شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ
‘The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an..’ [Surah Baqarah 2:185]
Alhamdulillah, we are fast approaching the 15th of Shaban and the 1st of Ramadan.
This month of Shaban was a time when Sayiddina Nabi-e-karim saw was extremely focused in preparing for the month of Ramadan. You can imagine that a student who has his final exams; two three weeks before the exams he starts getting prepared for it and thinking about it more and more and two three days before the final exam, he enters complete preparation mode sort of a zone in which the only thing he can think of is the final exam or if a person has a court case or any type of difficulty just two or three days before its decision or before the court announces its sentence, that’s the only thing a person can think of. Just like that one gets a feel from the sunnah [again this is something that I’ve spoken about before that the sunnah is not just pieces of information but it’s trying to impart to us a complete mizaaj or understanding or outlook or temperament of Sayyidina Rasoolallah [saw] that here in the month of Shaban, specially as he preceded through this month, he [saw] would start to become almost only and exclusively thinking about the month of Ramadan.
So, the 15th of Shaban; recently there have been certain lectures and writers and speakers on Islamic topics who have suggested that there is absolutely no basis or nothing special whatsoever about the 15th of Shaban, when actually all of the muhadiseen have viewed the reports about the 15th of Shaban to be transmitted by a chain that is known as ‘hasan’. Ibn-e-_____ himself mentions the amal or the practice of all the great and pious generations of Muslims, that they would make special worship on this night and that they would fast on the day of the 15th of Sha’ban. So, I would encourage generally that the Prophet saw used to increase his fasts in the month of Sha’ban and if someone hasn’t started as yet, starting from the 15th would be a wonderful way to start. Otherwise, it was a year round sunnah of the Prophet saw, that he saw used to fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th of any month.
For us, who live extremely busy lives that are distracted from the remembrance of Allah swt, we may need something to snap us into this reality that the month of Ramadan is indeed coming soon and I think for that reason, if nothing else, marking the night before the 15th of Sha’ban with extra ibadat and spending the day of the 15th of Shaban in a state of fasting is even more important and critical for us modernity afflicted Muslims, because we don’t have that Sunnah temperament that we are present and preparing for the month of Ramadan, which for us still seems like a distant future event. The thing that is critical for many of us that we should spend the night of the 15th of Shaban with as much ibadat as we can and that day in a state of fasting to snap us out of worldly distractions and back into heightened remembrance and awareness of Allah swt and to really make us feel the imminent coming of the month of Ramadan like the Prophe saw felt the imminent coming of the month of Ramadan.
Secondly, in addition to this practical benefit, spiritually speaking some of our Ullema and Mashaikh have suggested that the manifold barakaat and the massive barakaat and blessings that Allah swt sends in the month of Ramadan, they start to trickle in the month of Sha’ban. Imam-e-Rabbani has explained this in his maktoobaat using Fajr and Sunrise; that Sunrise is that moment when the rays of sunlight come on the horizon, when you can see the silver disc or the lining but before this is the time of fajr, one or more than one hour before this dawn depending upon the time of the year, is the time when the effect of the sunlight starts to trickle through. The first spread of light is the beginning of fajr and as more and more light comes such that when you look at the sky 15 or 20 minutes before sunrise it is full of light, sometimes if you did not know the time for sunrise you would think that the sun was already up. Similarly, before the month of Ramadan appears; just like before the sun appears prior to that there is a lot of light that spreads the sky, just like that before the month of Ramadan appears, the barakaat and the fuyuzaat of Ramadan start to flood the sky, especially during the last 15 days of the month of Sha’ban so if we were not able to take benefit from the full Sunnah package which was two months preparation of Rajab and Sha’ban, an abbreviated Sunnah package would’ve been just one month of preparation; just Sha’ban. Like people have these various hajj packages of 40 days, 45 days, 10 days express…
Now, the least we can do to have that Sunnah preparation for the month of Ramadan is to have these last 15 days of the month of Sha’ban which we should be spending as many as we can its nights in ibadat and as many as we can, its days in fasting. Start planning in advance for the month of Ramadan, start scheduling and when we do these things emotionally, mentally, psychologically spiritually and physically because the fast also has a physical effect; doing all of these things we could become prepared for the month of Ramadan. So, this is very important. For those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Muslim communities where there maybe programs going on in different Masajid, or any type of program going on in the masajid be it preparing for Ramadan or otherwise we should try to partake of that.
There are some ahadith that mention that the night of 15th Sha’ban is a night in which Allah swt decides the rizq of the creation for the upcoming year again these ahadith are hasan in their chain of narration, they are reliably sound but not of utmost soundness. So, it’s not a necessary part of the Deen of Islam that a person believe in this but again we have to look and make our response the way that the muhadiseen and ullema was and it is that the vast overwhelming 95% of all of the mufasireen, muhadiseen, fuqaha, usooleen, auliya-e-kamileen took this to heart and they would make extra prayers and dua to Allah swt to make them a good rizq in the following year.
I think that we need to understand that the concept of rizq is much more than just monetary wealth and our sustenance but it includes first and foremost actually our spiritual rizq: that how much ‘amal we are going to do next year, how much ikhlaas it is going to have, hoW much qubooliat i.e. how much will be accepted by Allah swt, how much tahajjud we are going to do, how much fajr we are going to do, how much isha we are going to do or how much jama’at we are going to do, how much dhikr we are going to do, how much tillawat, istighfar, durood salawaat, khidmat etc that we are going to do. And when we think of it like that, it’s very interesting that in the deen of Islam, Allah swt has linked this annual planning to the month of Ramadan, it almost seems that the 15th of Shaban is the initial decision by Allah swt about how much to bestow upon us the following year but then Allah swt gave us the rest of Sha’ban and all of Ramadan to earn more and more.
