Fethi B Jomaa Ahmed*
The whole world is still engaged in fighting the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. People, governments, and organizations have been vividly following the news and responding to the spread and scale of the epidemic. According to well-established scientific news and analysis, the pandemic will endure for some time. In a very short time, life on earth has changed across the world, and Muslims have to adapt to the new circumstances and fast Ramadan during the pandemic. This would be an unprecedented experience for Muslims to perform the obligation of fasting during the time of the pandemic with the well-known precautionary measures particularly self-quarantining, social distancing, the lockdown, and many other restrictions. Many Muslims cannot imagine that one day they live and see that they are not permitted to attend the five daily prayers or Friday prayer as well as offer tarawih with the congregation in mosques and Islamic centers. Moreover, they are not allowed to organize break-fast gatherings (Iftar Jama’i, Mawaed-ar-Rahman, Sufrat Ramadan…) and more than that there will not be congregational Eidul-Fitr prayers neither in mosques nor in fields as it has already been announced by almost all Muslim authorities and religious establishments.
Muslims are generally aware of the rationale behind the precautionary measures in relation to the fight against the spread of the infection of COVID-19. Nevertheless, it is obvious that this uncommon situation is awful for many Muslims who have been committed to congregational prayers in mosques and Islamic centers as well as for those who have been engaged in iftar gatherings. They feel the hit and the vacuum more than many others who were not committed to many collective religious rituals and activities. Despite the fact that some Muslims have already coped with the current situation, it is generally observable that many others are still struggling, unhappy, anxious, and even depressed especially because of severe negative socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. Besides, there have been many incidents of irregular behavior, negligence, and breach of the preventive procedures that have been set by governments and health authorities.
It is time to develop some important tips for comprehensive excellence in this Ramadan because the reminder is always helpful and significant for the believers as Allah (swt) says, “And remind, for the reminder benefits the believers.” (Qur’an, 51:55), also, the believers should constantly advocate what is right and command patience (Qur’an, 103:3). I am very hopeful that the following tips could be very useful for Muslims to achieve the main goal of fasting, which is taqwa (Qur’an, 2:183), have the best Ramadan ever, and at the same time transform the distress from the current pandemic situation into a grace, a blessing, prosperity, and comprehensive excellence.
1. Understand the essence of fasting
Allah (swt) has legislated fasting Ramadan and made it as one of the pillars of Islam. Sawm (fasting) in Ramadan is an obligatory Ibada (act of worship), which has many positive impacts on both the individual and the community at all times. It contributes to building a strong and prosperous community if it is done as described in the Qur’an and hadith and practiced by Prophet Mohamed (pbuh). Fasting is meant to be the best method to revive the good values, strengthen the Qur’anic identity of the believers, and enhance the welfare of the community. Allah (swt) made taqwa (righteousness/piety), in its broader sense, the ultimate purpose of fasting. Furthermore, taqwa is the only criteria upon which people will be ranked in the sight of Allah (swt) “…verily the most honored by Allah amongst you are those best in taqwa” (Qur’an, 49:13).
In contrary to what many people would think that fasting is harmful to human health and economy, Allah (swt) made it clear that by making fasting Ramadan as an obligation, He intends for the believers yusr (ease), not a hardship. Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for people before you that you may become pious…for a fixed number of days…Allah intends for you ease and not hardship and He does not want to make things difficult for you..” (Qur’an, 2:183-185). It is understood from these verses of the Qur’an that Allah (swt) has chosen fasting to be the best and most effective method for his servants to attain taqwa.
Fasting means abstaining from food and drink and all other desires and actions that invalidate our fasting from dawn to sunset. It should not be regarded as a habit or tradition done once a year in Ramadan but rather a sincere act of worship to attain Allah’s pleasure. It is indeed a practical method to show humbleness to Allah (swt) and total obedience and submission to His decree. In modern terms, fasting Ramadan could be described as a school that offers an intensive training program for Muslims to practically learn how to become prosperous, revive the good values they share, strengthen their identity and enhance their community well-being.
