Assessing our Ramadan
As the last 10 nights are now upon us, it is time to re-evaluate where we have come so far. Two-thirds of the month have passed and will not return. We have enough time to make a final push in this month, to maximize the benefit that we can attain, and come closer to Allah(swt).
One of the main goals of our fasting is the inculcation of Taqwa,
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become [people of Taqwa] (the pious) (Surah Baqarah).
Ali (ra) defined Taqwa as,
“Taqwa is to fear the Most Exalted One, work upon His revelation, become content and ascetic and always prepare for the departure from this life.”
Taqwa means to be constantly aware of Allah and to worship Him with love, fear, and hope.
Taqwa is also one of the main objectives of the revelation of the Qur’an, and our fasting is not complete without reciting it. There is a triangle of virtue formed with Taqwa in this month, the revelation of Quran in this month, and fasting in this month (Shaykh Yaser Birjas beautifully explained this relationship in an earlier article).
The main purpose of fasting is to give us taqwa, a constant awareness and fear of Allah, and a protection against evil. It is something that becomes ingrained in our minds 24/7.
And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord, and for
Paradiseas wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for the people of Taqwa (3:133).
Allah (swt) has prepared paradise specifically for the Mutatqoon The beginning of the ayah is an encouragement to action – to have taqwa does not mean idleness but it means constant activity.
Ramadan is training for this. It is to be consistent in worship, to fast every day, come to the masjid every night, to retrain yourself to be mindful of what you say, watch, and do.
If one cannot draw spiritual benefit during this month (Ramadhaan), then in what other month can he find benefit? If one slackens from doing good deeds now, then when will he do them?
Compare it to the rest of the year, our worship increases on a daily basis. It is training us to establish a regiment of worship, and focus – both mentally and physically to sustain throughout the rest of the year.
It is like what we often see in our professions of having continuing education that we do every year or 2 years. If you do not increase in your knowledge or practice, you could lose your licensure or certification.
We should build up a routine, and add something to our ibaadah. Even basketball players add a new move such as a turnaround or fadeaway to their arsenal in the offseason. How much more should it be the case that we utilize our holy month to add to our worship of Allah?
Ramadan has given us a way of showing us what we are capable of doing when we push ourselves, and this is what we have experienced up to this point.
Then in the last 10 nights we receive yet another push-
Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn. [Surah al-Qadr]
The theme of this surah is devotion in worship.
In the last ten days of Ramadhaan, there is Laylat Al-Qadr. Whoever prays its nights, believing in it, and hoping for its reward from Allaah, Allaah will forgive all his previous sins. Whoever misses this night and deprives himself of its good then he has only himself to blame.
It is one of the last 10 nights, and in some narrations one of the last 10 odd nights. Of its signs is that it is not too hot, or too cold, and the rays of the sun are not intense
These signs show that the encouragement is to be devoted in worship for all the 10 nights, and not just one, that is why these signs that show Layl at ul Qadr are towards the end of the night, and not before.
Allah did not specify its order among the ten nights so that people may exert their utmost efforts during all ten days in worship [like the last hour before juma when dua is accepted], performing optional night prayer, reciting the Holy Qur’aan and doing righteous deeds.
In the last 10 nights – the best and most blessed nights of the year – we push ourselves even more than we did the first 20. It is like Allah(swt) is showing us what our real potential is to worship Him. It is the purpose of our creation –
And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).
Part of this worship is having the knowledge of how properly to worship Allah (swt).
For example, a person who has knowledge of Ramadan and Layl at ul Qadr will be the one who knows that it is hidden, and why. He will know when to seek it, whereas someone without knowledge will simply come to the masjid on the 27th night only and do one night’s worth of worship. It is only the one with knowledge who can maximize his efforts in worshipping Allah, and getting the reward.
He knows the 27th night is not a lottery jackpot, but a culmination and bonus on top of one who has persisted in doing good deeds.
The Prophet (saw) said in hadith qudsi that Allah(swt) said,
My servant does not draw close to Me with anything as he does by carrying out what I have made obligatory upon him. My servant continues draw closer to me by performing optional deeds such that I love him, and when I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me I would surely give him and were he to ask Me for refuge I would surely grant it to him.
A person cannot expect to not be constant in the 5 daily prayers and then recieve 83 years worth of rewards from one night. Similarly, a person cannot skip fasting in Ramadan, and then fast 6 days of Shawwal thinking he will have a whole year’s worth of fasting recorded.
Allah (swt) says,
Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allah’s Signs and Verses).
