How should we receive the month of Ramadan? Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) points us in the right direction. This is a summary of various lectures on the topic.
We are about to receive the master of all months, the best of all months, the month in which gifts constantly pour forth from the ocean of divine generosity. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ once mentioned Ramadan and said out of veneration: “Do they realise what is coming to them and what they are receiving?” The believer should reflect upon his connection with his Lord, the One who has made this month an opportunity for him to receive His gifts and His forgiveness. We should receive this month in three ways.
Firstly, we should have joy at its arrival.
Allah says: Say: “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice! That is better than the wealth they amass.”(1) Take a look at the manifestations of Allah’s bounty in this noble month. Sayyiduna Salman narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ spoke to us on the last day of Sha`ban saying: “O people, a great and blessed month has approached, a month in which there is a night greater than one thousand months. Allah made fasting in this month a compulsory act and made praying in the night a voluntary act. Whoever seeks to draw close to Allah in it with a good deed will be rewarded like someone who performed a compulsory action at another time. Whoever performs a compulsory action in it will be rewarded like someone who performed seventy compulsory actions at another time. It is the month of steadfastness (sabr) and the reward of steadfastness is Paradise. It is the month of charity. It is the month in which a believer’s provision is increased.”(2)
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Allah made fasting Ramadan compulsory and made the night prayer recommended. Whoever fasts in it and prays in the night in a state of belief; seeking Allah’s reward, will be free of sins like the day on which his mother gave birth to him.”(3) The Messenger of Allah ﷺ informed us that in this month gates of the heavens are opened,(4) meaning that it is easy for our actions, our prayers and our repentance to find acceptance with Allah. It has also been narrated that when Ramadan enters, Allah orders the angels who carry His throne to stop praising Him and to seek forgiveness for the Ummah of Muhammad.(5)
The Prophet ﷺ said: “My Ummah has been given in Ramadan five things that no prophet before me was given. The first is that on the first night of the month of Ramadan Allah gazes upon them and if Allah gazes upon someone, He will never punish them. The second is the smell emanating from their mouths in the latter part of the day is sweeter in Allah’s sight than the scent of musk. The third is that the angels seek forgiveness for them every day and night. The fourth is that Allah says to Paradise: ‘Prepare yourself and beautify yourself for My slaves for they will soon find rest in My Abode in the place of My generosity after the hardship of this life. The fifth is that they will all be forgiven on the last night.”
Someone asked: “Is that Laylat al-Qadr? He replied: “No, look at workers: when they finish their work they are given their wages in full.”(6)
Secondly, we should be wary of things that prevent us from attaining the gifts that are bestowed.
Fasting and all acts of worship were legislated to allow us to attain true taqwa: O you who believe, fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may attain taqwa (7). The essential meaning of taqwa is to place a barrier between yourself and the anger of Allah by obeying His orders and avoiding that which He has prohibited. The Ummah has lost this fear of Allah and as a result, its enemies have been given power over it. Acceptance of our fasting and other acts is also based on taqwa: Allah only accepts (the actions) of people who possess taqwa (8).
We should avoid any false speech. The Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid: “If someone does not leave false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need for him to leave his food and drink.” (9)
We should avoid rude and obscene speech and argumentation. The Messenger of Allahﷺsaid: “Fasting is a shield. If someone is fasting let him not speak obscenely or argue.” He also said ﷺ: “Fasting is a shield, as long one does not pierce it.”
He was asked: “How does one pierce it?”
“By lying or backbiting,” he replied.
There are four categories of people who are denied Allah’s forgiveness in Ramadan and at other times. They are those who sever kinship ties, those who disobey their parents, those who have rancour in their hearts for other Muslims and those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
The believer should be extremely careful to break his fast on lawful food, for “Allah is good and only accepts that which is good and wholesome.” (10) One of the early Muslims said: “When you fast, pay attention to what you break your fast on and who you break it with.”
Prepare to receive Ramadan with pure hearts, for by Allah, abundant prayer, fasting and recitation of the Qur’an will be of no benefit if your hearts are full of darkness.
Thirdly, we should strive to do good works to the best of our ability, for Ramadan is an opportunity to take provision and to gain great rewards.
