The Merits of Ramadan
Allah the Almighty distinguished this noble month with many merits, benefits and blessings which include the following:
Allah prescribed fasting upon Muslims and says,
O ye who believe! Fasting was prescribed to you. [Al-Baqarah, 183]
Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam without which a person's religion is incomplete. The Prophet said, "Islam is built upon five … and fasting Ramadan."
Since fasting is distinguished from other acts of worship by virtue of being one of the pillars of Islam and the numerous merits it entails and which will be mentioned later, Allah has chosen the best of times for this act of worship, the month of Ramadan. This month was distinguished from the rest of the months with universal and Divine virtues and accorded superiority. In this month, Allah forgives His servants and obliterates their sins in abundance, dismisses shortcomings/lapses, exalts stations, multiplies good deeds, answers prayers and liberates from Hell-fire many of those who deserve to enter it. Moreover, Allah engulfs the fasters with His bounties, pleasure and gifts. This month is unparalleled. The Prophet said, "The master of all months is Ramadan."
2-The Qur`an was revealed in this month
Allah has chosen this month to reveal the Holy Qur`an. He says,
Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur`an as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). [Al-Baqarah, 185]
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said, "The Qur`an was revealed in its totality from the Preserved Tablet [on which it was written] on the Night of Power in the month of Ramadan. It was sent down to a station in the Lowest Heavens, Bayt al-'Izza (the House of Honor or Power) and from there it was revealed to Mohammed through Gabriel in segments—when the need arose—over a period of 23 years."
The Holy Qur`an is the word of Allah the Almighty that was revealed to our master Mohammed and which is written the copies of the holy Qur`an from the words of Prophet Mohammed and transmitted by tawatur. Reciting the Qur`an is an act of worship and even its shortest verse is inimitable. It is the greatest and eternal miracle that attests to the prophethood of Mohammed, comprises the laws that regulate the universe and which are valid for all time and place. It is worthy that the month in which it was revealed be honored by this revelation.
Moreover, Allah chose this month in which to reveal earlier Holy Scriptures. It was reported that the Prophet said, "The Scriptures of Abraham were revealed on the first night of Ramadan; the Torah on the sixth day of Ramadan and the Bible on the 13 th of Ramadan. This is a Divine signal concerning the merit of the month of Ramadan and its superiority over the rest of the months.
3- The whole universe welcomes the advent of Ramadan and its numerous bounties
In Ramadan the gates of benefaction are opened and the gates of evil are closed. This is an interpretation of the words of the Prophet who said, "When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hell-fire are closed and the devils are chained." The word 'opened' may be interpreted literally to signify the blessings of the month and the rewards which are expected to ensue to those who observe its fast.
It may likewise mean the numerous rewards awarded for fasting and observing this month and that the good deeds done during this month lead to Paradise as what is said to those facing an enemy in battle: "The gates of Paradise have been opened before you" i.e. you have been granted an act that will lead you to Paradise. The words "the gates of Hell-Fire are closed" are interpreted as the abundance of forgiveness granted by Allah to His servants and overlooking of sins. The words, 'The devils are chained' mean that the devils are shackled with chains.
A question may arise that if the devils are chained, then how is it that evil and sin continue to be committed? Our reply is that the devils have no influence on those who observe the conditions of fasting. It has been said that only the most rebellious devils are chained and then not all of them i.e. evil is diminished during this month, a discernible fact since during this blessed month, evil is committed to a much lesser degree than in any other. It has also been maintained that chaining all the devils does not necessarily eliminate evil and sin since there are other influential factors such as evil soul [nafs], ugly habits and human devils.
It is possible that chaining devils is used figuratively to indicate the devils' diminished ability to tempt people and adorn whims and desires for them. Therefore, Allah protects Muslims or most Muslims from the commission of sins since during this month, the devils cannot easily access /do not have leave to reach and incite people to sin as they do at other months.
Allah the Almighty distinguished all the nights of Ramadan with Divine prayers and bounties.
During the night, beams of Divine light descend upon Allah's creation. The Prophet said, "On the first night of Ramadan, all the gates of Paradise are opened, and not one of them is closed during the entire month; the gates of Hell-fire are closed, and not one of them is opened and the most evil/rebellious of the devils are chained. On each night of Ramadan until the break of day, a caller will proclaim from the lower Heavens, ' O you who seek beneficence! Come forward! O you who seek evil! Refrain! Is there anyone who seeks forgiveness that he may be forgiven?! Is there any who seeks to repent that he may be granted repentance?! Is there any who is asking that his call is answered?! Is there any supplicant that his supplication is accepted?! By Allah! Each day at the time of breaking the fast, Allah liberates people from Hell-Fire."
