There is a tradition from The Messenger of Allah (saw) which says about the holy month of Ramadan
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficient, the Most Merciful,
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 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.
There is a tradition from The Messenger of Allah (saw) which says about the holy month of Ramadan that: On the Second Day Allah Almighty awards you in every step you take the benefit of a year of worshipping, the reward of a prophet, and grants you the credit of a year of fasting. (Amali al-Sadouk p.103)
Over the years we have learned about the greatness of this holy month. We have learned about how the doors of forgiveness are open for us. We have learned about how we can make positive and lasting changes in our lives that begin in this month. We have learned how we can change our destinies in this month. We have learned about how the blessings of Allah are overwhelming in this holy month. We have also learned how important fasting for the sake of Allah is for our spiritual growth.
We have learned that fasting should include all the senses and that we should refrain from committing sins in order to gain taqwa. We have also learned the spiritual benefits of fasting and being hungry and thirsty. We have heard about the heavenly and divine value of fasting and worshipping Allah in this holy month. And finally we have learned that the aim and objective of fasting in this holy month is for the sole pleasure and servitude to Allah.
Continuing our discussion on Ramadan, I would like to do something different. With your permission, I would like to discuss some practical things that we can do and some things that we should not do in this holy month in order to gain some measure of the taqwa promised by Allah and to fully benefit from this holiest of holy months.
Before I start discussing some things that we can do and some things that we should refrain from, I want to do something out of the ordinary. When I list some of the things we can do and some of the things we should not do, please write them down, either on a piece of paper or your notes section in your cell phones. In all seriousness, write down a few points about what you think you can do or what you would like to do every day in this month of spiritual change. Remember, these are the first steps that we are taking towards our spiritual growth in this month of forgiveness and refinement. Okay. Let us begin.
Let us start with one of the traditions from last night. Imam Jafar 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."
So lets discuss one by one what the fasting for each of these senses could include.
1. SEE NOT WHAT DISPLEASES ALLAH (SWT). This is the fasting of the eyes.
We should restrain and stop ourselves from viewing anything that is blameworthy or reprehensible and haram, or that distracts our hearts and diverts them from the remembrance of Allah. The Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: 'The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be God's curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of God will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart.'
In this tradition we find that the haram looks are deadly for us at any time and even more so in this month. And if we fast with our eyes we will gain a faith which is sweeter than anything we have encountered.
Another tradition (Jabir relates from Anas) relates that Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: 'Five things break a man's Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze.'
It is of utmost importance brothers and sisters that we protect our eyes and ask help from Allah to save us from looking at anything that would disobey His holy commands.
2. SPEAK NOT What Displeases Allah... This is the fasting of the tongue.
The tongue seems to be such an insignificant and simple muscle. Put in a tradition related to us by Imam Ali (as) states that the tongue can be sweeter than honey or sharper than the sword. It is the sharpness and deadly usage of the tongue and our speech that we must fast and keep away from. Guarding one's tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing and controversy. Making our tongues observe silence and occupying them with remembrance of Allah and with the recitation of the Holy Quran or the Sahifa Sajadiyah is of utmost importance. This is the fasting of the tongue. It is related in the traditions that two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies. Interestingly, both committed by the tongue.
The Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: 'Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: "I am Fasting, I am Fasting!"'
The Holy Prophet (as) also 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".
According to another tradition we find a story that: 'Two women were Fasting during the time of Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace. They were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst that they were on the verge of collapsing. They therefore sent a message to Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, requesting permission to break their Fast.
In response, Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, sent them a bowl and said: "Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten." One of them vomited and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other vomited the same so that they filled the bowl between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: "These two women have been Fasting from what God made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what God, Great and Glorious is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they maligned!"'
It is imperative we not waste our fast by leaving our speech and tongue uncontrolled.
3. HEAR NOT What Displeases Allah...This is the fasting of the ears.
Closing one's ears to everything reprehensible; for everything unlawful to utter and say is likewise unlawful to listen to. The one who backbites and gossips is just as bad as the one who listens to it. Refraining from listen to all things haram is a must.
The Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: 'The backbiter and his listener are copartners in sin.'
So Brothers and sisters be very careful of what we listen to this holy month.
4. DO NOT What Displeases Allah...This is the fasting of the hands and feet.
Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands and feet from reprehensible deeds. We must be careful where we go and what we do with our hands. So many sins are committed by where we go and what we do with our hands. We must be careful of our physical actions. Not only will these senses and physical parts bear witness to our sins on the Day of Judgement, but the sins committed by us via these senses can destroy our fast and make us lose the blessings of this holy month.
During the course of a sermon of Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) about the virtues of the month of Ramazan, Imam Ali (as) says: I stood up and asked: O' Prophet of Allah! What is the best deed for this month? The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) replied: O' Abul-Hasan! The best deed for this month is abstinence from that which is forbidden by Allah, The Mighty, The Glorious. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 42, pg. 190
The Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, also said: 'How many of those who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!' May Allah protect us from such a calamity.
We must remember brothers and sisters that our five senses, our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our hands, and our feet are all inputs to our hearts and souls. If we can begin to control these senses of ours from disobeying Allahs commands, InshaAllah, then we can begin to purify our hearts. So remember see not, hear not, speak not, and do not. May Allah make us succeed in this endeavor that we want to take to gain His love and nearness.
One of the most critical mistakes that we make is to overeat in this holy month of Ramadan. Overeating in this month will destroy the benefits that we would receive otherwise. So we must try our very best to not over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the point of stuffing our belly. There is no receptacle more odious to God, Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food.
Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering Allah's enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it we not only make up for all we have missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulge in a variety of extra foods?
It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and to check desire, in order to reinforce the soul in piety. If the stomach is starved from early morning till evening, so that its appetite is aroused and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated; passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal conditions.
The spirit and secret nature of Fasting is to weaken the forces which are Satan's means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut down our intake to what we would consume on a normal night, when not Fasting. No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as much as one would usually take during the day and night combined.
A man who Fasts like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city. The person made a castle by fasting and remaining hungry and thirsty, but demolished a city by overeating during suhur and iftar. Remember that the object of Fasting is to induce moderation.
Now brothers and sisters, in case you have not begun to write anything down, now is the time to start. I would like to now discuss what are some things we can do and not do in this Holy Month of Ramadan so we can benefit from the blessings of Allah and make life long positive Islamic changes. We put forth some basic points that will help us to increase our spirituality in this month.
1. We need to first have a sincere intention to follow the righteous path walked by the Ahlul Bayt (as) taught to us by Allah. We must have the intention to improve ourselves for seeking nearness to Allah. Let us start this month with a clear and sincere intention, speaking directly to Allah to help us, to guide us, and to give us strength to succeed.
2. We can start reading the holy Quran daily after or before Salat al-Fajr. Or anytime you wish to recite the holy Qur’an. A few pages a day, one page a day, one line a day. There are numerous traditions on the benefits and rewards of reciting the holy Quran in this month with reflection. Imam Rida (as) has said: "Someone who recites one verse from the Book of Allah, The Mighty, The Glorious, in the month of Ramazan, is like one who has recited the entire Holy Quran in the other months." (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, pg. 344)
3. Spend some time listening to recitations and translations of the holy Quran. The listening and recitation of the holy Qur’an with reflection is a purifier and eraser of our sins.
4. We should keep fast with enthusiasm. Realize the wonders that the fasting is doing for you. Realize that it is making Allah happy that you are fulfilling His commands. Don’t consider it a burden, rather consider it a divine blessing.
5. We can learn and practice to control our tongue and lower our gaze. We can begin to control our anger, emotions, and carnal desires. We should be careful about what to watch and read on the internet. Our fasting is of no use if we abstain from eating and drinking, but we look at haram things and we speak mean and hurtful comments.
6. We can reduce watching TV and movies, and reduce spending endless hours on social media and the internet. Instead we can spend more time reading the Quran or other Islamic literature.