It is narrated that an angel calls every night in Ramadan: “O seeker of good, approach! O seeker of evil, retreat!” (11) The believer must thus constantly seek good. He must constantly seek to rectify himself and their families and those over whom they have been given authority. They should spread goodness among the Muslims and among humanity. If he has these good and broad intentions he will then be called by the angel: “O seeker of good, approach!”
During Ramadan, Imam al-Shafi`i would complete the Qur’an once during the day and once during the night so that by the end of the month he had completed the Qur’an sixty times. People used to be so absorbed in worship during Ramadan that they would hardly see their relatives or their friends. They would see each other briefly at the Friday prayer but even then everyone would be busy with prayer and reciting the Qur’an. For this reason, Eid would be a joyful occasion, because on that day it would be as if people were meeting each other for the first time after having been apart from each other for a whole month.
Since the gates of the heavens are open during this month we should take advantage of this, and plead with Allah for our needs to be answered. Are you concerned with the Ummah of Muhammad? This is the Lord of the Ummah of Muhammad promising you that He will answer your prayers. So plead with Him that the Muslims are granted relief from their sufferings; that their hearts are united; that the sick are healed; that the disobedient are given the ability to repent and that the ignorant are granted knowledge. Allah says: You sought relief from your Lord, and He responded to You. He said: Call upon Me and I will answer you. Nothing is too great for Allah. “Come to know Allah in times of ease, and He will be with you in times of hardship.”
Sayyidah Aishah asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ what she should ask for if she knew that it was Laylat al-Qadr.
He replied: “Say: ‘O Allah, truly You are all-Pardoning, You love to pardon so pardon us.’” (12)
He also said ﷺ: “Do four things in abundance: two things with which you please your Lord, and two things which you cannot do without. As for the two things with which you please your Lord: your testifying that there is nothing worthy of worship other than Allah and your seeking His forgiveness. As for the two things which you cannot do without: your asking Allah for Paradise and seeking refuge in Him from the Fire.”13
So say these things in abundance, for they are the best things for which you can use your tongue. Say them in your homes, in the streets, in the mosques not just at Iftar or after Tarawih.
[On the basis of these two hadiths the scholars and people of Tarim repeat the following du`a throughout the month of Ramadan:
أشْهَدُ أن لا إلهَ إلا الله نَسْتَغْفِرُ الله نسأَلُكَ الجنَّةَ ونَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ النَّار(3)
Ashadu alla ilaha illallah, nastaghfirullah, nas’aluk’l-jannata wa na`audhu bika min an-nar
“I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship other than Allah and we seek the forgiveness of Allah. We ask You for Paradise and take refuge in You from the Fire.” (3 times)
اللهمَّ إنَّكَ عَفُوٌ تُحِبُّ العَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنَّا(3) يا كَرِيم
Allahumma innaka `afuwun tuhibbu-l’`afwa f`afwa `anna
“O Allah, truly You are all-Pardoning, You love to pardon so pardon us” (3 times). On the third time say “O Most Generous” (Ya Karim).]
May Allah give us the biggest portion of all goodness. Make Ramadan a cause of rectification and the removal of tribulations.
Your Prophet ﷺ would expend great efforts in worship in Ramadan, and particularly in the last ten days, so emulate your Prophet ﷺ. Beware of striving at the beginning of the month and then becoming lazy towards the end, as “actions are judged by their endings.”14
Please also benefit from the Ramadan Reader, which includes an outline of Sayyidi Habib Umar’s schedule for students of Dar al-Mustafa throughout Ramadan.
May Allah grant us His Enabling Grace to make the most of the blessed month and aid us in doing so by giving ease in observing at least some parts of the blessed schedule.
1 Yunus, 10:58
2 Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah
3 Narrated by Ahmad and al-Nasa’i
4 Narrated by al-Bayhaqi
5 Narrated by al-Daylami
6 Narrated by al-Bayhaqi
7 Al-Baqarah, 2:183
8 Al-Ma’idah, 5:27
9 Narrated by al-Bukhari, Abu Daud, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah
10 Narrated by Muslim
11 Narrated by Ibn Majah, al-Hakim, al-Bayhaqi and Ibn Hibban
12 Narrated by Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Tirmidhi with a sahih chain of transmission
13 Narrated by Ibn Khuzayma
14 Narrated by al-Bukhari