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By Umarrah Javed Al Hadi

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is one of the most sacred months in the Islamic calendar during which Muslims across the world fast from sunrise to sunset. This month unifies Muslims and the fast is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the five obligations that every Muslim bases their life around i.e. these are the foundational practices of our way of life.

The word ‘Ramadan’ (Arabic: رَمَضَان) comes from the Arabic root ‘ramida’ or ‘ar-ramad’ which means scorching heat or dryness. The fasting of Ramadan is observed during the ninth month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, which is a lunar calendar based on the cycles of the moon. The Islamic calendar is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, so the month of Ramadan moves forward by about 11 days each year.

During the time of fasting, Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink, and other physical pleasures from dawn until sunset. This includes not only abstaining from consuming anything by mouth, but also from engaging in idle talk, cursing and other activities that are related to lower desires. Fasting is seen as a way for Muslims to physically and spiritually purify themselves, increase taqwa (God-consciousness), and to demonstrate solidarity with those who are less fortunate and may not have enough to eat.

While the routine of a believer changes during this month i.e. eating at sunrise and not eating or drinking again until sunset, another change that comes is the offering of optional prayers. Tarawih prayers are special prayers that are performed by Muslims during the month of Ramadan. They are performed after the evening (isha) prayers and consist of 20 units (rakats) of prayer. Tarawih prayers are voluntary and are not considered to be one of the Five Pillars of Islam, but they are a common
practice among Muslims during the month of Ramadan.

Tarawih prayers are traditionally performed in the mosque, with a group of Muslims praying together behind an imam (prayer leader). The prayers are typically longer than the regular five daily prayers, and they include extended recitation of The Qur’ān. The purpose of the tarawih prayers is to allow Muslims to increase their worship to Allāh and to seek His blessings during the month of Ramadan. Tarawih prayers are an opportunity for Muslims to come together as a community and to focus on their faith. They are also a time for increased reflection and contemplation, as the extended recitation of the Quran allows Muslims to immerse themselves in the words of Allah and to gain a deeper understanding of His message. Some Muslims may also use the tarawih prayers as a time to seek forgiveness for their sins and to make amends with others.

5 Quran Verses about Ramadan and Fasting

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to focus on their faith and to perform additional prayers and acts of charity. Many Muslims also take the opportunity to read the entire Qur’ān during the month of Ramadan. Through The Qur’ān Allāh tells us of the importance of the sacred month:

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” [2:183]

This verse emphasizes the importance of fasting in Islam and how it has been a practice for believers since the time of previous Prophets, not just for the Muslims. Even today fasting is a common practice in the other Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, fasting is seen as a way to become closer to Allāh and to develop righteousness by practicing self-discipline and self-control by shifting focus from what we want to do to what Allāh wants from us.

“The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed The Qur’ān, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it” [2:185]

This verse highlights the special significance of the month of Ramadan, as it is the month in which The Qur’ān was revealed to Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. The verse also specifies that fasting is required for those who are able to observe it, once the new moon of the month of Ramadan is sighted.

“And whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful” [2:185]

This verse provides an exception for those who are unable to fast due to illness or travel. In these cases, the fast can be made up at a later time. The verse also reiterates that Allāh intends for believers to have ease and not hardship, and encourages believers to complete the fast and to glorify Him for the guidance they have received i.e. The Qur’ān and the benefits of fasting itself for the sake of Allāh – the benefits that one experiences in this life and the reward in the next. In addition to this, the fact that any missed fasts need to be made up at a later time also reminds us of the seriousness of this obligation and how one must complete the full number of fasts in order to fulfil the command of Allāh.

“Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” [33:35]

The ‘fasting men and fasting women’ are mentioned in this verse among other profound character qualities of those for whom Allāh has chosen the way of His Mercy and His Reward. This verse reminds us that this is an act loved by Allāh and something that unites believers throughout history.

“The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months” [97:3]

The Night of Decree (Laylat al-Qadr in Arabic) is a special night that is mentioned in The Qur’ān as being better than a thousand months. It is believed to be the night when the first verses of Al Kitaab were revealed to our Beloved Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. The Night of Decree is believed to occur on one of the odd-numbered nights during the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan. The Night of Decree is a night of great blessings and mercy from Allah. It is a time when the blessings and rewards of good deeds are multiplied, and it is believed that the prayers and supplications of Muslims on this night are more likely to be granted. Believers tend to spend the Night of Decree in prayer and devotion, seeking God’s forgiveness and guidance. The Night of Decree is also seen as a time of increased spiritual awareness and connection with Allah. Muslims believe that on this night, the gates of heaven are open and the presence of Allah is especially near. It is a time when Muslims are encouraged to seek a deeper understanding of their faith and to draw closer to Allah through prayer and other spiritual practices.

4 Ahadith about Ramadan

Through the teachings of Our Beloved Prophetصلى الله عليه وسلم ,we are also able to learn the importance and blessed nature of Ramadan:

“When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed, and the devils are chained.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This hadith reminds us of the special blessings and benefits that are made available to us during the month of Ramadan, including the opportunity to have one’s sins forgiven and to increase one’s good deeds. It also mentions that the devils are chained which shows practically as often Muslim’s find temptations easier to overcome during this month and it is usually easier to engage in good deeds for the sake of Allāh.

