The Incinerator of Sins

Ramadan: The Incinerator of Sins

By Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat writes about Ramadan as the month of purification of sins through the fire of fasting and what this means, elucidating its profound significance.

Allah (Most High) says,

“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down as an outstanding, miraculous guidance for humanity; and as unmistakably clear instructions, and as the ultimate criterion (of right and wrong). So whoever sees the month, let him fast during it; and whoever is ill or on a journey [is excused from fasting, but let him recover its virtue by fasting an equal] number in other days.

Allah wants ease for you – not difficulty. (He has legislated fasting and this dispensation) so that you complete the number (and attain the virtue in full); and so you may magnify Allah for His having guided you; and so that you do indeed be grateful.” [Quran, 2:185]

Imagine a dry leaf blown into the air. Its fragile, shriveled, brown frame being toyed with by the wind until it dances its way into a huge, roaring fire. What chance does it stand against the flames? What will remain of it when the fire ceases to burn?

What if this leaf was one of our sins? Out of His infinite kindness, Allah has bestowed the believers a month so blessed that it incinerates all their previous sins just as this fire would burn the leaf – and that is only the beginning of its virtues.

The Fire of Allah

The word “Ramadan” originates from a root which means “to be intensely hot.” It is also used to describe rocks that have been heated in the oppressive heat of the desert sun. Every word in the Quran has been specifically chosen to convey a precise meaning. Authorities in the field of Quranic exegesis (tafsir), such as ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar and Mahmud al-Alusi, state that this word was chosen to show that sins are incinerated in the month of Ramadan. In fact, Anas ibn Malik and ʿAisha narrated the same understanding from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

It is also rigorously authenticated that he said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan out faith and expecting (a reward) all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari]

Although scholars usually interpret narrations such as this to refer to minor sins, there are many verses and narrations that indicate Allah can forgive anything and everything should He wish to do so.

The above verse continues by telling us that “The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down.” One of the many things we can infer from these blessed words is that part of the greatness of Ramadan is it is chosen to be the month in which the revelation of the Quran began. This means that the greatness of the Quran adds to the greatness of Ramadan. As is the case with fasting in the daylight hours of the month, and standing in voluntary prayers at night to listen to the recital of the Qurʾan, the two go hand in hand. According to the great exegete, al Qurtubi, listening to the Quran attentively is the quickest way to have the mercy and kindness of Allah shower down upon oneself.

The Purifying Word

Historically, Muslims have used Ramadan as an opportunity to return to reciting, reviewing, and reflecting on the Quran, which in turn is a reflection of the manner in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would recite the Quran to the angel Jibril every Ramadan. In the final year of his life he recited it twice to him in Ramadan.

The resonance of its beautiful words coupled with the purificatory effect of fasting deeply impacts the soul. The companions felt the full force of this due to their mastery of Arabic, and the illuminating presence of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

To them, the Quran was a manifestation of the divine communicating with words of unmatched power, beauty, and eloquence. The way in which the Quran touched everyone at that time – friend and foe alike – was a testament to its miraculous nature. The verse above reflects this, saying it “Was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the decisive authority.”

Miracle of Miracles

The word “guidance” in this verse is indefinite. This is used as a rhetorical device to convey how unparalleled and miraculous the Quran actually is. Even a cursory look at the first five verses reveals that they are replete with references to the miraculous nature of the Quran and the favors of the Supreme Being who revealed it. Namely, the accurate description of the zygote and the blessing of the pen.

The former is such a precise description – despite its microscopic nature — that it is impossible for any human to have known it at the time of revelation or even a millennium later. Who else could have revealed the Quran besides the Creator of everything?

The blessing of the pen is best understood as a blessing of the recording and transmission of knowledge. Without this, no one would have been able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of previous generations because knowledge would have been limited to that which can be memorized and transmitted verbally. Writing make conveying vast amounts of knowledge over generations possible and easy.

Knowing One’s Way

The word “guidance” has nuances that are overlooked by many. It is a metaphor comparing the knowledge needed to attain every felicity and success in this life and the next, to the instructions one needs to reach a desired destination. A roadmap if you will.

