With the coming of each Ramadan, the hearts of Muslims all over the world are full of hope, based on truthful promises and glad tidings given by Allaah and His Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), of great bounties and endless bliss. Ramadan comes with the promise that our past sins will be forgiven and that we will have immense reward with Allaah for our fasting. In the blessed month, all the gates of Paradise are open and the fasting person will be called to enter it through the gate called ar-Rayyan on the Day of Recompense. Fasting also makes us achieve taqwa [God-consciousness]
Abu Umaamah (RA) said: "I said: '0 Messenger of Allaah, tell me of an action by which I may enter Paradise'. He said:
'Take to Fasting. there is nothing like it.'" (An-Nasaa'ee).
In this hadeeth', the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) singled out fasting when asked about a deed that leads its doer to the best of rewards, Paradise. This fact alone is sufficient for us to understand the greatness of fasting. There are other blessings of Ramadan and virtues of fasting, but these are only available to the person who performs the act correctly. What follows are the ways by which you prepare for and welcome Ramadan; the month of fasting and the month of blessings.
Eemaan & Ihtisaab
The fast (as-Sawm) is a special quality that is not found in anything else. And that is its close connection to Allaah, such that He says:
"The Fast (Sawm) is for me and I will reward it." (Bukhari)
Indeed, the virtue of fasting lies in the fact that it is a secret and hidden action between the creature and His Creator; and it is a means of subduing Shaytaan since it blocks the route of desire by which Shaytaan misguides man. All of these cannot be achieved except the fast is based on belief (Eemaan), sincerity and on truly expecting the rewards from Allah (Ihtisaab).
Allaah made fasting obligatory upon us only after He has addressed us with eeman and He also pointed out to us the reward that we should look forward to. Allaah say;
"O you who believe Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed upon those before you so that perhaps you may attain Taqwaa." (Q2[AI-Baqarah]: 183)
We have been promised that the past sins will be forgiven for those whose fast is based on belief, sincerity and on truly expecting the rewards from Allah. (Bukhari)
We also have been promised that past sins will be forgiven for those who offer night prayers (Qiyaam) during the entire month, and who do that with the same two conditions of Eemaan (belief) ang Ihtisaab (truly expecting the rewards from Allah). (Bukhari)
We have further been told that
there is one night in this month [Laylat-ul-Qadr] which is better (in rewards) than a thousand months of worship, and that all sins will be forgiven for those who spend it offering Qiyaam [salaah] with both belief and truly expecting the rewards from Allah. (Ahmad) "
Sight the Moon and start the Fast
Allaah has set crescent sighting as the only means for establishing dates of various Islamic occasions such as the Eed and Hajj. He says:
"They ask you concerning the new moons. say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for pilgrimage (hajj)." (Q2[Baqarah189)
In particular the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) -emphasized that crescent sighting is required in determining the beginning and the end of the 'month of Ramadaan. A large number of Companions reported that the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:
"Fast when you see the crescent. If it is obscured to you, then complete thirty days of Sha'baan. And break your fast when you see the crescent. If it is obscured to you then fast thirty days." (Bukhari)
Nothing else should determine the start date of your fasting.
Niyyah - the Intention
It is compulsory to establish the niyyah before the Fajr prayer for the fast of Ramadan. The Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:
"Whoever does not determine that he will fast before Fajr will have no fast (that is, it would not be accepted)" (Nasaa'ee).
The place of the intention is the heart and pronouncing it with the tongue is a bid'ah (innovation), even though many consider it to be good. Please note that the performance of an obligatory action is dependent on the ability to do it. Thus once you become aware that the moon has been sighted the previous night you must immediately commence the fast; even if you had eaten or drank previously. The fast is valid for you and you do not have to make up the day after Ramadan. Establishing the intention (before the Fajr prayer) is not required in this case because you did not have the ability to do so. This is based on a principle of Fiqh (jurisprudence) that:
"in order for something to be conditional on the legally capable Muslim then he must have the ability to do it"
Fasting implants piety [Taqwa] in the heart
Allaah has ordained as-siyam in order to develop piety in our hearts and it is only for piety that Allah honours His slaves. Allaah distinguishes between people according to their piety:
"The most honoured by Allah amongst you are those with the highest piety. " (Q49[AI-Hujurat113)
Thus the goal of fasting is to acquire taqwa. This is also the goal of all other acts of obedience and worship. as Allaah:
"Mankind! Worship your Lord Who created you and those before you, that you may have taqwa" (Q 2[AI-Baqarah 112)
Fasting demonstrates compliance with the orders of Allaah, promptness to please Him. and renunciation of the desires and the needs of the individual. It is done without any supervision except that of Allah. This act implants taqwa in the heart. Once the heart is rectified. the deeds will be righteous. With this goodness of the heart and deeds. this ummah (nation) appointed by Allah to lead humanity will then be righteous and will provide guidance to the path of integrity and righteousness.
Fast and pray in Ramadan but not in other months?
As for those who fast and pray in Ramadan only, their fasting does not count. This is because the fact that they left the prayer outside Ramadan has turned them into disbelievers even if they do not argue the obligation of the prayer due to the Prophet's saying,
"The covenant which is between us and them [the disbelievers] is the Prayer. so whoever leaves it. then indeed he has disbelieved." (Ahmad);
and also his saying,
"The head of the matter is Islaam, its pillar is the prayer and its highest peak is jihaad in the Way of AIlaah." (Tirmidhi)
The prayer is a pillar from the pillars of lslaarn, and it is the most important after the two testimonies (shahaadatay'n), and it is amongst the individual obligations (fardh al-ayn). (Fatwa of the Standing Committee for Islaamic Research and lfta, KSA) Know that Allaah is the Lord of Ramadan and the other months as well. thus worship is due to Him all the days of our lives. Allaah says,
"And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty (i.e. death)." (Q 15[Hijr]:99)
A Quick Checklist for Ramadan
Make a resolve to win the maximum favour of Allah by performing extra voluntary prayers (nawaafil), making frequent Du'a and increased remembrance (dhikr), trying to recite some Qur'an after every prayer In fact if you read 3-4 pages after every prayer you can easily finish the entire Qur'an in Ramadan! Invite a person you are not very close with or your relatives to your home for Iftar at least once a week, You will notice the blessings in your relationships! Make commitment to join study circles or tafseer sessions to learn more about Islam and improve your own life.
Donate generously to Islamic causes and to people who are in need. Remember, this is a month for sharing! Sleep little. eat little. do not defeat the purpose of fasting by over-indulging in food and being lazy This is a month of forgiveness and mercy, so weep for and seek forgiveness of your sins! Learn to control your tongue and lower your gaze. Finally, enjoing love and goodness, and abandon everything that Allah dislikes. Also encourage others to do the same.
We ask Allaah to make the fasting easy upon us, to help us to perform it in the perfect way that pleases Him, to reward us with all the bounties that He promised to the fasting people to grant victory and supremacy to the Islamic Ummah (nation), and to make our most pleasant and happy day the Day we shall meet with Him. Aameen!