Preparing for Ramadan

[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on May 29, 2016]

Ya ayyuhalathin amanu, kutiba ‘alaykumus-siyamu kama kutiba ‘alal-lathina min qablikum la’alakum tattaqun. Ayyamam-ma’dudat

Oh you who believe, fasting has been made mandatory upon you, like it was made mandatory on those before you so that you may acquire taqwa. A fixed number of days.

We can never value Ramadan enough – it is a month where we can attain the wilayah of Allah swt. No matter how we spend it, we can never appreciate it enough. No matter how much we talk about its importance, it is still less. This is a month to attain the mercy, guidance, forgiveness and wilayah of Allah swt. No matter how much we prepare for it, no matter how much etiquette and respect we spend the month, it will still be less.

We should do as much as we can. Our state should be like that poor man; imagine a poor man is going to Hajj in a few days – and he knows this will probably be the first and last time he will go to Hajj. Similarly, we do not know whether we will live to this coming Ramadan and even if we do, we cannot guarantee we will ever see another Ramadan.

This is such a great chance. This month is such a blessing. It is such an important month – a month where all the kitabs (Tawrah, Zabur, Injil, Quran) were sent down. So we should make du’a that ya Allah, just the way You sent down Your words, these books of guidance, these messages of guidance to us insan in this month, I am also your poor servant and slave, I am also a creation of Yours, so this month, please also allow this Qur’an to address me.

Ramadan is the month of Qur’an –

shahru ramadanal-lathi unzila fihil-Qur’an.

The characteristic and description of this month is that it is the month of Qur’an. Imam Rabbani rah also wrote that just how Yusuf (as) was unique in comparison to his brothers, the month of Ramadan is unique in comparison to the other months. The mercy in Ramadan is more than all the other months combined. Ramadan has greater virtue than even the month where Hajj is performed (Dhul Hijjah).

Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلمwould recite the du’a – Allahumma barik lana fi Rajab wa Sha’ban, wa ballighna Ramadan – ya Allah swt, grant me barakah in the month of Rajab and Sha’ban, and bring me in peace and aman, safely to the month of Ramadan! These words are not just sunnah, but the feeling he had – the yearning, desire, worry and want for Ramadan; that is the main sunnah.

Advance preparation and early planning is done for anything important in this world. Someone has a meeting; some student has an exam, some farmer or businessman has their main profitable season coming up – they all prepare. The more you prepare, the better you will spend it!

These few days we have left of Sha’ban, we should spend them fully in the preparation, thoughts and worry for Ramadan . Allah swt sends down His mercy in this month. Many of us have made Ramadan ‘the month of fasting’ – this is the least definition. If someone made a huge house, we wouldn’t describe the house as having a closet. This is the least feature.

We should not teach our children that Ramadan is fasting, but we should finish the definition by saying it is the month of love, a month of wilayah, a month of guidance, a month of love, a month of taqwa – it is the launching pad to Allahs mercy. Allama Yusuf Binori (rah) would say that it is such a month where even the greatest sinner can become a wali of Allah swt. He proved this by using two verses of the Qur’an:

Ya ayyuhalathin amanu, kutiba ‘alaykumus-siyamu kama kutiba ‘alal-lathina min qablikum la’alakum tattaqun 
Oh you who believe, fasting has been made mandatory upon you, like it was made mandatory on those before you so that you may acquire taqwa.

In awliya’uhu illal muttaqun 
The friends of Allah are none except the muttaqun

So fasting = taqwa and taqwa=wilayah So we should teach our children this! Allah swt sends the same amount of rahmah in Ramadan for us that he sent on the sahabah kiram – we are not even like them; the condition of the ummah has declined and declined, but Allah swt still sends us the full rahmah! That is one thing we have in common with them.

We should be happy about this. We could attain the same maghfirah and rahmah as them! He could have sent us mercy according to our actions, but no, He swt sends us the same amount. For any person, no matter how many sins we have done, no matter how distant we are already from Allah swt, this month is enough to make us the wali of Allah swt.

Some Arab poets and even in Urdu poetry, they address the moon when describing their love for Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم . “O’ moon, you are the same moon which Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم .looked at.” But even greater than the moon is Ramadan. What is the moon? It doesn’t even have its own light. It shines because it reflects the light of the sun! So we should say “O’ Ramadan, you are the same Ramadan my Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم lived through!”

