Allah bestows so many blessings upon his servants in the month of Ramadan. This is the month of fasting that is one of the five pillars of Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted during this month and directed his followers to do the same. He told us that whoever fasts this month with faith, seeking Allah's reward, will have all of his past sins forgiven. He likewise informed us that whoever stands in prayer throughout this month will have all of his past sins forgiven.
The month of Ramadan contains within it a night that is superior to a thousand months. Whoever is denied the goodness of that night is indeed deprived.
We should welcome this month and embrace it with happiness and joy. We should have the truest resolve to observe the fasts and the prayers and to compete in doing righteous deeds. During this month, we should ardently repent for all of our sins and encourage each other to engage in virtuous deeds and call to what is right and forbid what is wrong. In this way, we will succeed in attaining the blessings and the great rewards of Ramadan.
The fast provides us with many benefits and is full of wisdom. It purifies and strengthens our hearts. It rids us of our baser tendencies like exuberance, arrogance, and stinginess. It reinforces our good traits like fortitude, clemency, and generosity. It supports us in our inner struggle to please Allah and attain nearness to Him.
Fasting teaches us about ourselves and our needs. It shows us how weak we are and how truly dependent we are upon our Lord. It shows us how much Allah has blessed us. We are reminded of our brethren those who are less fortunate and are inspired to treat them well. We are compelled to thank Allah and to use the blessings He has provided us in obedience to Him.
Allah draws attention to these many benefits when he says: "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for those who were before you that you may learn self-restraint." [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 183]
In this verse, Allah makes it clear that he prescribed fasting in order to purify us. Fasting is a means for us to learn self-restraint and cultivate our piety. Piety is to observe the commandments and prohibitions of Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) sincerely out of our love and reverence for Allah, and to avoid His punishment and anger.
Fasting is a great act of piety in itself and a great means of increasing our piety in all aspects of our religious and worldly lives.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) pointed out one of the benefits of fasting when he said: "O young people, whoever among you has the wherewithal to marry should do so, because it assists us in lowering our gazes and safeguarding our private parts. Whoever cannot do so should fast, because fasting diminishes sexual power."
The reason that fasting has this effect is because Satan flows like blood through our veins. Fasting constrains this flow while and acts as a reminder of Allah and His greatness, thereby reducing Satan's influence over the fasting person while at the same time his faith strengthening. He naturally starts engaging in more acts of obedience and fewer acts of sin.
There are many other benefits of fasting that we can discover with a little thought and reflection. Fasting is good for bodily health. It gives the body a chance to purify itself of accumulated poisons, a fact which has been confirmed by numerous doctors.
The sacred texts speak quite extensively about the virtues of fasting in the month of Ramadan and about it being a duty upon the believers. Allah says: "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for those who were before you that you may learn self-restraint. Fasting for a fixed number of days. The month of Ramadan in which the Qur'ân was revealed, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and the criterion. So whoever witnesses the month should fast it. And whoever is sick or upon a journey should fast the same number of days (later on). Allah wishes ease for you and he does not wish hardship upon you. He wants that you should complete the period and that you should exalt Allah for that to which he has guided you that perhaps you may be thankful." [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 183-185]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Islam is built upon five things: testifying that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing prayer, paying Zakâh, fasting the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to the House. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
When the angel Gabriel asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about Islam, he replied: "Islam is to bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish prayer, to pay charity, to fast the month of Ramadan, and to perform pilgrimage to the House if you are able to make the journey." [Sunan al-Tirmidhî]
Gabriel then said: "You have spoken the truth." Then he said: "Tell me about faith."
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) replied: "It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and divine decree, both the good and bad of it."
He said: "You have spoken the truth. Tell me about excellence in faith."
Allah's Messenger replied: "It is to worship Allah as though you see Him, and though you do not see Him, you know that He sees you."
He said: "You have spoken the truth. [Sahîh Muslim]
This hadîth is of considerable importance and deserves serious thought and consideration.
Once Mu`âdh b. Jabal said to the Prophet (peace be upon him): "Tell me about some deed that will admit me into Paradise and distance me from the Hellfire."
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: "You have asked about something great, yet it is very simple for one for whom Allah makes it easy. Worship Allah and do not associate anything with him in worship. Establish prater, pay Zakâh, fast the month of Ramadan, and undertake the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so." Then the Prophet (peace be upon him added: "Should I not inform you about the gates of goodness? Fasting is Paradise. Charity extinguishes sins like water extinguishes fire." [Sunan al-Tirmidhî]
Fasting is a most virtuous act with a reward commensurate with its greatness. This is especially true in Ramadan, since Allah has made fasting therein an obligation upon the believers and a means of their attaining salvation.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Every deed of the human being is for himself and its reward is multiplied for him from ten to seven hundred times. Allah says: 'Except for fasting, for truly it is for Me and I alone will reward it, for verily he abandoned his desires, his food, and his drink for my sake.' The one who fasts experiences two joys, one upon breaking his fast and one when he meets his Lord. Surely the breath of the fasting person is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "When Ramadan commences, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are bound in chains." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
The Prophet (peace be upon him said: "On the first night of Ramadan, the devils and rebellious jinn are bound in chains, The gates of Paradise are opened until not a single gate remains closed. The gates of Hell are bound shut until not a single gate remains open. Then a caller calls out: 'O desirer of good, go forth! O desirer of evil, restrain yourself! Allah is emancipating people from the Fire every night'." [Sunan al-Tirmidhî]
On the eve of Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave a sermon and said: "O people! A great and blessed month is coming upon you, a month containing a night better than a thousand months. Allah has made fasting in its days an obligation and observing prayer in its nights a voluntary act. Anyone who seeks nearness to Allah in theis month through any virtuous act will be like one who carried out a religious obligation at another time, and anyone who performs an obligatory act of worship in this month will be like one who performed seventy such acts at another time. It is the month of patience, and the reward for patience is Paradise." [Sahîh Ibn Khuzaymah]
We must seize the opportunity presented to us in this blessed month and appreciate the greatness of this time by engaging in all the worship that we can. We must hasten to perform good deeds. Allah has made this month a time for worship and for competing with one another in righteousness. We must increase our prayer and our spending in charity. We must busy ourselves with reading the Qur'ân. We must hasten to help the poor, the needy, and the orphans. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all people and he was even more generous in Ramadan. We must follow the good example of our Prophet (peace be upon him) by redoubling our efforts in this month.
We need to safeguard the blessings of our fasts from our sins and our shortcomings. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever does not leave off false speech and false conduct, Allah has no need of his leaving off food and drink." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "When any one of you is observing the fast for the day, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor raise his voice. If someone insults him or quarrels with him, he should say: 'I am fasting'." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
We must beseech Allah for forgiveness in this month and do all that we can to take advantage of this precious time. We must avoid committing any offence against the fast that will diminish its blessings and invoke Allah's anger. Therefore, we must not be negligent of our prayers or stingy with our Zakâh. We must not consume interest or the property of the orphans. We must not steal, oppress anyone, or disrespect our parents. We must not spurn our kinfolk. We must avoid backbiting, slander, lies, and falsehood. We must eschew false oaths and claims. We must not shave or trim our beards or leave our moustaches to grow. We must not listen to song and musical instruments. Women must not make a wanton display of themselves and men should not mix with them. These sins are forbidden throughout the year, but in Ramadan they are even more forbidden and more sinful.
We must fear Allah and avoid what Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) have prohibited us. We must be upright in our obedience in Ramadan and throughout the rest of the year. We should call one another to this and by doing so attain the success and salvation that this month promises us.
Sheikh `Abd al-`Azîz b. Bâz