Translation: Greatness of Ramadan
In this month, Muslims fast from dawn till dusk every day. Activities like eating, drinking, smoking, and having sex are forbidden while fasting and if committed, they result in breaking of the fast. Ramadan isn’t only about staying hungry, as unkind or impure thoughts and words, and immoral behavior should also be avoided, exemplified in the words of Imam Sadiq (A.S) – “When you fast, guard your hearing and sight against the forbidden, and your limbs and all other organs from the vile.” .
The Islamic Calendar is a 12-month lunar calendar that depends on the phases of moon. Ramadan, according to the calendar, is the 9th month and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting. The word Ramadan is derived from an Arabic word, ‘ramad’, which means scorching or intense heat of the sun. The reason for this name is told by Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). He said, “Surely, the month of Ramadan has been named so because it scorches away the sins.”
The Prophet (P.B.U.H) delivered a speech to the community, highlighting the importance of Ramadan, saying, “O people, the month of Allah has come upon you with blessings, mercy, and forgiveness. This month is the most favorable month in the view of Almighty Allah. Its days are the best days. Its nights are the best nights. Its hours are the best hours. In this month, you have been invited to the hospitality of Almighty Allah and you have been chosen to be within the people of Almighty Allah’s honoring. Your breaths in this month are considered the glorification of Almighty Allah. Your sleep in this month is considered an act of worship. Your deeds are accepted in this month. Your prayers are responded in this month. You may thus pray Almighty Allah with sincere intentions and pure hearts that He will guide you to observing fasting properly and to reciting His Book in this month. Verily, the true miserable is he who is deprived of Almighty Allah’s forgiveness in this magnificent month. As you feel hunger and thirst in this month, you should remember the hunger and thirst of the Resurrection Day. Give alms to the poor and the needy among you. Respect those who are older than you are. Have mercy upon those who are younger than you are. Esteem your ties with your relatives. Keep your tongues from obscenity. Cast down your looks from all that which is unlawful for you to gaze and close your hearings against all that which is unlawful for you to hear. Treat kindly the orphans among you so that your orphans will be treated kindly. Repent from your sins. Raise your hands towards Him (i.e. Almighty Allah) with supplications at the times of your prayers, for these times are the best hours at which Almighty Allah looks at His servants with mercy – He will respond to their prayers, answer their calls, and receive their supplications.”
There are many reasons for which keeping a fast has been made obligatory in Islam. The most important reason is highlighted in the Quran. Almighty Allah says: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” [2:138] In Arabic, Righteous means Taqwa. In Islam, Taqwa means being conscious and cognizant of Allah, of the truth and of the rational reality. Imam Ali (A.S) said, “The people of taqwa on earth are those of virtue: their speech is correct (true); their garments are of moderate nature and their walk is one of humility. They lower their gazes when they see something Allah has forbidden them to see and they give an ear to the beneficial knowledge. They maintain their integrity and both adversity and prosperity.” In Islam, the concept of Taqwa is very important as it is stated in Quran, “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” [49:13]
The other reasons and benefits of fasting under the enlightenment of Hadith are as follows:
- Imam Jafar al Sadiq (A.S) said: “Allah made fasting incumbent to make equity between the rich and the poor. A rich man does not feel the pains of hunger to have mercy for the poor, since he is able to obtain whatever he likes. (By enjoining fasting) Allah wanted to put His creatures on an equal footing by making the rich taste the pain of hunger, so that he may pity the weak and have mercy on the hungry.”
- Imam Ali (A.S) Said: “The prayer of a fasting person at the time of Iftar is never rejected.”
- Imam Ali (A.S) said:“Whoever is prevented from food that he likes, because of his fast, Allah will feed him from the food of Heaven and from its drink.”
- Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “Fasting is a protection from the fire.”
- Imam Sadiq (A.S) said: “Fast and you shall be healthy.”
