It is an indubitable fact that Ramadan is the month of the Holy Qur’an. The greatest significance of this month is that it is blessed with the revelation of the Holy Qur’an. The sending down of the Holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) began during this month, and in a special night called Laylat ul Qadr (Night of Power).
The Holy Qur’an has mentioned fasting in several places. According to some scholars, the Qur’an mentions fasting in 13 places in which the major references are in the second chapter of the Qur’an, Surat al Baqara.
Let us examine some of the verses in this regard with their explanations. The Holy Qur’an says:
Ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. 2:183-184.
Ramadan is the (month) in which the Holy Qur’an was sent down, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. 2:185.
When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way. 2:186
Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; But He turned to you and forgave you; So now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you, and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears; But do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques. Those are limits (set by) Allah: Approach not nigh thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His Signs to men: that they may learn self-restraint. 2:187
These verses give clear indications to the purpose and reality of Islamic fasting and foretells the revolutionary change it can make in the individual and in the society.
The Muslim fast is not meant for self-torture. Although it is stricter than other fasts, it also provides alleviations for special circumstances. If it were merely a temporary abstention from food and drink, it would be salutary to many people, who habitually eat and drink to excess.
The instincts for food, drink, and sex are strong in the animal nature, and temporary restraint from all these enables the attention to be directed to higher things. This is necessary through prayer, contemplation and acts of charity, not of the showy kind, but by seeking out those really in need. Certain standards are prescribed, but much higher standards are recommended.
Allah the Almighty has prescribed the fasting as an exalting exercise in self-discipline. He does not ignore the natural instincts and necessities of man and doesn’t want to put any burden upon him. The concession given to the patient, travellers and very old people is evident enough to prove this fact. All these are to make man pious and Allah-fearing so that his life in this world as well as in the Hereafter will be successful.
It is reported that fasting is a very important form of worship which brings the servant closer and closer to the creator and Allah has guaranteed a reply to the prayers of the faster. One hadith has the meaning – Allah would not reject the prayers of three:
1. A faster when he breaks his fast
2. A ruler who follows justice and
3. The tortured.
In verse 186 of Sura Al-Baqara the Qur’an asks us to pray to Allah. When we listen to the commands of Allah and execute it in the proper way sincerely and with firm faith in Him, He will definitely answer our prayers. This is a distinguishing feature of a Muslim that he will keep on praying to Allah in all walks of his life. In other words, the life of a believer is very much connected with Dua. That is why the Prophet (PBUH) has said prayer is the essence of worship. The Prophet (PBUH) has urged the Muslims to enrich their days with increased Dua during Ramadan and avail countless reward as promised by the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
The Qur’an says: You go swift to the forgiveness and paradise of your Lord, which is as broad as the earth and the skies and which is prepared for the pious people. 3:133. Muslims should use this golden opportunity to get their sins forgiven and to attain the mercy of Allah by offering Sunnah prayers and other acts of charities in addition to their sincere fast.
Islam considers all weaknesses of man and gives enough chances to get rid of such evil temptations and acts. Fasting in general and Ramadan in particular is a special occasion aimed at such moral and spiritual upliftment of man.
The Prophet (PBUH) has said, All sons of Adam (human beings) are bound to make mistakes but the best among them are those who return to Him with repentance. It is reported that the Prophet (PBUH) has said. “When a believer commits a sin, it forms a black spot on his heart. If he repents and seeks forgiveness, the heart becomes free of it. But if he continues to sin, the spots multiply until they cover the whole heart over.” It is a case of one sin piled upon another, till the heart is blinded and it dies.
But Allah is the Most Merciful. We are never so sinful that Allah is unwilling to take us back into His Mercy as long as we turn to Him in repentance. Allah says, O my servants who have transgressed against themselves, don’t despair about the Mercy of Allah. Surely he will forgive all sins.” In another place Allah says: Whoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allah’s forgiveness, he will find Allah forgiving, most Merciful. 4:110.
In another verse Allah says “Whoever comes (on the Day of Judgement) with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof (to his credit), and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. 6:160.
It comes in a Hadith, “Allah the Almighty has said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.”
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is reported to have said. By Allah I seek forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance more than 70 times a day. If this was the condition of the Prophet (PBUH) whose past, present and future were all forgiven by Allah in advance what about the ordinary people like us. We must think of it very seriously and turn to repentance without delay. There is no time more appropriate for doing this than the blessed month of Ramadan.
Islamic scholars have made certain conditions to accept the repentance of a person. First of all he should feel sincere regret within himself for what he has done; secondly, he should stop doing the mistake; thirdly, he should pledge that he will not repeat that in the future. This is the true repentance which Allah will accept and with which He will exempt them from the hell fire. During Ramadan, Allah has arranged all facilities and atmosphere for inculcating good habits, deeds and after all a chance for sincere repentance.
It is noticeable that Allah the Almighty has explained Himself as ‘RABB’ which implies cherishing, guarding from harms, sustaining granting all the means and opportunities of development. He created us with a clear purpose. The story of our creation is wonderful and continuous.
There are several processes which we contemplate in glorifying Allah. First, He brings us into being. Secondly, He endows us with forms and faculties exactly suited to what is expected of us, and to the environments in which our life will be cast, giving to everything due order and proportion. Thirdly, He has ordained laws and decrees, by which we can develop ourselves and fit ourselves into His whole scheme of evolution for all His Creation. He has measured exactly the needs of all, and given us instincts and physical and psychical predispositions which fit into His degrees. Fourthly, He gives us guidance, so that we are not the sport of mechanical laws. Our reason and our will are exercised, that we may reach the higher destiny of man.
Fifthly, after maturity comes decay. But even in that decay, as when green pasture turns to stubble, we sub serve other ends. In so far as we are animals, we share these processes with other forms of material Creation, animal, vegetable, and even mineral, which all have their appointed laws of growth and decay. But man’s higher destiny is referred to in subsequent verses.
Allah the Creator has counted as his attributes that apart from creating, He had granted guidance, given order and proportion. So He decided to begin the life of man on earth with a Prophet and throughout the ages He sent Prophets with clear message of salvation. The Qur’an says, that no people or country is left without a prophet and Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as the Last Prophet to the whole world and the Qur’an as the guidance to all people who live on earth after Muhammad (PBUH) till the day of doom. 32:38-40.
The Holy month of Ramadan is the special period for us to realise all these facts and return to Allah, and celebrate the anniversary of sending down of the Qur’an. This month we must engage ourselves in reciting, learning and memorising the Holy Qur’an and make it a habit throughout our life. The Prophet has said. The best among you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.
May Allah bless us to live according to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of His Prophet (PBUH) and to die with Faith and piety and assemble us with good people.