However, like with most things in life, we all have different perceptions.
For some, this month is a month of trials and tribulation. We are taught the virtue of self control as we fight our most basic
desires and needs. Our sleep is disturbed, we are hungry and thirsty and we have to fight the thoughts of lust which plague
the best of us from time to time. We endeavour to keep our thoughts and tongue clean, in this month more than any other, we
are reminded that we are Muslims. We belong to this great faith and are truly blessed in this most special of months when
the devil is chained and paradise is opened for the fortunate ones.
‘Eat and drink until the white thread appears to you distinct from the black thread’.
(Surah 2, 187)
Allah (swt) reveals in Al-Qur’an that we are permitted to take
food and drink until the break of dawn and this verse has been clarified by the beloved Prophet (saw). As narrated by Adi
bin Hatim (ra) who said the Prophet (saw) explained this verse as meaning the darkness of night and
the whiteness of dawn. Many believers still remain
unsure about the actual point they are allowed to eat and drink to, however the guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah
has clarified this point.
The dawn meal - sahur is said to be a blessing and is not
compulsory. Anas bin Malik (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said to “take the sahur as
there is a blessing in it”.
Fasting trains our bodies, minds and desires and it is this sacrifice
that is richly rewarded by Allah (swt). One beautiful example of the blessings of a fast comes from Abu Huraira (ra) who states
that the Prophet (saw) said “By him in whose hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the
mouth of a person observing Saum (fast) is better with Allah (swt) than the smell of musk. (About the fasting person, Allah
(swt) says) he has left his food, drink and desired for my sake. The saum - fasting is for me so I will reward (the fasting
person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.”
Again the same source states that the Prophet (saw) said that “whoever does not give up lying and acting upon those lies and evil actions, Allah is not need of his
leaving his food and drink”. Therefore, it
is of paramount importance that we train our bodies, minds and tongues in this month and teach ourselves the values, which
will nourish our souls.
Allah (swt) displays His mercy on believers when a fast is accidentally
opened before the right time. A concession is made if one eats or dinks by mistake whilst he/she is in saum. Hasrat
Abu Huraira (ra) narrates the Prophet (saw) as saying “If somebody eats or drinks forgetfully
then he should complete his fast, for what he has eaten or drunk, has been given to him by Allah”. Quite
superbly, the blame is taken of the fallible sinner and that morsel or drop is attributed to the kindness of Allah (swt).
The Iftar is the meal with which the fast is opened at sunset.
It is desirable in Islam to open ones’ fast as a community. Islam is a religion that encourages a community spirit-
we are told to nurture family ties and ties of friendship. These are not to be ignored during this blessed month. Like many
aspects of Islam, the month of Ramadan has a social aspect and it is this aspect that I wish to draw upon here.
Shamaa-il Tirmidhi tells us that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself used
to cut pieces of meat for his guests to eat to create love and brotherhood. There is an intimacy about eating together and
whilst western culture upholds this via the tradition of Christmas gatherings and even the romantic tradition of candle lit
dinners, the Islamic world endorses this through community meals, eating with hands and even eating from the same plate.
As Muslims, we should come together in gatherings to celebrate Ramadan
and do the Iftar together. However, the question being asked here is if this holy message is being lost in the excesses
of showmanship. The guilty party may be on both sides- the host and the guest . The host wants to impress his guests with
superb cuisine and the pressure is to feed the guests properly. The guests are often critics- the quality of food and the
variety is foremost on the minds and lips of the believers and to be honest, we are all guilty of that from time to time.
Not only is this form of backbiting unlawful - haram but the effort that the host, rightly or wrongly, has put into
the meal is wasted.
Excess of any kind is frowned upon in Islam- I have seen many times that
due to over-eating, some believers have struggled to pray the Maghrib and Taraweeh prayers. Needless to say, a fast cannot
be accepted without the five prayers. The goal of Ramadan is to nourish our emaan - faith
through as much Ibaadat - faith as possible. The beloved Prophet (saw) has left his greatest example of modesty, as
he would often open his fast with just one date, emphasising that excessive menus and over-eating should not be encouraged.
It should be remembered here what the main purpose of the iftar - opening
of the fast, actually is. We are brought together to celebrate and open the fast together- as brothers and fellow believers.
It does not matter what the menu for the Iftar is or whether there were samosas or not and how many dishes were available
for the main dinner. The blessing is in the togetherness, the unity and the one common goal for all of us, is to seek the
pleasure of the Creator.
A special mention should be made here of the actual time of the iftar.
It is a sunnah to open the fast as soon as possible following sunset. As narrated by Sahl bin Sad (ra), the Messenger
of Allah (saw) stated that “the people will remain on the same path as long as they hasten the
Iftar”. I have often seen myself at several of these
gatherings that the host passes around the dates to open the fast (also a sunnah) but delays opening their own fast. Whilst
it is proper to fulfil the needs of ones’ guests before oneself, it should also be noted that the opening of the fast
should not be delayed by any of the believers.
Night of Power
This is the month in which we received the ultimate guidance, the
word of Allah (swt) - the Qur’an. This month is like no other- we accustom ourselves to a discipline of waking at dawn,
of complete abstinence and thus control of our desires and then opening our fast in the evening. Once free of these basic
needs, it always amazes me year after year, how much time we have to pray and remember Allah (swt) and His blessings. The
Glorious Qur’an also revealed in Surah 97, the ’Night of Power’.
‘The Night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months’. Surah Al-Qadr
The worship done in the Night of Qadr would be greater than
a thousand months, this shows the tremendous mercy of Allah (swt) as He has bestowed on us a single night of prayer that outweighs
83 years and four months of worship. The beloved Prophet (saw) confirms in hadith to ‘search
for it in the odd nights of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan’ (Bukhari).
Ramadan then comes to its conclusion with one of the greatest days in the
year- that of Eid- ul- Fitr. Allah (swt) rewards our efforts with this special day when we are free to eat, drink and
make merry (in an Islamic way of course)!
Ramadan is a mercy and blessing from Allah (swt) and each and every believer
should thank the Almighty every year as we are fortunate enough to seek the blessings. We should always reflect on many of
those countless Muslims who were present the previous year but have passed away, of course unaware that Ramadan would be their
This holy month is upon us once more- may we reap the rewards and seek the blessings, may it pass peacefully
and may we all the remember the real reason for the fasting.