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Mon, May

The Month of Ramadan pt. 1

Dua
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The One whom has blessed humanity with the holy month of Ramadan. Dear brothers and sisters, congratulations to all of us for we have been blessed by Allah for giving us the opportunity again in our short lives to observe this holy month of Ramadan. 

The One whom has blessed humanity with the holy month of Ramadan. Dear brothers and sisters, congratulations to all of us for we have been blessed by Allah for giving us the opportunity again in our short lives to observe this holy month of Ramadan.  What a great honor it is, that Allah has given us life to witness another month of Ramadan to purify ourselves, to receive forgiveness, and to gain nearness to Him.  Truly we have been blessed to be able to witness and worship and fast once again in the holy month of Ramadan in our lives.
When we think about this month, what do we think about?  What comes to our mind?  Hunger, thirst, the heat of a long summer day, the hardships of fasting?  We ask ourselves, is it difficult?  Is it difficult to fast in the month of Ramadan?   Yes brother and sisters, it is difficult.  But it being difficult is not the important question.  Let us think about it in another way.  Is it worth it?  I believe this is the real question at hand.  Is it worth it brothers and sisters?  Is the fasting and hunger and thirst and hardship of this holy month of Ramadan worth it?

Let’s discover together whether it’s worth it or not.  Let’s see the Importance of the holy month of Ramadan.  Is it just hunger and thirst?  Or is it something far far greater in value in the sight of Allah.
There are many traditions of the Ahlul Bayt (as) and verses from the holy Quran that detail the importance and value of this great month.  It is a month that none of us should take lightly.  It is a holy month that we might not be able to witness again. 
There is a tradition about the holy month of Ramadan from the Messenger of Allah (saw) which states that, In the first night Allah forgives all of my Ummah’s sins, the visible and the hidden ones, and will raise you up unlimited degrees in heaven, and build for each of you 50 cities therein.  (Amali A Sadouk p. 103)
Dear brothers and sisters, the holy month of Ramadan is a new beginning.  It is an opportunity to start anew, to begin fresh.  The month in which we can shed our sins and shame of the past and wear the cloak of piety and righteousness from today onwards.  It is a month where we can make positive and lasting Islamic changes in our lives.  It is a month full of blessings and rewards. 
It is a month where we can get closer to Allah faster and easier than in any other month of the year.  It is the holiest and most sacred of months which includes the great nights of Qadr, the night better than a thousand months.  It is the month of Allah.  It is the month of divine mercy and forgiveness.  It is the month of self-purification.  It is the month in which our destinies are ordained. 
It is the month of the burning of ones past sins.  It is the month of increasing rewards and blessings.  It is the month opening the gates of the Heavens.  It is the month closing the gates of Jahannum.  It is the month of the spring of the holy Qur’an.  It is the month of the chaining of the Shayateen.  It is the month of washing clean our sins.  It is the month of accumulating rewards and blessings, deeds and treasures that will be used when we die.  It is the month of worship and obedience.  It is the month of devotion and discipline.  It is the month of purification and progress.
It is the month of the birth of Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (as).  It is the month of gaining nearness to the Imam of our Time (ajtfs).  It is the month of gaining nearness to Allah.  It is the month starting a new dawn with sincere servitude to Allah.  Truly, if the value of this month is known by the people, they would wish that the whole year would be the holy month of Ramadan.
The Holy Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said: Surely, the month of Ramazan is a great month. Allah multiplies in it the good deeds, erases in it the sins and elevates in it the ranks. (Wasail al-Shia'h, vol. 10, pg. 312)
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) has also said: It (Ramazan) is the month, whose beginning is mercy, its middle, forgiveness and its end, emancipation from the fire (of hell). (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, pg. 342)
In another tradition we find that the Holy Messenger (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: O' People! Surely, the month of God has approached you. The month which, in the eyes of Allah, is the most virtuous of the months. Its days are the best of the days and its nights, the best of the nights and its moments, the best of the moments. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 96, pg. 356)
Finally in another tradition we find the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said: Your breath in it is glorification (of Allah) and your sleep in it is worship (of Allah). (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 96, pg. 356)
Allah’s Apostle (saw) said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk.
So after this reflection, we again ask ourselves, is it difficult?  And again we answer, Yes brothers and sisters, it is difficult.  But the real question was, Is it worth it?  And we have discussed together and seen the guidance of the Ahlul Bayt given to them by Allah, that despite the difficulty and hardship, the fasting and hunger and thirst and difficulty endured in this holy month of Ramadan is more than worth it, it is a life giving and eternity giving source for the believers.  The holy month of Ramadan and fasting in it and struggling for self-refinement is a glorious divine blessing that leads to eternal salvation.  May Allah help us to take full advantage of this holy opportunity given to each and every one of us.
Why fasting brothers and sisters?  Why should we endure hunger and thirst, from dawn till sunset, for a whole month?  What are the benefits in hunger and thirst?
First and foremost we have an ayah from the Holy Quran, the word of Allah.  In the second Chapter, verse 183 that was read in the opening Khutba, we find that Allah says,
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ {183}

Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa." (Q2:183)  So clearly we find that one of the effects of fasting is taqwa and achieving piety (Taqwa): is one of the most important wisdoms of fasting.  To attain Taqwa or righteousness means to fear Allah and to obey His every Command.  Fasting brings on Taqwa as it lessens the desire of the stomach and mutes the bodily appetites. Whoever fasts frequently would overcome these two desires more easily. This deters against committing abominations and sins and assists in controlling life leading to Taqwa.  We may attain piety by fasting in this holy month of Ramadan provided that we fast the way we have been taught by Ahlul Bayt.
Another benefit of the thirst and hunger during fasting is the strengthening of willpower and acquiring patience.  The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him and his progeny) called Ramadan the month of patience as it increases one's will power to control their desires and the selfishness of their souls. This training through fasting allows us to be strong in following Allah's commands. The most important being to carry the Message of Allah, propel it forward, and implement it into action. The person trains himself to be patient in obeying Allah (SWT) by stopping at the limits set by Allah (SWT) both by way of action and abstention.
Along these same lines we find another tradition where the Holy Apostle of Allah (saw) says, "Fasting is a shield and protection from the fire and from committing sins".
In the book Suluk al-Arifan we find that one of the effects of less eating is purity of heart and insight.  Over-eating and fullness creates a state similar to drunkenness within a human being which slows down ones sense of perception and reduces ones power of quick grasping.  This slowing down leads to the heart's blindness. Opposite to a full belly, hunger results in the mind becoming sharp, bestows comprehension upon the conscience, thus, making the heart readied for enlightenment. In this regard the following tradition has been narrated from the Holy Prophet [s] has said that:  “Whoever keeps his stomach hungry his thinking culminates to the highest level, thus, making his reflections stronger.”
Some other effects of less eating with a Godly intention are humility, hospitality, self-breaking, and freedom from arrogance, egotism, and haughtiness.  The one who frees himself from these calamities through hunger will also make himself readied for humility, obedience, and surrender before the Lord.  But this hunger must be for the sake of Allah and one must implore Allah to help him overcome his evil desires and animal-like qualities.
The other effects of less eating is the lowering of intensity of passions and other such lowly desires which invite a human being towards sinning and other deviations. Controlling these passions through hunger might free us from getting entrapped into many dangerous situations.
But these effects will only be of benefit if our intention is sincere for the servitude of Allah and when we implore and beg Allah to help us attain these benefits in this month.
In a tradition from Imam Ali (as) we find that he says: Bring to mind, by means of your hunger and thirst in it (the month of Ramazan), the hunger and thirst of the Day of Judgment. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, pg. 356.  So this hunger and thirst and its difficulty is a stark reminder of what will happen on the Day of Judgement.
And in the traditions we find that there are seven Excellences of the Fasting in Ramazan.  Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) has stated: There is no Mu'min, who fasts for a day in the month of Ramazan with the intention of attaining its rewards, except that Allah, The Exalted, grants him seven excellences:
1.    The forbidden food that had entered into our body melts away.
2.    We move closer to the Mercy of Allah, The Exalted.
3.    Allah expiates our sins.
4.    Allah reduces for us the agony of death.
5.    Allah protects us from the hunger and thirst of the Day of Judgment.
6.    We are granted pardon from the fire (of Hell).
7.    Allah provides us the good and pleasant food of Paradise.
(Mustadrak al-Wasaail al-Shia'h, vol. 7, pg. 395)