2. Establish regular prayers
This Ramadan offers an excellent opportunity to restore the robust system of prayers because the believers have lots of free time, which enable them to perform the prayers on time, and it will not take much commuting time as it is performed at home due to the ban of congregational prayers at mosques and Islamic centers. A careful reading and comprehension of the obligation of Salat (prayer) in the Qur’an and Sunnah shows that prayer is a holistic system of purification, the pillar of the religion, and the best deed in the sight of Allah (swt) once performed on due time. Allah (swt) says, “..set up regular prayers: for such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times” (Qur’an, 4:103). The Qur’an warns those who are not committed to establishing regular prayers on time, Allah (swt) says, “So woe unto those performers of Salat (prayers), who delay their Salat (prayer) from their stated fixed times and those who do good deeds only to be seen (of men)” (Qur’an, 107:4-6).
Besides, prayers should be performed with Khushu’ that is concentration, soberness because they are not mere physical movements but also spiritual and mental presence. Allah (swt) says, “Successful indeed are the believers who offer their Salat (prayer) with all solemnity and full submissiveness” (Qur’an, 23:1-2). In a famous hadith, the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) came to Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and asked him about Islam and Ehsan and taught him that Ehsan is to worship Allah as if you seeing Him and if you do not see Him, He sees you (Muslim). Ehsan relates to the goodness and perfection in doing things right and acting beautifully. It also refers to offering more volunteer actions and deeds than the obligatory ones. Perfection of the obligatory prayers and offering extra prayers will certainly strengthen the faith and make the believer a more conscious and God-fearing person in all contexts of life.
In all cases, what is important is that establishing regular prayers will enhance the spiritual and inner being of the believers because there is an increase in the opportunities to meet Allah (swt) more frequently and further develop a relationship with Him. Prayers show that Muslims submit themselves to their Lord who commanded them to worship Him alone. The impact of the five daily obligatory prayers on the heart and soul has eloquently been described by prophet Mohamed (pbuh) as a cleanser from all kinds of spiritual, moral, and societal obscenities and impurities - like taking bath five times a day so the body will be extra clean and sober. Moreover, it has been clearly stated in the Qur’an that Salat has a positive social impact on the individuals and communities as Allah (swt) says, “…and perform the prayer. The prayer prevents indecencies and evils.” (Qur’an, 29:45)
In Ramadan, Muslims will normally be more committed to performing obligatory as well as sunnah prayer particularly tarawih and tahajjud prayers in a congregation. However, in this time of pandemic, all prayers will be performed at home although some people especially family members might be able to conduct congregational prayers at home. Here, it is important to emphasize that tarawih and tahajjud are sunnah (voluntary) prayers that fall under the category of qiyamu Ramadan. Sunnah prayers in general as well as tarawih and tahajjud prayers should be performed at home and in fact, it is more rewarding that the worshippers perform them at home. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) as well as the Sahabah (companions) used to pray Sunnah prayers in their homes as the Messenger (pbuh) has recommended this practice, he said, “O people! perform your (voluntary) Salat (prayers) in your homes because the best Salat of a man is the one he performs at home, except the obligatory Salat.” (al-Bukhari). This religious practice could be viewed as a policy to avoid making our houses like graveyards. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said, “Pray in your houses, and do not make them graves.” (Muslim). This does not mean that voluntary prayer at mosques is haram (forbidden) but rather to encourage the worshippers to make their home vibrant with prayers and to receive a better reward for their sincere voluntary acts of worship.
Therefore, we should not distress that there will be no tarawih in mosques instead we should be happy that now we can show our real and sincere determination as well as our commitment to qiyamu Ramadan at home and enjoy doing it in its original state as it was done by our beloved Prophet (pbuh). Besides, one of the mercies of Allah (swt) is that we are rewarded for our good intentions even though we cannot perform what we intended to do. Subsequently, as we are not permitted to gather in mosques and places of worship because of the pandemic, we will insha’Allah receive the reward because of our good intention.
