almighty allah says: (the month of ramadan in which was revealed the qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). and whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. allah desireth for you ease; he desireth not hardship for you; and (he desireth) that ye should complete the period, and that ye should magnify allah for having guided you, and that peradventure ye may be thankful.) (al-baqarah 2: 185)
this blessed month is a great opportunity for goodness, blessing, worship, and obedience of allah.
it is a great month, a noble season, a month in which rewards for good deeds are multiplied and in which committing bad deeds is more serious than at other times. the gates of paradise are opened and the gates of hell are shut, and the sinners’ repentance to allah is accepted. it is a month whose beginning is mercy, whose middle is forgiveness, and whose end is redemption from the fire.
so give thanks to him for the season of goodness and blessing that he has bestowed upon you, and for the means of bounty and various kinds of great blessings for which he has singled you out. make the most of this blessed time by filling it with acts of worship and leaving haram (unlawful) things so that you may attain a good life in this world and happiness after death.
for the sincere believer, every month is an occasion for worship, and his whole life is spent in obeying allah. but in the month of ramadan he has even more motives to do good, his heart is even more focused on worship, and he turns even more to his lord. by his grace, our generous lord bestows his bounty upon the fasting believers and multiplies the reward for them on this blessed occasion, so he gives abundantly and rewards generously for righteous deeds.
time passes quickly
days pass so quickly, as if they were mere moments. we welcomed last ramadan, then we bade it farewell, and only a short period of time passed and we are welcoming ramadan again. so we should hasten to do good deeds in this month and strive to fill it with what allah is pleased with and with what will help us on the day when we meet him.
how can we prepare for ramadan?
we can prepare for ramadan by taking stock of ourselves and recognizing our shortcomings in living up to the two shahadahs (testimonies of faith, i.e., there is no god but allah and muhammad is the messenger of allah), or our shortcomings in fulfilling our duties, or in not keeping away from the desires and doubts that we may have fallen into.
we should set ourselves straight so that in ramadan we will have a higher degree of faith. for faith increases and decreases. it increases through obedience to allah and it decreases through disobedience and sin. the first act of obedience that a person should achieve is that of being a true slave of allah and believing that there is none that is rightfully worshiped except allah, so he directs all kinds of worship to allah and does not associate anyone else in worship with him. each of us should realize that whatever has befallen him could not have missed him, and whatever missed him could not have befallen him, and that everything happens by the will and decree of allah.
we should avoid everything that could undermine our commitment to the two shahadahs. this means keeping away from bid`ah (innovations) and things that have been introduced into the religion. we should also follow the principle of al-wala’ wal-bara’ (loyalty and friendship vs. disavowal and enmity), by taking the believers as our friends and by regarding the unbelievers and hypocrites as enemies, and we should rejoice when the muslims gain a victory over their enemies. we should follow the example of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions and adhere to the sunnah of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the way of the rightly-guided caliphs who came after him. we should love the sunnah and love those who adhere to it and defend it, in whatever country they are and whatever color or nationality they are.
after that, we should take stock of ourselves and recognize our shortcomings in doing acts of worship such as praying in congregation; remembering allah (dhikr); paying attention to the rights of neighbors, relatives, and the muslims; spreading the greeting of salam; enjoining good and forbidding evil; urging one another to follow the truth and be patient and steadfast in doing so; being patient in avoiding evil actions and in doing good deeds; and accepting the decree of allah with patience.
then we should take stock of ourselves, our sins, and our following whims and desires. we should stop ourselves from persisting in that, whether the sin is great or small, whether it is a sin of the eye, by looking at that which allah has forbidden; or by walking to things that allah does not approve of; or by using one's hands to strike in a manner that allah is not pleased with; or by consuming things that allah has forbidden such as riba (interest) and bribes, or any other means of consuming people’s wealth unlawfully.
we should never forget that allah stretches forth his hand during the day to accept the repentance of those who sinned at night, and he stretches forth his hand at night to accept the repentance of those who sinned during the day. almighty allah says:
(and vie one with another for forgiveness from your lord, and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil); those who spend (of that which allah hath given them) in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; allah loveth the good; and those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember allah and implore forgiveness for their sins — who forgiveth sins save allah only? — and will not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did. the reward of such will be forgiveness from their lord, and gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever, a bountiful reward for workers!) (aal `imran 3: 133-136)
(say: my slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! despair not of the mercy of allah, who forgiveth all sins. lo! he is the forgiving, the merciful.) (az-zumar 39: 53)
(yet whoso doeth evil or wrongeth his own soul, then seeketh pardon of allah, will find allah forgiving, merciful.) (an-nisa’ 4: 110)
by taking stock, repenting and seeking forgiveness—this is how we should welcome ramadan. the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “the smart man is the one who takes stock of himself and strives to do that which will benefit him after death, and the helpless one is the one who follows his own whims and desires and engages in wishful thinking, (assuming that allah will forgive him regardless of what he does and that he does not need to strive to good deeds).” (reported by al-bukhari)
the month of ramadan is the month of great gains and profits. the smart trader is the one who makes the most of special occasions to increase his profits. so make the most of this month by doing lots of acts of worship, praying a great deal, reading the qur’an, forgiving people, being kind to others, and giving charity to the poor.