It is the same Ramadan that the sahabah got, the same Ramadan the tabi’in got, the tabe’ tabi’in got! We need to teach our children this. What are you going to do different? What are you going to do better this Ramadan? This is the game. Can you make it any better than before?

Most of us fast every Ramadan, but how can you make it better. Think of it like this; we get a one year warranty every Ramadan, we need to make its effects last a year, not get a puncture straight away! Ramadan isn’t a project for 30 days; it isn’t a limited goal – it has an unlimited goal. It should bring a permanent change.

Nabi sws has said ‘innamal a’malu binniyyat – that actions are according to their intentions’. Allah swt has told us the goal is ‘la’alakum tattaqun”. This is the biggest prize. Allah swt has said in Qur’an

‘inna akramakum ‘indAllahi atqakum-
verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who has) the most taqwa’

So we should keep this prize, this aim in mind. Keeping a fast is not hard – you just need to change your eating and sleeping schedule. Everyone knows his or her Ramadan menu from beforehand. The ladies don’t forget how to make the foods (samosa, fruit chaat), and the ones eating don’t forget the menu. It’s the same every year.

Anyone can fast; but we also need to fast from sins, from lustful glances, from bad thoughts, from bad speech etc. If we can leave halal for Allah swt (eating is generally allowed), then why can’t we also leave haram things for Him? We can leave halal things for Allah swt, but some of us don’t leave the haram in this month! Ajeeb!

Allah swt teaches us ikhlas in this month. There are many times in the day where anyone can break their fast secretly, and no-one will know. Even during wudu, we have the opportunity to drink water, and no-one would know, but no-one does this! We have so much taqwa when it comes to this. Sometimes we make our salahs go qada, but imagine the barakah of Ramadan that most of us will definitely not eat, despite having the opportunities to break our fast.

So we should make du’a at iftar and suhur that ya Allah, wa ma tawfiqi illa Billah – that this tawfiq is only from You; ya Allah, I didn’t even think about eating, ya Allah make the whole shari’ah like this for me – I don’t want to break any part of shari’ah. Many people pray long tahajjud, and do a lot of mujahadah – you can attain taqwa etc through this. But not all of us can do this. Another way is to make du’a. This is a month of asking. We can at least make du’a.

The barakah and rahmah of Ramadan comes down even before Ramadan. Imam Rabbani has explained this in his maktubat using Fajr and Sunrise; that Sunrise is that moment when the rays of sunlight come on the horizon, when you can see the silver disc or the lining but before this is the time of Fajr, one or more than one hour before this dawn depending upon the time of the year, is the time when the effect of the sunlight starts to trickle through.

The first spread of light is the beginning of Fajr and as more and more light comes such that when you look at the sky 15 or 20 minutes before sunrise it is full of light, sometimes if you did not know the time for sunrise you would think that the sun was already up. Similarly, before the month of Ramadan appears; just like before the sun appears prior to that there is a lot of light that spreads on the sky, just like that before the month of Ramadan appears, the barakat of Ramadan starts to flood the sky, especially during the last 15 days of the month of Sha’ban.

The first tarawih is the one prayed even before anyone has started a fast – so many of us pray these 20 rakats on the first day. Many of us will not have even prayed any salah for 1.5 hours or so in the entire year. Just from Maghrib to ‘Isha’, the power of Ramadan is such that a believer can stand and pray salah for 1.5 hours. Just being alive for 1.5 hours of Ramadan, it is enough to give a person spiritual strength to stand and pray tarawih for 1-1.5 hours, so imagine what spiritual strength we can attain after 30 days and nights!

This is why the goal is ‘la’allakum tattaqun’! Don’t just make it a month of fasting. It comes in a hadith that there are some believers who will not get anything from Ramadan, except hunger and thirst. Many of us understand that it means those who fast, but continue sinning. Ramadan should have an effect, an after effect and a long lasting after effect.

If the long lasting after effect doesn’t stay, then we need to realise what exactly did we attain. What can we do different? What can we do better? How much Qur’an can we pray on average daily even outside Ramadan? We should pray this amount every single day in Ramadan and make du’a that ya Allah, I have the intention to continue praying this amount after Ramadan too, so grant me the istiqamat.

In-sha Allah, it is the experience of our elders that for most people, if they do this, it will become a daily habit even after Ramadan. Shaykh Zakariyya (rah) has a book called ‘fadaile Ramadan’ – we should read this before Ramadan, and during Ramadan too!

Some of the Features of the Month of Ramadan

1) Allah swt will increase reward of a fardh act by 70 times!

