The Madressa Centre of Excellence presented a detailed report on its workings and progress to date at the Second Executive Council Meeting held recently in Stanmore, UK.
Having traversed through the beautiful months of Rajab and Sha’baan and celebrated the birth anniversary of many great personalities such as Imam Ali (as), Imam al-Hujjah (aj) and many others and having used the days and nights of those two months engaged in recommended fasting, extra prayers and supplications, we now embark on what we have all been anticipating – the blessed month of Ramadan.
Over 1,400 years ago, on the last Friday of Shaa’ban Prophet Muhammad (saw) stood in front of his respected companions and delivered a lengthy sermon (the full sermon can be heard in English here) introducing and welcoming them into the Holy month of Ramadan. In a portion of it, the Prophet introduced this month to us like never before, by stating:
أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّهُ قَدْ أَقْبَلَ إِلَيْكُمْ شَهْرُ اللَّهِ بِالْبَرَكَةِ وَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَ الْمَغْفِرَةِ شَهْرٌ هُوَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَفْضَلُ الشُّهُورِ وَ أَيَّامُهُ أَفْضَلُ الْأَيَّامِ وَ لَيَالِيهِ أَفْضَلُ اللَّيَالِي وَ سَاعَاتُهُ أَفْضَلُ السَّاعَاتِ هُوَ شَهْرٌ دُعِيتُمْ فِيهِ إِلَى ضِيَافَةِ اللَّهِ وَ جُعِلْتُمْ فِيهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ كَرَامَةِ اللَّهِ أَنْفَاسُكُمْ فِيهِ تَسْبِيحٌ وَ نَوْمُكُمْ فِيهِ عِبَادَةٌ وَ عَمَلُكُمْ فِيهِ مَقْبُولٌ وَ دُعَاؤُكُمْ فِيهِ مُسْتَجَابٌ فَاسْأَلُوا اللَّهَ رَبَّكُمْ بِنِيَّاتٍ صَادِقَةٍ وَ قُلُوبٍ طَاهِرَةٍ أَنْ يُوَفِّقَكُمْ لِصِيَامِهِ وَ تِلَاوَةِ كِتَابِهِ فَإِنَّ الشَّقِيَّ مَنْ حُرِمَ غُفْرَانَ اللَّهِ فِي هَذَا الشَّهْرِ الْعَظِيمِ
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 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 banquet of Allah and you have been chosen to be within the people of Allah’s honoring. Your breaths in this month are (considered as) glorification (of 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. Thus, pray to Allah, your Lord, with sincere intentions and pure hearts that He guide you to (properly) observing fasting, and the reciting of His Book. Verily, the true miserable is he whom is deprived of Allah’s forgiveness in this magnificent month.
The Prophet (s) went on to say:
وَ اذْكُرُوا بِجُوعِكُمْ وَ عَطَشِكُمْ فِيهِ جُوعَ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَ عَطَشَهُ وَ تَصَدَّقُوا عَلَى فُقَرَائِكُمْ وَ مَسَاكِينِكُمْ-وَ وَقِّرُوا كِبَارَكُمْ وَ ارْحَمُوا صِغَارَكُمْ وَ صِلُوا أَرْحَامَكُمْ وَ احْفَظُوا أَلْسِنَتَكُمْ وَ غُضُّوا عَمَّا لَا يَحِلُّ النَّظَرُ إِلَيْهِ أَبْصَارَكُمْ وَ عَمَّا لَا يَحِلُّ الِاسْتِمَاعُ إِلَيْهِ أَسْمَاعَكُمْ وَ تَحَنَّنُوا عَلَى أَيْتَامِ النَّاسِ يُتَحَنَّنْ عَلَى أَيْتَامِكُمْ وَ تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَ ارْفَعُوا إِلَيْهِ أَيْدِيَكُمْ بِالدُّعَاءِ فِي أَوْقَاتِ صَلَاتِكُمْ فَإِنَّهَا أَفْضَلُ السَّاعَاتِ يَنْظُرُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ فِيهَا بِالرَّحْمَةِ إِلَى عِبَادِهِ يُجِيبُهُمْ إِذَا نَاجَوْهُ وَ يُلَبِّيهِمْ إِذَا نَادَوْهُ وَ يُعْطِيهِمْ إِذَا سَأَلُوهُ وَ يَسْتَجِيبُ لَهُمْ إِذَا دَعَوْهُ
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; have mercy upon those who are younger than you are; esteem your ties with your relativesk 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 (Allah) with supplications at the times of your prayers, for these times are the best hours at which Allah looks at His servants with mercy - He will respond to their prayers, answer their calls, and receive their supplications.