7. We must avoid eating too much during sehri and iftar. Try not to fill our stomachs completely because the whole purpose of fasting is to be hungry and thirsty. Sometimes we eat twice as much during sehri and iftar than we would on a regular non-fasting day. This will defeat the purpose of fasting and take us farther away from the taqwa we are trying to attain. Let us not turn this month of fasting into a month of feasting.
8. We can train ourselves to go to bed early so that we can wake up for Salat al-Fajr and sehri on time. Sometimes we stay up so late doing unimportant things that we wake up late and find ourselves speed eating or reading salat al-Fajr half asleep. A good night’s sleep is necessary for us to be able to worship better.
9. We can keep ourselves in a state of Wudu (Ablution) most of the time. When we wake up and wash our faces, lets add Wudhu. Whenever our Wudhu breaks, lets do it again. Or right before we go to sleep, let us perform our Wudhu.
10. We can evaluate ourselves daily before going to sleep. Did we improve in any way? Did we fulfill our duties and accomplish our goals? How can we do better the next day? If we failed, why?
11. We can thank Allah daily for the good deeds we have accomplished, and repent to Him for the mistakes and sins committed on that day. Imam Ali (as) said: It is incumbent upon you to seek forgiveness and supplicate excessively in the month of Ramazan. As for the supplication, by means of it the calamities are warded off from you, and as for the seeking of forgiveness, it erases away your sins. (Al-Kafi, vol. 4, pg. 88)
12. We can start giving Sadaqah daily, no matter how little. Sadaqah wards off evil and protects the believers.
13. We can keep ourselves busy with Zikr, Dua, and constant remembrance of Allah. Pick a name of Allah each day and reflect upon it. Imam Sadiq (as) said: With the advent of the month of Ramazan, Imam Ali Ibn al-Hussain (as) would cease to speak about anything except dua, tasbeeh (glorification of Allah), isteghfar (seeking forgiveness) and takbeer (saying 'Allahu Akbar'). (Al-Kafi, vol. 4, pg. 88)
14. We can take time out to read the histories and biographies of the Ahlul Bayt (as) or other Islamic literature that can be of benefit to us. Many of us are not familiar with Nahjul Balagha. We can read a page a day. You will begin to see the beauty and eloquence of Nahjul Balagha.
15. We can list our sins and our shortcomings and pray to Allah to forgive us our sins of the past and protect us from committing sins in the future. Repentance and asking for forgiveness is an internal revolution of the human being against the self. The greatest joy of chaste people has always been to admit to God their shortcomings, their faults, their needs and their poverty, saying that they show nothing but negligence, while God grants nothing but favor and grace.
16. Along these lines, let us establish a communicative relationship with Allah. Let us tell Allah our wants and needs, our accomplishments and our shortcomings.
17. Let us help in the house by helping with setting the table and cleaning up around the home or any other household chore that must be done.
18. We can make sure to remember Imam Husayn (as), the shohada of Karbala, and the thirsty women and children every time we drink water.
19. We can put an elastic band around our wrist and everytime you want to return to your bad habit pull on it and let it go, the pain will remind you to stay on track.
20. We can read our salah just a little more slowly, with patience, and understanding. We can prolong our sujud and our ruku just a little bit longer.
21. We can smile more often, it is the Sunnah of the Ahlul Bayt (as) and it is the most basic form of charity.
22. We can read Dua Faraj on a daily basis or even after every salah or even specify one salah where we will read the dua every day.
23. We can call a friend or relative that we have fallen out of touch with. Silah Rehmi has beautiful blessings within it.
24. We should spend more quality time with our families and strengthen the bonds of kinship among us. A close knit family and community leads to unity.
25. We can memorize those small surahs of the Holy Qur’an.
26. We can read Bismillah before we begin anything.
27. We are so busy with our jobs and our phones, we rarely get a chance to talk to each other, parents take time out to talk to your children, and youth make an effort to talk to your parents.