This is juxtaposed with being lost and astray – which can happen before one is given sound directions or even after it. This is a metaphor for incorrect beliefs, actions, standards, and notions that distance one to the felicity of this life and the next. The worst scenario is when one is lost yet is unable, or unwilling, to recognize that fact and take the appropriate steps.

Allah said that Pharaoh and his minions “Shamelessly denied (the miraculous signs of Moses) whilst their very souls were as certain as could be about them.” [Quran, 27:14]

The Straight Path

Knowing one is on course brings a sense of relief and security – and the biggest concern is maintaining the course and increasing one’s progress and speed to the destination. Hence, the constant prayer in a believer’s life:

“Guide us along the great straight way.” [Quran, 1:5]

The verse continues by saying that the Quran was revealed: “As unmistakably clear instructions, and as the ultimate criterion (of right and wrong).”

The word for guidance (hudan) is used twice. The first refers to the miraculous nature of divine guidance, as we have seen. The second relates to the actual instructions that set a believer on course to the pleasure of Allah.

So the Quran guides us through the general trajectory of its message, and through the specific directions it provides us. Therefore, there is no redundant repetition in the verse. These directions are primarily characterized as being “abundantly clear.” Anyone can recognize them, their logic and the nourishment they provide the heart and soul. The arguments are convincing, and the commands and prohibitions are all for the benefit of those who accept them – despite them sent for humanity at large.

The Realization of Love

Take fasting, for example. Let alone the health benefits it provides the human body, fasting is a means to attaining taqwa; a quality which greatly endears one to Allah, until one is beloved to Allah. In fact, it is the central reason given to us in the previous verse for the legislation of fasting.

It also fosters empathy within a believer. As sunset approaches, the fierce hunger within him opens up a realization of what others, less fortunate than one endure daily due to their circumstances. It is not an accident that charity is greatly emphasized in Ramadan. This empathy for the poor and the shared acts of fasting and night prayers also strengthen the sense of unity and brotherhood among believers.

Fasting also makes one appreciative of the blessings of food and drink. The thirst one feels while busy at work. The biting hunger gets stronger as the day progresses. Both lead a believer to realize his neediness before Allah, and act as a reminder of the perspective Allah wants us to have in life: Allah Akbar. – Allah is more important than anything else.

In turn, He has promised special rewards for such acts. In fact, even the door of Paradise which people who fasted will enter from is called al Rayyan, meaning “someone whose thirst is completely quenched.”

Fast and Draw Near

Other commands are also just as clear in their logic and effect on a person. Whether it is Zakat which begins the purge of miserliness from oneself, or the good character which is the very foundation of happiness in life, or the Hajj which makes one realize he is part of something greater than the mundane routines of his life.

Not only does the Quran give these clear and logical directions, but it also lays down a standard of morality rooted in our ultimate benefit; in Quranic terms, it is referred to as the Furqan. The ultimate criterion between right and wrong. Had right and wrong been left in the hands of humans, it would have been subject to the whims of individuals and societies, which change as often as the weather. Anyone who wanted to justify a crime could do so due to the absence of an ultimate moral authority: how else could the likes of Fir‘awn justify genocide?

However, Allah’s declaration of certain acts to be right or wrong has permanently answered the question of what is beneficial or harmful for us. Take wine for example. There are many benefits associated with it according to the Quran itself, but ultimately its harm greatly outweighs them, so He commanded us to refrain from it.

Command and Dispensation

The greatness of the Quran contributes to the greatness of Ramadan by virtue of the fact that it was revealed within it. When understood properly, the greatness of Ramadan lies in the huge opportunity it presents for us to draw closer to Allah. How? The verse continues with the answer: “So whoever sees the month, let him fast during it; and whoever is ill or on a journey (is excused from fasting, but let him recover its virtue by fasting an equal) number in other days.”

The command to fast the month is deeply profound, as it shows the beauty in the way Allah legislated matters in the Quran. Had he said “fast during the days of Ramadan,” the legal implications would have been the same as those of the actual choice of words, meaning that most people would have been commanded to fast for the entire month.

However, people living in extreme latitudes for whom the time from one sunset to the next can be weeks or months, would not have been able to fast the whole month. Each day could be weeks long, so the verse would not apply to them.

But, by saying, “So whoever sees the month, let him fast during it,” everyone, in all locations, is addressed by the verse. This is an indication that those living in extreme latitudes should calculate the days of Ramadan and fast accordingly, just as the Companions were commanded to calculate the prayers and pray accordingly during the abnormally extended days of Dajjal. [Muslim]

After Hardship Comes Ease

In order to gain as much benefit from this month, everyone is commanded to fast. However, at times people are placed in situations that make fasting extremely difficult or impossible, so Allah granted a dispensation to those who are ill or traveling to alleviate their difficulties. This dispensation is actually mentioned in the previous verse, but it is repeated here after mentioning the greatness of Ramadan, lest someone think that one must fast in it no matter what his situation may be.

Subsequently, Allah apprises us of something of the wisdom behind this dispensation: “Allah wants ease for you – not difficulty.” With these words, He told us that His rulings reflect His infinite kindness and mercy: we are made morally responsible for obeying Him, and that leads to the place of ultimate ease – the Garden of Eden.

But, if applying His commands and prohibitions becomes difficult for us, then He has legislated dispensations that lift the difficulty from us until we can bear them once more. From this, we can see that those who cannot fast in Ramadan are not bereft of its blessings because Allah always wants to manifest His kindness and mercy on us.

The Grace of Our Lord

Next, we are given the reasons why such great kindness has been shown to us in His giving us this blessed month, the blessed fast, and the much-needed dispensation.

“(He has legislated fasting and this dispensation) so that you complete the number (and attain the virtue in full); and so you may magnify Allah for His having guided you; and so that you do indeed be grateful.” [Quran, 2:185]

What we understand from these words are multiple points of wisdom behind these rulings. Fasting and the dispensation have been legislated so we can attain all the benefits of this month in full. Even those who miss fasts due to illness or traveling attain the full fruits of Ramadan by the infinite generosity of Allah.

Had he willed, he could have compelled us to fast no matter what the circumstances; or not given those who miss fasts in Ramadan its full rewards. Rather, He compensated for our deficiency with His kindness just like He wants us to be towards those less fortunate than us. What love, what kindness, and what greatness there is in this!

Reasons to Be Grateful

The next wisdom we can draw from the verse is that Allah did all this, so we praise Him for having guided us – an act for which He then rewards us. There are many levels of guidance. The guidance from disbelief to faith. The guidance from ignorance to knowledge. The guidance from what harms us to what benefits us. The guidance to the blessings of Ramadan. The guidance to fasting and the dispensation for those who cannot fast.

For all this and more, it is fitting that we magnify Him by declaring His transcendence beyond imperfections (tasbih) and affirming that He possesses all perfections (tahmid). This is how we are to respond to His kindness, as well as gratitude.

The particle (لَعَّلَ) used in the verse normally expresses hope for something, but what is understood from the context here is that there are so many reasons for us to be grateful that it is actually expected that we constantly thank Him for all of them. They range from the removal of our sins to the blessings of the Quran to the benefits of fasting to the ease He wishes for us…The list goes on.

May Allah enable us to thank Him always and make this Ramadan our best and most fruitful Ramadan yet. And may each subsequent Ramadan be better for us than the previous one. Amin.


[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began studying Arabic Grammar and Morphology whilst studying for a degree in English and History. After graduating, He traveled to Damascus and studied Arabic, Hanafi Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, and Logic with Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman Arjan al-Binsawi, Shaykh Husayn Darwish, Shaykh Muhammad Darwish, the late Shaykh Rashad Shams, and others. He then moved to Amman to continue his studies in those fields, as well as in Tafsir, Quranic Sciences, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Prophetic Biography, Prophetic Perfections and Traits, Rhetoric, Arabic Literature, and Tajwid. His teachers include Shaykh Ali Hani, Dr. Hamza al-Bakri, Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj, Dr Mansur Abu Zina, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Shaykh Ahmad Jammal, and others.