“Fasting is a shield. When one of you is fasting, he should abstain from obscene language and behaviour. If someone begins to fight or to argue with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.'” (Bukhari)

This hadith highlights the protective and purifying nature of the fast and shows the importance of maintaining good behavior and avoiding inappropriate actions or words while fasting. It also encourages Muslims to use their fast as a way to de-escalate conflicts and to avoid partaking in arguments or fights.

“The smell coming from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This narration shows us the virtue of fasting and how it is highly valued in the eyes of Allāh. It also suggests that the physical effects of the fast, such as the smell of the breath, are a sign of the spiritual purity and devotion that is being cultivated during the month of Ramadan.

“Allah said, ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except for fasting, which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ Fasting is a shield, and when one of you is fasting he should not use obscene language or behave in an ignorant manner.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This reminder reiterates the deed of fasting being purely for Allāh and this in itself elevates the status of the deed and those that engage in it with sincere intentions. The fact that Allāh tells us that He will reward believers for fasting also reminds us of the magnitude of the reward. Allāh will not reward based on our limited capacity to imagine, rather He will reward based on His infinite bounty.

8 Spiritual Benefits of Fasting

  1. Fasting is a way to achieve taqwa (God-consciousness) as it helps Muslims to develop self-control and to be mindful of their actions and words, as they are abstaining from physical pleasures and distractions during the day. This increased mindfulness and self-control can lead to a stronger sense of awareness and connection with Allāh.
  2. The time of Ramadan should be used to increase one’s sense of empathy and understanding of the suffering of others. Muslims are able to relate to and understand the experiences of those who do not have access to things such as food and water. This can lead to increased compassion and charitable giving.
  3. Further to this, sabr is a concept that is reiterated throughout The Qur’ān and during this month, fasting helps believers to develop patience and perseverance. The fast of Ramadan requires discipline and commitment, as it is observed daily for an entire month. This can help Muslims to develop their ability to persevere through difficult circumstances and to be patient in the face of challenges that take place throughout the remainder of the year.
  4. Fasting can increase one’s sense of gratitude and appreciation for the blessings that Allah has given. In the small window where believers eat and drink, they are able to focus on the true value of a glass of water or a few dates in ways that would not be as easily achievable in everyday life.
  5. Believers increase in humility when deprived of food and water and the fact that Allāh is The Provider really comes to light when one realises that one is wholly dependent on Allāh for all provision.
  6. Fasting can help to purify the heart and mind by eliminating everyday distractions and focusing on spiritual matters. The fast of Ramadan requires Muslims to abstain from not only food and drink, but also from negative thoughts and actions. By avoiding these things, Muslims are able to focus more fully on their relationship with Allāh and to cultivate a sense of inner peace and clarity.
  7. In addition to the spiritual benefits, fasting for a cycle of 30 days can improve one’s physical health by regulating one’s eating habits and by helping to reset the body’s natural rhythms.
  8. Believers increase in mindfulness during this month and the habits they cultivate can be carried through to the remainder of the year to translate into a mindful life. This sense of mindfulness coms from being focused in on the present moment by giving the limited energy that comes after depriving the body of physical nourishment to the present and letting go of distractions and worries. The fast of Ramadan requires Muslims to be present in the moment and to be deliberate with their actions and words, which can help to shape a greater sense of awareness and presence in daily life and truly allows for the believer to realize that spiritual nourishment is just as, if not more, important as physical nourishment.

7 Goals for Ramadan

  1. To plan and establish a regular routine of prayer and devotion. This might involve setting aside specific times each day for prayer, reading The Qur’ān, dhikr and other
    community-based activities.
  2. To increase charitable giving and acts of kindness. Ramadan is a time when Muslims are encouraged to be especially generous and to help those in need. This might involve giving money to charities, volunteering time to help others, or simply being more thoughtful of the needs of those around us.
  3. To improve one’s physical health through healthy eating and exercise. Ramadan is a time when Muslims are encouraged to take care of their bodies and to abstain from unhealthy habits. This might involve eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and overeating during times outside of the fasting window.
  4. To develop a stronger sense of community and connection with other Muslims. Ramadan is a time of increased community involvement, and participating in Ramadan activities and events, such as iftar dinners and tarawih prayers, can help to strengthen the bond with fellow believers.
  5. To improve one’s character and behavior. The month of Ramadan is a time to reflect on one’s actions and to make an effort to become a better person. This might involve working on specific character traits such as patience, kindness, or self-control.
  6. To increase one’s knowledge of Islam. Ramadan is a time when Muslims are encouraged to learn more about their faith and to deepen their understanding of the teachings of Islam. This might involve reading books about Islam, attending classes or workshops, or participating in study groups. Learn to read, understand, and reflect on the Quran with Quranic courses.
  7. To develop a stronger sense of purpose and direction in life by setting goals and making plans for the future. The month of Ramadan can be a time to reflect on one’s life and to set goals and make plans for the future in line with one’s values and beliefs.

May Allāh allow us to benefit from the blessings of this Ramadan and allow us to carry the lessons we learn from this month into the rest of the year.

References:

  • The Holy Qur’ān
  • Sahih Muslim
  • Sahih Al-Bukhari

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