3. Advance in knowledge and skills
All Muslims have been enjoined to seek knowledge and acquire skills that help them in this life and in the Hereafter too. Allah (swt) praised Knowledge seekers and scholars, and promised them great reward “…God elevates those among you who believe, and those who have been given knowledge, many steps…) (Qur’an, 58:11) and “…From among His servants, the learned fear God…” (Qur’an, 35:28). Moreover, He commanded people to increase their knowledge “…and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.”(Qur’an, 20:114). This Ramadan is a good time to review our acquired knowledge, seek new knowledge, and advance in knowledge because we have ample time and less disruption to learn, produce, and share knowledge.
However, Ramadan is the month of Qur’an par excellence. Allah (swt) says, “Ramadan is the (month) in which the Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind and a clear guidance and judgment (so that mankind will distinguish from right and wrong)…” (Qur’an, 2:185). Reciting or listening and deliberating on the different verses and chapters of the Qur’an is one of the greatest ibada and the highest level of remembrance that calms the heart (Qur’an, 13:28). The Holy Qur’an brings Muslims closer to Allah (swt) and enhance their love and relationship with Him. Ramadan is a good time for Muslims to put extra effort into changing the habit of forsaking the Qur’an. It is incumbent upon Muslim individuals and the community to go back to the Qur’an and increase their direct communications with Allah (swt). Reciting the words of Allah (swt) and pondering upon their meanings and teachings will certainly purify the soul, soften and clean the heart from all worldly and materialistic temptations. Allah (swt) says, “Do they not then think deeply in the Qur'an, or are their hearts locked up (from understanding it)” (Qur’an, 47:24).
This exercise is also a method for Muslims to glorify their Lord, increase their full somberness (khushu’) to him and appreciate His great favor of revealing the Qur’an, preserving it from all types of corruption, making it a guide to the straight path and granting many rewards for each letter they recite. Allah (swt) says, “ Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rending asunder by the fear of Allah (swt). Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect upon” (Qur’an, 59:21).
Moreover, it is amazing to know that Allah (swt) made the creation of man subsequent to teaching the Qur’an “The Compassionate. Has taught the Quran. He created man.” (Qur’an: 55:1-3). Scholars say that Allah (swt) wanted to show that the value of human beings lies not in their physical or material being but in their Qur’anic character and identity. Therefore, let us take this special opportunity in this Ramadan to strengthen our relationship with the Qur’an by reading, reciting, understanding its teachings, and applying them in our daily affairs.
4. Enhance your spirituality
The Holy Month of Ramadan offers several means and methods to enhance the believers’ devoutness and heal their spiritual weaknesses and ills. The spiritual significance of fasting lies in the struggle to abstain from all desires. This struggle is, in fact, a noble effort to free one’s self from being a slave to material and worldly things, and bad qualities such as greediness and vain desires; thus revive the fitra (human nature) and reinstate it in the position it deserves in Muslim life. The spiritual struggle is motivated by Allah’s promise for a great and unlimited reward to those who fast for the sole purpose of pleasing Him. In a hadith Qudusi Allah (swt) says, “Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed is multiplied ten times, up to seven hundred times except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will reward for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me. For the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord…” (al-Bukhari). Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) says, “…whoever fasts during Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven” (al-Bukhari).
As we are now staying at home, certainly, we have ample time to practice all acts of devotion that help us to get closer to Allah (swt); therefore, let us put extra efforts this Ramadan to uplift our spirituality and strengthen our relationship with our Lord to become perfect servants. It is very important to start the spiritual path toward Allah with forsaking all kinds of disobedience to Allah (swt) “It is not for any believer, man or woman when God and His Messenger have decided a matter, to have the liberty of choice in their decision. Whoever disobeys God and His Messenger has gone far astray.” (Qur’an, 33:36). It is also vital for those who would like to be closer to Allah (swt) to be shy from Him, immediately stop all evil acts, and sincerely repent from all types of sins and adulteries. Allah (swt) says, “If you avoid the worst of what you are forbidden, We will remit your sins, and admit you by a Gate of Honor.” (Qur’an, 4:31).