As the sermon is lengthy, we invite the readers to take the time to read the entire content to better appreciate the importance of this special month. However, in summary:
1. Ramadan is the month of Allah (swt), and although all months have been planned by Him (as is seen in the Quran in 9:36 ),however some have a greater spiritual perfecting power, hence, they are honored by Him;
2. It is the most honorable of all months - the doors of heavens, gardens of Paradise, and mercy are wide open – meaning that there are greater opportunities to prepare for the heavenly rewards in this month over others;
3. The doors of hellfire are slammed closed - meaning that the temptations toward sinful acts are subdued;
4. In this month there is a night in which the acts of worship are more favorable than the worship of one thousand months! This is a manfiest as the spiritual grace of the descent of Quran, the manifestation of His highest Wisdom and Mercy which is present on this night and empowers it immensely - if only we can connect to the Quran, the Prophet (s) and his Ahlul Bayt (a).
In view of all of this, we have been advised to reflect on its importance and to wisely consider and plan how to spend the nights and days and keep ourselves away from committing any act of disobedience to Allah.
In a tradition from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as), he is reported to have said:
مَنْ لَمْ يُغْفَرْ لَهُ فِي شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ لَمْ يُغْفَرْ لَهُ إِلَى قَابِلٍ إِلَّا أَنْ يَشْهَدَ عَرَفَةَ
Verily, one whom is not forgiven in Ramadan will not be forgiven up to the next Ramadan (unless he participates in the hajj and thus) he witnesses the ritual of the halting at Mount ‘Arafat (al-wuquf ‘ala’arafah).” (Al-Kafi, volume 4, page 66, tradtition 3).
In a lengthy tradition also from the 6th Imam (as), he has thoroughly explained what fasting is all about and has presented the most comprehensive defintion of what one who is in a stage of fasting should be going through, and is reported to have said:
Verily, fasting is not the abstinence from food and drink; rather, when you observe fasting, you should keep your tongues from uttering falsehood; keep your sights from seeing forbidden views; do not engage yourselves in disputes; do not envy each other; do not backbite each other; do not quarrel with each other; do not swear - whether falsely or truly; do not insult each other; do not revile at each other; do not wrong each other; do not engage yourselves in shameless disputes; do not be bored; do not be careless of Almighty Allah or of prayers; abide by: silence, quietness, patience, truthfulness, and avoidance of the evildoers; avoid: perjury, lies, slander, contention, evil thinking, backbiting, and talebearing. Ready yourselves for the next world and for your happy days - that is the advent of the rising Imam from the household of Muhammad - peace be upon them all - expecting that which Allah has promised you, preparing yourselves for meeting Allah with tranquility, solemnity, piety, submission, and humiliation of the slaves who fear and hope for their masters. O observer of fasting! Purify your heart from defects; clean your inner self from filth; wash your body from dirt; disavow the enemies of Allah; act sincerely in His presence; abstain from all that which He has deemed unlawful for you to do in secret and in public; fear Allah as exactly as He deserves in secret and in public; dedicate yourself to Allah during the days of your fasting; empty your heart from all things save Him, and ready yourself to do whatever is commanded by Him and to do whatever He has ordered you to do. After you do all these, only then you are considered fasting for the sake of Allah as truly as it should be. Carry out all that which He has ordered you to do. But if you violate any of these matters, this will decline the degree of your fasting. My father, peace be upon him, narrated that when the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family, heard a woman, who claimed observing fasting, insulting one of her slaves, he summoned her, brought her some food, and ordered her to eat. ‘I am observing fasting!’ she stated. But the Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, answered, ‘How can you be fasting while you have insulted your slave?’ Verily, fasting is not to abstain from eating and drinking; rather, Allah has decided fasting to be screen from all spoken and done evildoings. Too little is the fasting and too much is the feeling of hunger!’ (Zaad al-Ma’ad, Page 96 in the Section on the Etiquette of Fasting)
Verily, the number of months with Allâh is twelve months (in a year) according to the law of Allah since the day He created the heavens and the earth. Of these four (months) are sacred (Rajab, Muharram, Dhul-Qa’dah and Dhul-Hijjah). That is the established law. Do not do injustice to yourselves (by waging wars) during these (sacred months). And fight the polytheists all together (in your defence) just as they fight you all together. And know that Allâh is indeed with those who become secure against evil.