Thursday, 6 September 2007

Safeguarding The Spirit of Ramadhan

Owing to the institutional nature of fasting and its widespread popularity, it was quite possible that it degenerated into a lifeless ritual with people taking to fasting out of habit or for fear of social censure. It was not inconceivable that the Muslims lost sight of its intrinsic significance and began to fast only because of material benefits or medical advantages.

The Holy Prophet SAW had foreseen this possibility and to safeguard against it he (SAW) had made it known, at the very first step, that only that fast was acceptable to Allah which was observed in the spirit of faith and trust in Divine Recompense.

Thus, a Hadith of Rasulullah SAW narrates:

"He who fasted with Imaan (faith) and Ihtisaab (trust in Divine Recompense) - all his previous sins will be forgiven." (Sheikhain)

For those who are not cognisant of the weaknesses of the human nature, it may be hard to appreciate the relevance of this stipulation. They may argue that since it was only the Muslims who observed fasting and they did it wholly for propitiating Allah and earning His reward, thus the requirement of faith and trust was unnecessary. However, if one cared to enquire into the peculiar make-up of human personality and the working of social and moral incentives, one was bound to submit to the wisdom of the far-reaching provision and to bow down before the dept and profundity of knowledge which has its roots not in human perception but Divine revelation.

Allah SWT says in the Qur'an:

"Nor doth he speak of his own desire. It is naught save an inspiration that is inspired." (Surah Al-Imran: Ayat 4)

In the tradition of Rasulullah SAW, the state of Imaan and Ihtisab has been defined as one in which a person performs good and virtuous deeds in the hope of Divine Recompense and with faith in the promise of Divine good pleasure and forgiveness.

It is related by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas that the Prophet Muhammad SAW said:

"There are forty deeds among which the best is the gift of a goat. If any of these is performed in the hope of Divine Recompense and with faith in the reward promised on it, Allah will allow such a person to enter Paradise." (Bukhari)

The Islamic Shari'ah does not rest content at prescribing the outward form and ceremony of fasting but also lays stress on its inner content and significance. It prohibits not only food, drink and sexual gratification during a fast but everything that is detrimental to its basic purpose and objective. It has encompassed fasting, on all sides, with piety, reverence and cleanliness.

The Prophet Muhammad SAW has said:

"When any of you keeps a fast he should not utter a filthy or indecent word or engage in a noisy scene, and were anyone to quarrel with him and call him names he should simply say, 'I am keeping fast'. " (Ibid)

On another occasion, the Prophet SAW is narrated to have said:

"Allah has no need for him to go without food and drink who cannot shun evil and falsehood even during a fast." (Ibid)

A fast which is devoid of the spirit of piety and purity is like a body without a soul.

Regarding this, the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:

"Many are there among you who fast and yet gain nothing from it except hunger and thirst, and many are there who pray (throughout the night) and yet gain nothing from it except wakefulness." (Ibid)

It is related by Abu Hurairah RA that the Holy Prophet SAW once said:

"Fasting is a shield until it is ripped."

Fasting in Islam does not merely denote refraining from certain negative acts like the shunning of food and drink and abstaining from falsehood and backbiting and from wrangling and uttering a foul or profane word, but it also includes indulging in a number of positive deeds, such as, Solat, Dhikr, compassion and charity.

The Prophet Muhammad SAW has said:

"If in it (i.e. the month of Ramadhan) a person will seek the propitiation of Allah by doing anything it will be treated as equal (in recompense) to the fulfillment of an obligatory duty in the other days of the year and if he will fulfil an obligatory duty in it, it will be treated as equal (in recompense) to the fulfillment of seventy obligatory duties in the other days of the year. It is the month of patient perseverance and the reward on patient perseverance is Paradise, and it is the month of Compassion." (Baihaqi)

It is related by Zayd ibn Khalid al-Johhani RA that the Prophet SAW once remarked:

"He who will invite a person who is fasting to break the fast with him will get the same reward as the one who was fasting and there will be no reduction in the reward of the latter either." (Tirmidhi)

Allah has also blessed the Muslims with the prudence and anxiety to preserve the tradition of Taraweeh. The celebration of the prayer-service of Taraweeh dates back from the time of the Holy Prophet SAW, but he (SAW) had abandoned it after offering it up for three days lest it was made compulsory for Muslims and became a burden to them.

It is related by Ibn Shihaad RA that he had heard it from Urwah RA who, in his turn, had heard it from A'ishah RA that:

"Once the Prophet (SAW) went out in the night (after the Isha' prayers) and offered Solat in the mosque and some other persons also joined him in it. When the morning came people began to talk about it and a crowd collected. On the next day when he offered the prayer they all offered it up with him and it was again talked about on the following morning. On the third night the number of the devotees was even greater. The Prophet (SAW) came out and offered up the prayer with them. When the fourth night came the rush was so great that the whole of the Mosque was filled until the Prophet (SAW) came for the Fajr prayers. After he had completed it he turned towards the people and said, 'I was not unaware of your presence (in the mosque last night) but I feared that the service (Taraweeh) might be made obligatory and then you got tired of it'. Then the death occurred of the Prophet (SAW) and the position remained the same." (Bukhari)

After the passing away of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, the Holy Companions RA conducted themselves similarly and so enthusiastically did the Muslims everywhere keep up the tradition of Taraweeh that it came to be regarded as a sign and symbol of the Ahlus Sunnah and a mark of devoutness. In addition, the institution of Taraweeh had proved extremely helpful in the learning of the whole of the Qur'an by heart. More and more people were drawn to it, and the Qur'an came to be preserved in many hearts.

Another priceless advantage is that a large section of the community is thus enabled to devote itself to nightly worship in the blessed month of Ramadhan. Ramadhaan is a festival of worship, a season of Tilawat and a springtime for the devout. The religious fervour of the Muslim Ummah, its genuine, solid and unshakeable attachment to faith and enthusiasm for worship acquired a new warmth and sublimity in it. During this hallowed month the urge for excelling others in prayerfulness, piety, warmheartedness, charity, good doing and repentance is at the peak among the Muslims.

No comments: