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Ramazan: The month of forbearance & brotherhood
When the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) used to sight the moon of the holy month of Ramazan, he stood facing the Qibla and with utmost humbleness in the presence of Allah asked success in this holy month by saying: "O' Allah! Make its dawn on us in peace, conviction in faith, safety, submission, and abundance of prosperity, immunity from sickness, recitation of Qur'an and assistance in prayers and fasting. O' Allah! Keep us healthy in the month of Ramazan and keep us confident in our faith in it, and let it not last without being forgiven.
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Certainly prayers in this month are accepted."
O'belivers, prescribed for you is the Fast, even as it was prescribed for those that were before you happily you will be God fearing - The Glorious Qur'an: II, 180
Ramazan, the month of fasting, is the 9th month of Islamic calendar. During the days of this holy month every adult Moslem has to fast according to Islamic rules. The sick and invalids are, of course, an exception to this rule. People can eat and drink (not any alcoholic drinks) from sunset until the sunrise. Fasting has three significances:
Fasting will remind man of the omnipotent and that everything is derived from Him and will come back to Him, and also of the days he has spent uselessly. It will wake up the human feelings and will strengthen the faith and will power of man.
Statistics has proved that during this month, the quarrels and homicides have been reduced. The person who is in fast will feel the situation of being hungry, and then he will be provoked to help the poor and the needy. So the classical differences would be decreased. In the world in which the hunger may be the most important problem, fasting could be one of the best ways to diminish the space between the poor and the rich.
It is obvious that the output of fats in the body bring many diseases. Fasting is, thus, a fair diet for body and the construction of the body can rest during a month.
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) used to declare the approach of the holy month of Ramazan. According to the traditions and history, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) used to gather the people when the end of the month of Shaaban closed. He used to explain to them the approach of the month of Ramazan in different sermons and made them prepared to derive from it the advantages of this golden opportunity, to acquire human merits from its holy programmes so as to be obedient to the commandments of Allah in practice, to perform their duties and recognize their rights so that they may be able to defend them and be acquainted with the spiritually so that they should not be succumb to difficulty or unevenness, or be weak or humble to their superiors, or be proud or disappointed when defeated.
Therefore, the greatest school for perfecting man in performing his deeds that was the goal of the holy messengers and holy persons is this month which is interpreted as the month of Allah.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (A.S.) said that on the last Friday of the month of Shaaban the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) gathered all the people and addressed and explained to them the importance of this month.
First, he praised and glorified Allah and then by his vehement voice he said: O' people! The month of Ramazan has come with its mercies and blessings. In this month there is a Night of Power (Laylatul-Qadr). You have been enjoined to fast so as to keep yourselves from worldly desires and follow the commandments of Allah. The purpose of it is to keep you nearer to Allah. Do not lose this opportunity lest shall be very unfortunate."
On account of this reasons when the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) sighted the moon of the holy month of Ramazan, he used to raise his hands praying that Allah may bestow His blessings, health, safety and peace under the protection of Faith, and the people should be able to continue their lives in prosperity and health and success in their works and overcome all diseases and difficulties and to bless those who recite the Holy Qur'an, say prayers and keep fasting with true spirit.
At the end of this sermon, he prayed Allah saying, "O Allah keep us safe in this month of Ramazan, and make it the month full of blessings and safety so that we may abide by what you have enjoined us, and by so doing you may forgive us."
Then the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) stressed the rewards of good deeds done in this month. He said that "whoever stays awake in the night and offers 2 "rakaats" (units) of "sunnah" (recommended) prayers is equal to a person who had stayed awake for 70 nights and offered "sunnah' prayers. Whoever accomplishes a good deed is tantamount to performing his obligations in other months of the year. And whoever performs his religious obligation once accordingly he will be rewarded like a person who has performed 70 times in other months of the year.
Then the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) in brief words emphasized the reason and importance of this month by saying that in this month the school of Islamic instructions is opened and that whatsoever the Muslims learnt in other months, must practice and train themselves so as to attain the highest degree of religious morality. Hence, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said that Ramazan is the month of forbearance and patience that means a man must forbear patiently the difficulties he will meet in fulfilling the commandments of Allah lest he fails to conform to them. On the other hand, he should fight against his desires lest he be the slave of his own desires and fall into the bad situation and lose his exalted position of humanity.