4- It includes the night of power
Allah the Almighty distinguished the month of Ramadan by the occurrence of the Night of Power, Laylatul Qadr which occurs in one of the nights of this blessed month. It is the night on which the Qur`an was revealed to Prophet Mohammed. Its superiority over other nights is mentioned in the Qur`an in which Allah describes it as a blessed month and better than a thousand months. He the Almighty says,
We sent it down on a blessed month: For We (ever) wish to warn (against evil). [Ad-Dukhan, 3]
We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand Months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand: Peace! … This until the rise of Morn! [Al-Qadr, 1-5]
This chapter demonstrates that good deeds made during this month are better than deeds commissioned for a thousand months which lack the Night of Power. This is only so because Allah the Almighty wishes to bestow His favors, provisions, and all kinds of good and blessings on His creation at this time.
5- The month of Ramadan is distinguished with many commendable deeds which are emphasized during this month.
A look at the special favors, blessings, bounties, mercies and manifestations of good that Allah bestows on man during this month, confirms the commission of many commendable deeds that garner Divine bounties during this holy month. Acts that are emphasized and whose rewards are multiplied during this month apart from any other include:
- Studying and reciting the Qur`an in abundance, especially at night. Allah the Almighty says, Truly the rising of night is a time when impression is more keen and speech more certain. [Al-Muzzammil, 6]
The 'rising by night' refers to those people whose spirits are fostered and disciplined by spending the night reciting the Qur`an. It also refers to the spiritual gains and insightful notions that are revealed in and inspired by the darkness of night.
As Imam Al-Razi maintains in his exegesis, these sincere souls that have been fostered, disciplined and refined through the light of the Qur`an recited at night are more inclined to steadfastness and more likely to be receptive as they more perceptive and can understand the Qur`an better and are successful in their spiritual pursuits. They are granted sincerity in purpose, rightness in words and the acceptance of their prayers as attested to by the hadith, "The most honorable of my community are the bearers of the Qur`an and those who spend the night in worship."
- Completing reciting the Qur`an.
The salaf (may Allah be pleased with them) used to complete reciting the entire Qur`an during the month of Ramadan, following the example of the Prophet. Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said, "Jabriel used to meet the Prophet and recite the Quran to him once a year, except for the year in which he passed away when he recited it twice." A man once asked the Prophet, "Which deed is more beloved to Allah?" He replied, "Al-hal al-Murtahil." The man asked, "O Messenger of Allah! What is al-hal al-murtahil?" He replied, "Reciting the Qur`an from surat al-Fatiha to its end and from its end to its beginning. Whenever a person finishes a complete recitation, he starts over without delay."
It was reported that Ibn Mas'ud (may Allah be pleased with him) would complete one complete Qur`anic recitation in three nights; he limited his recitation during daytime." Aswad an-Nakh'i would complete one Qur`anic recitation in two nights during the month of Ramadan. Qutada would finish the entire Qur`an once every three nights during the month of Ramadan and Aly al-Azdari used to finish the entire Qur`an once every night during
the month of Ramadan.
It is one of the greatest rewardable acts. Allah the Almighty says,
Hurry towards your Lord's forgiveness and a Garden as wide as the heavens and the earth prepared for the righteous, who give, both in prosperity and adversity, who restrain their anger and pardon people—God loves those who do good. [Al-'Imran, 133-4]
The Prophet said, "If one of you gives out in charity the measure of a date from lawful gains (and Allah does not accept save that which is lawful) Allah will take it in His right hand and augment its reward until it becomes as great as a mountain in the same manner/just as one of you raises a foal." The reference to the foal in the hadith is due to the meticulous care its breeding requires.
A sadaqah incurs great blessings upon the person who gives it out as well as those who had a hand in it, however that may be—the reward and benevolence will therefore encompass them all even if they contribute little. This is attested to in the hadith in which the Prophet said, "Allah the Almighty will cause three to enter Paradise due to giving out a morsel of bread, a handful of dates or something similar: the head of the household who ordered that that the sadaqah be given out, his wife who agreed with him, and the servant who handed it to the poor person." The Prophet then said, "Praise be to Allah for not excluding our servants."