28. We can begin to perform Nawafil prayers whenever we find the time. The Nawafil prayers give us extra spiritual energy and help to purify us. Pick one Nawafil prayer and stick to it throughout the month. Since we are already awake in the morning for suhur, it should be easy to begin reading our Fajr nawafil regularly.
29. We can begin to adopt Sabr (patience) and Inculcate tolerance within ourselves.
30. We can begin to adopt steadfastness and consistency in our Ibadah and worship.
31. We can begin to treat our parents well and to be humble with them and obey them and love them. We can ask for forgiveness for our parents mistakes whether they are alive or have passed away on a daily basis.
32. We can make sure to read the tasbih of hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa)after every namaz.
33. Before going to sleep, we can remember and think about all the blessings that Allah has given us and thank him from the bottom of our hearts and realize how much Allah loves us.
34. We can make an effort to eat Suhur and Iftar. Those who eat Suhur and iftar because, it is recommended, Allah likes it, and it helps a person in worshipping, but in addition to that also pay due regard to the special etiquettes and instructions about Suhur and iftar - etiquettes such as recital of Holy Qur'an, engaging in special supplications before, after, and during Suhur and iftar, and praising and thanking Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted). Eating before the dawn is a recommended deed of fasting, and it has been narrated in a tradition: “Eat before dawn even if it be only a drink of water, because Allah sends salutations upon those who eat before dawn for fasting.”
35. We can take account of ourselves in the start and end of the holy month of Ramadan. What were our good traits and what were our bad traits in the beginning of the month and compare it to the end of the month. Did we accomplish the goals we set out for ourselves? Did we improve? What more can we do going forward?
36. We can make sure to read our salah on time. Start with one or two salah that everyday we will read on time, to the best of our ability. Remember that the five daily prayers are the calling of Allah to His servants and creation.
37. We can begin reading the beautiful duas of Sahifa Sajadiya. The duas prescribed to us by the Ahlul Bayt (as) cure us from our flaws and our ailments. They are a prescription for our diseases just as the holy Qur’an is a cure for our sins. Read one page of Sahifa Sajadiya a day and reflect upon its wisdom, beauty, and eloquence.
38. We can give the iftar for the believers. We can be a sponsor or a co-sponsor in the iftar dinner at the center or even provide just something small that we can put on the dinner table. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: One who provides iftaar to a Mu'min in the month of Ramazan, shall be granted the reward of liberating a slave (in the path of Allah) and shall have all his previous sins forgiven. And if he did not possess the means to present anything except milk mixed with water, or a drink of sweet water and a date, Allah would grant him this reward. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, pg. 317
39. We must try to not waste food and throw it in the garbage. How many thousands of Muslims and millions of people in the world are starving to death. How shameful is it if we throw away our food, when there are countless people in the world that would gladly eat the garbage we throw away and still thank Allah for His blessings.
So brothers and sisters, we listed a long list of things that we can do this month and things we should not do. I truly hope that you wrote many of them down. Keep this piece of paper handy and safe and look at it every day and remember that you are taking steps to purify ourselves and gain nearness to Allah. If we apply these rules consistently we will begin to see a positive and lasting Islamic change in our lives. By the end of the month, InshaAllah, the things that we listed tonight will become a natural part of our lives and then we will be a step closer to our spiritual goals. I apologize for the long list, but my intention was to list many so that you could choose a few for yourselves.
Take control of your lives and your destinies dear brothers and sisters. Now is the time. If we have the right intention and we strive and struggle hard, we can achieve all the spiritual goals we set for ourselves. Always remember that we are strong enough. Remember that you are strong enough to accomplish your goals of servitude to Allah. We just need to have a sincere and steadfast intention. We need to work hard and keep moving forward. We need to have faith in the power and help of Allah. We need to believe that we can do it. We can be better than angels if we only try and receive help from Allah. The time is now to prove ourselves. inshaAllah, by the power and help of Allah, we will achieve a great success. All we need to do is to believe and try hard to improve.
As Allah states in the Holy Qur’an suratur- Ra’ad verse 11,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition.
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