Philosophy and Merits of Ramadhan
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is called “Ramadhan” and it is the most meritorious month of the whole year. Since there are many specific rules peculiar to this month, we would like to deal with its characteristics in a rather detailed manner under different sections.
The Philosophy of Ramadhan
The Holy Qur’an has expressly told us that the basic objective for which man is created by Allah is that he “worships” Him: “And I did not create Jinn and human beings except that they should worship Me.”
The word used by the Holy Qur’an for the worship is “‘ibâdah” which has a much wider sense than “worship”. In English, the word “worship” normally indicates to some specific acts or rituals meant exclusively to show one’s reverence to his Creator. But the word ‘‘ibâdah’ is not restricted to such acts or rituals, rather, it embodies any act done in submission to Allah’s commands and to seek His pleasures. Therefore, many acts which seem to be mundane in nature are included in the word of ‘ibâdah’ like earning one’s livelihood through halâl (permissible) means and in order to fulfill one’s obligations towards his dependants. However, ‘ibâdah’ is of two kinds. At the first place there are acts meant exclusively to worship Allah, having no worldly objective, like Salah, fasting etc. These are direct acts of ‘ibâdah’ while the other kind of ‘ibâdah’ includes the acts which are primarily mundane, but they are converted into an ‘ibâdah’ when they are performed in full conformity with Shari‘ah and with an intention to discharge one’s obligations. Therefore, these acts are treated as ‘‘ibâdah’ in an indirect manner. It is obvious that the direct acts of ‘‘ibâdah’ should be superior to the indirect ones.
Now, while prescribing very few acts of direct ‘ibâdah in one’s daily life, like the salah which is performed five times a day, Islam has left its followers mostly with the indirect acts of ‘ibâdah like eating, drinking, earning the livelihood and association with one’s wife, children, parents, relatives, friends and other human beings. But the primary nature of these acts being mundane, one becomes so absorbed in their worldly pleasures that their material aspects prevail on their spiritual aspect. Therefore, these acts have less spiritual strength than the direct acts of worship.
Since the direct acts of ‘ibâdah are very few in one’s daily life as compared to the indirect ones, his spiritual progress becomes slow visa vise his material progress. The month of Ramadhan has been designed to maintain a balance between material and spiritual aspects of the human life. This month is meant to maximize the direct acts of ‘ibâdah and to minimize the pure mundane activities, so that one may accelerate his spiritual progress to make up the distance and to repair the spiritual loss one may have suffered through his deep involvement in the mundane activities during the year.
The days of Ramadhan are designed to keep fast which is an act of ‘ibâdah for the whole day, and depriving oneself from any material food for many hours, it lessens the bad spiritual effects, if any, of the material pleasures. The nights of Ramadhan, on the other hand, are spent in offering Tarawîh and waking up for tahajjud and suhûr, reducing the time of one’s sleep much less than in the normal days. Moreover, apart from the prescribed acts of worship, one is supposed to offer as much optional (nafl) ‘ibâdah in this month as he can. In this way the level of one’s spiritual activities in this month is raised up much higher than in other days of the year. This philosophy of the month of Ramadhan makes it clear that this month should be devoted to the direct acts of worship as far as possible. That is why the reward of the virtuous acts in this month has been multiplied. This is to encourage the Muslims to the maximum possible acts of ‘ibâdah.
The Merits of Ramadhan
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam) has mentioned the merits of Ramadhan in a large number of ahadith. Some of them are reproduced here with translation: Salmân(R.A.), the Persian has reported the following: “The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam) addressed us on the last day of Sha‘bân wherein he said: “O men, a great, blessed month has cast its shadow upon you. It is a month which contains a night far better than one thousand months, a month Allah has made it obligatory to fast therein and made it commendable to stand up praying in its nights. If someone seeks Allah’s nearness by offering an optional act of worship in this month, it will be as rewarding as to offer an obligatory worship in other days, and if someone performs an obligatory act of worship in this month, it will carry as much reward as the reward of performing seventy obligatory acts of worship in other days. It is the month of patience and the reward of patience is Jannah (paradise) It is a month of sympathy, a month in which the provision for a believer is increased. If someone provides another person with food to make Iftâr (terminate one’s fast by eating or drinking something) it will cause forgiveness to his sins and freeing his neck from hell and he will be awarded the same thawâb as the fasting person will be rewarded for his fast, without decreasing his own thawâb.”
The companions of the Holy Prophet(Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam) said, “O Messenger of Allah, every one of us does not have enough food to offer for iftâr to another fasting person.” The Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihi Wassallam) sai d, “This thawâb will also be given to a person who offers to a fasting person one date or a drink of water or a little milk for his iftâr. And this is a month the first part of which is mercy from Allah, the middle of which is the forgiveness from Allah and the last part of which is liberation from hell. If someone relaxes the burden of work from his slave in this month, Allah will forgive him his sins and will free him from the Fire. In this month you should do four acts frequently. Two acts are such that you will please your Lord through them and two are such that you can never claim to be need-free of them. As for the two acts you please Allah through them, they are: to bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and to seek forgiveness from Allah. And the two acts you can never be need-free of them are: to pray Allah to give you the Jannah (the Paradise) and to seek refuge to Allah from the Fire. And if someone serves a drink to a fasting person, Allah will make him have such a drink from my canal (the Kauthar) that he will never get thirsty after it until he enters the Jannah.” This hadith gives us a detailed account of the peculiar merits of the month of Ramadhan and of what we should try to do in it. The upshot of the hadith is that one should not restrict himself to fasting in this month; rather he should maximize the number of his virtuous acts and take this opportunity to seek forgiveness for his sins and to secure as much thawâb as he can, by offering the nafl acts of worship including charitable acts.
In another hadith, reported by Abu Hurairah(R.A.)the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam) has said:
“My Ummah has been given five characteristic honors in the month of Ramadhan which have not been given to any other ummah before.
1. The smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk.
2. fishes (in the water) keep praying Allah to forgive the fasting persons until they make iftar.
3. In every day of Ramadhan, Allah decorates the Jannah and addresses it saying” ‘It is not too far that my righteous servants shall throw away the burdens (of the worldly life) and shall proceed towards you.
4. The rebellious satans are shackled in this month, and they cannot do in it what they do in other days (i.e. instigating men and women to commit sins.)
5. In the last night of this month, they (the fasting persons) are granted amnesty.”
In a hadith narrated by ‘Ubâdah ibn al Sâmit(R.A.) the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam) is reported to have said: “Ramadhan has come to you. It is the month of blessing in which Allah envelops you (with His kindness) He makes His mercy descend upon you, He forgives your sins and accepts your prayers. Allah witnesses you when you race one another (in virtuous deeds) in this month and becomes proud of you before His angels”. Therefore, show Allah the best of deeds from your side, because unfortunate is that person who deprives himself from Allah’s mercy in this month. These ahadith are sufficient to explain the great merits Allah has invested this month with.