For e.g. let’s say that a person makes dua on the 15th of Sha’ban makes true Istighfar and Taubah and the first would be to repent from all the sins that we did from the previous year up till now. And that’s also a very important thing to be thinking about before we enter the month of Ramadan: to repent from all of the previous things that we did in the past year and to realize that it is only and only if we can truly repent from our past that we can be sincerely hopeful from Allah swt that He will be giving us better future. So, this is the mentality that Allah swt is creating in our Deen that we should be thinking about the past and repenting from it and be thinking about our future so that we can improve ourselves in that future. And then, maybe we could make a good Taubah on the night of the 15th of Sha’ban and Allah swt may decree for us good spiritual rizq for the next year but then for the next of Sha’ban and through all of Ramadan we can keep on praying that Allah swt please decree for me more and more rizq and barakaat for the following year.
This is also a very important thing for a person to think about and if a person has not already started thinking yet, a person can now start thinking about all the things to make Taubah from. Again, the first thing is to make Taubah from our spiritual sins: Taubah for all of the Fajr that we missed, Taubah for all of the ’Isha that we missed, Taubah for all of the opportunities to do dhikr, tillawat, Istighfar, salawaat that we had but we missed, Taubah for all of the opportunities of naseeha that we missed, Taubah for all of the things that we heard but we didn’t do ‘amal on them we didn’t practice them, Taubah for all of the Taubahs that we made to Allah swt that we broke, Taubah for all of the duas that we made to Allah swt that we ourselves became the means for them not to happen and this happens specially when we make duas for spiritual things.
For e.g. we make dua that Ya Allah make me a person who never misses a prayer again in my life but then we ourselves go and do something that deliberately makes us miss a prayer. So, Taubah should be made for how much we ourselves hurt the duas to be accepted. So, we have to make Taubah from all of these things and this is very important. And when a person makes Taubah, it is also a fascinating thing I feel about our Deen that Allah swt can really accept our Taubah in one night but after that it takes a lot of effort. For e.g our Taubah may be accepted in one night but it may take a whole month like then month of Ramadan to actually improve ourselves to increase ourselves in the eyes of Allah swt. This is a very important concept and generally what we have noticed among seekers sometimes and also general Muslims that sometimes they separate these two things; the two things being: Taubah for the past sins and becoming better in the future. and sometimes what happens is that we go to a bayan and we make a a deep taubah that night and we sincerely repent from all of our sins. so, we keep thinking that somehow that repentance will change us? No, what the Taubah did was that wiped away our previous sins and now we have to begin a more drawn out and dedicated effort to make ourselves better so that we don’t fall into those sins again. So, the taubah can take place in one night but making ourselves better and stronger spiritually so that we don’t go back into those sins; for that Allah swt has given us the month of Ramadan. And these two things: Taubah and making ourselves better basically summarize the entire purpose and crux of our approach throughout Ramadan. So, this is how we should spend the remaining 15 days of Sha’ban: making Taubah to Allah swt and preparing for the month of Ramadan.
Now, typically on how to prepare for the month of Ramadan. I wanted to remind myself and share with you some pointers. Allah swt said in the Qur’an-e-karim in Surah Baqarah when mentioning :
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
That Fasting is made mandatory on you as it was made mandatory on those before you so that you may attain taqwa’
- So, what is being suggested here is that the link between fasting and taqwa is the link to our humanity. This is what Allah swt is saying that this is what was prescribed upon previous communities as well i.e. not something specific to mo’mineen or specific to muslimeen but its something that was common to all mo’mineen our very humanity and our emaan is such that if we fast we will come to taqwa.
- The second thing, Allah swt is showing here is a link between the zahir and the batin and there are many aspects of our deen that have this link. Allah swt Himself in his Asma-ul-Husna; has two names: Al-Zahir and Al-Batin. Zahir means: the outward, manifest, external and Batin means: the inner, inward, interior, the hidden. So, Fasting is something that is Zahir ‘
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ
- the siyaam is abstaining from food, drinks, all sorts of relations; Allah swt is linking this to Taqwa, saying that Allah swt has hope that it will bring you to taqwa. But, taqwa is something that is in the batin. And it is this batini taqwa that a lot of us lack: our heart doesn’t have the fear of Allah swt, our heart doesn’t have that love for Allah swt, our heart doesn’t have that awareness for Allah swt. And you should think about it rationally, to get such an incredible na’yma, bounty or blessing such as batini taqwa one would’ve thought that maybe one would have to do some batini effort. But Allah swt is bringing us to a zahiri effort. and i think this is a very important thing that ‘The zahir effects the batin” this is a very important lesson we should take from this ayah of the Qur’an; from this whole teaching of fasting in the month of Ramadan.
- And I’m saying this because we are people who have allowed so many things that are unislamic to enter our zahir and we can’t fool ourselves and let ourselves think that it hasn’t effected our batin.
- And what Allah swt is asking through this teaching is that make your Zahir pure; I will give you a whole month, of Ramadan, of which the zahir is pure – it is purified from the presence of Shayateen, it is purified from the doors of Jahannam being open, you are going to be purified from mundane activities such as eating, drinking and marital relations to a certain part of the day, and it is a very strong messaged to us that if you develop and fix your zahir, it will fix your batin *…to be completed, iA*
[These were some highlights from the Tazkya Talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed[db] on 22nd July 2010]