Bismillahi wa salatu wa salamu ala Rasulullah wa ‘ala jami’il ambiyai wal-mursalin wa ‘ala ahlihi wa sahabihi ajmain, amin.
As written in the Arabic script, the word Ramadan is made up of five letters, namely raa, miim, daad, alif and nuun. The initial raa stands for Rahma (mercy) and ra’fa (compassionate kindness). The miim stands for mujaazaat (recompense), mahabba (loving affection) and minna (gracious favour). The daad stands for damaan (guarantee) meaning the assurance of spiritual reward. The alif is the first letter of the Arabic word ulfa, meaning intimate affection and nearness. The final nuun stands for nuur (light), and nawaat (the receiving of benefit).
If you give this month (of fasting) its proper due, and perform its requirements as you should, all of this things will come to you from the Lord of Truth I. In this world, you will receive them as an enlightenment for your hearts, and as a blessing and benefit to be enjoyed both outwardly and inwardly. In the Hereafter, you will receive that which no eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard of, and which has never even occurred to any human heart.
Most of you will get nothing of any value out of the month of fasting (shahr–as–siyaam). Respect for the commandment (ihtiram–al–amr) is in proportion to the respect that is paid to the one who commands it (ihtiram–al–amr bih). So how can a person derive any benefit from this month, if he is one of those who have no respect for Allah I, His Messengers (Rusul), His Prophets (ambiyaa’), and the righteous (Salihin) among His servants (may the blessing and peace of Allah be upon them all)?
Most people have seen their fathers, their mothers and their neighbours, keeping the fast, so they have fasted along with them – as a matter of habit (‘ada), not as an act of worship (ibaada). They suppose that fasting means nothing more than abstaining from food and drink, so they fail to observe its preconditions (sharaa’it) and its basic rules (arkaan).
O my people! You must give up habitual behaviour and make a regular practice of worshipful service. Fast for the sake of Allah I, then you will experience the glory of devoting this month to fasting and worship. Perform your duties, and perform them with sincere devotion. Always take part in the taraawiih prayers. Contribute to the ellumination of the Mosque (Masjid), for this will earn you a light on the Day of Resurrection. If you provide food (at the times of breaking fast) and respect this month in every way, then Ramadan will be an intercessor (shafi’) on your behalf in the presence of your Lord I. It will show its appreciation of you by begging Him to grant you a share of His abundant grace, His noble generosity, His bountiful blessings, His loving favour, His gentle compassion, His tender care and His safe-keeping.
Woe unto you! What good can it do you to keep the fast, when you break it on forbidden food (haram), and when you sleep with sin during these noble nights? And what about you there? Woe unto you, too! You fast out of ostentation (riya’) and hypocrisy (Nifaq) as long as you are among your fellow creatures, but you break your fast as soon as you are all by yourself. Then you go out and say: “I am keeping the fast.” Yet the whole day long you are speaking ill of people, making slanderous accusations and swearing false oaths. You are cheating people of their goods, by giving them short change, playing clever tricks and practicing outright extortion. This can do you no good at all, ant it does not count as a fast. To quote the words of the Prophet e:
There is many a one who fasts, yet who gets nothing out of his fasting but hunger and thirst. And there is many a one who spends the night in prayer, yet who gets nothing from his praying apart from fatigue and insomania.
There are some among you who are Muslims to all outward appearances, but who are more like idol-worshippers (‘abdat al–asnaam) on the inside. Woe unto you! You must renew your Islam, your repentance, your apology and your sincere commitment, so that your master (mawla) I may accept you and pardon the sins of which you have been guilty in the past. You must make a practice of fasting (siyaam). You should be grateful to your Lord I for the manner in which he has prepared you for the fast and enabled you to keep it. Where you are concerned, fasting should be practiced by your ears, your eyes, your hands, your feet, and all the limbs and organs of your physical body, as well as by your heart. The whole of your outer being (zahir) should keep the fast, and the whole of your inner being (batin) should do likewise. This means that, when you are fasting you must refrain from telling lies, from giving false witness, from damaging the repudiation of other people through backbiting, slander and defamation, and from the misappropriation of their goods. There is no point in fasting unless you pay attention to some of your sins, and rid yourselves of them, for if you indulge in them, can you derive any benefit from your fast? Surely you must have heard the saying of the Prophet e:
The fast is a suit of armour (as-sawmu junna).
The significance of this saying of his is that a suit of armour (junna) shields and protects the person who wears it. This is why a warrior’s shield (turs) is also called a mijanna, because it provides a protective covering for its owner, and prevents the arrows from striking him.
(Another word from the same root is applied to) a person who is out of his mind; he is called majnun (crazy, insane), because his rational mind is covered up. The fast is a suit of armour for someone who fasts with an attitude of pious restraint (tawarru’), dutiful devotion (Taqwa), and sincere commitment (Ikhlas), for in this case it will indeed protect him by warding off the afflictions of this world and the Hereafter.