in the month of ramadan the gates of paradise are opened and the gates of hell are shut. the devils are put in chains and a caller cries out each night, “o seeker of good, proceed! o seeker of evil, desist!”
so, o slaves of allah, be among the people of good, following the path of your righteous forebears who were guided by the sunnah of your prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), so that we may end ramadan with our sins forgiven and our righteous deeds accepted.
we should note that the month of ramadan is the best of months.
ibn al-qayyim said in zad al-ma`ad,:
“another of example of that [the differentiation between the things that allah has created] is the fact that the month of ramadan is superior to all other months, and the last ten nights are superior to the other nights.”
this month is superior to others in four things:
1. in it there is the best night of the year, which is laylat al-qadr. almighty allah says: (lo! we revealed it on the night of power. ah, what will convey unto thee what the night of power is! the night of power is better than a thousand months. the angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their lord, with all decrees. (that night is) peace until the rising of the dawn.) (al-qadr 97: 1-5)
so worship on this night is better than worshiping for a thousand months.
2. in this month was revealed the best of books to the best of the prophets (peace and blessings be upon them all). almighty allah says:
(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).) (al-baqarah 2: 185)
(we sent it (this qur’an) down on a blessed night [(i.e. the night of al?qadr) in the month of ramadan — the 9th month of the islamic calendar]. verily, we are ever warning [mankind that our torment will reach those who disbelieve in our oneness of lordship and in our oneness of worship]. therein (that night) is decreed every matter of ordainments. as a command (or this qur’an or the decree of every matter) from us. verily, we are ever sending (the messengers).) (ad-dukhan 44: 3-5)
ahmad and at-tabarani narrated in al-mu`jam al-kabir that wathilah ibn al-asqa` (may allah be pleased with him) said: the messenger of allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “the scriptures of ibrahim were sent down on the first of the month of ramadan. the tawrah was sent down on the sixth of ramadan. the injeel was sent down on the thirteenth of ramadan. the zaboor was sent down on the eighteenth of ramadan, and the qur’an was sent down on the twenty-fourth of ramadan.” (reported by ahmad)
3. in this month the gates of paradise are opened and the gates of hell are shut, and the devils are chained up.
it was narrated from abu hurayrah (may allah be pleased with him) that the messenger of allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “when ramadan comes, the gates of paradise are opened and the gates of hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” (reported by al-bukhari and muslim)
an-nasa’i narrated from abu hurayrah that the messenger of allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “when ramadan comes, the gates of mercy are opened and the gates of hell are shut, and the devils are put in chains.” (reported by an-nasa’i)
at-tirmidhi, ibn majah and ibn khuzaymah narrated: “when the first night of the month of ramadan comes, the devils and rebellious jinn are chained up and the gates of hell are closed, and not one gate of it is opened. the gates of paradise are opened and not one gate of it is closed. and a caller cries out: ‘o seeker of good, proceed! o seeker of evil, desist!’ and allah has those whom he redeems from the fire, and that happens every night.”
some may ask, why do we see many evil actions and sins committed in ramadan, for if the devils are chained up that would not happen?
the answer is that evil actions become less for those who observe the conditions and etiquette of fasting; or that the ones who are chained up are some of the devils – namely the rebellious ones – not all of them; or that what is meant is that evil is reduced in ramadan, which is a proven fact. if evil happens at this time, it is still less than at other times. even if all of the devils are chained up, that does not necessarily mean that no evil or sin will happen, because there are other causes of that besides the devils, such as evil souls, bad habits, and the devils among mankind.
4. there are many kinds of worship in ramadan, such as fasting, praying qiyam al-layl (night vigil prayer), feeding the poor, performing i`tikaf (religious retreat), giving charity, and reading the qur’an.
i ask allah, the exalted, the almighty, to help us all to do that and to help us to fast and pray qiyam al-layl, and to do acts of worship and to avoid doing evil. praise be to allah, the lord of the worlds.