Salah isn’t the only thing that is compulsory. But to have good character, to refrain from lying etc – this is all compulsory too. I will also give you a tight fatwa for students – even to use the full ability Allah swt has given you is compulsory in one sense. One fardh act is multiplied by seventy this month – it means we were meant to be encouraged by this. We should try to do our fardh better. Whoever has a habit of lying, they should speak the truth in Ramadan – it is as though they have spoken the truth for 70 months!

Whoever has bad character, they should try and adopt good character this month, and it’ll be as if you had good character for 70 months. ‘Arifin have told us that the qurb you get through acts of ‘ibadah, that is increased by 70 times too!

If you increase someone’s driving speed by 70 times – imagine 1400km per hour, this is lightning speed. So at lightening speed, Allah swt will make you His muqarrab this month.

2) When a person does any non-fardh, Allah swt will treat it as a fardh.

Allah swt wanted to forgive even that sinner who didn’t pray. Lets say there is a sinner whose never prayed Fajr. He gets the reward of 2100 Fajrs in Ramadan if he prays for just this month – Allah swt is helping them catch up. For the person who did their fara’idh, but they did the bare minimum only, they might start doing some sunnah and nafl this month and Allah swt gives him reward of doing a fardh.

Tarawih isn’t fardh – but we get the reward of fardh = 20 fardh rakats. Allah swt is helping us! With extra credit, you will get full credit.

3) Shayatin and his minions will be chained.

What does this show us? The sins we commit in Ramadan is because of our nafs, not because of shaytan! We have two enemies in general – one is our nafs, the other is shaytan. When we eat less, it makes our nafs weaker. How many calories do we need? When we eat according to that, our bodily needs will use that. Anything extra – we are feeding our nafs. Many of us are actually looking after our nafs well.

Imam Ghazali wrote in his ihya uloom ud-din that when you eat more than you need, you are feeding the nafs. In Ramadan, we need to control our eating from Maghrib to Fajr to help our spiritual self. It is a joke – for some of us, our weight goes up in Ramadan. We are wasting our main feature of Ramadan. We must eat less in Ramadan than we normally eat outside Ramadan.

Fasting is training! When you see an athlete, when its Olympic time, they control their eating for a particular reason. Try and invite them to a meal, they will not eat what you give them. They will control their eating to keep their health intact. Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم said to some young men that they should get married (to suppress their desires) and if you cannot do so, then fast! Why? Because fasting suppresses our needs.

Fasting acts as a shield. We don’t understand how big an enemy shaytan is to us – Allah swt chains them this month. (Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم used to eat dates in suhur also – not only iftar)

4) Allah swt opens all the gates of Jannah.

5) Allah swt closes the doors of Jahannam.

This means He swt eases the path, a’mal, behaviour, akhlaq leading to Jannah. It will be easier to follow a way of life that will lead to Jannah. If you are visiting someone’s house and he or she has someone at the door with the gates open, it shows they want us to come. Similarly, Allah swt wants us to enter Jannah <3.

On the other hand, if you go to visit someone, and they kept the gate shut, they kept the shutters shut, you would think that the person doesn’t want me to go there. So we should have the intention that in Ramadan, I’m going to spend 30 days and nights for His sake because Allah swt wants me to go Jannah. Allah swt wants us to go Jannah all the time, but it is even more in Ramadan.

Wallahu yad’u ila daris-salam!

6) ALL creation (trillions of micro-organisms too) makes du’a, non-stop du’a for every fasting person.

Allahu Akbar. Imagine – trillions and trillions and trillion of du’as. This includes the angels, the angels who do tawaf around Baytul-Ma’mur too! Imagine your hifdh teacher, or your shaykh or your mother told you, I will make du’a for you during tawaf for thirty days in Ramadan – we’d be amazed, we’d be so happy. Imagine – the angels will make du’a for you and me.

That Allah swt who has given us this blessing, do you not think he will forgive that believer? We should feel humble and grateful – ya Allah, You are so kind – I make tawbah once and for all. My way of doing shukr to You is that I want to be your obedient slave Every feature in Ramadan leads us to this taqwa!

There are so many features in Ramadan, yet me and you are the missing ingredient. It is like we are resisting all this. This Ramadan, we need to put our share in!

7) The du’a a person makes in suhur and iftar is accepted by Allah swt

It is a time of acceptance. Try to make some du’a. You can start making du’a even before adhan, as long as you carry it through and end it adhan. Actions are based on ends – if you end your du’a at adhan then that whole du’a will be counted. Masha’ikh and ‘ulama would make du’a before adhan and they’d say amin at iftar – so whole du’a counts as though it was made at iftar time.