Furthermore, offering dhikr (remembrance) is also a very powerful tool to clean the heart and purify the soul. Remembering Allah (swt) may take the form of reciting and reading the Qur’an, which is the highest level of dhikr; nevertheless, there are many other adhkar that have been mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah. During this Ramadan, Muslims have ample time to offer Allah’s remembrance in any situation or position they can. These type of believers are praised by Allah (swt) who says, “Those who remember God while standing, and sitting, and on their sides, and they reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord, You did not create this in vain, glory to You, so protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Qur’an, 3:191) and Allah has promised them an immense reward, “ Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, obedient men and obedient women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, charitable men and charitable women, fasting men and fasting women, men who guard their chastity and women who guard, men who remember God frequently and women who remember—God has prepared for them a pardon and an immense reward.” (Qur’an, 33:35). Dhikr Allah is so easy to practice for instance offering one thousand times astaghfiru Allah, or la elaha ella Allah, or subhana Allah, or Alhamdulillah, or Allahu akbar may not take more than twenty minutes and perhaps one hour would be enough to offer one thousand times of all of them; however, the impact on our spirituality is so deep.
Previously, some Muslims go for I’tikaf (retreat) in the mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan to intensify their devotional acts and enhance their spiritualties to reflect on the glory of Allah (swt) and get closer to Him. However, during the current pandemic, we can consider that we are in i’tikaf for the whole month while observing the self-quarantine and social distancing measures.
Exercising self-reflection and self-accountability are indeed the best methods to enhance the level of spirituality. Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Fear God, and let every soul consider what it has forwarded for tomorrow, and fear God. God is Aware of what you do. And do not be like those who forgot God, so He made them forget themselves. These are the sinners.” (Qur’an, 59:18-19). The call here, is for every nafs and all nufus (everyone) to reflect on their personality, acts, ethics, previous mistakes, sins, adulteries to make tawbah (repentance), and seek forgiveness from Allah (swt) and the people whom they have offended. Obviously, the process of tawbah requires an immediate stop of the wrongdoings, regret the bad acts or sins and seek forgiveness, and make the resolve not to commit them again in the future. To “ consider what it has forwarded for tomorrow” means to hold yourselves accountable before you are held accountable, and see what you have saved for yourself from the good deeds of the day of your return and display them to your Lord who knows and is aware of all your deeds and your conditions are not hidden from him. Hence, let us take the opportunity this Ramadan to be courageous do a strict self-reflection and self-accounting to purify our soul, heart, and character from all imperfections.
5. Refine your morality
Husnu al-khuluq (good character) is the essence of the Islamic faith. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) says, “I was sent to accomplish good character” (al-Bukhari). Besides, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was a model of all that he called for in all spheres of life (Qur’an, 33:21). In this Ramadan, it is very important to shed light on some moral values and social ethics that are very useful for comprehensive moral excellence.
Abstaining from food and drink and all other Muftirat (all that invalidates the fasting) from dawn to sunset for the sake of Allah (swt) will definitely make the community enhance the value of equality. In Ramadan, those who are rich and well-fed will experience the sufferings of those who are hungry, thirsty, and poor who cannot afford a proper meal. They will also develop positive empathy toward them and be keener to support their fellow Muslims and humans in the local community and beyond.
Unfortunately, although some Muslims are alert to avoid material substances they are less vigilant in avoiding bad actions that invalidate the fasting or make it imperfect. The teachings of Ramadan place more value in abstaining from immoral actions than abstaining from material substances such as food and water. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) says, “There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger, and there are those who pray and get nothing from their prayer but a sleepless night.” (Ibn Majah). The Messenger (pbuh) points directly to some examples of some unethical actions that should be avoided in Ramadan and at all times, he says, “When anyone of you is fasting, he should neither use obscene language nor do any act of ignorance. And if anyone slanders him or quarrels with him, he should say: “I am fasting, I am fasting” (Muslim). In this context, the following verses of the Qur’an show those deeds as forbidden and enjoin Muslims to avoid them. Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one's brother after having Faith [i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: "O sinner", or "O wicked", etc.]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.). O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful” (Qur’an, 49:11-12).
