M Adam Ahmad, Al Hakam
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is set to begin in a few days’ time. As it is the month of fasting, Muslims living in every part of the world will happily abstain from food and drink from pre-dawn to sunset. Some adherents of other religions also participate in this holy practice to experience the blessings and bounties of this blessed month.
God Almighty has bestowed mankind with countless means to attain His nearness. One such occasion comes every year in the form of fasting in the month of Ramadan. It is an important pillar of Islam and compulsory for every adult and healthy Muslim. It is stated in the Holy Quran, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.184)
Following the instructions of Allah the Almighty, the Holy Prophetsa, leading by his example, guided the Muslims to fast and told them, “Whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all their previous sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
Fasting and its Importance
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is much more than refraining from eating and drinking.
Ramadan is the month of generosity, alms and charity. The Holy Prophetsa, the most generous of all people, used to give charity “like the fast wind” in the month of Ramadan, as his wife, Hazrat Aishara described.
Ramadan also reminds us to be grateful and contented with what we have and calls our attention to help the less fortunate and poor people of the society.
It is the month in which the gates of Paradise are opened, good deeds are rewarded manifold, prayers are answered, spiritual statuses are elevated and people are forgiven.
The Holy Quran has special relevance with Ramadan, as its revelation started in this month. Moreover, after the complete revelation of the Holy Quran, the Archangel Gabriel used to visit the Holy Prophetsa every Ramadan and revise the entire Holy Quran with him. Consequently, Muslims are especially inclined towards the study and recitation of the Holy Quran during this month. They try to complete one whole reading, or even more, during Ramadan.
During Ramadan, Muslims are expected to put more effort into performing virtuous acts, being kind and spreading love. The Holy Prophetsa drew our attention to this fact in his saying that Allah does not need our fasting if we do not refrain from false speech and unkind words.
The inner benefits of fasting include purification of the soul from bad morals such as wickedness, intolerance and miserliness, and accustoming it to decent morals such as patience, kindness, generosity and striving for what pleases God and brings great benefits to mankind.
Fasting has a wide range of potential health benefits as well. It helps in weight loss, lowers cholesterol and improves blood sugar control. Its benefits also include the health of the heart, brain function and prevention of cancer. Recent research is vast on the benefits of fasting, hence the popularity of intermittent fasting.
Hence, fasting is important for both, physical and spiritual health of a person.
When is Ramadan 2021?
There are no fixed dates for the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan because the Islamic month begins or ends with the sighting of the new, crescent moon. Some Muslim countries start and end Ramadan by sighting the moon with the naked eye, while some use scientific methods or astronomical calculations. This year, it is expected that the holy month of Ramadan will begin in the evening of 12 April 2021 and end in the evening of 12 May 2021, but the dates may vary, especially from country to country.
Dua for sehri (suhoor) [ beginning the fast ]
The following prayer is said at the beginning of the fast:
وَبِصَوْمِ غَدٍ نَّوَيْتُ مِنْ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ
“I intend to fast in the morning of the month of Ramadan.”
Dua for iftar [ opening the fast ]
The prayer for opening the fast is as follows:
اَللَّهُمَّ اِنِّیْ لَکَ صُمْتُ وَ بِکَ اٰمَنْتُ وَ عَلَیْکَ تَوَکَّلْتُ وَ عَلٰی رِزْقِکَ اَفْطَرْتُ
“O Allah, I observed the fast for your sake, I believe in You, I rely wholly upon You and I end the fast by eating that which You have provided me.”
Tarawih is the supererogatory prayer performed throughout the month of Ramadan. It is offered in the form of Tahajjud prayer every night at pre-dawn before doing sehri. It can also be offered in the first part of the night after the Isha prayer. This practice began in the era of the Khilafat of Hazrat Umarra to help those people offer Tarawih prayers who could not perform it in pre-dawn hours for certain reasons, like work. However, it is preferable to offer this prayer at the time of Tahajjud, as it is related in a hadith that the Holy Prophetsa said, “Whoever prayed at night in the whole month of Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”’ (Sahih al-Bukhari)
The constant practice of the Holy Prophetsa was that he used to offer eight rak‘aat for Tahajjud prayer in sets of two rak‘aat, so the same is done in Tarawih prayer. However, some people offer 20 rak‘aat in Tarawih prayer as it was observed later on in Islam.
What is Lailatul-Qadr?
Ramadan is also the month in which a blessed night – which is better than a thousand months – falls in, and this night is called Lailatul-Qadr, i.e. the Night of Destiny or Decree. There is an entire surah of the Holy Quran by the name of al-Qadr which elucidates the high status and excellence of this night. The blessings of this night are bestowed to those believers of God Almighty who excel in righteousness and follow His commandments with unmatched faith and sincerity.
Lailatul-Qadr also refers to the particular night which comes in the odd nights of the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan, although there are variations in narrations with regard to the specific night as the Prophetsa forgot the exact date after being told of it.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V, may Allah be his Helper, said that one reason behind the ambiguity of which night Lailatul-Qadr falls upon is to ensure that believers spend all of the last 10 nights in ibadah (worship of one true God) and not simply ritualise one appointed night. (Friday Sermon, 14 November 2003)
In the same sermon, Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa added that although certain ahadith signify the appearance of signs (like flashes of light and rainfall) to verify that one has experienced Lailatul-Qadr, these signs are not bound up with Lailatul-Qadr. Indeed the Holy Prophetsa would gather immense resolve and determination at the start of the last 10 days of Ramadan, spending these days in the worship of God of the highest and most excellent eminence. He enjoined us to profusely engage in remembrance of Allah during these days, to glorify Him and to exalt His greatness. (www.alislam.org/articles/laylatul-qadr/)
In light of the Holy Quran and sayings of the Holy Prophetsa, it has been taken to mean that the revelation of the Holy Quran began in Lailatul-Qadr. It is also interpreted that the blessed time of the appearance of a great reformer is called Lailatul-Qadr because at that time, corruption is widespread and darkness reigns supreme.
Thus, the entire month of Ramadan is full of the blessings and mercy of God. This month is also the best and easiest means to attain the nearness of Allah and love for mankind.