So here Allah (swt) gives two examples – one of a worshipper with one who does not worship, and then couples it with one who knows and one who does not, and indeed both of these go hand in hand. It is only when one combines the two that he can reach the highest stages of ibaadah and attains success in this life and the hereafter.
Knowledge cannot be attained without devotion, and devotion is not complete without knowledge.
We mentioned in the beginning that our worship in Ramadan inculcates taqwa. One of the descriptions Allah (swt) gives to the muttaqun is.
Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqun, when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan (Satan), they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).
One example of this could be for example the trial of Dajjal, as only the knowledgeable and pious will be able to see through his plots while the ignorant will be misled.
And it is along these lines that the Prophet (saw) said, “When Allaah desires good for someone, He gives him understanding of religion.” (Bukhaari & Muslim)
The Need For Knowledge
Every Ramadan we make plans to improve ourselves as Muslims, but those plans never come to fruition afterwards because the surge of emaan that we have now is severely lacking outside this month.
Part of the reason is because the shayateen are locked up in this month, so to repel the shayateen we need knowledge.
Look at Ramadan specifically as a period of worship. It is a time when families come together, they make dua together, they break their fast together, they eat suhoor together, they pray together more, they read quran, these are all acts of bringing the families closer to each other, and in turn coming closer to Allah(swt).
These acts cannot be sustained until a person tastes the sweetness of emaan, and that will not come until they become grounded in knowledge. This is how our belief increases, and one comes closer to Allah, because when a person worships with knowledge, he worships with khushoo’ and yaqeen.
We need activities to keep our emaan rising, most specifically seeking knowledge, especially in the west where we are faced with attacks from every direction.
It is a phenomenon that we have a desire to learn about the deen. If we ask the question “Who wants to memorize the entire Qur’an?” almost everybody will raise their hands. “Who wants to learn the Arabic language?” “Who wants to learn the fiqh of the deen?” Everybody will raise their hands. But when the opportunity actually arises, all those hands come down, and excuses start coming out.
If there is this thirst for knowledge and learning the deen, then why are we not taking advantage of the opportunity? How many people want to memorize Quran, but how many of those same people are willing to give 2-3 hours of their time every week to review and memorize with an Imam?
This is part of the reason that knowledge has become a joke in our communities. People have reduced it to asking the same questions like whether its ok to eat Dorrito’s :), or whether you can make wudu over nailpolish or not.
It is not that these questions are unimportant, but they lack insightfulness. We need to ask about the ruling on seeking knoweldge of the deen, which is fard upon every Muslim. The Prophet (saw) said ,“To seek knowledge of the deen is fard on every single Muslim.”
Knowledge is obligatory on everyone no matter what field they go into – e.g. you must learn the fiqh of business, and riba, before going into business or finance so that you do not fall into it. If you have wealth, you must learn fiqh of zakat. Every muslim must know the rulings of wudu and prayer.
A man must know, for example, what is fard upon him in regards to taking care of his wife and children
Ali (ra) said, Whoever has six qualities will leave no path to
- He knows Allah and obeys Him
- He knows the devil and disobeys him
- He knows the Truth and follows it
- He knows Falsehood and stays away from it
- He knows life and avoids it
- He knows the Hereafter and seeks it.
The Prophet(saw) was commanded in quran to seek increase in knowledge – the only thing asking for increase. He (saw) also used to supplicate for Allah(swt) to grant him beneficial knowledge, and he would seek refuge from knowledge that did not benefit.
But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what has been sent down to you (Muhammad SAW) and what was sent down before you, and those who perform AsSalat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat and believe in Allah and in the Last Day, it is they to whom We shall give a great reward.
Knowledge is the key to establishing a sadaqah jaariyah
Everyone wants to leave a legacy, these are part of ‘universal’ human values, to be successful, to leave a legacy behind, even kuffar as short sighted as it might seem. Presidents area always focused on leaving a legacy, like Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves. Even the average person here has a goal of making some contribution to their family or society and being remembered for it. However, only the believer will see the benefits of this after death.
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam said, “When a servant (of Allaah) dies, his (good) deeds will cease, except for three (kinds of deeds): A charity with continuous effect, a kind of knowledge from which people draw benefit, and a good son who prays to Allaah for him.” (Bukhaari & Muslim)
If we do not do this, we are like the rest of humanity – at a loss. This is the default situation of man, the base case scenario, is that he is at a loss.
