The month of Ramadan is the 9thmonth of the Islamic calendar and is Allahs gift to the Muslim Ummah. In it the revelation of the Quran commenced and in it the beloved Messenger of Allah was ordered to announce his Prophethood. In gratitude for the beginning of the Qurans’s revelation and announcement of the final prophethood, the Ummah has been ordered to fast during the month.
“O you who believe! Prescribed for you is the Fast, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may deserve God’s protection and attain piety.” (Qur’an 2:182)
The beloved Messenger (saw) himself explained the importance of Ramadan:
“If they knew the importance of Ramadan they would wish for the whole year to be Ramadan”. (Hadith – Musnad Aby Ya’laa)
Ramadan in 2021 is expected to start on the 13th of April and end with Eid al-Fitr on the 13th May.
The importance of Ramadan
Fasting in Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam and thus is one of the foundations prescribed by Allah in leading a prosperous life both in this world and the next. The command to fast in Ramadan was revealed in the second year after Hijrah and alongside the Qibla changing to Makkah, was one of the first things given to the Ummah after migration.
Ramadan is the month during which the prophet would achieve seclusion in Mount Hira and connect with his Lord, using it as a source of tranquillity and focus. It was furthermore, during Ramadan that Jibril brought Allah’s eternal message.
The beloved Messenger would often supplicate: “Oh Allah make Rajab and Shabaan blessed for us and grant us Ramadan”. It is evident from this that it is of the Sunnah to prepare and plan in anticipation of Ramadan.
In addition to fasting, Ramadan is the month in which all Muslims are encouraged to be pious and charitable. It is a time of meditation, reflection and self-reformation, allowing people to renew and purify their faith.
Why do people fast in Ramadan?
During Ramadan, the fast begins at sunrise, when the “white thread becomes distinct from the black thread,” (Al-Baqarah 2:187), and ends at sunset. Muslims rise before dawn for an early meal, known as Suhoor.
Whilst observing the fast of Ramadan Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink, smoke or take part in sexual intercourse. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) would open his fast at the end of each day with a date, a custom that is widely practised amongst many Muslims; the meal prepared for ending the fast is known as Iftar and is considered to be a time for families to gather together for a communal meal. It is also encouraged to feed others at Iftar time and Ramadan you can do this though Zohra Foundation’s Food and Shelter programme.
Although fasting is compulsory there are many who are exempt from observing it. The elderly, the sick, those who are on a journey and women who are pregnant or menstruating are not expected to keep the fast. Because fasting is an act of worship, they are required however, to make up an equal amount of days later in the year. Those who are unable to do so must feed a needy person for each day that has been missed.
For those who miss a fast and are unable to make it up because of ill health, they can make a payment of Fidya for every fast missed. This rate is set by charities and the price of a meal in the local region.
If however the fast is not kept or broken without a valid reason, then one must fast for 60 consecutive days and if they are unable to do so, must pay 60 people 2 meals per day. This is known as Kafara, The amount is set by the individual charity and the price of the meal in the local region.
Good deeds in Ramadan
In Ramadan, we are told our good deeds and intentions in this month bring greater rewards than at any other time of the year. This is partly based on the belief that in this month the gates of heaven are opened while the gates of hell remain shut.
“When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” (Hadith – Abu Hurayrah)
Throughout this month there are long nightly prayers during which lengthy chapters of the Quran known as taraweeh are recited, these prayers, although not compulsory, are greatly recommended.
Muslims also prefer to pay Zakat during Ramadan, which is the third pillar of Islam, requiring Muslims to give to the needy and poor. Those who can afford to pay this generally do so during the month of Ramadan, although Zakat can be paid at any time during the year.
In the last ten days of Ramadan many Muslims go into seclusion, known as Itikaf, for prayer and meditation in the search for Lailut ul-Qadar or the Night of Decree. This is this is the anniversary of the night that the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); it is also believed that on this night their destiny for the following year is decided and most spend this night in supplication to Allah. The exact date that this night falls on is uncertain, but it is agreed that it occurs on one of the odd nights in the last ten days of Ramadan. To spend this night in payer is considered to be more rewarding than a thousand months of devotion.
Please remember the elderly in your prayers this month. You can help to ease their burdens by making a small donation.