Nowadays, as people are using many social media platforms some of them (may Allah guide them) unfortunately indulge in immoral acts and commit many sins such as backbiting, slender, telling lies, inciting violence, spreading false news, etc…When they are using social media, they tend to forget that Allah (swt) is observing them closely “Nothing is hidden from God, on earth or in heaven.” (Qur’an, 3:5) and “He knows the deceptions of the eyes, and what the hearts conceal.” (Qur’an, 40:19). Besides, Allah (swt) assigned the Angels to record every big and small of our deeds “Though over you are watchers. Honest recorders. They know everything you do.” (Qur’an 82:10-12) and “Not a word does he utter, but there is a watcher by him, ready.” (Qur’an, 50:18). The excellent believer and pious Muslim in Ramadan, the month of piety, is the one who fears Allah (swt) and behave well wherever he/she may be as per the hadith of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) “Fear Allah wherever you are, do good deeds after doing bad ones, the former will wipe out the latter, and behave decently towards people". (Al-Tirmidhi). Thus, let us improve the relationship with our family members, relatives, neighbors whether Muslims or from other faiths, friends, colleagues in study, managers and coworkers, groups, nations and make the earth a better place to live in.
6. Enhance your self-control
In normal Ramadan in the past, people engage in many social interactions and business transactions at work, study, shopping, etc. However, during this Ramadan, the situation is different as the lockdown, social distancing, and self-isolation or self-quarantining is still in place. The social and work or study relations has been taking new forms and becoming more and more virtual and online. Nevertheless, Man is a social being by nature; therefore the relationships might change but will never perish. In this context, the risk of disagreements, anger, verbal and physical violence, disputes, involvement in backbiting, slender, the spread of false news, and use of obscene language, etc. might occur between the family members, friends, colleagues, groups whether to some extent face-to-face or online as well as over social media. The immediate negative consequence of this would be an imperfection or even invalidation of fasting. The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah (swt) is not in need of his leaving his food and drink” (al-Bukhari). This is consistent with the teachings of the Qur’an whereby Allah (swt) says, “Successful indeed are the believers…And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehood, and all that Allah (swt) has forbidden)” (Qur’an, 23:1,3). Besides, it could potentially damage the social fabric of the community and contribute to hatred, disunity, and damage the social relations in a time we are in dire need of consolidating our love, tolerance, brotherhood, good neighborhood, cooperation, and unity.
Muslims have been commanded to be morally vigilant, show an extreme level of patience, exercise self-restraint, monitor the tongue, hands, ears, and gaze, suppress the anger, and maintain peace at all times particularly in Ramadan. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) says, “When anyone of you is fasting, he should neither use obscene language nor does any act of ignorance and if anyone slanders him or quarrels with him, he should say: “I am fasting, I am fasting” (Muslim). In the Prophet’s tradition, “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer is the one from whom the people's lives and wealth are safe.” (al-Nasa’i). Therefore, let us take the opportunity in this Ramadan to excel in our self-control, suppress our anger, and increase our sense of mercy and tolerance.
7. Serve your community/society
Ramadan is a special time for Muslims to get together and strengthen their brotherhood, love, and be more companionate. As Allah (swt) says, “The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islamic religion). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah (swt), that you may receive mercy” (Qur’an, 49:10).
Abstaining from any muftirat (substances) from dawn to sunset makes those who are rich and well-fed experience the sufferings of those who are hungry and thirsty. It also makes them remember those who cannot find food to eat and water to drink. There are millions of people living in extreme poverty (under $1.90/day); who are hungry and have no shelter especially those who live in war zones and refugee camps. The World Bank estimates that there are nearly 800 million people live in extreme poverty worldwide and this year (2020) the figure is going to rise by approximately 60 million due to COVID-19 pandemic and drop in oil prices. Moreover, the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, estimates that there is 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020. Besides, the UNHCR estimates that there are more than 70 million refugees in the world.
