Anis Fatema :
Ramzan, the ninth month of Islamic calendar, is the month when the Muslims all over the world observe fasting. Ramzan , the holy month of purification, comes with the message of Divine Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation. Muslims welcome Ramzan with joyous heart and peaceful mind. They embrace Ramzan wholeheartedly as it brings emancipation and Divine Benevolence.
Ramzan is the blessing from Allah for mankind, because this month aims at purifying our soul and brings us closer to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. In the Holy Quran Allah Rabbul 'Alameen says, "O you who believe , decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous." (Sura Baqarah 2:183) Fasting is the process of purification. It takes us closer to Heavenly blessing and forgiveness. In the Holy Quran Allah makes it clear that fasting is ordained compulsory on Muslims and that they have to fast if they are to be righteous. Allah further says, "Fasting for a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey then an equal number of days (are to be made up). And upon those who are able (to fast but with hardship)-a reason (as a substitute) of feeding a poor person (each day). And whoever volunteers excess - it is better for him. But to fast is better for you, if you only knew." (Sura Baqara 2:184) Allah declares, "The month of Ramzan is that in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the new moon) of the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey- then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and (wants) for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful." (Sura Baqara 2:185) To be righteous has been mentioned several times in Sura Baqara of the Holy Quran. Allah wants human beings to follow the righteous way to achieve success and peace in this world as well as hereafter. Ramzan is the month of fasting, charity, dua and forgiveness and uncountable blessings of Allah upon mankind. Allah further says "It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread (of night). Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worships in the mosques. These are the limits (set by Allah), so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous." (Sura Baqara 2:187)
Ramzan has the greatest significance as the month of Revelation. On this month the Holy Quran was revealed and at the same time our beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'Allaihi wa Sallam received Prophethood. The night of the Revelation is mentioned as the night of Shab-e-Qadr, the auspicious 'Night of Power' or the 'Night of Honour' or 'Majesty'. On this night the blessed and perfect of all Revelations, the Holy Quran, was vouchsafed to the benighted world. The complete Revelation of the Holy Quran took a period of twenty three years. It started on this Night of Majesty, Shab-e-Qadr, and that was destined to illumine the whole mankind. The Arabic word 'Lail' means 'Night' and 'Qadr' stands for 'Power' or 'Honour' or 'Majesty'. In the Holy Quran Allah clearly expound the glory of this auspicious night, "We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power. And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is ? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months." (Sura Qadr 97:1-2) Shab-e-Qadr is the embodiment of Grandeur or Greatness. This wonderful Night of Majesty is enriched with Divine Blessings and opportunity of Salvation. Allah says in the Holy Quran, " In that night come down the Angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand."... (Sura Qadr 7:4) Exactly in which day of Ramzan the Revelation took place, that is unknown. Although it is mentioned in the Holy Quran, " Ramzan is the month in which was sent down the Quran , as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgement, between right and wrong."(2:185) Some dates have been referred by scholars, but there is no confirmation of that. The auspicious night has been fixed as the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or the 29th night of Ramzan or more probably one of the last three nights among the mentioned nights. Narrated by Hazrat Ayesha (Ra) , "The Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) used to exert himself in devotion during the last ten nights to a greater extent than at any other time. When the last ten nights began, Allah's apostle (Pbuh) prepared himself for religious exercises, stayed awake at night and wakened his family." (Bukhari and Muslim Sharif) 'A thousand months' might not refer to ordinary human conception of time. It might refer to a long period of time spent in worship. In the words of world renowned scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali : 'A thousand' must be taken in an indefinite sense as denoting a very long period of time. This does not refer to our ideas of time, but to 'timeless Time'. It transcends Time; for it is God's power dispelling the darkness of ignorance, by His Revelation in every kind of affair. One moment of enlightment under God's light is better than thousands of months or years of animal life, and such a moment converts the night of darkness into a period of spiritual glory. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran : Text Translation and Commentary , Lahore, 1938, p.1765). For this reason pious Muslims adhere to the mosques or retire for contemplation during Ramzan as a form of devotion or meditation in the last ten days of Ramzan. Keeping in mind the glorious significance of this auspicious night Moulvi Muhammed Ali states "The time during which a Prophet appears is usually a time of darkness and as such is often compared to night in the Holy Quran. But as in this darkness comes a blessing from on high in the person of a Divine Messenger, the night is a blessed and majectic night. Hence the period of the advent of a Divine Messenger may also be metaphorically called Lailatul-Qadr. Its designation as the blessed night in Sura Ad-Dukhan followed as it is by the statement that in it 'every wise affair is made distinct', shows clearly that the other significance of the world is based on the Holy Quran itself, because it is during the time of a Prophet's advent that true wisdom is distinctly established."
One should not spend this glorious night only for asking worldly pleasure and physical comfort. Spiritual purification, Mercy and Salvation should be one's goal to achieve on this auspicious night. Nothing can be sweeter or more important than to attain Allah's forgiveness. Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (Ra) said, "I asked the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) what to say on Lailatul Qadr on the assumption that I knew it was the Night. The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) replied, " One should say : O Lord! Thou art forgiving and lovest forgiveness, so forgive me." (Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Tirmizi Sharif).
