Dimensions of Ramadan
Dimensions of Ramadan
‘O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you, as it has been prescribed for those before you, that you may be people of taqwa, people of piety’. (2:183)
The obligation of siyyam was prescribed to the ummah in the second year of hijrah, in the month of Sha’ban in five verses called the ayatul siyyam (ayahs related to fasting) which are 183 – 187 of Surah Baqarah.
Reason for fasting
The reason for fasting is to achieve taqwa of Allah Almighty. The simple definition of taqwa is fulfilling your religious obligations and refraining from the prohibitions.
Call of Love
Allah Almighty begins with the call, Ya ayuhaladhi amanu– ‘O you who believe.’ Whenever we use the word in Arabic ‘Ya’, it’s to call somebody who’s distant from you, to draw their attention.
This call is different from other appeals in the Quran to people in general, in the verses commencing with ya ayuhan nas. This appeal is an intimate appeal. It is a special appeal. It is addressed specifically to the community of believers, those who are submissive, those who are close to Allah Almighty, and those who have already responded to Allah’s call.
In essence, Allah Almighty is saying ‘O my special people, who accepted My call, who believed in Me, in My messenger. I’m calling upon you. Are you listening?’
Replying to the call of love
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, whenever you hear, ‘ya ayuhaladhi amanu’ open your ears attentively, there’s a command or a prohibition coming from Allah Almighty. This phrase has been repeated in the Quran 89 times in the Quran.
It’s completely different from ‘O mankind’ and ya ibadi ‘O My servants’. Every call has its own flavour. Here the call is to those who belong to this core group of imaan.
Checking your response
The fortunate are the ones who can hear Allah’s and even more fortunate are those respond to His call. So we should all ask ourselves, ‘Am I listening to His call?’ And the moment we hear His call, we should automatically say Labaik ya rabb’ ‘I am at your service our Lord. What do you want from us, ya Allah?’
If your mother was calling on you, out of birr (goodness) and good character you would be at her service. She is your mum. What about your Lord? Who is more merciful to you than your mother and anyone else?
The command for fasting after faith had been established
The command to fast only came once Allah Almighty had prepared the hearts, the souls and the minds of believers to listen to His call, and through His wording we can see that He is saying that He made siyyam obligatory upon us because He loves us.
The call of love also comes when we are called to pray and establish salah. It is out of love and mercy toward His servants, that Allah Almighty made salah obligatory, like siyyam, it nurtures us and brings us closer to Allah Almighty.
Self discipline and closeness to Allah
Siyyam is far beyond its technical and legal (fiqh) definition of refraining from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk with the intention. It is about self-discipline. Siyyam is about closeness to the Lord. So He is calling upon His servants, those who accepted the message, those who accepted belief and imaan and telling them, ‘Listen, this is an obligation.
When you fulfill this obligation, the fruits of it will be taqwa. Most certainly you will achieve taqwa , when you follow My commands. Whenever you copy My messenger whom I sent to you, to teach you how to pray, how to fast, how to pay zakat, how to perform worship, without doubt you will achieve taqwa .
Input and Output
The input and output of siyyam are taqwa which is reflected in the wording of the ayahs, as the end of the first ayah and the end of the last ayahs regarding fasting are the word taqwa.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous (2:183)
Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous. (2:187)
You start because you have taqwa and by the end you have more taqwa. Is taqwa limited to siyyam or Ramadan?’ Of course not. However it is consolidated, maximised and strengthened in Ramadan.
Taqwa is not a suit you wear in Ramadan, and take off when it is over. Taqwa is the character of the believer, throughout the year, but it’s more heightened in Ramadan because we want to achieve the best and the highest level of closeness to Allah, and this can’t be achieved without taqwa.
Siyyam is not exclusive to Muslims. But Ramadan is.
When Allah Almighty is talking about siyyam, He is not just talking about Ramadan, Ramadan is introduced in the next ayah. Siyyam is a commonality, between us and the previous nations. And we see these traditions still in practice today in varied forms, in Judaism and Christianity.
Ramadan with its increased blessings is a very special month, gifted to this ummah exclusively. And this is where we have the distinction between us and previous nations, as Ramadan was never been given to any other nation before us. Siyyam Yes, but not Ramadan. Ramadan was specifically given to the ummah of Muhammad (peace be on him).
The application of three pillars in Ramadan
Unlike any other time in the year, in Ramadan, our connectivity to Allah Almighty is increased because we can perform three pillars in the same month – our prayers, our fasting and giving zakat.
The three dimensions of Ramadan
- Increased closeness to Allah
We have three dimensions of closeness to Allah Almighty in Ramadan. The first is that we reinforce our connection with Him through our siyyam, we are more observant to the obligations and avoiding the haram, and we try we increase our khushoo (humility and attentiveness) in our salah.
No other worship has as much sustained connection with Allah as Ramadan. It envelops you around the clock for a whole month – not just the duration of salah or the days of hajj.
Whatever we do, wherever we are, the spirit of Ramadan and it’s blessings go with us during this time.
