New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Ramadan Lessons: True Liberation

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2009-09-02

This is the final installment of what we have translated from Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s work, Lata’if al-Ma’arif. In this section, he mentions the liberation from Hell that is a gift countless people receive during Ramadan. He also mentions many teachings from the religion that create a deep longing and love for the blessed month. May Allah bless us all to live to see the end of this month, to take much benefit from it, and to live to experience another Ramadan.

[We read] in Ibn Khuzayma’s compilation of prophetic traditions:

Be excessive during it (Ramadan) in manifesting four traits: two of them are pleasing to your Lord, and two of them are absolutely indispensable. As for the two that are pleasing to your Lord they are the open testimony that there is no god but Allah, and seeking forgiveness for one’s sins; as for the two that are absolutely indispensable they are asking Allah for Paradise and seeking His protection from Hell.  [1]

Concerning the testimony that there is no god but Allah لا إله إلا الله, it smashes sins and eradicates them leaving no trace, even if one has previously worked no deeds of righteousness. It is equivalent to liberating slaves; an act that itself leads to liberation from Hell. Whoever says it four times in the morning and four times in the evening will be liberated by Allah from Hell. Whoever says it sincerely from the bottom of his heart, Allah makes Hell forbidden for him/her.

Concerning seeking forgiveness for one’s sins, this is one of the greatest causes for sins being forgiven. Hasan al-Basri said: “Seek Allah’s forgiveness often, for you do not know when [Allah’s] mercy will descend.” Luqman, peace upon him, said to his son: “Accustom your tongue to seeking Allah’s forgiveness, for surely Allah has moments when He does not reject any supplicant.”

Allah has combined the testimony to His Oneness with seeking forgiveness in a single verse. He says, be He exalted: Know that here is no god but Allah and seek forgiveness for your sins. [47:19] فاعلم أنه لا إله إلا الله و استغفر لذنبك  Seeking forgiveness for one’s sins is the seal of all righteous deeds. It seals the prayer, fasting, the pilgrimage, the night vigil, and all our gatherings. If those gatherings are to remember Allah then it is a stamp on them, if they involve imprudence then it is a source of atonement for them. Hence, it is fitting to conclude the Fast of Ramadan by seeking Allah’s forgiveness.

‘Umar b. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz wrote to the governors of the provinces commanding them to [instruct the people] to conclude the month of Ramadan by seeking Allah’s forgiveness and paying festival charity (Sadaqa al-Fitr). The festival charity purifies the fasting person from any indecency or lewdness that may have affected his fast. For this reason, one of the early scholars mentioned that the festival charity is to the fast what the two prostrations of forgetfulness are for the prayer.

In his letter, ‘Umar b. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz mentioned:

Say what your father Adam, peace upon him said: Our Lord we have wronged our souls and if you do not forgive us and have mercy on us we will be amongst the great losers. (7:23) Say what Noah said: If you do not forgive me and have mercy on me I will be amongst the great losers. (11:47) Say what Abraham said: [He] is the one I hope will forgive my sins on the Day of Judgment. (26: 82) Say what Moses said: My Lord, truly I have wronged myself, therefore forgive me. (28:16) Say what Jonah said: There is no god but You, glorified are you; surely I have been among the wrongdoers. (21:86)

Closely related to this [seeking forgiveness] is the Prophet, peace upon him, ordering ‘Aisha, may God be pleased with her, to seek God’s pardon during the Night of Power. The believer asserts himself strenuously during Ramadan with his fasting and prayer. Then as he approaches the end of the month and reaches the Night of Power, he can ask Allah for nothing other than His pardon, like the sinner who has fallen short [in conveying his religious obligations.] Mutarrif used to say in his prayer: “O God! Be pleased with me, and if you are not pleased with me, please pardon me.” Yahya b. Mu’adh used to say: “One whose ultimate desire is not Allah’s pardon has no insight into spiritual realities.”

Where are those who when they fasted protected their fast, and when they stood in prayer their hearts were upright? They excelled in their religion and now they have moved on. Now there only remain people who when they fast they take pride in their fasting and behave audaciously, and when they pray at night, they become conceited and speak about it [by day]. How very great is the distance between the carefree fool, and one who senses danger and distress; between one who finds [something special] and one who loses it; between one who conceals something [precious] and one who reveals it?

Concerning asking Allah for paradise and seeking His protection from Hell, this is one of the most important supplications. The fasting person hopes that his prayer will be answered. Therefore, it is only appropriate that he prays for the most important things. Abu Muslim al-Khulani said: “No opportunity has come to me to supplicate Allah except that I used it as an opportunity to seek [Allah’s] protection from Hell.” He then recited: The companions of Hell and the companions of Paradise are not equal. The companions of Paradise are the great victors. (59:20) لا يستوي أصحاب النار و أصحاب الجنة أصحاب الجنة هم الفائزون

It is related in a prophetic tradition, “Seek goodness in all the time you spend on earth…” [2] Expose yourself to the gentle breezes of your Lord’s mercy. Verily Allah has gentle breezes of mercy that He touches with whosoever He wills. Whoever is touched by [one of those breezes] experiences happiness so intense that he will never know sadness for the rest of eternity. Among the greatest of His (Allah’s) breezes of mercy is to be blessed to pray at a moment when the prayer is instantly answered, and during that moment the supplicant is asking Allah for Paradise and protection from Hell ̶ and his prayer is answered and he attains to eternal bliss! God says: Whoever is pulled back from Hell and entered into Paradise has achieved the great victory. (3:185)

O Servants of Allah! Ramadan is set to move on, and only a little of it remains. If anyone has done well during the month thus far, it is incumbent on him to complete the month in a good fashion. While anyone who has fallen short let him finish in good shape. Only a few days and nights remain, so bid it farewell with righteous actions that will testify for you before the All-Knowing King.

The hearts of the righteous people are filled with longing, lamenting from the pain of departure. How can a believer not shed tears upon its [Ramadan] departure when he does not know if he will live to see it again? O Ramadan! Be gentle, the tears of your lovers are pouring out. Their hearts are torn from the pain of your departure. Perhaps standing to bid you farewell will extinguish the burning fire of longing. Perhaps taking a moment to repent will mend everything that has been torn in fast. Perhaps one cut off from the procession of those whose fast has been accepted will be joined with them. Perhaps the one imprisoned by his sins will be freed. Perhaps one deserving to be punished in Hell will be liberated. Perhaps the mercy of the Lord will be granted to the sinner.

End Quote from Ibn Rajab

May Allah bless all of us during these waning days of Ramadan. May He accept all of our fasting, prayers, recitation of the Qur’an, charity, and other acts of servitude. May He bless us all to with a joyous and peaceful ‘Id. And may he bless us to live to see another Ramadan. 


Notes:

[1] Ibn Khuzayma, 3:191-192, no. 1887

[2] Ibn Abi al-Dunya, al-Faraj ba’da al-Shiddah, #27


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