In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful “The number of months in the sight of the Almighty is twelve (in a year)- so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred: that is the straight path; so wrong not yourselves therein, and fight the Pagans all together as they fight you all together. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.” (Q9: 36)
THIS sermon today is concerned with the exploration of newer paths towards a successful and more rewarding fasting season. Perhaps this should begin with the call for early preparation for the month of Ramadan.
In other words, though experience has taught us that early planning in all human endeavour makes for successful outcomes, and that the earlier the preparation of a student the more the likelihood of his success in the examination, it appears that this timeless wisdom often enjoys little patronage with reference to Muslims’ approach to the month of Ramadan.
Thus, hours to the first day in the month, there usually occurs a bedlam in some markets across major cities of this country. This is often caused by the sudden realization, by adherents of Islam, that the first supererogatory prayer (al-tarawih), which usually marks the beginning of the month would be held that same night and that the early morning meal (sahur) would be due on the following day.
Thus, Muslim women and men would now proceed to the various markets in order to buy food materials with which their families would begin fasting. On such days, traders in the market usually hike prices of food stuffs. A cup of rice, which hitherto used to sell for, for example, 50 Naira, would now be sold for a hundred naira.
That brother of mine would consequently be ‘punished’ by the shylock traders for his lack of planning. He would invariably go back home utterly disappointed for his inability to buy the items his wife had requested from him.
My Muslim sister, whose task it is to procure necessary materials for her family, would become disconsolate simply because food prices had reached the roof-top. The Muslim’s home front would then become unhomely; the joy which Ramadan should normally occasion in Muslim homes would then become tempered by its inability to satisfy its basic needs.
Dear brethren, the above represents the very antithesis of the preparation a Muslim can undertake ahead of Ramadan. It is the pathway we should all avoid in order for us to have a more rewarding and fulfilling Ramadan this year. I should then advise, if I may, that each of our families should have a Shuura (family consultations) days before the onset of Ramadan.
Endeavour to prepare an estimate of every item that your family would need in order to enjoy the bliss of Ramadan and make effort to go out for shopping days before the appearance of the crescent.
If the crescent for the month of Ramadan takes eleven months before it appears, it means we should not wait till it is twenty-four hours to its beginning to begin to prepare for it. Further, whoever owes an obligation to the Almighty or his fellow creatures and has not fulfilled it since the end of the last Ramadan till date would have failed to adequately prepare for the coming Ramadan. Such a Muslim could very well be referred to as a sinner and an oppressor: a sinner in the sight of his creator and an oppressor of her or his own soul.
Brethren, let us discharge all our obligations, the spiritual, the social, the economic, the cultural and even the political before this year’s Ramadan begins.
A Muslim who does not heed this admonition could be likened to a student who proceeds to the examination hall with “forbidden documents and materials”.
He could also be likened to yet another student who desire to sit for the second year examinations though he still has some outstanding courses for the first year. A student who engages in the latter would most likely not be allowed to sit for the examinations; at worst he/she would not graduate from the university.
In other words, dear brethren, a wrong way to prepare for Ramadan is to have unresolved disputes with your fellow Muslim brethren.
Since Ramadan is, first of all, a spiritual exercise before being a communal or social one, since the locale of the spiritual is the human soul – the heart, and since anger, animosity, envy, hatred and all ill-feelings are diseases which assail the heart, corrupt it and render it unsuitable for spiritual re-awakening, it then becomes highly important that we emptied our hearts of all these “spiritual viruses”.
Thus dear brother, endeavour to settle all existing disputes and issues with your fellow human beings, Muslims, Christians, and the other before the onset of Ramadan.
Remember, dear sister, that you should expect your supplications to be granted while you unjustly sit on the right or rights of your neighbour, your sub-ordinates in your office, or even that of your husband and children.
“Return the trusts to their owners…” that is the injunction of the Almighty in the Qur’an. Not to do this is to prepare wrongly for the coming Ramadan.
Brethren, one other way by which a Muslim could prepare inappropriately for Ramadan is to leave a threat to his health unattended to.
Since Ramadan is a month of action, it is incumbent on every mature Muslim who knows and believes that fasting is obligatory on him to seek every lawful means by which she would be in the best state of health before it begins. Such a Muslim could go for a medical check-up.
A Muslim who knows he is at the risk of contracting ulcer would be doing wrong preparation for Ramadan by engaging in supererogatory fasting before Ramadan.
Remember, all other fasts aside from Ramadan are supererogatory not obligatory: whereas you would not be punished for not fasting in the month of Sha’aban, to intentionally skip Ramadan fast is haraam.
Brethren, it is implicit in what we have mentioned so far the positive ways by which we can prepare for the coming Ramadan. Let us prepare for the month by asking the Almighty to forgive us and redeem our leaders in this country.
In an hadith reported by al-Tabrani and which is classified as hasan by al-Albani, the Prophet is reported to have said: “Whoever seeks forgiveness for believing men and believing woman, the Almighty will write for him a good deed for each believing man and believing woman.”
Brethren let us begin an act of worship before Ramadan which we would then increase as soon as the blessed month begins; an act of worship that would then become our own wadhifah, a regular spiritual exercise.
The Prophet says: “The deeds most loved by Almighty are those done regularly, even if they are small.”
For example, if you are the type who always prays two supererogatory prayers after Salat al-Ishaa, you could begin by adding extra two with the intention of asking Almighty to help you prepare for the coming month so that you can exert your utmost and reap the highest available rewards during the month. In other words, intensify your acts of worship as rehearsals for acts that would peak during the month.
What this means indirectly is that you are planning ahead for the month; you are already in the spiritual mood; the mood that would see you finish the reading and contemplation of the glorious Qur’an at least once during the month; that mood that would see you attend the tafsir sessions; that mood that would see you avoid all vain talks, indecencies and the muharramat (unlawful things) and permanently too.
In this mood, you would envision yourself as if you are already standing up for judgment in front of the Almighty; you are there in front of Him, all alone, without your loved ones. On that day your money and your status have become (and will become) useless
. The only friend you will have on that day is your acts of worship: the salat you observed at the right time, the indecency you shunned even when you were all alone with that “babe” in your office, the smile you put on the face of that neighbour of yours who was in distress, the contract you won and which you conscientiously executed, the duties you discharged for your parent. Each of this act that you do before Ramadan would put you in the “Ramadan mood”.