- Unity of families and the ummah
The second dimension of Ramadan is the dimension of communication. We usually have more connection to the community and our families when we share iftar together, and attend congregational prayers and taraweh together, so we have a better feel of the ummah, (regardless of our moon fighting every year!)
Though we cannot do this during the pandemic, we pray that Allah Almighty lifts it from us and we pray for our ummah and remember our family and friends and fellow Muslims in our duas.
Though we may not be able to meet socially, we are connected by the fact we are the ummah of Muhammad (peace be on himn) and across the globe , we share the experience of fasting together for an entire month.
This intense connection only happens during Ramadan and Hajj. We are all as one body, despite all the differences that we have, despite all the sects that we have, despite all the conflicts, which we have, Ramadan comes and unite the ummah against their will.
Ramadan is also a time for reaching out to non-Muslims. With this sense of communication with fellow Muslims, it is a good time to share the blessings of the month with our non Muslim neighbours, colleagues and whoever we interact with in our community in whatever way we are able.
Allah Almighty has diversified Ramadan for us in different ways. He not only shakes up our eating and sleeping patterns, as the month moves through different seasons in the year, it is never the same one year to the next. It is anti-boredom. Unlike fixed festivals, we experience Ramadan in summer and winter and this keeps it fresh and varied.
The third dimension of Ramadan is transformation. Ramadan forces us to change our habits, sleeping habits, eating habits, drinking habits, even intimate relationships.
Firstly, we change the entire pattern of our day. We turn the day and night around. Instead of our well-worn patterns and breakfast at the same time, we rise early for suhoor.
If we are the very fussy ones who are particular about what we have for breakfast, and when we drink our coffee, we are transformed into a new person who now skips that morning breakfast and coffee. We are willing to change our habits.
Those who were used to 8 hours sleep now get by on less. Keep yourself energised in Ramadan by taking a kaylula (siesta or power nap). Even if it is half an hour, or just 15 minutes, it will support you and help you.
With all this shift in our life, Ramadan is the facilitator of change. If you want to break a habit, Ramadan is your chance to launch the new you.
We can challenge our self. If we are complacent, hesitant, or lacking will power, thinking ‘I can’t do this, I’m not that person who can face challenges,’ Ramadan tells us ‘You can! Stop fooling yourself!’ Ramadan empowers us.
When you have the will and the determination, everything is possible. Ramadan is the proof. You used to sleep 8 hours now you are sleeping 4 hours and then compensating this with some short naps here and some short naps there. But be careful not to have this nap whilst you are driving guys. It’s dangerous!
Research suggests that in order to get rid of bad habit and establish a new habit, you need between 21 to 40 days to do it. Ramadan is 30 days in total. We can get rid of bad habits in this time. For those who are smoking, quit. But you need the determination.
You can establish new habits, like qiyyamul layl. Although the aim is to wake up at suhoor, we are waking during the last third of the night, the most blessed time. I pity those whose only concern when they rise at this time suhoor, because they have not capitalized on the bounties of the time, when they could make supplication. Wake up and enjoy suhoor time – the special time where the special mercy descends from Allah Almighty and He is waiting for our supplications so He can grant them. He says:
During the night there is a time when the Muslim does not ask for the good of this world and the Hereafter but it will be given to him, and that happens every night. (Muslim)
Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him? (Bukhari)
So ask for shifa for anyone who is sick, ask for forgiveness and ask for everything you want. Ultimately we are seeking Allah Almighty and this is the core of it. If we can’t feel this, then we can’t feel the blessing of Ramadan. Be careful. This is a gift from Allah, He has given to us.
Appreciate Ramadan. Don’t fear it. Don’t think of it as a burden.
Invest in Ramadan. Understand the beauty of Ramadan. It’s not a burden that we are fasting long hours. We can do it. Don’t feel panicked that some of our children have exams. Calm down. Don’t start with negative messages. Don’t!
Go with an open mind, an open heart and true tawakkul (reliance) on Allah Almighty. He will definitely support you and enable you to finish, not only your day but your month, insha’Allah.
If it happens that you fall ill and cannot continue the day, then you can break your fast. But you can’t say, ‘I can’t do it, so I won’t fast’. It’s not allowed. Try it first, then if you find you cannot do it, then that is a different story. But don’t let your fear and assumptions dictate that you can’t fast.
The core of Ramadan is about closeness to Allah by controlling our whims our desires. We control our selves, why? To please Allah Almighty. In Ramadan we put Allah Almighty first.
Let’s train ourselves to have more sabr, control our anger, and our emotions. Let’s develop good habits. Let’s cut down on social media, which is wasting our time, and our screen time. Let’s make our focus our ibadah. Increase our recitation of the Quran. Let’s fixing our salah and make it the core of our day. Let’s be good to our parents, our children, and our colleagues. Let’s be good role models for them.
We ask Allah Almighty to make us better not only in Ramadan, but also outside of Ramadan. Ameen
Khutbah delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim at the Albanian Mosque in 2018.
Transcribed by Rose Swinburn
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