Introduction to Ramadan
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What is Ramadan and Why is This Month Special?
Ramadan is one of the most important months of the year and one of the foundations of Islam. Fasting in this month is the fourth pillar of Islam which the religion of Islam is built upon.
Moreover, it is one of the most celebrated and honoured months as it holds a special place in the heart of every Muslim. It is distinguished from other months by a number of characteristics which we will list below.
(1) Ramadan is the Month in Which the Qur’an was First Revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Allah (SWT) describes this with the most eloquent of words when He said:
“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So, whomever of you sees (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must start observing Sawm (fast) that month…” Qur'an - Chapter 2, Verse 185
2. Ramadan is One of the 5 Pillars of Islam
Can you imagine a house that is missing a pillar? The house will not be able to stand and it will surely crumble. Similarly, an individual’s level of submission to Allah (SWT) will not remain strong and firm if they don’t observe Ramadan.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“Islam is built on five (pillars): the testimony that there is no god except Allah, that none have the right to be worshipped except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; establishing prayer; paying zakaah; fasting Ramadan; and Hajj to the sacred House (the Ka’bah).” Saheeh Bukhari & Saheeh Muslim
3. Ramadan is a Month of Forgiveness and Mercy.
It is a month where Muslims strive to seek the forgiveness of Allah and hope for their previous sins to be forgiven.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.”Saheeh Bukhari & Saheeh Muslim
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
"The five prayers, from one Jumu’ah (Friday congregational prayer) to the next and from one Ramadan to the next are expiation for (sins committed) in between, so long as you avoid major sins.” Saheeh Muslim 233
We can see from these two hadeeth of our Prophet (pbuh) that fasting Ramadan is a means of expiation for the sins committed since the previous Ramadan, so long as one avoids major sins.
What are the Virtues of Ramadan
Now that we understand what Ramadan is and why it is very special, we will now discuss its benefits and virtues.
1. The first virtue of Ramadan is that Allah has blessed Ramadan with Laylat al-Qadr which gives this month a great status.
Laylat al-Qadr means the Night of Decree. It is a single night that comes once a year in the month of Ramadan. This night is better than a thousand months, as Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah Qadr (Chapter 97):
(Press play on the orange button above to listen to a recitation of the verses below)
(1) Verily! We have sent it (this Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree)
(2) And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is?
(3) The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.
(4) Therein descend the angels and the Ruh [Jibrael (Gabriel)] by Allah's Permission with all Decrees,
(5) Peace! (All that night, there is Peace and Goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.
We can see from the verses above that worshipping Allah on that night is better than worshipping Him for a thousand months (i.e. 83 years and 4 months):
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
“There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month which Allah has enjoined you to fast, during which the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained up. In it there is a night which is better than a thousand months, and whoever is deprived of its goodness is indeed deprived.” Narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 2106; Ahmad, 8769. classed as saheeh (Authentic) by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 999
Hence, you can understand why this night is extremely crucial and precious to every Muslim, and why they dedicate a great deal of respect, awe, and submission to Almighty God on this night and the rest of the month.
2. In this month, Allah opens the gates of Paradise and closes the gates of Hell, and chains up the devils.
It is stated in the two authoritative books of hadeeth (Saheeh Bukhari, 1898; Saheeh Muslim, 1079), in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah who said that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up.”
Not only are the gates of Paradise open but Allah (SWT) also has people whom He saves from the Fire of Hell every night. Imam Ahmad (5/256) narrated the hadeeth of Abu Umaamah that the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“At every breaking of the fast, Allah has people whom He redeems.”Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 987]
3. Finally, among the most beautiful actions which takes place in Ramadan is the encouragement to give food to those who are fasting.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
“Whoever gives iftar (food to break fast with) to one who is fasting will have a reward like his, without that detracting from the fasting person’s reward in the slightest.”Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 807; Ibn Maajah, 1746; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 647.
Due to this, many Muslims invite each other to break their fast. This is often seen in the mosques where food is prepared for people to come and enjoy a meal together.
Such meals are especially important for individuals who fasted during the day but cannot afford to buy themselves food to break their fast. In this way, we are not only taking care of the less privileged among us, but we also foster a sense of communal unity and belonging.