The painful reality with all the above-mentioned figures is that Muslims represent the bulk majority of extremely poor, hungry, and the refugee communities in the world. Therefore, it is very important for those who would like to be perfect Muslims in this Ramadan to pay special attention and increase their practical sympathy and support to the poor, hungry, refugees, victims of violence and war, and those who have severely been economically been affected by the current pandemic. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) says, “whomsoever sleeps well-fed and knows that his neighbor beside him/her is hungry is an imperfect Muslim.”(al-Tabarani).
Sharing meals in this Ramadan should take unconventional forms and Muslims should compete in this regard and find creative solutions to extend their help to the less fortunate fellow humans such as the poor and needy, migrant workers, and international students. This good practice may benefit from the online services offered by some NGOs and charity organizations to help the poor and needy, feed the hungry and the fasting people, support the orphans, etc. They can also order food online or by telephone from restaurants and direct them to be delivered to poor people and fasting Muslims. In all cases, this practice is generally centered on one idea which is iftar al-Saem (providing food for the fasting people) to attain the reward from Allah (swt). Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) says, “He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will receive the same reward as him, except that nothing will be reduced from the fasting persons’ reward” (Ahmad & Al-Tirmidhi). Sharing meals is one aspect of generosity that has many benefits for both the individuals and the community. Nevertheless, it should not be limited to providing meals but rather includes giving all sorts of charities to those who merit. It was reported that the prophet Mohamed (pbuh) was “the most generous amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan…he used to be more generous than a fast wind (which causes rain and welfare)” (al-Bukhari).
Offering food to people whether for iftar (breaking the fast) or in general have many positive impacts on poor people and makes them happy. In a sacred hadith Allah (swt) says, “..for the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord”. Allah (swt) praised the believers who feed the hungry and promised them great reward “…And they feed, for the love of Him, the poor, and the orphan, and the captive. We only feed you for the sake of God. We want from you neither compensation nor gratitude. We dread from our Lord a frowning grim Day. So God will protect them from the ills of that Day, and will grant them radiance and joy. And will reward them for their patience with a Garden and silk.” (Qur’an, 76:8-120).
Moreover, we should not forget that extending our support to our social network and people in general including our parents, elderly, relatives, friends, and neighbors should not be materialistic only but also intangible by good words via social media in the form of a video or voice call, a text message, a telephone call, etc. Some people especially our elderly, senior citizen and sick fellows will be extremely happy if they receive a telephone call or video and voice call via social media. These acts do not cost anything, they are indeed easy to do, will not take much time, and they are very rewarding.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims have to pay Zakat al-Fitr (the due Fast-breaking alms). According to the tradition of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) as narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim, Zakat al-Fitr has to be paid before the Eid prayers to the needy and poor and the other categories that have been described in the verse 60 of Surah Al-Tawbah. This reflects the value Islam places to caring for the poor and needy in the community. The payment time and method are perfectly designed to preserve the dignity of the poor and needy from begging on the day of Eid and gives them ample time to prepare themselves and their family, particularly children, to celebrate the Eid and share their happiness with everyone else in the community. Besides, Ibn Abbas reported from Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) that Zakat al-Fitr plays the role of cleansing some of the moral pitfalls and imperfections of fasting during Ramadan.
It is time for Muslims to be very active in serving their communities wherever they may be in Muslim-majority societies or elsewhere in the globe. They need to come up with creative techniques and methods to contribute to the well-being of their fellow human beings regardless of their cultural, religious, political, economic, and educational backgrounds. During this Ramadan it is enough to remember and practice the following wonderful hadiths / sayings of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) “If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life, Allah will relieve him of one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection. If anyone makes it easy for the one who is indebted to him (while finding it difficult to repay), Allah will make it easy for him in this worldly life and in the Hereafter, and if anyone conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps His slave as long as he helps his brother.” (Muslim) and "Guard yourselves against the Fire (of Hell) even if it is only with half a date-fruit (given in charity); and if you cannot afford even that, you should at least say a good word." (Al-Bukhari & Muslim).