Just sit 5 minutes before iftar – make this a family thing. Make sure even the women-folk sit. Ramadan is not the month of the PIPING HOT SAMOSA; even the women should make du’a before iftar. They should be turning to Allah swt. We have seen that a lot of wives make du’a for their husbands, and husbands make du’a less for their wives.

We should make du’a for our spouse – this is an act of love and affection. What better sight than to see husband and wife making du’a for each other with love to Allah swt.

8) Nabi Karim صلى الله عليه وسلم said that there are two times of happiness for the fasting person a) farhatan ‘inda iftar – when he breaks his fast, b) wa farhatan ‘inda liqair-Rahman – when he meets His Lord.

At the time of iftar, we have the happiness of the physical act of eating – that is fine. Allah swt likes that – He enjoys the happiness. Just like a mother watches her son eating happily after he has had a long day, Allah swt is also happy for us. But there is another happiness that we should also have at this point – and that is that ya Allah, I completed a task for you, and I’m grateful to you that you allowed me complete the fast.

The second happiness ‘wa farhatan ‘inda liqair-Rahman’ – we should enjoy the happiness of that Day of Judgment now. Allah swt will said

‘as-sawmu li, wa ana ajzi bihi’
Fasting is for Me, and it is I who will give reward for it!

That fast which is purely exclusively for me, I myself will reward beyond and math or anything quantifier. He swt will reward ‘kama yuridu sha’nuhu!’ Allah swt is dhu-fadhlin ‘Azim; He swt is dhu-fadhlin ‘alal mu’minin. We need to try. Try to think of the meeting of meeting Allah swt. It should give us joy.

Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم generally made a lot of ‘ibadah – but his ‘ibadah in Ramadan was even more remarkable that Hadrat ‘Aisha ra even mentioned it.

9) Sunnah I’tikaf – do not miss out on this.

10) Laylat ul-Qadr

Imam Bukhari has said that Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلمdid 20 days i’tikaf in his last Ramadan. We have forgotten to ask, we have forgotten to ask. We should spend at least our weekends in i’tikaf. In the last ten days and nights, we should sit in sunnah i’tikaf, crying and begging Allah swt. We need to find laylatul qadr, which is better than 1000 months.

It was the thirst of sahabah for ‘ibadah that we got a day like this, despite having had the best person around them. They had an unfulfilled thirst and Allah honoured their thirst. Search for the night in last five odd nights – and try, and try to spend it all night in worship.

Sometimes you have to push yourself. If someone was to ask us what is our favourite type of bread – we will say either white, brown or wholegrain. We need to learn the names of Allah swt – we need to learn what all these names mean – ya Hannan, ya Mannan! It is so sad and shameful that we don’t know these things. What is the name you call out when you are feeling sad? We don’t know!

Allah swt has said in Qur’an

‘ wa lillahil asma’ul husna, fad’uhu biha’
and to Allah swt belong the best names

So invoke Him by them. The first ten nights are mercy, the second ten are of forgiveness and the last ten day is a package to take you out of Hell.

There are three types of people who come in Ramadan. There are those who do not sin, there are those who sin sometimes, and there are those who are always committing sin. Allah can remove their names from those destined for Hell. There is something for every single person in Ramadan.

We should want 30 days of Ramadan. We should make du’a on the 29th that we get that 30th day; we should want the 30th wash in the washing machine.

11) Laylat ul-Jaizah – the night before Eid

Even on this night Allah swt still takes people out of Hell. The amount of people that Allah swt frees from hellfire from the start of Ramadan until the end, Allah swt frees that same amount on the last day. But again, His mercy doesn’t end there.

There are some people who don’t realize the worth of something until the end, even with something like Ramadan. Allah swt has granted them the night preceding Eid – this night is called ‘Laylatul Jaizah’- there is so much reward for grabs on this night, like that of Ramadan. There are people who don’t make use of this night, yet Allah swt still grants them ‘Id. Allah swt says ‘qumu, yaghfir lakum’- stand up, you are forgiven! Be sacrificed on the mercy of Allah swt. May He swt give us tawfiq to spend the next few days of Sha’ban preparing for Ramadan. May He swt grant us the best Ramadan, a heart-changing Ramadan, a lifechanging Ramadan. May He swt make us salihin mu’minin, muttaqin mu’minin!

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