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Ramadan – Part 1

O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation – the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedi- ence, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew. The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you, and that you may be grateful. And when my servants ask thee about Me, say: I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way. (Ch.2: v.184-187) 62 Review of Religions – September 2002 Ramadan – Part 1 Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad – Translated by Khalilur Rahman Mullick and Hamida Farooqui. Transcribed by Fauzia Bajwa Shortly, Muslims will embark on a month of fasting, abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours for a period of thirty days. The holy month of Ramadhan has great signif-icance in the Muslim calendar. What follows is a synopsis of a series of Friday sermons, originally delivered in Urdu by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, discussing the philosophy and importance of fasting. The Editorial Board takes full responsibility for any errors that may have occurred in the process of translation and transcription. The above verses can be translated in various ways. When a river passes through a narrow place, its depth is not visible; but when it reaches an estuary and spreads far and wide, one becomes aware of the large quantity of water in the r i v e r. Similarly with the word of Allah, a verse may apparently have a narrow and restricted meaning, but when interpreted correctly it is seen to encompass a wide array of subjects. The Arabic word Yu t e e q u i s derived from the word t a q a t o r p o w e r. When it is used in this form of the verb, it carries both a positive and negative connotation, and has to be interpreted according to the context. Yu t e e q u n a h u m e a n s those people who have the power and ability, Yu t e e q u n a means those people who do not have the power and ability. In the context of these verses, the question that now arises is: the power and ability to do what? In other words, a determination has to be made as to where the preposition ‘ h u ’ applies. The fast and the expiation (f i d y a) are mentioned alongside each other – is Yu t e e q u n a h u to be applied to the fast or to the expiation? Or could it apply to both? One possible interpre- tation is that those people who have the capability to pay f i d y a should do so, but it is not obligatory on everyone. It is a deed which is recommended, but is not compulsory, as is the fast. If a person is able, he should pay f i d y a as well as observe the fast, and in this interpretation Yu t e e q u n a h u applies to both fasting and expiation. Another interpre- tation would be linked to the fast – those who have the strength to fast, but find themselves in circumstances that prevent them from doing so – such people should pay f i d y a. Here, Yu t e e q u n a h u applies just to the fast. The Pr o m i s e d M e s s i a h( a s ) has stated that f i d y a enables the person who cannot fast during Ramadan to fast at a later date; in other words, it is a way of seeking Allah’s help in fulfilling the obligations of the fast. Again, linking Yu t e e q u n a h u only to the fast, the meaning would be that those with the ability should fast (during Ramadan), but if they cannot afford to pay the fidya, they are under no obligation to do so. 63 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 Now, to go onto the negative connotation i.e. Yuteequna, in this context the application would only be to fasting, not to fidya. In other words, those who are unable to fast due to long- term illnesses should gain consolation by paying f i d y a; they will then benefit from some of the blessings of Ramadan. So in summary, depending on his circumstances, a person may fast and pay fidya, or fast and not pay fidya, or defer the fast and pay fidya during Ramadan, or, being a long-term patient, just pay fidya. The above verses say: ‘fasting is better for you, if only you knew.’ So the conclusion is that of all the options offered, fasting is the best option. All other virtues will be blessed with ample rewards, none will go unnoticed by Allah. But one should not take the fast lightly, and should not look for excuses to avoid fasting. Fidya is not an alternate to the fast, unless one is suffering from a long-term illness. Allah states that Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Qur’ a n was revealed. When commentators reflect on this, they are perplexed by the fact that the Holy Qur’an was revealed over a number of years, not in the short period of thirty days. This Qur’anic statement can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For example, it could refer to the fact that the revelation of the Qur’an commenced in the month of Ramadan while the Holy Prophet Muhammad( s a ) w a s meditating in the Cave Hira. Another possible meaning is that every Ramadan, the angel Gabriel would repeat the Holy Q u r’an with the Pr o p h e t M u h a m m a d( s a ). In those days the Q u r’an was not recorded in book form, and even to this day, memorisation relies on repeti- tion. So, during Ramadan the angel Gabriel would ask the Prophet Muhammad( s a ) to repeat the Qur’an to the extent that it had been