Also the Holy Prophet (saw) has narrated:
“Engage yourself in self-struggle (Jihad al-Nafs) through the means of hunger and thirst, whose reward is equivalent to the reward of those who participated in the armed struggle for Allah's sake. There is nothing more superior before Allah's sight than tolerating hunger and thirst during fasting.”
The hunger and thirst of fasting will intercede for us in our most difficult of times.  Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Fasting and the Quran intercede for a man. Fasting says, 'O my Lord, I have kept him away from his food and his passions by day, so accept my intercession for him.
Finally, the Holy Prophet (saw) has also said that:
“The one who tolerates more hunger as well as ponders deeply about Allah as compared to others, will be assigned higher Exalted positions before their Lord on the Day of Judgement.”   Suluk al-Arifan
But does the fasting in the holy month of Ramadan only include hunger and thirst?  So all we need to do is stop eating and drinking and in doing so we have accomplished our fasting and our duty in this most holiest of months?  We gain all these blessings and attain taqwa and piety just by refraining from eating and drinking?
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (as) 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."
We cannot attain the full benefit of our fasting and attain taqwa as mentioned in the ayah of the holy Qur’an if we only abstain from food and water.  We must also abstain from sins that are committed by our senses.  This is the month where we can learn to control ourselves and learn to control our senses to the best of our ability.  Our fasting will not be of any benefit and will not gain us any blessings or provide us with taqwa if we lie or backbite or cheat or hurt others verbally or get angry or stay jealous or look at and hear bad things.  The Prophet (saw) said, "Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink".
We need to take one aspect of our flaws and work on them, whether it is anger or pride or any other lowly and shameful quality.  Pick one and work on it this month along with your fasting.  With a sincere intention and hard work we will be able to overcome our flaws in this holy month of self-refinement.  We need to sit and reflect deeply upon what changes we need to make.  How can we increase our worship?  How can we increase our relationship with Allah?  How can we minimize our faults and our sins?
Fasting in this holy month and the teachings of the Ahlul Bayt (as) guide us towards total control of ourselves.  It is this total control of the self that leads us to the purpose of fasting which is taqwa and piety.  Not eating and not drinking during our fasting is the very basic requirement, but it is pointing us towards control of ourselves.  It is taking us towards taqwa. 
Brothers and sisters, if we are strong enough to endure hunger and thirst during these longs days, then we are also strong enough to begin to control our other senses.  We are strong enough to refrain from committing sins.  We are strong enough to make a change in our lives. We are strong enough to resist the forces of evil.  We are strong enough to walk the righteous path of Allah.  By the grace of Allah, we are strong enough.  By the power of the All-Mighty Allah, you my brothers and sisters are strong enough.
The Aim and Objective for Fasting.  Why are we fasting?  What is our intention by observing this holy worship of As-Sawm in the holy month of Ramadan?  Is it to enter Paradise?  Is it to save ourselves from the punishment of Jahannum?  Is it to show the people or avoid the wrath of our parents?
Our aim and objective for fasting should not be either for the sake of freedom from Hell's punishment or for receiving the bounties of Paradise, even though both of these objectives are achieved through fasting. Our goal is not to please our parents or to avoid their punishment.  Our aim is not to show the people.  Rather our aim and intention from fasting should be that this deed would make us closer to Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), thus, helping us attain union with Him. Fasting would lead a human being farther away from lowly bodily desires and would bring us closer to angelic and spiritual virtues.
Fasting during the prescribed hours in the holy month of Ramadan is the very manifestation of obedience to the Creator's will. This self-deprivation represents a state of self-control and of overcoming carnal pleasure, desire, and enjoyment, for the love and pleasure of Allah and for His proximity. It is a deep love for Allah that allows us to overcome our bodily desires for the sake of Allah.  Fasting for the pleasure of Allah is true servitude to the Lord of the Worlds.
Fasting will help us to control ourselves and refrain from sinning and disobeying Allah.  When we refrain from sinning, the barriers between us and Allah are slowly lifted and begin to become purified of our evils.  This purification and subsequent lifting of veils and barriers then leads us to nearness to Allah.  It is this nearness to Allah that is our ultimate aim and objective in fasting during this holy month of Ramadan.
Conclusion
Brothers and sisters, consider that this might be our last Ramadan.  How many were with us last year and the previous years, but could not be with us today.  What if we were not to be here next year?  This could be our last Ramadan and so we must take full advantage of these precious blessings given to us by Allah.  Thus fasting in the holy month of Ramadan is not a divine obligation, it is in fact a divine blessing that helps us to purify ourselves and our hearts, and in turn become closer to Allah, our Creator.
And we see that Allah has assured us and promised us that despite the difficulty and hardship, the fasting in this holy month of Ramadan is more than worth it, it is a life and eternity giving source for the believers.  This month is the month to attain nearness to Allah and to achieve eternal salvation.
When we go to our homes tonight, before we go to sleep, let us have a sincere conversation with our loving Lord.  Let us thank Allah for giving us the opportunity to be alive this holy month of Ramadan.  Let us thank Allah for giving us a month such as Ramadan where our sins are forgiven so easily.  Let us thank and love Allah for his blessings that are overwhelming in this holy month.  Let us make a sincere intention to become better Shia of the Ahlul Bayt (as).  Let us promise Allah that we will make a change in our lives.  Let us ask for strength to fulfill our duties to Allah starting in this holy month and until our dying breath.
Our souls can go through a magnificent spiritual journey throughout these 30 days of the holy month of Ramadhan.  Brothers and sisters, Now is the time for us to prove our self-worth to Allah.  Now is the time for us to make a positive Islamic change in our lives.  Now it is the time to make our Master the Imam of our time proud of our achievement and struggle.  Now is the time to move forward.  Now is the time to shed our shame of the past and put on the mantle of righteousness.  Now is the time to change our destinies.  Now is the time for us to gain nearness to Allah.
It will take sincere intention, motivation, dedication, and action.  InshaAllah, You can achieve it brothers and sisters.  InshaAllah, We will all be successful in this holy month of Ramadhan. 
Author: Golzar

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