With the grace of God we are currently going through the holy month of Ramadan. Fortunate are those who will benefit from this blessed month. Blessings of Ramadan are attained by understanding the reality of fasting and by fully benefitting from it. Doubtlessly, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that in this month the doors of Paradise are opened, the doors of Hell are shut and Satan is restricted in fetters. However, are these doors opened for everyone and is Satan shackled for everyone and indeed are the doors of Hell shut down for everyone? Certainly, this is not for everyone, rather it is the believers who are addressed here. But is it that one achieves the beneficence of Ramadan through outward and apparent faith alone? If this was so, why would good works be repeatedly enjoined? In fact, we are told that a person belonging to any religion who does good works will be rewarded.
One does not become the recipient of Paradise by merely keeping fast and going through Ramadan. It is essential to fulfil its requisites and its conditions and to focus on good works. Otherwise, there are many in the world who eat in the morning and then do not eat anything till evening. There are the so-called ascetics who adopt the habit of not eating for days at a stretch while paying no attention to worship. There are those who cannot eat due to some constraint, others are instructed by doctors to practice dietary abstinence while others, especially women, do not eating anything in their enthusiasm for diet control. A couple of days ago a mother came to see Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih whose young daughter has become obsessed to lose weight and has stopped eating. She only eats little and once a day and has lost 15 pounds in one month. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih is aware that there are those who fast and sleep most of the day to pass the fast. When the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) enjoined to fast and said that Satan is shackled during Ramadan and the doors of Paradise are opened up while the doors of Hell are shut, it signified that one must follow good works. Of course one eats Sehri in the morning and breaks the fast with Iftar. There are those who fast without waking or eating in the morning. It should not be assumed from this that one has earned the merit for fasting and Satan has been shackled for one. Only that person can attain the beneficence of fasting who also does good works and keeps fast with fear and awe of God and while doing so tries to adapt each action of his or her in accordance to the pleasure of God.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that the fast of that person gains acceptance who fasts in a state of belief with introspection. While fasting draws one to do good it also draws one to shun evil and a believer tries and raise the level of his or her worship of God, his or her attention is drawn to nawafil (optional worship) in addition to obligatory worship, attention is drawn to fulfil the rights of people, attention is drawn towards financial giving and to pay the dues of the underprivileged. Then alone can one avail of the blessings of fasting.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) used to pay alms and give to charity throughout the year on a matchless scale but during Ramadan his charity used to gain the intensity of fierce wind. He used to also take his level of worship of God to an extreme level. He said that it should not be assumed that one would gain without making any effort during Ramadan and he drew our attention to seeking true beneficence. He said that God has no need to keep one starved of food and water, that is, one who tells lies and acts on lies. Indeed, such fasting is pointless. When he drew our attention to the fact that a liar’s fasting is not accepted, he drew attention from the smallest of ills to the biggest of sins. When he enjoined a person to give up lying and stay firm on truth and the person obeyed him, all his moral and spiritual weaknesses were removed. Indeed, falsehood has been likened to shirk (associating partners with Allah). The Qur’an states: ‘Shun therefore the abomination of idols, and shun all words of untruth,’ (22:31)
Explaining the above verse, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that the impurity of idols and the impurity of falsehood should be avoided. Falsehood is an idol and one who relies on falsehood leaves his or her reliance on God. On one hand a person who fasts claims to do so in obedience to the commandment of God, for God states in the Qur’an: ‘O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you,’ (2:184) but on the other hand by using untruth he or she gives falsehood the same importance as he or she gives to the One on Whose commandment he or she is fasting. This diarchy cannot be. God has stated ‘fasting is for Me and I will be its reward.’ It is not possible that one does something for the sake of God, to attract His love and God alone is the reward of that act but then untruth is also added to that act.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) enjoined to shun verbal untruth as well as untruth by practice, for example saying something and not doing it. He enjoined that if someone picks up a fight with a person who is fasting, the response should be say ‘I am fasting’. However, if the response is also antagonistic then it will be untruth by practice. If one does not fulfil the dues of one’s work it is untruth by practice. If a husband and wife continue to quarrel and make no change during Ramadan with the thought of betterment during this month, and inculcate love and affection so that God’s love is sought, then they may verbally profess to fast for God but they acts prove it to be false. The extreme of this is when precedence is given to one’s trade/business over worship in spite of the month of Ramadan. Some people even exceed this and indulge in falsehood for the sake of making profit, as if falsehood is of more significance than God for them. Fasting of people who practice this is starvation.
Certainly, Ramadan can be a source of revolutionary change, but it is for those who bring about pious changes in themselves, who try and adapt their word and deed in accordance to God’s pleasure, who try and establish God’s kingdom so that they can avail of God’s enhanced mercy and forgiveness during Ramadan. They crush to smithereens the untruth of their ‘self’ (nafs) and this is when revolutionary change comes to pass. While during Ramadan worship of God and heightened and careful study of the Qur’an is essential, it is also essential that the impact of the worship and the study is evident in one’s moral condition. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) once said that at the time he was not in need of enjoining not to spill blood for none other than the very wicked kill the innocent. He said what he would enjoin was that truth should not be killed by insisting on injustice. He said one should stay firm on truth and give truthful testimony, for God has stated: ‘Shun therefore the abomination of idols, and shun all words of untruth,’. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) explained that the impurity of idols and untruth should be avoided because untruth is not any less harmful than idol-worship. He said anything that diverts one from the straightforward path of truth is an idol in one’s way. He also said the damage done by the tongue is very perilous and that is why a righteous person keeps great control over his tongue. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih said if everyone self-reflects they will realise who is following the poignant advice of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) for this advice of his was particularly for people of his Jama’at. Adherence to these words would solve our domestic problems, disputes between brothers that time to time appear, would be removed, at least problems of our mutual dealings in Ahmadi society would be removed. These problems are indeed created by not adhering to truth and by giving preference to one’s ego. This is why the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) gave so much importance to truth. Adopting truth requires a degree of humility and God likes humility. The most important advice among all that the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) enjoined us in the extract quoted is that anything that diverts us from the straightforward path of truth is an idol in our way.
If we are to take full benefit from the month of Ramadan, we will have to straighten our paths of truth. We can only reach the doors of Paradise by reflecting over and putting in practice the pronouncement of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) when he said that the standard of one’s word and deed should be raised otherwise, God is not interested in anyone starving. In His infinite compassion, God has ascribed blessings and in Ramadan He removes all boundaries to attain these blessings when He invites to enter the paradise of His pleasure but this cannot be done without adopting truthfulness of word and deed. If this is done, then like the navigation system in vehicles that leads to the correct destination, one would arrive at the correct place, otherwise, in spite of Ramadan, one would remain lost. The vehicle navigation system is prone to error, sometimes it does not show new roads, sometimes it opts for a route that ends up being longer, other times in search of a short route one ends up driving around small streets, gets stuck in traffic. But if the path towards God is straight, it leads directly to the doors of Paradise.
This Ramadan each one of us should try and straighten our paths, raise the standards of our truthfulness of word and deed, and try and reach the paradise of God’s pleasure. May God enable us to do so.