al-Ghaffur. Al-Ghaffur also means to wipe away a person’s sins. Combined with Al-`Affu it means that Almighty Allah overlooks and pardons a person’s sin, and then wipes it completely away.
Why would this name be coupled with Al-Qadir? Al-Qadir is the One who is powerful, able to do all things, the One with the right and power to punish His slaves for sinning. What does this have to do with neglecting one’s sins?
In our interpersonal relationships, sometimes we are compelled to forgive each other for things that have been done to us. It may be because of a favor someone has done for us, or pressure from someone. By combining Al-`Affu with Al-Qadir, Allah the Almighty is telling us that He has all power and every right to punish us for our sins; however, He (out of His Mercy) has chosen to forgive us and pardon us.
May Allah the Almighty let us all live to see Laylat Al-Qadr this year, and benefit from it, and be amongst His righteous and knowledgeable worshippers.
Ibn Abee Omar is a part time lecturer from the southern US.
Source: Excepted with modification from www.muslimmatters.org