The month of Ramadan is divided into three ashra, an Arabic word that means ten, which means Ramadan has 3 sets of 10 days. The three ashra are Rahmat, or the Mercy of Allah, Maghfirat,or the Forgiveness of Allah and Nijaat, or the Salvation. The first Ashra is from 1 to 10 Ramadan, second Ashra is from 11 to 20th Ramadan, while the third one is from 21 to 30 Ramadan. In the first, Ashra Muslims ask for Allah’s mercy. In the second, they ask for his forgiveness. In the third, they ask for refuge from Hell fire. They do this by praying Duas, as taught by Prophet (P.B.U.H) and his family, reciting Holy Quran, offering their prayers, doing good deeds, and avoiding sins.
The last 10 days of Ramadan are very important as Laylat ul Qadr falls on one of these nights. Laylat al-Qadr is rendered in English as the Night of Decree, Night of Value and Night of Destiny. No one knows the exact date of Laylat al-Qadr but it is believed that it is to be found in the last ten odd nights of Ramadan but mostly on the 19th, 21st or 23rd of Ramadan with 23rd being the most important night. The 19th coincides with the night Imam Ali (A.S) was attacked in the Mihrab, while worshipping in the Great Mosque of Kufa, and died on the 21st of Ramadan. Muslims regard these three nights as greatly rewarding. Laylat al-Qadr is the night when all the matters of the next year of a person’s life are decided. The importance of this night is highlighted in Surah e Qadr. “The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter.” [97:3-4]. Many Muslims practice itikaf on these nights, that is staying in a mosque for a certain number of days, devoting oneself to ibadah, worship of Allah, during these days and staying away from worldly affairs. It is not necessary to practice itikaf; one can stay at home and still collect all benefits of these nights by staying awake and worshipping Allah.
The last night of Ramadan, that depends upon the moon sighting is known as Chaand Raat which means night with the moon. It is the eve of Eid-ul Fitr. Once the moon is sighted, people wish each other Chaand Raat Mubarak or “Have a blessed night of the new moon”. On this night, city streets have a festive look. Women and girls apply henna on their hands, preparation of next day’s desserts and meals are done, and the last rounds of shopping are also carried out. This night is akin to the Qadr Night and it is spent offering prayers and supplications, and imploring for forgiveness. Zakat-al fitrah, commonly known as Fitrah, is also taken out on this night. Fitrah is given on a weight of three kilograms on any food commodity in that person’s country like wheat, barley, rice, millet, raisins, dates etc. Instead of food, its equivalent amount in money can also be given. Fitrah is given to the needy that are unable to meet their own or their dependents annual living expenses and they don’t have the means to do so through earning. The main purpose of Zakat al-Fitr is to provide to the poor so that they can celebrate the festival of breaking the fast, Eid al-Fitr, along with the rest of the Muslims.
The 10th Islamic month is Shawwal. On the first day of Shawwal, Eid-ul Fitr is celebrated. Eid-ul Fitr commonly known as Eid is the most important festival for Muslims. Eid ul Fitr is Arabic word which means “festival of the breaking of the fast” in English. This day starts by the offering of EID Prayers. After the completion of Eid Prayers people hug each other and wish one another Eid Mubarak (Have a blessed Eid”. After the prayers people usually go to cemetery to the graves of their loved ones and Pray to Allah to have mercy on the deceased and to forgive them of their sins and send them to heaven. For breakfast people have desserts like kheer (rice pudding) and sheer khurma (milk with date). People wear new clothes and decorate their homes. On this day people visit their relative’s house. Eid dawats (get together) are usually but not necessarily hosted at the Grand Parents house. On Eid, eidi (money) is given to children by elders and gifts are exchanged between elders.
The festival of Eid is a blessing from the Almighty to Muslims. It is a celebration of gratefulness and giving thanks to Allah that he blessed us with the holy month of Ramadan. It is a celebration of being clean and without sins as Prophet (P.B.U.H) stated, “Whoever did fast Ramadan out of faith and hoping for rewards [from Allah], and forgiveness will be granted to all his past sins.” Through Eid, Muslims celebrate what they have achieved throughout the month and they pledge to continue it throughout the year and become better version of themselves.
This year, Eid will fall on 25th to the 28th of June in Pakistan. On behalf of all the Muslims and Pakistanis, I wish you and your family Eid Mubarak!