Osamah Salhia – Muslim American Society of Charlotte
All praises belonging to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), our Creator, and our Sustainer. All praises belonging to Allah (SWT) for the blessing of Islam, and for the blessing of qiyaam, and for the blessing of the Qur’an. All praises belonging to Allah (SWT) for the blessing of Ramadhan, and may the peace and blessings be upon the gift of mercy, the chieftain of the first and last Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wassallam). Oh Allah, send Your peace and blessings upon him and upon his family and companions in entirety. Oh you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you so that you may achieve taqwa, amma ba’ad. Our dearly beloved Prophet (SAWS) said, “Ramadhan has come to you, a blessed month that Allah has required you to fast. In it the gates of the heavens are open, and the gates to hell-fire are sealed shut, and the devils are chained. In it is the night, it is indeed better than a thousand months. Whoever is denied its blessings is indeed one who is denied.
Brothers and sisters, a very generous guest, a very modest guest in his visit has come to our doorstep. Every believer now, as we’re only two or three days away from Ramadhan is thinking, “How will I spend my Ramadhan?” Every believer is thinking of this question, and in the process it is essential to reflect what is the spirit of Ramadhan. What does Ramadhan practically mean to me? In answering this question, we all need to be very, very honest with ourselves as Allah (SWT) says in His Book, (Holy Quran-75:14,15) “The human being is best aware of his condition, of his situation even if he was to offer his excuses.” As discussed in the past, brothers and sisters, Ramadhan represents, first off historically, a month of great feats and achievements throughout the Islamic timeline. It’s not a month of stagnation. It is not a month of lethargy and sleeping. It is not a month of gluttony. It represents religiously, brothers and sisters, the pillar that directly deals with our spiritual presence, controlling our whims, striving for excellence and commandeering our passions.
As we said last week, brothers and sisters, all of the pillars of Islam set forth the path for an ideal believer when we have the testimony of faith in salah directly dealing with our connection with Allah (SWT), no intermediaries. And then we have fasting, dealing with our connection with our souls; and then we have zakah, dealing with our empathy towards others, and our sense of duty to the community; and then we have hajj connecting us to the larger body of believers; that’s where Ramadhan stands in that spectrum. Socially, Ramadhan represents a beautiful time of the year where we come together as a community and as families. We see each other regularly, but now we have to ask a question here, and this question is in light of what is the spirit of Ramadhan. Are the social aspects of Ramadhan dominating my Ramadhan experience? Are social events even taking a toll on my spiritual experience or on my spiritual presence? Brothers and sisters, beware of allowing your Ramadhan to become a set of rituals that are void of spiritual presence. Our faith teaches us, brothers and sisters that the value of the human being is in his spiritual presence or her spiritual presence, our connection with our Creator (subhana) when Allah commanded the angels to prostrate before Adam. What does the verse say? It says, (Holy Quran-15:29) “When I make him and I give him of My Spirit, then promptly prostrate before him.”
Brothers and sisters, when we eat, when we sleep, when we socialize, if our actions are void of a spiritual presence then those actions are lifeless, are of little value before Allah (SWT), and that’s why the poet He says, “Be keen on reviving your spirit, and completing its virtues, for indeed you are by your spirit, not by your body, a human being as Allah (SWT) has originally created us.” Brothers and sisters, we need to ask ourselves questions, if we want to live the spirit of Ramadhan, if we want Ramadhan to be a worthwhile experience for us, we all must ask ourselves a set of questions, what will my social life be like during Ramadhan with our fellow Muslims, with our neighbors and our co-workers with our children. Will I neglect my children’s Ramadhan experience and only focus on mine? Will I just throw them in the masjid and I’ll go pray by myself taraweeh, and let them go running around, not caring what Ramadhan means to my children?
Our spouses, brothers and sisters, especially brothers, you need to ask yourself this question, will you burden your wife with so many invitations? Some sisters they complain about this. Spending all day in the kitchen, their Ramadhan is comprised of two things, sleeping and food. Will I do this to my wife, to my spouse? Feeding those brothers and sisters just so we could balance this, feeding those who are fasting is a very, very virtuous deed as our Prophet (SAWS) said. But if I allow this aspect, the social aspect, the food aspect to dominate, if I am excessive, it will defeat the spirit behind Ramadhan. Will I force my wife instead of giving her a chance to read the Qur’an, instead of giving her a chance to attend taraweeh, to worry about making new sweets everyday, the Ramadhan sweets, making a feast full of food everyday, inviting people five to ten times during the month, spending thousands of dollars on food? Will I do this? Will my Ramadhan be the time for the biggest and most excessive feast of the year? Will my Ramadhan be spent fulfilling every desire and lust that I have just as I stopped doing that during the day? But as soon as night comes in, full force, not slowly, full force. Will I do this?
Those in conflict, brothers and sisters, will I mend my relationships, or will I say, will I allow the enmity, the animosity to continue during this blessed month? Will I say to myself, “It’s not my fault. They’re the ones who wronged me. They’re the ones who have to mend, not me.” No, but Ramadhan teaches us something else, brothers and sisters. Part of the spirit of Ramadhan is mending our character, bettering our character, making us people who are not haqq-oriented, but are ihsan-oriented; not only people who are rights-oriented, only caring about their rights, what they deserve. No, ihsan, and for this reason, what the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Your fasting is a protection.” It’s a protection from what? From you indulging in your passions, in your desires, letting your whims take control of you. Then he goes on to say, “If someone speaks to you profanely, transgresses against you, what should you say? You should say, I am one who is fasting.” Why? Reminding yourself to be ihsan-oriented, excelling and striving for excellence, not only caring about what you deserve and about your rights.
This is how Ramadhan modifies our character, brothers and sisters. Even though you would think when we are fasting we should be in a worst mode, someone had a headache, you feel weak, your stomach’s empty, this would usually cause people to become very short-tempered, and some people are like this during Ramadhan. When they get headache, when their stomachs start hurting, when they feel very weak, beware of crossing them because they are like a time bomb. You say a word to them, they’ll explode in your face. This is completely contrary to the spirit of Ramadhan. Ramadhan comes to teach us, brothers and sisters, that if we could control ourselves under such circumstances then we can better do so when we are not fasting.
Ramadhan comes to teach us, brothers and sisters. Ramadhan in its spirit comes to teach us, brothers and sisters, that we are not as weak and helpless as we think we are. Many of us might think, “Oh, I can never do out without my cup of coffee in the morning. If I don’t drink my cup of coffee, I’m going to get a headache.” “I’m addicted to smoking.” Allah (SWT) might have tested some with this addiction. “I’m addicted to smoking. No way, if I don’t smoke, I’m going to get a headache. I’m going to get agitated. I’m not going to be able to do it.” What do you find? Those who smoke the most, even during the blessed month of Ramadhan, they are able to control that aspect. This is the blessing of Ramadhan.
Beyond this, brothers and sisters, what is the central purpose of our fasting? Why do we fast as Muslims? Of course, there may be many responses. There are many benefits, many wisdom, and many of these are common knowledge. We know different reasons. We fast to feel with the poor. We fast so we could control our desires. We fast because of this so we could get connected spiritually, but what is the core of Ramadhan? What does Ramadhan come to change about us? The actual reason why we fast, brothers and sisters, is It’s for actualizing, developing within ourselves the essence of being a servant of Allah (SWT). Why don’t we continue fasting after Maghrib? We say fasting helps you control your desires. Okay, so why do we have to stop at Maghrib? Isn’t it better if you continue after Maghrib? Why did the Prophet (SAWS) that the best thing is that my ummah will continue to stay in that state of hirr and goodness as long as it makes its iftar, its breakfast soon after Maghrib, and it makes its suhoor soon before Fajr.
Why? It’s because of this reason, brothers and sisters, it’s because Ramadhan wants to make us people that when Allah (SWT) says go, we go. When He says stop, we stop. What’s stopping me, brothers and sisters? What’s stopping your children from taking a sip of water when no one is looking or when you’re making wudhu “accidentally” allowing some of the water to go down your throat? It is what Allah (SWT) said in the very beginning of the verse of fasting, “Oh you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you,” so on and so forth. You see, brothers and sisters, Ramadhan’s central purpose is to help us centralize this meaning in our lives, being a servant of Allah (SWT). We need to get to the point, brothers and sisters, when we all say to ourselves, when we all feel within, “I need this solid connection with my Lord as my driving force in my life.” Have we reached the point, we need to all ask ourselves, “Have we reached a point where I feel a necessity, a need, for having Allah (SWT) in my life just as much as I need to eat and drink?” Is this spirit of Ramadhan my guiding light throughout the month having Allah central in my life? Is Allah central to my Ramadhan, or is Ramadhan the time when, as we said, you roll out the Ramadhan sweets, you roll out the feasts, you fulfill your desires, you open the satellite TV, I don’t know all their languages are, but in Arabic language, there are special programs during the month of Ramadhan if you open the satellite TV, is this what your Ramadhan is like, or is it something much more spiritually connected to Allah (SWT)?