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "If anybody amongst you invites a believer for an Iftar (food for ending a fast at sunset), Allah will give him the reward as if he has set free a slave, and he will forgive his minor sins."
Hearing this commandment, the companions of the Prophet asked that every body amongst them does not have the means of doing so, hence they will nor enjoy these rewards. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) replied them that it is not for Allah to burden those who have no means and deprive them of this reward, but if those people who aspire that "If I had the means, I would have done so". By this aspiration Allah will reward them and give them a high position in the Hereafter.
It is the law of Allah to command his servant according to his capacity. If a person arranges for Iftar to the one who fast by giving him even some milk mixed with water or few dates or some hot water, it will be acceptable to him. In short, everybody should do a virtuous action according to his capacity. Neither the poor should refrain from doing this good deed because of his poverty nor the rich deserve to do like poor but every one should do according to his capacity.
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) also said that anybody who in this month of Ramazan helps his inferiors in any way and lessens his difficulties, Allah would reward him by making easy his deeds on the Day of Judgment for this good action.
Then, in short, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) divided the month of Ramazan into three parts. In the first part, Allah showers His mercies and blessings to his servants, so that they may acquire all their needs. In the second part, the servants are purified in their past sins and ask for forgiveness. In the third part, Allah keeps them under His benevolence and kindness, accepts their aspiration and prayers and keeps them safe from the wrath in the Hereafter. Consequently, people like these who are pure and embellished with faith and who are under the Mercy of Allah by doing good deeds in this world, surely in the Hereafter they will dwell in the Paradise and enjoy the reward of their efforts.
The Command for fasting in Ramadhan came in the first year of the Hijra. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) delivered a lecture on the last Friday of the preceding month, Sha'ban, in which he said:
"O people! You are now under the shadow of the month, which has a night (Night of Qadr), which is better than thousand months. It is the month of Ramadhan in which fasting has been made compulsory by God. It is the month of patience; and the reward of patience is paradise. It is the month of mutual sympathy.
"Whoever feeds a fasting brother at the time of breaking the fast, God will be as much pleased with him as though he would have emancipated a slave, and it means that his sins of past would be forgiven."
Somebody pleaded that not everybody was affluent enough to feed others. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Allah is generous enough to be pleased with you even if you break the fast of a Muslim brother with a morsel of date or a cup of water if it is the only thing which you can offer." God does not see the wealth offered but it is the feeling of the heart only which counts. Then the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) proceeded to say: "Anybody who makes the burden of his servants lighter in this month Allah will make his sins lighter for him on the Day of Judgment."
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Ramadhan burns the sins and faults as fire burns the wood."
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.) told one of his companions: "O Jabir! Whoever, during Ramadhan, fasts in days, stands for prayers in parts of nights, controls his sexual desires and emotions, puts rein on his tongue, keeps his eyes down, and does not injure the feelings of others, will become as free from sin as he was the day he was born." Jabir said: "How tough are these conditions!"
The month of Ramadhan gives us a chance to start life afresh. Fast like living things has a body and a soul. The required abstinence from food, water, sexual relations etc. is the body of the fast; "piety" is its soul. If we are not striving to refine our character by fast, our fast will be a body without soul. Fast cleans our body from impurities. Likewise, it must purify our hearts and minds from all impure thoughts, improper desires and undisciplined sensations.
Imam Ja'far-d-Sadiq (S.A.W.) has said: "Your fast day should not be like other ordinary days. When you fast, all your senses - eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet - must fast with you." How?
Eyes: Keep your eyes off unlawful things and objects; spend this most precious gift of God in good cause and pious acts and read Qur'an and Do'as.
Ears: Abstain from hearing unlawful gossip, lies, false statements, music and obscene topics. Pay your attention towards sermons and topics of learning etc.
Tongue; Do not tell lies or useless tales; do not spread rumours or, damaging gossips about other persons; keep aloof from falsity. Use the power of speech in spreading the word of God; in creating good will in the society.
Hand: Do not inflict injury upon others by your actions; instead strive to help them as far as you can.
Feet: Do not go towards forbidden places, like bars and cinemas. Do not run between people creating strife. Go towards those places where God is remembered, and your movements should be to bring people together.
And above all, your heart and mind must be with you in fasting. Because fast, in its real sense, will not be complete unless your thoughts, your emotions, your actions -in short, all aspects of our life - become pure, clean and free from blemish.