Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God.
Generally speaking, children are not required to fast Ramadan until they reach the "age of maturity." However, scholars believe that parents should train them to fast a few days or so, until they become ready to fast when they reach that age. Similar to praying, the Prophet ordered parents to train their children to pray starting with the age of seven. The question remains, how does training to fast begin?
The Greatest Return
There are many great “returns” that people experience in their lives. The returning of a missing child, finding a very valuable lost item or a close family member returning home after spending many years overseas are some instances of a great return. These are moments of immense joy and happiness. The greatest “Return,” however, is when a sinful servant who had abandoned Allah Ta'ala and fallen into sin makes sincere taubah (which literally means “to return”) and returns to his Creator. There can never be a happier moment for such a person.
Retuning to Allah Ta'ala in sincere repentance brings down the showers of the Mercy of Allah Ta'ala. Due to his repentance, the one who was previously known in the court of Allah Ta'ala as a faasiq (sinner) earns the title of Habibullah (the beloved of Allah). His crying and sobbing while begging for forgiveness is more beloved to Allah Ta'ala than the recitation of tasbeeh of those who are busy glorifying Allah Ta'ala. Can there be a greater return?
YARDSTICK OF PIETY
The object of the auspicious month of Ramadhaan is to truly return to Allah Ta'ala by repenting from all sin and adopting piety. The Qur'an-al-Kareem declares: “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you, just as it was pescribed upon those before you, so that you may acquire taqwa (piety)” (S2:183). Taqwa, in simple terms, refers to giving up every sin. The one who forsakes all sin is the greatest worshipper and the most pious person, even though he may not be performing nafil (optional) Haj and Umrah every year, giving thousands in charity or standing the entire night in tahajjud salaah. Indeed, these great acts of worship should be performed as much as possible. However, the yardstick of piety is taqwa – abstaining from sin. Taqwa cannot be acquired without first making sincere taubah. It thus follows that the one who does not make taubah has to a degree defeated the purpose of Ramadhaan, even though he may have performed many other good deeds in the blessed month.
It is thus evident that in order to acquire the object of Ramadhaan, one must start with sincere taubah (repentance). One should sit in solitude and list down, or make a mental note, of all the laws of one's beloved Master and Creator which are being disobeyed. Think: Have I performed all my Salaah, Zakaah, Qurbaani, etc? Have I taken anyone's property wrongfully? Did I lie, backbite, slander? Do I have pride, harbour jealousy and do actions for name and fame? What about the laws of hijaab? Am I obeying my most beloved Rabb in this regard or do I disobey Him? Am I involved in any illicit relationship? Have I sinned with my eyes, ears, tongue and heart? Have I fulfilled the rights of my neighbours and relatives? Do I take intoxicants? Am I shaving or trimming my beard to less than a fist length? … After having carefully taken note of all the sins in one's life, sincerely repent from each one. Beg Allah Ta'ala’s forgiveness. For one's taubah to be accepted, the following pre-conditions apply:
* Give up the sin immediately.
* Regret having sinned. Feel the pain in your heart, just as you would be pained if you lost a million rands.
* Resolve never to commit the sin again.
* The unfulfilled rights of Allah Ta'ala (salaah, zakaah, etc.) and the rights of people (debts, etc.) must be discharged.
Often many people stop committing various sins in Ramadhaan. Gambling comes to a hault. The T.V. is switched off. Intoxicants are given up. Lying, vulgar languages, zina and a host of other evils are forsaken. Similarly, many actions that were previously neglected are performed in Ramadhaan. Salaah is performed regularly. The Musjid is full even for Fajr Salaah. Many other good deeds are performed. It is indeed a great gift from Allah Ta'ala that one respects the month of Ramadhaan by refraining from sins and engaging in good deeds. However, the tragedy is that as soon as Ramadhaan leaves, it is as if Deen has left. The day after Eid the Musjid is crying out for those who were regularly there for the entire month. The gambling dens are once again frequented by those who were frequenting the Musjid. Numerous other evils which were given up during Ramadhaan are once again perpetrated. One of the fundamental reasons for this speedy slide into a life of disobedience is that, while we respected Ramadhaan, we did not sincerely return to Allah Ta'ala and repent from our sins. Thus this is our need of the moment: To undertake the Greatest Return.
Having repented sincerely, one should also closely link oneself to a pious personality who one feels comfortable with. Take his guidance in all aspects and one will be saved from the many hazards, Insha Allah.
Furthermore, actively encourage others to undertake the Greatest Return. While your encouragement will insha Allah benefit them, it will also greatly help you to remain steadfast.
May Allah Ta'ala grant us the ability to repent sincerely, forgive us and enable us to refrain from every sin in future. Ameen.
Is Ramadan causing an impact on the Ummah leading to a spiritual renaissance or is it treated as just another dry routine. This is the burning question. The month will come and go like a spiritual flood but will it leave behind its rich deposits or will it wash away whatever little we had?