Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi gives advice on how to enter Ramadan and how to make the most of it through the idea of celebrating this blessed month.
Praise be to Allah who granted us the health and the well-being so that we can come today and attend one of the circles of knowledge and remembrance. Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds, for every bounty that He has embraced us with, whether we are aware of it or not. Once a person reflects on the bounties and gifts that Allah Most High bestows upon each one of us every day, they see that every day there is a flood of a new gifts that Allah bestows upon us.
We just need to open our hearts such that we can witness them. One of the gifts today that He has given all of us is that He allows us to establish a means towards fulfilling one of His obligations, which is fasting the month of Ramadan.
They say that someone who establishes the means hopefully they will also establish the ends. If somebody is enlightened at the beginning, most likely they will also be enlightened towards the end. So if Allah gives you the tawfiq that you make good wudu, you come early to the Masjid, you walk and do not drive – these are means towards the end – then most likely your prayer is going to be good. That is how what we think of Allah Most High.
Be Grateful for Reminders
One of the beautiful aspects of our Shari‘a, our tradition, is the concept of a reminder. Many of you have attended many sessions about how to prepare for Ramadan. And if you did not attend one of them you wish you had. The imam might have given you some advice about how to prepare for Ramadan. So it’s a challenge for each one of us when we come to such topics which we are well acquainted with, or that we think, we perceive, we are well acquainted with – not to gain benefit, but to be interested. It’s a bit difficult to be interested in these topics become like a routine.
Now looking at the concept of a reminder and our Shari‘a can help us survive a reminder.Allah Most High ordered his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to always give reminders. A reminder is not teaching you something, but for you be reminded of it. You know it already. It is not like learning from scratch, but yet Allah ordered the prophets to continually give people reminders, because that’s our nature.
We are humans. We forget. Actually we forget much much quicker than we even think. In the morning, your parents tell you to do something. Your spouse tells you to do something or get something. And at the end of the day you forgot to bring that thing. We get lost in routine.
How to Receive Gifts from Allah
It is from Allah’s mercy that we need continuous reminders. Now people receive it in two ways. One might say, “Well, you told me the first time. Are you being pushy?” Another person might say, “I am bored.” That is one way to look at the reminders, but the interesting part is that the Qur’an says:
يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding. (Sura al Baqara 2:269)
Those who have the core of intelligence. Those who are really, really smart. These are the ones who look at the reminders and say: “I need the reminder. Without the reminder I probably cannot survive.” These reminders are from Allah. These are His words:
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا
And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind. (Sura al Furqan 25:73)
This is how Allah describes the believers. Every time they are reminded of one of the gifts, one of the signs, one of the verses of Allah Most High, they don’t receive it with deaf ears and blind eyes. So we ask Allah to let us benefit from His reminders.
Celebrating the Gift of Ramadan
We should celebrate Ramadan. I started hearing this term celebrating Ramadan – Muslims celebrating Ramadan – honestly, I started hearing this more when I came to the West. In the East we don’t hear that term. The most commonly used term is a Qur‘anic term, which is “shuhud al shahr,” to witness the month. Allah says in the Qur’an:
فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ
Whoever witnesses the month, let him fast it. (Sura al Baqara 2:185)
Normally, whether it’s in the media or it’s in the writings, they use the term witness. Now, here, we started hearing the term celebrate. The term is not actually chain overriding that term witness, but it has an extra element. It’s actually a very beautiful element, which is the element of joy. There is some joy and happiness.
It’s not like month of Ramadan is coming by, I’m just passing that passage of time. Rather I am now in a ceremony. I am in a celebration. I am celebrating this month and the celebration of the month can be with the outward ceremonies. Our master Umar ibn al Khattab, Allahe be pleased with him, was passing by the masjid and he saw that it was full of people at night praying tarawih. He rejoiced. That’s a ceremony, a ritual that we have.
I’ve seen Muslims and non-Muslims look amazed by these long lines of iftar. Of people sitting and everybody’s holding their dates waiting for that signal, and when that event comes in and everybody eats, and you could see the smile and the happiness fill the room. It’s part of the ceremony. But celebration is more about something in the heart.
To prepare for the month and to go through the month, the concept that I am celebrating this month adds a great dimension to how we live that through the month of Ramadan. So, why should we celebrate?
The Universe Rejoices
First the skies, the universe, is celebrating and the question then is: Why am I not joining? That is the right question, because everything is celebrating. the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to tell the good tidings at the beginning of the month to his Companions. He would say: “A great month has arrived. The doors of paradise will be open.”
I can imagine how beautiful it would be, for the skies, the doors of paradise to be open. Imagine the breeze, the beauty, the fragrance of Paradise that opens to the skies and to the worlds.
And imagine the heat and the doors of hellfire, which is roaring. It is always roaring and whistling and breathing. There are angels watching over it who have never smiled since Allah created the Hellfire.
But in this month Allah orders them all to be closed. Moreover all of these demons that impact us and other creatures in ways that we don’t know much about, Allah orders the most evil of these demons to be chained. There are a lot of events that we don’t see, but they are happening.
It’s a big celebration. And generally if there is something magnificent happening in the skies then the believers should connect. A believer should connect. That is why we celebrate Laylat al Qadr. The skies celebrate it. The angels come down. And who else is coming? Jibril himself, the Ruh himself, comes down in person. Allah orders everybody to come down. They descend. It’s a big celebration, so the question is am I joining or not? Because everybody is celebrating.
The Two Friends in Paradise
There is another story. Our master Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, one of the ten Companions whom the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, promised would enter paradise. He says: I had two friends. They were from the same tribe. They were probably relatives since they were always competing for the good.
In one of the battles one of them was killed as a martyr. A year later his friend passed away, but not as a martyr. He just passed away. So Talha said, I saw in a dream that the door of Paradise was closed. Then there was some knocking and it was opened, and I saw the second friend inside. He looked around and then he found his companion and then he ordered him to come in.
In other words, the second one was in Paradise and he was inviting the person who was a martyr to come in. And then, he says, the door was closed. So the first friend, the martyr, knocked again just to make sure. And then offered his hand saying, Can you pull me in? They said, No, your time is not now.
So Talha says: “I woke up and I went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and I told him this is what I saw. Everybody was surprised that the second man who was not a martyr got into paradise before the first one. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Why are you surprised?” Did he not live to fast another Ramadan? And he prayed six thousand raka‘t. (Musnad Ahmad)
Increase in Rank and Station
Now, regardless of the theological questions that will come to your mind about why and how, we trust Allah’s wisdom and we trust Allah’s Justice. But there is a message here that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us. And that is to attend Ramadan. It is such a great bounty, such a great gift, that the more you attend Ramadan, the more likely it is that you will gain higher station in Paradise.
Every Ramadan that we pass through is a cause for joy. Rejoice in the fact that Allah has allowed us to come through it. We know friends who did not come through. All of us probably have loved ones who passed away. They are not about to witness Ramadan with us. So praise Allah for allowing us to witness Ramadan once more.
Ramadan is truly a cause for celebration.