Though in general the reward of charity is great, it is even greater during the month of Ramadan. It was reported that Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) asked the Prophet, "Which charity is better?" The Prophet replied, "A charity during Ramadan."
It is recommended to provide in abundance for the poor during Ramadan since during this month, Divine grants and favors are showered upon Muslims and the light of the Qur`an increases, inviting towards munificence. Therefore, a person is to emulate the generosity of Allah the Almighty. It is for this reason that the Prophet was most generous during this month. Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said, "The Messenger of Allah was the most generous of people. He was even more so in Ramadan when Gabriel would visit him each night and teach him the Qur`an until the break of dawn. During this time, the Prophet was more generous than the strong
wind [in his haste and readiness to do charitable deeds].
The practice of Tarawih prayer was established by the Prophet while 'Umar established the manner of its performance. The Prophet said, "Whoever spends the nights of Ramadan in prayer out of sincere faith and seeking the reward of Allah, all his previous sins will be forgiven." al-Hakem reported through al-Nu'man Ibn Bashir (may Allah be pleased with them) that he said, "We spent one third of eve of the twenty third day of Ramadan with the Prophet in prayer. We then prayed with him the eve of the twenty fifth till midnight and the eve of the twenty seventh until midnight until we thought that we will miss al-falah. We called it falah but you call it suhur [pre-dawn meal]." Al-Hakem said, "It contains clear proof that praying Tarawih in mosques is a sunnah." 'Ali Ibn Abu Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) used to urge 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) to hold this sunnah until he did."
- Breaking another's fast
The Prophet said, "Whoever breaks another's fast will earn his self same reward without diminishing the latter's fast in the slightest." It is not a condition for a Muslim to overburden himself and be lavish when breaking another's fast. This is fulfilled with the simplest foodstuff to accustom Muslims to unity and solidarity and to congregate during this time—the time for breaking the fast—which is a time to supplicate Allah and the time when they are answered as it is also a time of joy (for breaking the fast).
The Prophet said, "Whoever breaks the fast of another, his sins will be forgiven and he will be saved from Hell-fire, and will earn the selfsame reward without decreasing the latter's reward in the slightest." They (the companions) asked, "O Messenger of Allah! Not all of us can afford food with which to break another's fast." The Prophet replied, "Allah will grant this reward to anyone who breaks another's fast with as little as a sip of milk, a date or a mouthful of water. And whoever satiates the hunger of a fasting person, his sins will be forgiven and His Lord will give him to drink from my basin after which he will never thirst, he will earn the same reward as the fasting person without diminishing the latter's reward in the slightest."
- Going on a 'umrah
A 'umrah during the month of Ramadan is equivalent to a hajj in reward though it does not replace the obligation of hajj. The Prophet said, "A 'umrah performed in Ramadan is equal to a hajj." A differently worded hadith adds the words, "... is equivalent to a hajj with me." Ibn Al-'Arabi said, "This hadith is authentic. It is a favor and benefaction from Allah. The 'umrah has attained the rank of hajj if it occurs in the month of Ramadan. This is because the reward of deeds is multiplied through their [occurrence] at blessed times, sincerity of intention or presence of heart."
- Celebrating the eve of Laylat ul-Qadr [Night of Power]
The Prophet said, "He who observes Laylat ul-Qadr out of faith and expectation of its reward will have his previous sins forgiven." The Prophet also warned against the great loss of forfeiting the virtue of this night and said, "Verily, the month of Ramadan has come to you. It includes a night that is better than a thousand nights. Whoever is deprived of [observing this night] has been deprived of all good. None is deprived of the good it entails, except those who are truly unfortunate."
- Making supererogatory deeds in abundance
Acts of worship performed in Ramadan include several benefits and their rewards are multiplied. The Prophet said, "Whoever draws close to Allah by performing [a supererogatory] good deed during this month shall receive the same reward as one who has performed an obligatory act of worship at any other time, and whoever performs an obligatory act in this month shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligatory acts of worship performed at any other time." Supererogatory acts of worship include making dhikr in abundance which illuminates the heart and senses. Al-Zuhari said, "Glorifying Allah once in Ramadan is better than glorifying Him a thousand times at any other time."
- Making i'tikaf [spiritual retreat]
I'tikaf, especially in the last ten days of Ramadan, is a confirmed sunnah. It is mentioned in the Sahih of Bukhari and Sahih of Muslim that the Prophet used to make i'tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan until he passed away and his wives continued to make i'tikaf after he died.