Allah says: ?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:183]
By Husain Zakariyya Yawale
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All Praise is due to Allah! We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our evils and bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah, is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and final messenger to mankind. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon His last and final Apostle, his Household, his companions and all his followers until the end of time.
Muslims all over the world are eager, in fact very eager and enthusiastically ready to receive Ramadan in earnest faithfulness for the great spiritual uplift and succour that annually fill it. The experience is beyond anyone?s comprehension, and above anybody?s sharing. You just need to fast during this blessed month to experience what I mean. Former President of Nigeria, Retired General (Dr.) Olusegun Obasanjo, will bear me witness, as he never misses his ?Ramadan? ever since he tested it! Surprisingly, he is still a Christian!
Each community in every nation has its special peculiarities on how it welcomes this great month year in year out, and without any sign of getting exhausted! The elderly, the strong, the adolescent and the immature are all happy, very cheerful and enthusiastic to begin the fast of this blessed month. I can vividly remember when I was very little boy how my parent and senior siblings will pacify me to fast half way the first day, and complete it the next, as part of training to get me used to fasting and perseverance! I also remember the manner we took our breakfast in group, and without restriction on what, and with what to start as a matter of choice, or zari and hadama, to be precise!
A lot of Muslims are also eager and cheerful to welcome Ramadan because it gives them a rewarding break from their bad habits and behaviour into the loftiness of this great moment of satisfaction. They get another chance to integrate with their more pious parents, siblings and Muslim brothers, one more time. It is always interesting that even the morally bankrupt members of the society become well integrated and incorporated in mosques or masjid, and tafseer circles during this month. They become changed men and women!
Thus, it is that hidden power of change and transformation only inherent in Ramadan which blows from as faraway as 43, 200 hours ahead, engulfing and purifying the satanic influences in the less sanctimonious people as preparatory to its arrival! Alhamdulillah, all praise are due to Allah for His boundless mercy and guidance!
As part of our preparations to receive this special guest for a period of complete one month, it will be wise we set for ourselves some vital objectives we want to accomplish. They do not have to be very technically too detailed; they can be very simple and precise. We can simply jot them on our phones. Smart phones have the competence to remind us from time to time of upcoming events. Doing this will tremendously help us achieve a lot within this fasting moving moment. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, ?There are two blessings that most people miss out on: their free time and their health.? (Bukhari)
Here, the Apostle of Allah is warning us not allow any chance or free time to vanish away unutilized. We must consider every moment as vital and important as every other time engaged in useful and beneficial activities. Similarly, we must not engage into something that can harm us in any way, most especially our health! Many people regret, only at a moment they lack time or chance, or good health to embark on on something that could be very productive and beneficial, had they the opportunity then. Unfortunately, time wasted, can never be recurred, nor good health that was wasted! Thus, the need to have at the back of our minds what exactly we want accomplish in every Ramadan of life time.
As part of the preparation, some civil servants apply for their annual vocations to enable them concentrate fully in their bid to win the many favours of Allah, and to get closer to their families. This is indeed is a very wise decision especially for those who are in predominantly non Muslim countries of the West or America. Or those who are residents in towns or cities that are not in majority. It will also give them the opportunities to train and supervise their wards during the Ramadan activities.
I have a friend in America who told me that he is preparing to fast the entire month with his family at home. I asked, why? He said, ?look, in America working time is very flexible and as a result you work ahead to achieve enough work free days in advance of your personal or family event. I am now working extra in order to achieve that. I will be able then to stay with my entire family and train them to be good and educated Muslims about their religion.?
Those of us who are getting older by the day, and the elderly, can take time to see their medical doctors for proper medical check-ups anterior to Ramadan. This will produce some insights as to what to expect during the long hours of both hunger and thirst in the month of Ramadan.
To be more open to this juncture, I am now as far away as to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to under my annual and pre-Ramadan general medical check-up! I hope to come back more healthy and hearty, and very fit to fully participate in every activity during the blessed month, in sha Allah!
Some other Muslims travel for their Umrah to the Holy land in order to get rejuvenated and more prepared spiritually before the inception of Ramadan. If you guess I am one of such people, you are absolutely right! I chose to perform my Umrah before Ramadan, unlike the choice of many Muslims nowadays. I choose to do this because I am involved in something more rewarding during the month; teaching the message of the Qur?an, the Tafseer! I know clearly that the reward of teaching is far more than that of the Umrah, most especially in the month of the Qur?an-the Ramadan!
For the sake of argument, when an individual performs Umrah, the reward is only for him alone. He cannot share it even with his or her family. More so, it is only recommendable if you are used to it, or an act of Sunnah if it is for the first time. But, teaching is both beneficial and rewarding to the teacher and his students. It is fard-kifayah, an obligatory duty upon every ummah. Thus, there is no avenue for comparison between the two aspects.
There are also many others who save enough money and time to spend them in the Holy land alone or together with their families. They chose to do so because they want get the maximum recompense fully loaded in the month. Such people can have their ways without blame if they did not leave behind hungry ridden relatives!
In my country and particularly in the northern part where my ancestors brought me up, our diets completely change in the month of Ramadan. We have special types of foods and drinks only prepared during fasting period. So, in order to feel the change the Ramadan comes with it, we usually stock enough provisions for the entire month. We also extend our benevolence to those who are less privileged from our extended family members and our neighbours. We buy as much as we can to distribute to the needy from amongst us so that they will have at least one month break from the witch hunt of deprivation and need! This is not a only seen as normal family obligation or kindness to the needy, but, an act of worship highly obligated upon the affluent by Allah the Most High! We must never sleep well fed, while our neighbours are groaning under hunger and deprivation, the Apostle of warned! Such doing is an act of depravation worthy of attracting the wrath of Allah!
One aspect which needs stressing is the fact that Ramadan is not a month eating and drinking excessively and extravagantly; it is on the contrary. We must only eat what is sufficient to tolerate the cordial blending of the body and soul together. We should aspire to shed some weight, rather than put on extra mass of flesh and fats!
In fact, one of the glad tidings ushered with the coming of the Ramadan, is contained in this prophetic saying. The Prophet (PBUH) said: ?The month of Ramadan has come to you, a blessed month for the duration of which Allah has prescribed fasting for you. In it the gates of the heaven are open and the gates of Hell-fire are shut.? And ?And devils are put in chains.?
Finally, I will close the essay with the famous prayers of the Prophet as narrated by `Ubadah ibn al-Samit upon entering this month:
?Allahumma sallimni li ramadana wa sallim ramadana, wa sallimhu minni mutaqabbilan.?
?O Allah, greet and save me for Ramadan; greet and save Ramadan; greet and save Ramadan on my behalf, and grant me its acceptance.? [Bukhari and Muslim reported]