By Time, Verily Man is at a loss. Except those … (Surah al-‘Asr)
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam also said, “Indeed, this world, with all it contains, is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allaah and what follows it from deeds pleasing to Allaah, scholars (of religion) and seekers of knowledge” (Tirmidhi).
The problem is we become content with what we have, and if we look at the example of our righteous predecessors, none of them were ever content.
We must take advantage and change our lives right now. There is no time for making intentions and resolving to do better – this doesn’t fly in the workplace so why do we expect it to fly with Allah(swt)? We must take concrete action to better ourselves and our communities.
It is only shaytaan who misleads us and encourages us to laziness, and he will keep making us procrastinate so much so that the only time we gain any real knowledge is after our death.
Abdullah ibn ‘Aun said,
“Those who were before us would leave for this life what remained with them after taking care of their Hereafter. You, on the other hand, leave for your Hereafter what remains after taking care of your life.”
We have a disease in our hearts when we say “faith is in the heart” or “emaan is on the inside.”
This is nothing more than a feeble excuse and trick.
We all quote the hadith “innamal ‘amaalu bin niyaay” as a proof for this, but it is a proof against us. It says ACTIONS are by the intention – the action comes first and then the intention of the action is judged. To merely make an intention without an action is of no benefit, especially when there is nothing preventing us from the action.
We cannot simply intend to establish Islamic institutions, or establish classes, seek knowledge, or teach our children Islam. We must put it into action because when we put it into action, then we can leave a lasting legacy of that knowledge to those around us. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you must produce some academic work, but it means to impact someone around you in a positive manner, such that insha’Allah you will benefit from your action after death.
Tying it All Together – A Practical Example of Worshipping with Knowledge
Imam Ahmad recorded from `A’ishah, that she said, “O Messenger of Allah! If I find the Night of Al-Qadr what should I say” He replied,
«قُولِي: اللْهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي»
Say: “O Allah! Verily, You are the Oft-Pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me.” [Allahumma innaka ‘Affu, tuhibbul ‘afwa, fa’fu’annee] At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah have all recorded this Hadith.
This is what is recommended for us to supplicate with as we seek the blessed night that the Quran was revealed in. Have we pondered over its meanings?
Al-‘Affu is one of the Majestic Names of Allah. Linguistically it means to neglect, or pardon. ‘Aafiyah is Allah’s defense of His servant (from disease or tribulation).
This Name occurs in the Quran 5 times, once with the Name al-Qadir, and the rest with al-Ghaffoor. Al-Ghaffoor also means to wipe away a person’s sins. Combined with Al-‘Affu it means that Allah neglects and pardons a person’s sin, and then wipes it completely away on top of that.
Why would this Name be coupled with al-Qadir though? Al-Qadir is the One who is powerful, able to do all things, the One with the right and power to punish His slaves for sinning. What does this have to do with neglecting one’s sins?
In our interpersonal relationships, sometimes we are compelled to forgive each other for things they have done against us. It may be because of a favor they have done, or pressure from someone else. By combining al-‘Affu with al-Qadir though, Allah (swt) is telling us that He has every power and every right to punish us of our sins, however, He (out of His Mercy) has chosen to forgive us and pardon our sins.
May Allah (swt) let us all live to see Laylat ul-Qadr this year, and benefit from it, and be amongst his righteous and knowledgable worshippers.
*Bonus – Message from Muhammad AlShareef
The last ten nights of Ramadan are upon us. And soon after this
you the journey for Hajj will begin for Muslims around the world.
If you make the same dua, each day, for the last ten nights of
Ramadan, it’s guaranteed that you would have made that dua during
Laylatul-Qadr. (A night worth 1000 months of reward in the sight
So, prepare your dua from now!
Step 1: Ask yourself, “If Allah said to me, I’ll give you
anything you wish, just ask!” What would you ask for? Make a
list. (Try to fill 2 pages worth of dua, from the goodness of
this life and the next.
Step 2: Pick about 6 of those things
Step 3: Make dua for those 6 things consistently every night for
the last ten nights of Ramadan.
Of course, make as much dua as you want, but make sure these 6
things are consistent.
With best wishes to see you succeed at the highest level!
– Muhammad Alshareef
Please also see Dua in the Last 10 Nights (and the related posts listed at the bottom of it).
*The above article is compiled from notes used for a khutbah that I gave last year, and then reworked again for this month. Some of the material is taken from khutbah.com, and the information at the end was taken from classes by Sh. Yasir Qadhi and our guest writer Abu Bakr.
*UPDATE – New 40 Dua’s from the Quran