By Imam Zaid Shakir
As we eagerly anticipate the beginning of the Blessed Month of Ramadan, the staff of Zaytuna Institute wishes all of our volunteers, friends, and supporters an accepted and purifying fast. We pray that this blessed month is a time of spiritual renewal for all of you, a time when you are able to fully benefit from the many Divine Gifts that have been offered to the worshiper during this most special season.
Those who have failed to take advantage of the months of Rajab and Sha’ban to prepare for the blessed month of Ramadan should be especially careful to take full advantage of the latter month. Reflect on the poet’s words:
Harken! O you who was not content to sin throughout Rajab.
His rebellion against his Lord had to continue the duration of Sha’ban.
The month of fasting has now come to shade and shelter you,
Do not transform it also into a month of sinning.
Recite the Qur’an and glorify [God], with diligent assertion.
Indeed! It is a month for glorification and the Qur’an.
Deny your bodily appetites, seeking your soul’s salvation.
Eventually, the earth will consume the body.
How many deceased people have you known who fasted?
Amongst your family, neighbors, and brothers.
Death has erased them, leaving you behind.
Get serious [about your religion], for the living are quite close to the dead!
You take delight in the ‘Eid outfits being cut out now for the festival.
But soon they will be your burial shrouds.
How long will the person be happy with his worldly home?
Knowing that his ultimate home is the grave.1
We pray that this month is a means for our spiritual ascension. When our spirits are ascendant, and our carnal lusts retreat, we will be able to engage in the type of fast described by one of our righteous forebears when he advised:
Fast your entire lifetime. Make death your ‘Eid! Life itself is a fast for the righteous. Their fast is from all forbidden lusts. When death comes to them their fast has ended. At that time they find the new moon of ‘Eid.2
We encourage all of the believers to try to adhere to all of the Sunans of Ramadan. Even though the days are still relatively short and cool, everyone should attempt to take the pre-dawn meal (Sahur), no matter how small, and hasten to break the fast, once the sunset has been confirmed. The purpose of the month is to grow in obedience to the Lawgiver. This is facilitated by scrupulously adhering to all of the rulings related to the fast.
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those who preceded you; that perhaps you will be mindful of God. Al-Qur’an 2:183
We encourage everyone to be especially generous during this blessed month. Our beloved Prophet , was normally exceedingly generous. In Ramadan, he was even more benevolent.
Ibn ‘Abbas, May Allah be pleased with him and his father, relates: “The Prophet , was the most generous of people. He was even more generous in Ramadan when Gabriel would meet him and review the Qur’an with him. Gabriel would come to him every night of Ramadan to review the Qur’an. During these times, the Messenger of Allah , was more generous than the freely blowing wind.” Al-Bukhari and Muslim
We encourage everyone to read through the Qur’an at least once. Those who can read the Arabic script should do so in Arabic, even if they do not fully understand what they are reading. They should also try to read through the English translation. Those who are unable to read Arabic, should try to read through the entire English translation. Ramadan is, among other things, a celebration of the Qur’an. We should join the celebration by reading the Book of God much during this blessed month. Our Imams, Abu Hanifa, Malik, al-Shafi’i, and others, May God have Mercy on them all, would cease teaching Hadith and Jurisprudence during Ramadan and devote themselves exclusively to the Qur’an.
God says, concerning His Majestic Book: The Month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, [containing] clear proofs of guidance, and the criterion of distinguishing right from wrong. Al-Qur’an 2:185
We encourage everyone to refrain from all of the ruinations of the tongue during Ramadan. In his seminal work, “Quickening the Religious Sciences,” Imam al-Ghazali mentions them as the following:
Speaking in matters that do not concern one.
Speaking about sinful matters.
Disputation and contestation.
Excessively embellished speech.
Lewd, insulting, or crude speech.
Invoking the Curse of God on someone.
Singing indecent songs, or relating immoral poetry.
Sarcasm and ridicule.
Lying and false oaths.
Backbiting and slander.
Instigating tense relations between people.
Praising someone who is either undeserving, or unable to remain humble when praised.
Speaking about involved subjects and ideas one lacks the necessary knowledge or eloquence to adequately convey.
Ordinary folk speaking in subjects that are the domain of specialists.
May God spare us from these ruinations both during and after Ramadan.
The Prophet, Peace and Blessing of Almighty God be upon Him, said: “Whoever fails to leave off ruinous speech, and acting on it [during Ramadan], God does not need him to leave off eating and drinking.” Al-Bukahri
We encourage everyone to avoid all arguments, disputes, and unnecessary worldly entanglements during this blessed month. This is a time for deep devotion and dedication to Allah.
We encourage everyone to work to restore any severed relations or kinship ties they may be experiencing. This is a time when the gentle breezes of Divine Facilitation are blowing. Any good we endeavor during this blessed month will come to bear its proper fruits, Insha Allah.
We encourage everyone to eat simply during this month. One should try to make a vow to give up unnecessary, and generally unhealthy fare during this blessed month. Pizza, ice cream, fast food, pastries, and soda should all go. We should make our solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in other lands real, and not something confined to speeches and pamphlets.
If one is in the habit of watching television, or listening to commercial music, one should also try to give these things up for Ramadan. They are things that divert us from the remembrance of God in any case. During this special month when every letter we recite from the Majestic Qur’an is tremendously rewarded, we should busy ourselves with recitation, and drop frivolous pastimes.
Married couples should encourage each other to engage in spiritual pursuits during this month, i.e. reciting the Qur’an, attending Tarawih, etc. Those in the habit of hosting extravagant dinners in Ramadan should try to avoid doing so, especially if they involve burdening cooks with long hours in the kitchen at a time when everyone should be increasing acts of worship. Usually, the womenfolk are disadvantageously affected in this regard. While it is certainly virtuous to provide the wherewithal for the believers to break their fast, dates, water, and simple, easily prepared dishes suffice.
Everyone should endeavor to pray the Tarawih Prayers. This is practice that should not be left without an excuse. The Prophet , mentioned, “Whosoever stands for prayer during the nights of Ramadan will have his/her prior sins expiated.” Al-Bukhari and Muslim
The prayer is the symbol of our devotional life. Ramadan is a great time to rediscover the power of the prayer, and to renew our commitment to our Lord through the prayer.
These are some of the things we wanted to convey to you. Hopefully, they will prove of benefit. Please take this message in the spirit with which we have conveyed it, as sincere advice. Again, we wish you a very successful Ramadan and would like to thank all of you for past, present, and future support.
On behalf of the Zaytuna Staff,
Your Brother in Islam,
Imam Zaid Shakir