Most importantly, brothers and sisters, do I really want Allah to be my guide in my life? This is the question only you can answer. Allah (SWT) says, (Holy Quran-02:186) Allah (SWT) says in the middle of the verses of fasting, “When My servants ask you about Me then say, I am near. If My servants ask you about Me then I am near.” It does not say, “Then tell them I am near.” Why? So Allah (SWT) can teach us especially in this blessed month of Ramadhan if you want Allah to be part of your life then the answer is right there. You don’t need to search far. Allah (SWT) is near, no intermediaries, your connection is directly to Him (SWT). Brothers and sisters, that’s the thing about Ramadhan. You’re in a very special position at the end of each day of fasting, when you have gone through the spiritual regiment, controlling your passions, trying to build within that sense of taqwa, when you come and you have that food right in front of you and you’re ready to break your fast.
The Prophet (SAWS) tells us that at that moment, your prayers are answered. Now how will I take advantage of this moment? Will I spend everyday of Ramadhan at iftar raising my hands in prayers, “Oh Allah, forgive me. Oh Allah, accept from me. Oh Allah, guide me. Oh Allah, guide my children.” Will I spend everyday at iftar like that? Will I spend everyday at iftar times circling around a pot of food, waiting for that minute to come so I could immediately eat, or sitting in front of that TV just waiting to eat with my family, and then I’ll pray Maghrib as soon as I’m done and hopefully before the time exits, is that how I will spend this very blessed moment? It is indeed a very blessed moment, brothers and sisters. Try to make this your habit everyday and inshaa Allah you’ll feel the sweetness of it. Before you break your fast, before you decide to indulge in your desires, raise your hands to Allah (SWT). Pray to Him, and then follow that with breaking your fast, and then praying after that, so you could actualize the meaning of fasting, internalizing within that sense of ‘ubudiyah, of being a servant of Allah (SWT).
Brothers and sisters, setting specific and reasonable goals for this Ramadhan is what we should spend the next few days trying to decide. We should ask ourselves an important question before entering the month of Ramadhan. What is one thing if I had it, if it was part of my life, it would drastically change who I am for the better? Think of it. Think of something, one thing, something reasonable, what would drastically make me have a better life experience as a believer? Brothers and sisters, the law for guidance is struggle. It doesn’t happen by wishful thinking and just simply making wishes. Guidance is the product of a struggle. Allah (SWT) says in His Book, (Holy Quran-29:69). “Those who struggle in Our Way, We will guide them to Our Paths.” Reflect on this message, brothers and sisters. Reflect on the spirit of Ramadhan. Assess where your actions in these days stand in preparation for that spirit of Ramadhan. Sit down with your children and teach them the wisdom of our deen, brothers and sisters. Our children are going away from the deen because they don’t connect with it. They don’t understand why we are Muslims. What is the wisdom behind my faith? Teach them the wisdom of Ramadhan, and help them make a goal for this Ramadhan so it could be a memorable experience.
I ask Allah (SWT) to forgive us all. Let’s ask Allah (SWT) to bless us, to witness the month of Ramadhan. I ask Allah (SWT) to accept its prayers and fasting from us. I ask Allah (SWT) to free us from Hell-fire in the month of Ramadhan. Oh Allah, forgive us all. Forgive the young and the old, the males and the females, those in attendance and those who are absent. Oh Allah, we ask You to make the best of our deeds the last of our deeds, and the best of our days the last of our days. The best of all days the day we meet You and You are pleased with us. Bless us to drink from the hand of our Prophet (SAWS), a drink that we will never feel thirst thereafter. Ameen.