O keeper of the fast! Give the poor and the needy a share of your food, for this will increase your spiritual reward, and it will be a sign that your fast has been accepted (by Allah) when the time comes for you to break the fast (iftar).
Nothing will remain of all this affluence, except for that which you send on ahead to your account in the Hereafter. You must therefore make such advance payments while you are still able to send them on ahead. On the Day of Resurrection (yaumal–Qiyama) you will be assembled hungry, thirsty, naked, afraid abashed, terrified and humiliated. If a person provides food for others here in this world, he will be supplied with food on that Day. If someone provides water for others to drink here in this world, he will be supplied with water to drink on that Day. If someone provides clothing for others to wear in this world, he will be supplied with clothes to wear on that Day. If someone in afraid of the Lord of Truth and feels ashamed before him here in this world, he will be able to feel safe on that Day. If someone is merciful to others here in this world, Allah I will be treat him mercifully on that Day.
In this month there is a night which is the most splendid night in the whole year, and that is the Night of Power (Lailat al–Qadr). It has signs by which its advent is apparent to the righteous (Salihin) among the servants of Allah (alaihimu ‘r-ridwan). Those who have their eyes unveiled can see the light of the Divine Power (Nur al–Uluhiyya), which is held in the hands of the Angels, the light of their faces, the light of the gates of heaven, and the light of the spirit (Ruh) of the Lord of Truth I, because on that Night they descend from on high to the people of the earth.
O my people! Do not focus your concern upon your supply of food, for that is an ignoble concern. You have sometimes been put to the test in respect of food and drink, but you have always had sufficient in the matter of sustainance, so do not worry about it. Glory be to the everlasting one (As–Samad), who has no fear, who neither eats nor drinks!
Your greed never takes a rest. You must increase your pious restraint and your trustworthiness. Woe unto you! This world lasts only for an hour, so spend it in worshipful obedience. Make a practice of pious restraint (wara’a) under all the circumstances in which you may find yourselves, in the affairs of this world and in the affairs of the Hereafter. You will prosper if you make a practice of pious restraint, for then there will be no evidence left to support a case against you, and Allah I will be well pleased with you.
A certain righteous man once appeared to someone in a dream, after his death. He was asked: “What has Allah done with you?” to this replied: “I performed my ritual ablution (tawadda’tu) one day in a public steam bath (hammam), then I made my way to the mosque (masjid). When I was almost there, I noticed that an area on one of my feet – a spot no bigger than the size of a dirham (small coin) – had gone untouched by the water. So I went back and washed that area. It was then that the Lord of Truth I said to me: “I have forgiven you on account of the respect you have shown for my sacred law (Shari’a).
Where do you stand in relation to the people (of the Lord)?
Their sides shun their couches (as they call on their Lord in fear and hope) (32:16)
They are incapable of sleeping. How could they possibly go off to sleep, when fear is keeping them so restless and causing sleep to fly away from their eyes, and in view of the intimate friendship (uns) they experience in the performance of their prayers, standing erect and then bowing in prostration?
They never go to sleep, except when they happen to be overwhelmed by it while making their prostration (sujud). So Glory be to the One who blesses them unexpectedly with that sleep, so that their bodies may enjoy a moment relaxation. “Their sides shun their couches.” Their couches do not receive them. They cannot settle down on them, sometimes because of fear, sometimes because of hope, sometimes because of a sense of shame, and at another time because of an intense yearning. How little is your fear of your Lord I, not to mention the insignificance of your obedience to Him!
But how great is the fear that is felt by the righteous, not to mention the extent of their obedience to their Lord I?! When our Prophet Muhammad e was performing his ritual prayer (idha salla), the humming vibration (aziz) in his breast could be heard from a mile away, i.e., from a distance of three parasangs. Such people were always afraid, in spite of the fact that they were champions of Truth (sidiqun), Prophets (ambiya), bosom friends (akhilla) and lover (muhibbun)[of Allah], and accustomed to having their prayers of supplication answered (mustajabat ad–da awat).
Turn your faces toward your Lord! Your faces are not turned in the direction of your Lord. You have turned away from the center and lost your balance. You show little politeness in obedience to Him, but plenty of rudeness where that is concerned. You have soon had enough of the Hereafter, but even a large helping of this world is too little to satisfy you. This is not the behaviour of someone who knows that he is going to die, while his Lord I will survive forever, and that his deeds will be paraded before him on that Day of Resurrection. This is not the behaviour of someone who is afraid of the Reckoning and the interrogation. This is not the behaviour of someone who has no intention of being lowered into his grave without knowing whether it is one of the pits of the Fire of Hell, or one of the meadows of the Garden of Paradise.