Jumu'at-ul-Wida also comes in the holy, auspicious month of Ramzan. The last Friday in the holy Ramzan has a dignified, significant role in Muslims' faith. Friday is the best day of a week. Allah clearly ordains : "O ye, who believe ! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic) : That is best for you if ye but knew." (Sura Zumu'ah 62:9) Friday is considered primarily the day of assembly, the weekly meeting of the congregation. This is opportunity for the Muslims to exhibit their unity by sharing in common public worship, preceded by a Khutba. In it Imam aims at reviewing the week's spiritual and worldly life of the community. Muslims get advice regarding the righteous way of living. According to Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his renowned Commentary on the Holy Quran,
" The idea behind the Muslim weekly Day of Assembly is different from that behind the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) or the Christian Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath is primarily a commemoration of God's ending. His work and resting on the seventh day. (Gen.ii.2;Exod.xx.11): we are taught that God needs no rest, nor does he feel fatigue (ii, 255). The Jewish command forbids work on that day but says nothing about worship or prayer (Exod.10); our ordinance lays chief stress on the remembrance of Allah. Jewish formalism went so far as to kill the spirit of the Sabbath, and call forth the protest of Jesus : "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath". (Mark ii 27). But the Christian church, although it has changed the day from Saturday to Sunday, has inherited the Jewish spirit : witness the Scottish Sabbath, except in so far as it has been secularized. Our teaching says : "When the time for Jumu'a Prayer comes, close your business and answer the summons loyally and earnestly, meet earnestly, pray, consult and learn by social contact : when the meeting is over, scatter and go about your Business." In the Holy Quran Allah declares, "And when the prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah : and celebrate the praises of Allah often (and without stint): that ye may prosper."(Sura Zumu'ah 62:10) All the Fridays of the year bear Divine significance. It can be easily realized what could be the importance of Jumu'atul-Wida, the last Jumu'a of Ramzan. Jumu'atul-Wida is of extra excellence and Divine eminence. Muslims adore from the core of their heart the last Friday of Ramzan. Jumu'atul-Wida enables Muslims to assemble in the congregational prayer and jointly bid farewell to the Glorious Boon from Benign Providence, the Holy Ramzan. The Holy Ramzan gets over leaving behind the moments of Mercy, Emancipation, Forgiveness and Salvation. Muslims' heart get filled with an emptiness as it sense the departure of the noblest portion of the year. According to renowned scholar Syed Ashraf Ali, "No wonder, it (the departure of the Holy Ramadan) creates a profound sense of loss or grief as a devout Muslim loses at least for a year the glorious opportunity to receive Allah's Mercy directly from Him through fasting and meditation, Taqwa and Taraweeh, Prayers and Penance. As the Imam from the pulpit utters: 'Al-wida, Al-wida, Ea Shahru-Ramadan (Farewell, Farewell to you, O the holy month of Ramadan)," Muslims in every nook and corner of the world feel a pang of separation, separation from the glorious month providing rare opportunity to overcome lust and greed and temptation, a lesson leading us to perfection not through self torture, not through mere abstention from food and drink and sex, but through Taqwa and Tarawih, contemplation and acts of charity, total restraint on and abstinence from all evil acts and thoughts, all unholy dreams and desires."
The glorious Ramzan is followed by Holy Eid-ul-Fitr. Muslims gradually proceed in their journey starting from Mercy, Emancipation, Salvation to joyous Eid-ul-Fitr. Eid-ul-Fitr is the day of celebration. It's an opportunity to rejoice Allah's blessings on human beings. It's an opportunity of thanks giving to Allah for this world fulfilled with bounties and for the day of celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, after the Holy Ramzan. Since Islam is the complete Code of life it provides mankind with proper guidance in every sphere of activity and in every domain of thought. For Muslims all over the world it offers festival to be celebrated with joy and happiness , pleasure and gaiety. Praising the beauty of Islam a non Muslim like Rev. Bosworth-Smith says, " Islam is the most complete, the most sudden , and the most extra-ordinary revolution that ever came to any nation on earth". (Rev. Bosworth-Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, London, 1855, p.205).
Muslims come back to normalcy with arrival of joyous and happy Eid-ul-Fitr as the Day provide them with gratitude to Benign Providence and the unique privilege to earn Divine Blessing directly from Allah through fasting and prayers and self-restraint during Ramzan. In the morning of Eid-ul-Fitr they offer two raq'at special congregational prayer. Just like all other prayers in Islam, in this thanks giving congregational prayer for Eid-ul-Fitr, there is no discrimination of race and nationality between rich and poor, slave and master, haves and have-not's. Muslims show their gratitude through Sadqatul-Fitr, the charity to the needy people of the society, an inevitable part of the day.
Ramzan, the auspicious month, is profoundly ornamented with uncountable Blessing of Allah Rabbul 'Alameen in the shape of Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation. This spiritually the most glorified month Ramzan is crowned with Shab-e-Qadr , the Night of Power or Majesty, and gradually it leads the Muslim Ummah towards the joyous episode of Eid-ul-Fitr.
(The writer is columnist short story writer, poet and translator)