By Suhaib Webb
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become God-conscious. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
The month of Ramadan is upon us; the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned in this good hadith that when the month of Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the doors of the Hell-fire are closed and that the devils are chained. (Ahmad and An-Nasa’i)
We should come to this month, number one, with some objective that we’ve written down in the form of a few goals that we want to take from this month.
Maybe we can put them in our iPhone or our Palm; we can put them on our computer, but we should have a few goals because upon us is a noble time.
There are two blessings that most people lose out on; one of them is free time, which can be utilized to do noble acts of worship.
Ibn Al-Qayim (may Allah be pleased with him) mentioned that Allah (Exalted is He) out of His mercy, out of His greatness, and out of His awesome power and mercy to His servants, Allah has chosen specific times when people, if they increase their worship, their servitude, their focus on Allah, and their rewards are greater. And one of them is this month of Ramadan, particularly the last ten nights.
For that reason, we can take from this month a few lessons. Imam Ad-Dahlawi in his book Hujjat Allah Al-Balighah mentioned something very important: one is foolish who thinks that Allah legislated these acts of worship without any wisdom. Takleef (accountability to God) alone- without any wisdom, without any objectives, without any goals that can be seen by the servant of Allah – is foolish.
For example, in Surat Al-Kahf, Allah discusses sending down the rain and how it gives life to a dead land; He says these are signs for every servant who repents and returns to Allah. These are a few lessons we can take from siyam (fasting) and in sha’ Allah (if Allah wills) we can benefit.
Number one is the lesson of ease and tadarruj (a step-by-step process in developing ourselves) in Islam. We have to avoid coming from a mindset that is post-colonial, post Jim-Crow (for those of us who lived in America), post-set-of-utopian-constructs where the concept of religiosity and religion itself was changed and uprooted in the Muslim world, which causes us to be ideologues. Islam has become an ideology, it is no longer organic; it does not have any natural disposition to itself.
Everything is done in private and not in the public scene anymore. Everything is policy without practice. One of the dangers of this is the inability to teach Islam and practice Islam correctly as the Prophet taught his Companions, as we find in his life this concept of tadaruuj (gradualism).
As Allah described the Companions of the Prophet, they develop like seeds overtime, the law of the land overtime, until they became pleasing to Allah. Not in one day, not in five minutes.
I’ll give you an example of this. A few weeks ago, there was a non-Muslim in front of this building and he saw the new sign, alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah) we got a sign. When I became Muslim, brothers and sisters, there was no sign in the masjid, I just kept driving around. I didn’t know where the mosque was because there was no sign. We were still mudathirun (we had not removed the blanket yet from us as Allah ordered the Prophet).
So one of our community members, I don’t know who he is, but someone complained to me. When he saw this non-Muslim walk by the sign and start to look at it, one of our community members, he started to yell from across the street as loud as he could, ‘Hey! You want to know about Islam?’ as loud as he could.
So consequently, alhamdulillah luckily the guy did not run away like Usain Bolt, but this non-Muslim became kind of scared. He said, ‘Why is this person yelling at me like this?’ Because in this country, brothers, we don’t yell at people; even in the Muslim countries, we shouldn’t yell at people like this.
So this is an example of not practicing the methodology of the Prophet. Once a person came in to our community wanting to learn about Islam and I heard the brothers, the first thing they told him was ‘You have to change your name’. Number two, they said, ‘You have to be circumcised’. I swear by Allah. This is not funny; this is a very serious issue because we are talking about the message of the Prophet. And number three, ‘You can’t eat in the dumps’. They told him these three things and you think he came back to the masjid after that?
So what happens when he goes home to his friends and they ask him: what’s the message of Islam? What do you think he will tell them? He will probably say, ‘Man, Muslims are insane people’. They told me to change my name, do this and not eat out at McDonalds anymore’. Is this understanding of the religion that was given to us by the Prophet?
Fasting was prescribed for you… (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
So the first question that comes to mind, since siyam (fasting) is a word that has many meanings, is: ‘What is siyam?’
Then Allah says:
Ayyam ma`dudat (a few/fixed number of days)…” (Al-Baqarah 2:184)
This is called jam` al-qila in the Arabic language, ayyam ma`dudat means a few days.
When I became a Muslim, I remember when they told me that we’re going to fast, the first question, subahan Allah (Glory be to Allah) that came to my mind was ‘How long? How long do you fast? And how do you fast?”
Here, Allah shows this is tadarruj, so he says “a few days only”. Why? To build them, to let them feel excited about siyam. Then the next verse we find the bayan (clarification) of this. Allah says:
The month of Ramadan when the Qur’an was revealed. (Al-Baqarah 2:185)
Then Allah makes it clear to them the month of Ramadan.
So we see this process of what is called tadarruj in da’wah, how we should build people, how we should develop people, and how we should take people stage by stage, stage by stage, according to Shari`ah (Islamic law), according to the legislation of the system which Allah sent to us.
Number two is that the month of Ramadan is a blessed month; as Sheikh `Allama Shaqinti mentioned: this is a month where we can feel, we can taste the `ibadah of the angels. This is because the angels “do not disobey Allah”. (At-Tahrim 66:6) They obey Allah all the time.
When we make the intention to fast, the act of siyam is for the entire month. Usually when we do ritual acts of worship we have to stop our work to pray, we have to stop our work to do certain types of `ibadah but with the siyam wherever we go we’re fasting—whether it is in school, whether it is at home, whether it is at work, any place we are, alhamdulillah we observe this fast for the sake of Allah and can taste the `ibadah of the angels.
We ask Allah to make this fasting beloved to us; we ask Allah to give us the correct understanding of this deen (way of life); and we ask Him to guide us in worshiping Him in the best of manners.
To be continued…