We are blessed that we have come to a “noble” month, and a “grand” season of this year – the month of Ramadan and the blessed season of fasting, mercy, forgiveness, self evaluation, self discipline and great opportunities for all those who aspire to be dear and near to the Creator.

The Creator increases the value of any good deed during these blessed days by giving extra rewards for any good action. He opens the doors of good for whosoever turns to them. Yes, the month of Ramadan is the month of goodness and blessings and the month of individual and communal growth.

It is the month in which Qur’an was sent down, as a guide to humanity and clear Signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong. News of this month’s greatness and preference is widespread and evidenced in many sources of our Din and particularly in the statement of the Prophet Muhammad (S) found in Bukhari and Muslim. It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RA), that the Prophet (S) said, ‘When Ramadhan comes, the gates of Heaven are opened, and the gates of Hell are closed, and the Shayatin are chained.’”

And indeed the gates of Heaven are opened in this month, for the increase in good actions and good desires from humanity. And the gates of Hell are closed for the decrease in disobedience from the People of Faith. And the Shayatin are chained so that they are not able to do what they would normally do otherwise.

Ramadan is the ninth month of Islamic Lunar calendar. It is the only month of our calendar mentioned in the Qur’an. The word ‘Ramadan’ is derived from the Arabic root  ‘ramida or ramad’ denoting intense scorching heat and dryness especially the ground. Thus, the word Ramadan is so called to indicate the heating sensation in the stomach as a result of thirst.

The other opinion says that it is called so because the hearts and souls are more readily receptive to the admonition and remembrance of Allah (SWT) during the month of Ramadan, as the sand and stones are receptive to the sun’s heat. The framers of this beautiful language may have been inspired by Allah (SWT) in naming this month Ramadan. Otherwise, the relationship between the heat and its properties is miraculously similar to that of Ramadan. While the heat represents the matter that helps shape, form, and mold virtually every matter-from metal to plastics, to plants and living cells – Ramadan undoubtedly helps  a true believer remold, reshape, reform, and renew his/her physical and spiritual disposition and behavior. In short, it means ‘to burn’. Just as the fire burns the dint of gold and makes it pure and shiny, in the same way the virtuous deeds and the prayers offered during the month of Ramadan cleans the Muslims from his sins and brings him nearer to Allah, and makes him dearer to Him.

Ramadan is not mere abstention from eating, drinking and the fulfillment of the lawful desires. It is a word which makes the true believers stop and think. It upsets their schedules, cuts deep into their daily habits and affects their neat and well arranged lifestyles, precisely in order to help them dig deeper into their own selves. It makes believers to ask themselves a question about their identity-who they are? It brings to their minds the questions such as: What are we? Are we mere lumps of flesh, or mere desires, and cravings to fulfill them? Is man a mere one-dimensional being totally abandoned to the cares and concerns of his body?

Respected brothers and sisters in Islam! Man is a body, mind, and soul, all in one, and all must be well coordinated. We are not humans mainly because of our bodies, but mainly because of our souls.

Ramadan is a great chance where we can be challenged. It summons us into a new realization that man’s happiness as man lies, not in pure material gratification but in the creation of a new man, a man who is in a state of peace with himself, with his Creator, with the universe and nature around him and with the fellow human beings he shares the planet with. The essential purpose behind fasting in the month of Ramadan is to improve man’s character, good in him. Good man in a society is a guarantee for the good society.

Through the many verses of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Messenger (S), we are reminded again and again on the great potentials Ramadan offers for man’s growth and development. We should remember that Ramadan’s blessings and possibilities are too valuable to be overlooked. They immediately relate to our own destiny as humans, they decide our fate, our success and failure in life. We have to use this opportunity before the death will come. There is no guarantee that we will have this opportunity next year. How many have perished, who deceived themselves into saying: ‘Not this Ramadan, but the next one,” and yet that next one never did arrive for them. Therefore, we cannot afford to lose this opportunity, or refuse to cling to the hand that is stretched out from heaven to save us from drawing except at our own peril.

Almighty Allah and His Messenger Muhammad (S), have spoken at length on the blessings of the great month of Ramadan. All the verses which are sometimes orders, sometimes advises and exhorts are for only one purpose: to help us come forward vigorously with firm determination to utilize its many blessings for gaining true success and prosperity. All Ayat and Ahadith which we will mention intend to save us from utter frustration, the dire consequences of a life lived without heeding the call of Allah, a life which is not infused with higher spiritual goals, a life totally abandoned to the cares and concerns of the body.

Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those nations before you, so that you may become ‘’Muttaqin’ (learn self-discipline, self-restraint, and self-control). You should fast for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or embarking on a journey, the prescribed number should be made up later, day for day. And for those who would fast with hardship, a ransom of feeding a needy person is acceptable. But he who will give more, of his own free will, will bring lots of good to himself. And it is beneficial for you to fast if you only knew. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed, as a guidance for mankind, with sure signs of guidance, and criterion, setting the truth plain from error. He who is present therein must fast. But whoever is ailing, or traveling, he should fast the same number of days later. Allah loves ease for you; He does not love hardship for you. He wants you all to complete the fixed days of fasting and to glorify Allah for guiding you to the right way. All this is in order that you may render thanks to Him (for His blessings). When My servants ask you about Me, tell them I am near, ready to answer the prayer of  him who prays to me. So let them heed My call, and cherish faith in Me, so that they may find proper guidance.”                                 {Al Baqarah 183-186}

The numerous traditions of the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (S) exalt the blessings of Ramadan and fasting in it. Our Messenger Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “It is the month which contains a night, which is more excellent than a thousand month.” “Ramadan is the month of Sabr and the reward for Sabr is Jannah. It is the month of sharing.”         (IbnKhuzaymah)

”Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan while cherishing faith and seeking his reward from Allah, all his past sins will be forgiven for him.”      (Bukhari, Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah Muhammad (S) said: “Almighty Allah said: ‘All the actions a son of Adam performs is his, except Siyam, for it is Mine, and I am to decide its rewards. Siyam is a shield. So if a person is fasting, he should not engage in foolish behavior or shouting or yelling. If someone rebukes him or fights with him, he should not retaliate but answer him saying: ‘I am fasting.’ I swear by the One in Whose Hands is my soul! The breath of a person who is fasting is sweeter to Allah than the smell of the musk. A person who is fasting has two great joys: When he breaks his fast (Iftar), he is happy, and the other time when he meets his Lord (on the Day of Judgment), he would be pleased because of his fasting.”     {Bukhari, Muslim}

Among the points this insightful Hadith revealed is that the fasting is Allah’s. Certainly, there is only one reason why a believer will put himself or herself through this month long physical exercise, and it is to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT). The Siyam is the single most important device to test the Iman (Faith) of the believer and the depth of his / her sincerity and commitment to the concept of the Oneness of Allah.

There are 3 ways that Allah (SWT) rewards his slaves in this month. The first way is that Allah (SWT) makes these actions obligatory on us. Actions that will raise us in status and be a cause for our forgiveness. Had it not been prescribed for us, then we would not worship Allah with these actions, because actions are not performed except they are revealed to his Messenger. Allah speaks about those whom create acts of worship from other than what Allah has revealed and made it shirk. Allah (SWT) says, “Have they partners, who have established for them some religion without the permission of Allah…”

The second way is that Allah gave them the Tawfeeq (ability) to do the righteous acts that many others have neglected. Had it not been for Allah’s help then they would not have done these acts, so to Allah (SWT) is all praise and graciousness. “They make it a favor unto you that they have surrendered. Say: Deem not your Surrender a favor unto me; nay, but Allah has favored you by leading you to the Faith, if you are truthful.”

The third way is that the reward is multiplied by ten to 700 times to many more times. So the graciousness is from Allah (SWT) with the good deeds and the rewards for them, and all praise is due to Allah Lord of all the worlds.

Seeking the rewards of Ramadan is a big blessing on whoever tries to seek them by doing what they are required and by coming closer to their Lord. And by staying away from disobedience and heedlessness and forgetting about Him, and move to His remembrance. And from distancing yourself from Allah (SWT) to making yourself closer to Him.

Let us pray to God Almighty to help us notice all the merits of Ramadan so that all of us could benefit by living some of them during this blessed month of Ramadan and continue living the spirit of Ramadan even when the month of over. Allahumma Amin!