revealed. Another school of thought is that Ramadan captures the essence of the Qur’anic teachings, and hence is the month which provides a synopsis of the Q u r’ a n . The Qur’an is described in these verses as a guidance for 64 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 mankind, and as its revelation took place in Ramadan, there is a deep link between this holy month and guidance. Now this raises an interesting point. The verses here are addressing only the believers, so how can Ramadan be described as a guidance for the whole of mankind? The answer can be found in these very verses, where it is stated that previous generations had also been commanded to fast. It is the law of Allah that all nations who received revelation from Allah were commanded to fast in one form or another with the initial instructions being issued in Ramadan. The Ka’aba is also described by the Qur’an as a guidance for mankind. O r i g i n a l l y, the whole of mankind belonged to the faith of the Prophet Abraham ( r a ), and the Ka’aba was their place of gathering. Later, differences arose, but ultimately the whole of mankind is destined to be re- united under the banner of Islam, and hence Ramadan becomes a guidance for the whole of mankind. The Qur’an is the perfect and complete guide, and a unique feature of Ramadan is that the Holy Prophet Muhammad( s a ) has laid down very comprehensive instructions regarding the conduct of man during this holy month. Prior to this, no other religions were given such a detailed code of conduct for fasting. The Holy Qur’an is a book which presents the most illustrious signs and the Ramadan described therein takes man to his highest stage and grants him distinction by providing him with over- 65 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 TH E QU R’A N I S D E S C R I B E D I N T H E S E V E R S E S A S A G U I D A N C E F O R M A N K I N D, A N D A S I T S R E V E L AT I O N TO O K P L A C E I N R A M A D A N, T H E R E I S A D E E P L I N K B E T W E E N T H I S H O LY M O N T H A N D G U I D A N C E. N O W T H I S R A I S E S A N I N T E R E S T I N G P O I N T. T H E V E R S E S H E R E A R E A D D R E S S I N G O N LY T H E B E L I E V E R S, S O H O W C A N R A M A D A N B E D E S C R I B E D A S A G U I D A N C E F O R T H E W H O L E O F M A N K I N D? T H E A N S W E R C A N B E F O U N D I N T H E S E V E RY V E R S E S, W H E R E I T I S S TAT E D T H AT P R E V I O U S G E N E R AT I O N S H A D A L S O B E E N C O M M A N D E D TO FA S T. whelming arguments. So t h e teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Ramadan presented in the Q u r’an provides general guid- ance as well as guidance of a much higher status, and this has been called the ‘clear proofs of g u i d a n c e ’ which grant distinc- tion to the believers. All these blessings have been brought together in the month of Ramadan. Having put forward all the arguments in favour of Ramadan, Allah again issues an invitation to partake of fasting. It is as if Allah is saying ‘Now you understand how magnificent this month is, We once again advise you to fast.’ Some people are commanded to abstain from fasting and they are those who are journeying and those who are sick. They are told to defer the fast until they are able to undertake the rigours of fasting. The philosophy of piety is not that Allah places people in hardship for the sake of suffering. During the fast, one does suffer but suffering in itself is not virtue and is not what is aimed for. Rather, it is seeking the pleasure of Allah that is virtue. If one has to bear difficulties in the pursuit of virtue then that virtue is of a higher order. Next, these verses command mankind to exalt Allah for the guidance that He has given as this will enable them to become grateful to Him. Ultimately, the goal of fasting and every other form of worship is to attain nearness to Allah. In these verses, Allah informs those of His worshippers who ask after Him, that ‘I am near. ’ Although Allah is present everywhere, to feel His presence man needs to develop certain spiritual pow- ers. First and foremost, man must decide that he sincerely wants to reach his Lord; then he must supplicate to Allah with love and humility and he will find that Allah responds. Thus a dialogue between man and his Creator is established which results in him feeling close to Allah. But man must pay heed to Allah only then will Allah respond to his calls. This is how the goal of Ramadan is reached. Having discussed the impor- tance of fasting and the blessings of Ramadan, Allah then says ‘believe in Me’. Now the whole discussion began with an address to the believers, so why is it 66 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 concluded with this appeal? The answer is that having undergone the rigours of fasting, faith takes on a new colour. First one undertakes a journey towards o n e ’s Lord, one suffers hardship for His sake and supplicates to Him, then a dialogue is established between Allah and man – man feels close to Allah and this is true faith. So the journey started with faith and resulted in a higher level of faith. Those who believe in Allah are guided by Allah. This guidance results in an increase in o n e ’s wisdom. In fact, only holy people are truly wise. Many worldly people are proud of their own intellect