The people [of the Lord] keep the fast throughout the day, and during the night they keep vigil and pray. When they are utterly exhausted, they fall to the ground and take a rest. “Their sides shun their couches,” so they sit on them and remain active, “as they call on their Lord in fear and hope.” They shrink from rejection and hope for acceptance, saying: “Our Lord, we have failed to conduct ourselves correctly, perfectly, with sincerity (ikhlas), devoid of self-interest and arrogant pride.” Thus they shrink from rejection, then they hope to gain acceptance for their action, because it is a noble one. He accepts even a little, but He gives very much. He accepts what is bad and worthless, but He gives what is excellent. He accepts defective articles of merchandise, but He always gives in full measure.
Fear is a strict observance (‘azima), while hope is a special dispensation (rukhsa). The people (of the Lord) are in a state of oscillation between fear and hope, sometimes swinging closer to the one, and sometimes to the other. At one time they are involved with the outer (zahir), at another time with the inner (batin). At one time giving, at another time withholding. They continue in this fashion until the script of destiny reaches its appointed conclusion, and their hearts attain to their Creator (khaliq). From that point on, there is no longer any special dispensation as far as they are concerned, and there are no longer any shades of gray. Strict observance and pure clarity are now the order of the day.
All that property of yours will follow you to the door, and your family will follow you to your graves, then they will go back home again. But your deeds will keep your company, for they will descend with you into the grave, and they will not go away and leave you there alone. O heedless ones! You ought to attach less importance to those who will go away and leave you, and more importance to those who will keep you company and never go away and leave you. You must attach more importance to righteous deeds (amal saliha). You must keep the fast, and you must be sincere in keeping it. You must perform your ritual prayer (Salat), and you must perform it sincerely. You must perform the pilgrimage (Hajj), and you must do so with sincerity. You must pay the alm-due (Zakat), and you must be sincere in paying it. You must remember your Lord I, and you must be sincere in your remembrance (dhikr) of Him. You must serve the righteous (Salihin) and draw close to them, and you must be sincere in your service to them.
Pay more attention to your own faults, and take no notice of the faults of other people. Command what is right and fair (ma’aruf), and forbid what is wrong and unfair (munkar). Do not pry into the business of other people, and do not expose their private affairs. You may criticize what they choose to make public, but it is not for you to concern yourself with what they keep hidden from view. Concentrate on yourselves, and do not try to run other people’s lives. Do not spend so much time discussing matters that do not concern you. As the Prophet e has said:
Part of the excellence of a man’s Islam is paying no attention to that which does not concern him.
Your own faults ought to concern you, but the faults of other people are no concern of yours. You must obey (the commandments of Allah). Behave correctly. Do not get angry and do not be guilty of sinful disobedience. Affirm the Divine Unity (wahhid) and do not associate partners with Allah (la tushrik).
Your tendency to rely on fellow creatures and material means (asbab) is a form of polytheistic idolatry (shrik).
Woe unto you! You are bloated with indignation and resentment, whether He gives you something different or takes something away from you. Your anger is the same, whether He brings something forward or puts something back. Affliction and the removal of affliction, both are in the hand of Allah. He has sent down the sickness, and He is the One who has created the remedy for it. If He puts you to the test, He only does so to make you learn about yourself through what you have to suffer, and show you His signs (ayat) and demonstrate His power (qudra). By sending down the affliction and then removing it, He shows you how He can withhold His favour and bestow it. Trials and tribulations are familiarising agents (mu’arrifat). They knock at the door of the Lord of Truth I. They are experts at handling all the procedures. You should not hate trials and tribulations, for there may be advantages for you in things that you find disagreeable. Just set aside all those questions like ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ If you endure the suffering with patience, it will purify you and rid you of sins both outwardly and inwardly. As the Prophet e has told us:
The believer (mu’min) will always have to suffer trials and tribulations, until he walks on the earth without being guilty of a single error. His former sins will then be detected from the scrolls and erased from memory by the angels who recorded them.
A certain righteous man would often say: “My God (Ilahi), other people may love you for your gracious favour, but I love you for your trials and tribulations.” Another used to say, if there came a day when no affliction befell him: “My God, what sin can I have committed today that you should deprive me of my trial and tribulation?”
Woe unto you! If you are not content to accept His decree, do not consume His sustenance, and try to find a Lord apart from Him. As Allah I has said in one of His Books:
O son of Adam, if someone does not gladly accept My Judgement, and is not patient in bearing My tribulation, let him try to find a Lord (Rabb) apart from Me, and let him depart from underneath My heaven.
You must be patient with your Lord I, for you have no Lord apart from Him. There is no second Lord aside from Him. There is no other Door (Bab). There is no other Creator (khaliq). There is no other Provider (Raziq). Be patient with this One (wahid), no matter what temptation that may arise within you.
O Allah, make us calm in our feelings (mutma’innin), content to accept your decree (radin), ready to comply with your will (muwafiqin), Muslims who surrender and submit (mustaslimin) to you, and:
Give us in the world good, and good in the Hereafter, and guard us against the torment of Fire! (2:201).
Realities of Ramadan is from the invaluable Discourses of the avid lover of the illuminating Sunnah, the crown of wilayat and perfect sage, the exalted Sayyed AbdulQadr Jilani (rahimahullah).