Friday, July 18, 2014

Ramadan: Ibadah and Taqwa

“O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous.” (2: 184).

Wa maa khalaqtul-Jinna wal-’insa ‘illaa liya’-buduun.
“I have not created jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51: 57).

The month of Ramadan is once again before our door by the grace of Allah. It is a month which is awaited by believers because it contains many benefits and virtues. During the month of Shabaan, Friday sermons (Khutba) often focus on the value of this great month. It is said that Ramadan is a month of worship (Ibadah). Verily, we must rather say that it is a month to increase our acts of worship (Ibadah) because we have been created with the purpose of worshiping Allah (swt).

“I have not created jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51: 57).

In addition to the virtues of this blessed month it is important that we know what is the purpose of these acts of worship during this month. In the Quran, Allah (swt) clearly defines the purpose of the fasting month of Ramadhan: “O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous.” (2: 184).

Generally the word taqwa is translated by ‘fear of Allah’ or ‘piety’. The word taqwa is derived from the word ‘waqaa’ which means protection/protecting oneself.

It was reported that Hazrat Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra) asked Ubayy bin Ka’b (ra) about Taqwa.
Ubayy (ra) said, “Have you ever walked on a path that has thorns on it?” 
Umar said, “Yes.” 
Ubayy (ra) said, “What did you do then?” 
He said, “I rolled up my sleeves and struggled.” 
Ubayy (ra) said, “That is Taqwa.”

In light of this anecdote we can understand that taqwa is a quality that pushes the believer to protect himself from sins. Satanic temptations are around us, especially in our society that we call “modern.” Even in our house we are not immune from satanic influences, through the media. The servant who has acquired taqwa avoids the traps set by the Satan and thus protects himself from the wrath of his creator.

So for me the definition of taqwa is that the servant puts between himself and what he fears a protection in order to save himself. The servant fears the wrath and punishment of his Lord, so he places between himself and what he fears the one who will protect him. And that which will protect him from the punishment and wrath of Allah (swt) is obedience, and maintaining distance from the prohibited. When the servant of Allah fasts during the month of Ramadan, he abstains from eating, drinking and having intimate relationships. He deprives himself from his natural needs that are critical to life because it is Allah (swt) who imposed these restrictions. The servant learns to respect the limits of Allah (swt) to earn His satisfaction. If he could deprive himself of these necessities throughout Ramadan,Insha-Allah he will then be able to stay free from superfluous sins. The fasting person feels hunger and thirst but he does not drink a single drop of water even if nobody sees him. Thus the servant develops in him a belief that Allah is seeing him. He knows that his creator is informed of his intention and actions. No doubt that after 29 or 30 consecutive days of fasting the believer develops taqwa and a high degree of spirituality.

Unfortunately we can see that each year after Ramadan many Muslims revert to what they were before this blessed month. The mosques are no longer filled as they were during the month of Ramadan. Salat (prayer), Quran reading, good character, charity and all good works are neglected and many still let themselves once again be carried away by recklessness. How can we really know if we have succeeded to pick the fruit of the month of Ramadan, if we have benefitted from our Ibadah and if we have acquired taqwa?

Hazrat Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that a person came to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and told him so and so prays during the night but steals in the morning. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) replied: “Certainly his prayer prevents him (from that act).”(Musnad Ahmad, and Ibn Hibban).

In light of this Hadith we can conclude that prayer and any act of worship preserves the servant (of Allah) from sin. This is what Allah says in the Quran: 

“Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Surely prayer restrains from indecency and evil and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows what you do.” (29: 46).

Indeed, the one who really reaps the benefits of his efforts during Ramadan is the one whose condition after this great month is better than before. He is ready to obey, desiring to do good deeds and quick to perform the acts required because he has taken advantage of that great school (that is, Ramadan). He fears that his fast is not accepted for indeed Allah (swt) accepts from only those who have taqwa. The pious predecessors struggled to complete and perfect their acts then hoping they would be accepted and fearing that they would be rejected. From the narrations of Ali (ra) it is reported that he had said: “Be more concern with the acceptance of your deeds than the act itself. Haven’t you heard Allah say: “Allah accepts only from those who acquire taqwa.” (5: 28).”

To conclude we can say that if the Muslim wants to take advantage of Ramadan, so he will need to observe this month with defined and clear objective in mind: that is to achieve taqwaInsha-Allah, may Allah give us the Tawfiq to achieve this with all the respect and care it takes. Ameen.

-Friday Sermon of July 04, 2014 delivered by the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius