Ramadan is the month of mercy, forgiveness, and seeking protection from hellfire through various acts of worship. It is a special month in the sense that we are supposed to make the best use of our time to draw closer to Allah the Almighty by doing good deeds and staying away from bad deeds. We should focus on reciting the Qur’an, performing Tarawih Prayer, giving charity, making dhikr (remembrance of Allah) and istighfar (seeking forgiveness for one’s sins), etc. The wise Muslim is he or she who never misses any good in Ramadan. In an authentic hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “Truly is lost whoever hears my name and does not invoke blessings on me; truly is lost whoever catches Ramadan and he misses the chance to get his sins forgiven; truly is lost whoever catches his parents in their lives until they become old, and yet he misses to attain Paradise (through honoring and taking care of them.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi) That is why a Muslim should not only avoid the haram (forbidden) during Ramadan, but should not even think of it, as he or she is supposed to be involved in `ibadah (worship) and increasing his or her good deeds.
As regards your question, we’d like to cite some words of a khutbah (sermon) delivered by Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, at the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, USA on 28 Sha`ban 1424/ 24 October 2003:
Almighty Allah says: (O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” (Al-Baqarah: 183) “O ye who believe! fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam.) (Aal `Imran: 102) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Every deed of the child of Adam is for him except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward it. The breath of the mouth of a fasting person is more pleasing to Allah than the perfume of musk.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
Fasting is very pleasing to Allah. Allah loves the person who fasts. Why does Allah love the person who fasts? Is it because Allah likes to put burdens upon us? No, Allah wants ease for us; He does not want to put us under hardship. Is it because Allah wants to save some food and drink from our consumption? No, Allah has plenty. His treasures will not be exhausted. He multiplies His blessings upon us during the month of Ramadan and gives us more. Allah loves a fasting person because he/she becomes more aware of Allah, becomes a better human being. The purpose of fasting is not to make us hungry and thirsty and to deprive us some of our comfort and conveniences. The real purpose of fasting is that we learn taqwa (piety).
Taqwa is highly emphasized in the Qur’an and Sunnah. There are more than 158 verses of the Qur’an on taqwa and there are hundreds of hadiths on this subject. Taqwa means the consciousness of Allah. It is to do one’s best efforts to live by His commands and to avoid His prohibitions. The Qur’an has used the word “taqwa” to mean: fear of Allah, worship of Allah, sincerity in faith and avoiding disobedience to Allah. Fasting can help us acquire taqwa if we do it in the right way. Fasting can be very pleasing to Allah if we keep in mind its real purpose. There are some important things that we should do during this month. Here are some reminders. They are all taken from the guidelines given to us in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
1. Niyyah (Intention): Remind yourself again and again that you are fasting in obedience to Allah. Be sincere in your intention. You want Allah to accept your fasting. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whosoever fasts in Ramadan with faith and seeking Allah’s reward, all his past sins are forgiven.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
2. Sunnah: Observe the sunnah in fasting. Take the sahur meal a little before dawn and end your fast at sunset. Observe all the rules of fasting.
3. Wara` (Avoiding everything haram [forbidden] or makruh [disliked]): Be conscious to have halal (lawful) food, halal income, halal relations. Avoid watching bad TV programs, videos, movies, etc. always but especially during this month. Keep your body and mind very clean. Avoid wasting your time in useless things and pursuits.
4. Qur’an: Spend more time with the Qur’an. Read Qur’an every day. Try to finish at least one time the whole Qur’an during this month in your own personal reading. Read some hadiths and the books of seerah (the Prophet’s biography).
5. Salah, du`a’ and dhikr of Allah: Pray on time and observe all Prayers. Do not ignore the Tarawih Prayers. Perform more supererogatory Prayers. Do as much worship as you can. Make more dhikr (remembrance of Allah) and du`a’ (supplication) for yourself and for others. Repent and ask Allah for forgiveness as much as you can. This is the best time for devotion and seeking Allah’s forgiveness. Seek Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power) by special devotion during the last ten nights of this month.
6. Zakah, sadaqah and generosity: Be very charitable and generous. Give more and more to help the poor and needy and to help good social and community projects. Also be good to your friends and neighbors. Let your non-Muslim neighbors and co-workers know that this is your blessed and sacred time.
7. Husn As-Suluk (good relations with others): Try to be extra kind and courteous during this month. Forget your quarrels and disputes. Reconcile and forgive. Do not get involved in backbiting, lying, cheating, and anything that is wrong. Be very good to Muslims and to all human beings.
8. Tafakkur (contemplation): Think, reflect, and plan to improve the moral and spiritual condition of your own self and your family. Think about any wrong things and sins you may have been doing and decide to correct yourself. Think about any deficiencies you have in your Islamic observances, and plan to change yourse
lf. Think what you can do for the Ummah and for humanity to make this world a better place for everyone.
It is reported that Banu Israel used to fast, but they complained to their prophet that they were not receiving God’s blessings. God was not answering their prayers. It is reported in the Bible that God revealed to His prophet:
“Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high…. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, “Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:3-4, 6-9)
May Allah help us to take full benefit of fasting in this blessed month of Ramadan. May He keep us on the right path and bless us now and always. Ameen.