but none of their decisions are made with reference to God. The decisions that they make sometimes happen to coincide with the Wi l l of Allah and these prove to be successful. But wherever their interest is opposed to that of Allah, they follow their own self- interest and the resultant benefits are short lived. There are many nations who commit grave errors in their political decision-making simply because they are deprived of the light of A l l a h . There is much to be achieved during Ramadan and only thirty days in which to do so. On the one hand, the holy month only lasts for a short period and on the other hand, it comes just once a year, and should not be wasted. It is a wonderful opportunity to please Allah and the hardship is minute in comparison to the blessings. Those who have true knowledge of virtue take stock of their weaknesses and seek forgive- ness for them. Hadhrat Abdur Rahman bin A u f( r a ) reports that the Holy Prophet Muhammad( s a ) s a i d ‘Ramadan has excellence over all other months and whosoever establishes this month with full faith and self analysis, his sins will be removed without trace.’ This is a great glad tiding which is linked to these limited number of days, and by following this formula of the Holy Prophet(sa), one is bound to avail of the blessings of Ramadan. All articles of faith should be fulfilled, for example, performing good deeds for the sake of Allah and performing salat are articles of faith. Self- 67 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 analysis must be done alongside virtue for this safeguards virtue. Keeping a strict account of one’s intentions will ensure that the spirit of Ramadan is fulfilled. Ramadan means to find God, to take all piety to its highest point; anything that contradicts the spirit of Ramadan takes one away from righteousness. During Ramadan it is especially important to concentrate on worship, piety and remembrance of Allah. The Holy Prophet(sa) is reported to have said that Medina is like a furnace. Iron emerges purified from a furnace but after a while rust develops. So the Holy Pr o p h e t( s a ) advised his com- panions and other Muslims to visit Medina regularly to remove the rust that had developed as a result of being distanced from his pious company. The Promised Messiah( a s ) a l s o repeatedly invited Ahmadis to visit Qadian and the wisdom behind this is the same as that included in the words of the Prophet Muhammad(sa). Muslims are required to pray five times a day and through this repetitive worship one is able to remove one’s impieties. Then there is the worship of Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. This is obligatory and is sufficient to cleanse a person of a lifetime of impieties. Ramadan is repeat- ed every year and the wisdom and philosophy of Ramadan should be remembered alongside it. Abu Huraira( r a ) relates in Bukhari and Muslim, that the Holy Pr o p h e t(sa) s a i d that during the month of Ramadan the gates of paradise are thrown wide open and the gates of hell are closed and Satan is put into shackles. There is another Hadith which states that the doors of mercy are opened during Ramadan. Visibly there are no signs of improve- ment in the moral condition of the world; rather than looking externally for signs of progress one should look inside oneself. Every man has his own universe, his own heaven and his own earth. The above mentioned Hadith is linked to this internal universe. A person who brings about changes in his inner-self and who adopts the virtues associated with this month, which incidentally are made easy during Ramadan, the doors of his heaven are opened and the doors of his hell are closed. 68 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 If this does not happen, if Ramadan has no positive impact, then the Hadith does not apply to that person’s universe. Now, why do the gates of paradise and mercy open more during Ramadan in comparison to the rest of the year? The reason is that an atmosphere of virtue and piety comes into being during this month. People pay more atten- tion to worship and are more inclined to offer sacrifices and to do good. Ramadan is a season in which hearts are inclined towards righteousness. It is important to avail of this atmosphere of piety. Gradually the doors of paradise will open and the doors of hell will close. The gates of heaven and hell mentioned in the Hadith are the gates of one’s own inner world. The shackled satans are the satans of man’s own self. As a result, even a pious person pro- gresses in virtue. To achieve such progress, man is dependent on God’s Mercy. For his part man has to struggle hard to remove impieties from himself but his efforts and supplications attract the mercy of God. Abu Sayed Khudri reports that the Holy Pr o p h e t(sa) said that anyone who fasts during the month of Ramadan, recognising and fulfilling all its requirements and protecting himself from all that he should shun (i.e. does not commit sins), such a person’s fast becomes a recompense for his previous lapses. A Hadith can be found which state that helping a poor person break his fast will bring salvation. These Ahadith must have been falsified by Sufis and mystics – it seems a great contradiction that on the one hand, people are required to suffer the strict discipline of Ramadan for