8. Offer lots of sincere Dua’/Suplication
It is not in vain that Allah (swt) concluded the legislation of fasting by emphasizing on Dua’ (supplication) and enjoined His servants to ask Him for anything directly and He promised to respond positively. Immediately after the verses about the legislation of fasting Ramadan, Allah (swt) says, “And when My slaves ask you (O Mohamed) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright” (Qur’an, 2:186). There are about fifty (50) dua’s mentioned in the Qur’an that could be memorized and offered anytime. Among these dua’s “…Our Lord, give us goodness in this world, and goodness in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.” (Qur’an, 2:201), “…Our Lord, we have done wrong to ourselves. Unless You forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be among the losers.” (Qur’an, 7:23), “My Lord, make me one who performs the prayer, and from my offspring. Our Lord, accept my supplication.” (Qur’an, 14:40), “Our Lord, grant us delight in our spouses and our children, and make us a good example for the righteous.” (Qur’an, 25:74), and “Our Lord, lift the torment from us, we are believers.” (Qur’an, 44:12).
In the tradition of prophet Mohamed (pbuh), dua’ has been categorized as the essence of worship because it shows the humility and humbleness of the believer before his Creator and the need for His help, sustenance, and guidance. Besides, one of the names of Allah (swt) is ‘Al-Samad’, which means that people always turn to when they need help for anything (Qur’an, 112:2). Dua’ is one of the most effective techniques used to elevate the spirit of a believer because it allows direct contact with his/her Lord. It is obvious in the Sunnah that one of the best times for dua’ to be accepted is while fasting and on fast-breaking time. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) says, “There are in the month of Ramadan in every day and night those to whom Allah (swt) grants freedom from the Fire, and there is for every Muslim a supplication which he can make and will be granted” (Ahmad).
Seeking laylatu al-Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramadan is very important for those who would like to reach the highest level of spirituality, attain the blessings the night, and have their supplication accepted. They need to put their utmost efforts to offer extra prayers and stay in close connection with Allah (swt) and offer constant and sincere dua’ for forgiveness and pardon. Allah (swt) says, “The night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein descends the Angels and the Spirit (Jibreel) by Allah's permission, on every errand: (they say) "Peace" (continuously) until the rise of Morning!” (Qur’an, 97:3-5). In line with this Qur’anic statement, Laylatu al-Qadr is full of blessings as our beloved Prophet (pbuh) says, “Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven..” (al-Bukhari). Let us intensify our worshiping activities, Dua’ and seek Laylatu al-Qadr and ask Allah (swt) the Merciful the Companionate to grant the humanity full and soon recovery from COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, the safety valve for comprehensive excellence in this Ramadan is to work very hard to be close to Allah (swt) and take advantage of any opportunity to achieve the level of Ehsan in everything we do. This is not difficult especially that the atmosphere in this Ramadan is very convenient and we have the model of the Prophet Mohamed to follow. A blessed Ramadan can bring about significant changes particularly to our individual and social character and could provide the best remedy to the individual as well as communities’ spiritual, moral, and social ills. Therefore, let us take the opportunity to become better individuals, family members, neighbors, and members of the community. The best conclusion is a quote from the sayings of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh), “Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins, and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds) and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted” (At-Tabarani).
I wish you Ramadan karim and may Allah (swt), accept all our good deeds, forgive us our sins, guide us to the straight path, relive the humanity from the pandemic, and grant us all the success in this worldly life and in the Hereafter.
* Dr. Ahmed is a former Assistant Professor of Sociology and Islamic Studies at the IIU Malaysia and currently the Research Coordinator at CILE, CIS, Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar.