In the name of All‚h, the Beneficent, the MercifulKHUTBAH: RAMADH¬N -- THE BLESSED MONTH by Rashard Jedaar/Cape Town/South Africa
Al-hamdulillah, praise be to All‚h SWT, the Compassionate, the Merciful. I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except All‚h, Who provides humankind with the institution of saum or fasting as a channel of piety and a means of strengthening us individually and collectively as an ummah.
I bear witness that our Prophet Muhammad saws is the true Messenger of All‚h, who encouraged his followers to fast not only in the month of Ramadh‚n, but on various days throughout the year. 0 All‚h, shower Your choicest blessings on him, his noble companions and relatives -- all those who faithfully followed his example and ennobled themselves through fasting and good deeds.
Brothers and Sisters in Islam
We are approaching the month of Ramadh‚n and in this preparatory phase -- the last few days, we evaluate our beliefs and our actions a process, which we may consider as our spiritual stocktaking. Yes, we do not sit and wait passively for this special month to arrive to fill the atmosphere with a spirit of piety and virtue and hope that it will inspire us and set us alight! Al-hamdulillah, we are far more dynamic, far more creative and inspired ..we create the "spiritual atmosphere" within ourselves and facilitate our adjustment to a heightened spirituality in the month of Ramadh‚n. In a sense, that "atmosphere" is the development of All‚h-consciousness to the extent that we perceive All‚h to be near in every facet of our daily lives. How can our fasting and 'aml or good deeds, not be effective? So effective that they help transform and direct our lives towards All‚h permanently? This is our prayer and our hopes for the Ramadh‚n and, insh‚-All‚h (All‚h-willing), there is no reason why it cannot be attained!
To those of us who are looking forward to the new millennium for personal growth, personal transformation, let the Ramadh‚n become our means to attain that new life. Let us move forward to experience the Fast and all the values accompanying this 'ibadah with excitement. How will we emerge from it? Perhaps more disciplined, more focussed in our goals, more affable and acceptable to those around us, more successful in our interpersonal relationships, the list of possibilities is limitless! It is a month of blessings -- blessings that we gather without realising it. All‚h promises us in the Holy Qur'‚n:
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self-restraint." (S.2:183)
In this often quoted verse, we are reminded that fasting or saum was observed by people long before the advent of our Prophet Muhammad saws -- the rules or method differed but the goals remained the same. The verse ends with an initial goal of fasting clearly defined, which is to "learn self-restraint". In a sense, therefore, the institution of saum is an essential part of humankind's lifelong education in his/her quest for personal transformation. This adds a basic dimension to the Ramadh‚n -- as an open-ended educational experience. It's an experience with the potential of personal transformation. Through the method of self-restraint -- yes, the initial end becomes a means, and insha-All‚h, a part of our personality to enable us to gain complete control of our emotions, our speech and our actions.
How many of our problems and difficulties, the arguments and bitterness around us, are not caused by a mere slip of the tongue or a hasty word or action ? We may well tell ourselves: "If we had kept our mouth, we would not have lost a close friend, or a brother or sister or that elusive deal!" Haste or impulsive behaviour, remains one of our greatest enemies and our bent on self-destruction. We often think that to restrain ourselves is to show weakness and, at the slightest provocation allows our anger to blur our intelligence! May All‚h SWT safeguard us against this weakness!
Let us consider the incident of S. Husain (R.A.), the grandson of our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s) and his exercise of self-restraint. He was getting ready to have his meal when his slave accidentally dropped a cup of water which she had held above his head for his use. The cup broke and the water fell on him. S. Husain (R.A.) looked at the slave in anger. The loyal slave was deeply grieved by her actions, but instead of beseeching his pardon, she recited the verse from the Holy Qur'an:
"All‚h loves those who restrain their anger and pardon men."
S. Husain (R.A.) looked up at her and felt his anger melting into a deep compassion, and he answered almost apologetically: "I forgive you."
The slave then recited:
"And All‚h loves the doers of good (to others)."
Innall‚ha yuhibbul muh-sineen
At this S. Husain (R.A.) cried out: "I liberate you from the servile strings that bind you to me!"
All‚h SWT prescribed self-restraint as one of humankind's greatest strengths and a potential for spiritual and even physical or socio-economic power. It is not surprising that oppressed people throughout the world often resort to fasting to attain liberation! In South Africa a Muslim leader in the struggle against Apartheid invited the regime to shackle his body, but he warned: "You can put me in chains , but you can never regiment my soul!" He was in control, not his torturers or their generals. May Alll‚h SWT grant us that spiritual strength to be in control of all our functions!
Our beloved Prophet saws taught his followers:
"Fasting is a shield " At first, fasting offers us that outward protection as we experience in the Ramadh‚n. But in the course of time , that shield grows onto us and becomes part of our inner armour, our personalities. We are then able to withstand any onslaught or temptation, any attempt to disrupt our values and our beliefs as Muslims. One writer so aptly describes the blessings of fasting as follows: " When Islam introduced this matchless institution, it planted an evergrowing tree of infinite virtue and invaluable products.."
For one short month we will be able to pick of the fruit of Fasting, enjoy it and strengthen our faith ( Eem‚n) and our piety (taqwa) in the process. The tree remains and the fruit is there for the picking!
For this reason the Prophet (saws) said:
"Every good deed of man gets some increase from All‚h: one good deed flourishes ten times to seven hundred times. But All‚h says: 'Fasting is exempted from this. It is exclusively for Me (All‚h) and I reward it as much as I want.'"
This is All‚h's guarantee, All‚h's Promise to us that all our good deeds will be rewarded over and over, but in the case of fasting our progress, our success, our achievements are limitless. Abul A'la Maududi puts it this way: "The more you perform well-motivated deeds in this month (Ramadh‚n), the greater their blessings, and they radiate their benefits to your other brothers and sisters; and if you maintain the effects of this month at a high pitch during the next eleven months, this garden will flourish."
Brothers and Sisters
Is it difficult to see why the month of Ramadh‚n has an atmosphere, a spiritual atmosphere that draws you and me closer to All‚h SWT ? Do we need to ask what the ultimate goal of Fasting is? Of course not, every blessing directs us towards All‚h and helps us to attain nearness to All‚h. And if the evidence is not manifest enough, All‚h reminds us in the Holy Qur'an:
"Let them also, with a will, listen to
My Call (by fasting), and believe in Me.
That they may walk in the right way." (2: 186)
At the same time, we need to remind ourselves that fasting is an 'ib‚dah, an act of worship: to abstain from eating and drinking or the physical component, is really a small part of the 'ib‚dah. The moral component is equally if not more important: how can we serve All‚h if we indulge in immoral acts or behaviour that alienates us from our brothers and sisters ? Often the fasting person is far more irritable and quarrelsome than the one that is not fasting, Astaghfirullah! Let us not allow our fasting to degenerate into starving. Then it is surely not for All‚h and not worthy of All‚h's blessings. Hence our Nabi Muhammad s.a.w.s. warns us like a true father concerned for the wellbeing of his children:
"Many are the fasters whose fasting does not bring them anything except hunger and thirst, and many are those who keep standing in the night (taraweegh), but their standing does not bring anything except being awake in the night."
The message cannot be clearer: to be hungry and thirsty throughout the day is not in itself 'ib‚dah, but an instrument for performing real 'ib‚dah. Let us not violate the Shari'ah for that would negate the very basis of our Faith. Let us rather walk through the fertile fields, perform our 'ib‚d‚t and gather the fruits of our efforts (All‚h's blessings). Let us spend our time with acts of kindness , reading Qur'‚n, thikrull‚h (remembrance of All‚h), invocations and seeking to please All‚h. Thus will we be able to help form the atmosphere of All‚h-consciousness. Our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. advises:
"Whoever observed Fast imbued with faith and with the expectation of reward from All‚h, all his past sins are forgiven."
Brothers and Sisters
You and I and indeed the whole Muslim ummah have waited for a year to experience the blessings of this Ramadh‚n. Some of us are frail with illness or old-age and may not see another Ramadh‚n. Al-hamdulillah, praise be to All‚h, we are grateful for these few days or hours and ask All‚h to grant us the benefit of every moment we are able to spend in His Divine Presence. Some of us are young and eager to start our young lives nobly. We seek All‚h's guidance to enter with the correct spirit and a commitment to move closer to All‚h SWT.
Let us pledge ourselves here today, you and I, to remove the cause of bad blood between us and our nearest and rid ourselves of any form of behaviour which hurts others;
Let us strive instead to don the noble qualities of conduct so beautifully exemplified by our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s.;
Let every action that flows from us be steeped in kindness and helpfulness;
Let our hearts reach out to our less fortunate brothers and sisters wherever they may be and ask All‚h to remove their suffering and hardship and grant them victory over their oppressors;
Let us pass our quiet moments remembering All‚h through reading Qur'‚n or making tasbeegh;
Let those of us who have parents, bring joy and comfort to their hearts;
And let those who have lost their parents or dear ones, remember them in all their prayers;
Let those of us who have recently reverted to Islam find solace in the knowledge that All‚h knows and accepts us with our imperfections.
O All‚h, strengthen our eem‚n (faith) and our understanding of the purpose of Fasting Accept our fast and all our 'ib‚d‚t.
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