salvation and on the other hand all that is required of them is to help a poor person break his fast. Any Hadith which contradicts the Qur’an and the nature of the Holy Pr o p h e t( s a ) should be rejected. Being kind to poor people is virtue and to help a poor person break his fast is a symbol of piety which does not remain restricted to that one deed. Allah rewards the vir- tuous person by enabling him to do more good, removing his sins by a gradual process. It is reported that the Holy Prophet(sa) used to spend gener- 69 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 ously in charity but during Ramadan his charity gathered the strength of forceful winds. The practice of the Holy Prophet(sa) was to help the poor and needy in many ways, which included breaking the fast. To ignore the needs of the poor until the time of Iftari [ending of the fast] and then to just give them a few morsels to eat and claim that this will earn one salvation is a mere fallacy. The Holy Prophet(sa) said that everything has a path and a door, and the door of worship is Ramadan. One interpretation of this Hadith is that a person unable to worship during Ramadan will be unable to worship during the rest of the year. So the door of worship is open. Only after passing through it will the gates of heaven open. Having passed through the door of worship, there is no turning back. One has to remain steadfast. Without worship one has no spiritual life. It is the daily food and drink for the soul and without it there can be no notion of a spiritual world. The way to be steadfast in worship is to derive pleasure from it. People become drug addicts just for a few kicks. To become habitual in worship one has to enjoy it. This can be achieved by seeking Allah’s help. First one has to become steadfast in prayer and then ask for Allah’s help in finding pleasure in worship. Without discovering the true meaning of prayer, a person’s life remains barren. As a result of true worship one’s heart and whole life becomes adorned. As Allah says in the Qur’an: their light walks in front of them and becomes a guide for others. No matter how virtuous a person is, without a spiritual life he cannot be at peace. Islam says that whoso- ever bows to Allah and prostrates before Him is in peace. Although there are many noble people among the disbelievers, they are nonethe- less deprived of the benefits of the higher meanings of Islam which are linked to the submission of man to Allah. The Holy Pr o p h e t( s a ) has said that if a person finds peace in Ramadan, then the rest of the year will be peaceful for him. It is like the case of a bullet fired from a rifle – its course is set in 70 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 the direction that the rifle points to. So every effort should be made to maintain the pious habits developed during Ramadan and one should continue on the course set during that holy month. The rest of the year would then be p e a c e f u l . Hadhrat Abu Huraira(ra) reports that the Holy Prophet(sa) said that Allah has no need for the fast of one who does not abstain from ill habits or falsehoods. A person nullifies his fast by indulging in evil. On the one hand, people are willing to forego those things that are lawful and on the other, they are not willing to abstain from unlawful acts. What a contra- diction! To some extent all people suffer from this malady, if not in major sins then in minor sins. The most destruc- tive of diseases is the telling of falsehoods. It is an acid which dissolves all piety. Great problems arise as a result of dishonesty – divorces, business losses etc. One should undertake a Jihad against falsehood and uproot all seeds of dishonesty from within oneself. A person may be truthful in his day-to-day life, but when in a testing situation, he may lie to save his skin. This seed of falsehood must be destroyed. Dishonesty is found in many walks of life – there is welfare fraud, the misuse of government benefits, income tax fraud etc. The thieves of falsehood hide in every man’s heart and in reality he worships them more than he worships Allah. At a time of difficulty even idolators call on Allah – when in a difficult position, a believer should turn to Allah and not rely on falsehoods to save himself. One needs to reflect upon oneself deeply, uproot dishonesty and only then can faith in the Unity of Allah find a place in one’s heart. Ultimately, peace is faith in the Unity of Allah. 71 Ramadan – Part 1 Review of Religions – September 2002 We hope you have enjoyed reading this edition of the magazine. The Review of Religions will continue to prov i d e discussion on a wide range of subjects and welcomes any comments or suggestions from its readers. To ensure that you regularly receive this monthly publication, please fill in your details below and we will put you on our mailing list. The cost of one year’s subscription is £15 Sterling or US $30 for overseas readers (Please do not send cash). Pa y m e n t s should be made payable to the London Mosque and sent to the address below: The Review of Religions The London Mosque 16 Gressenhall Road London SW18 5QL United Kingdom Please put me on the mailing list for the Review of Religions for 1 year. I enclose subscription payment of £15.00 or US $30.00. 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