“Ramadan” – is a blessed ninth month of lunar Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. Muslim month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from down until sunset from eating and drinking. According to Islam, the “swab” rewards of fasting are many, but in this month, they are believed to be multiplied. Muslims fast in this blessed month of Ramadan for the sake of demonstrating submission to God and to offer more prayers and Quran recitations. “Hilal” (the crescent) is typically a day (or more) after the astronomical new moon. Since the new moon indicates the beginning of the new month, Muslims can usually safely estimate the beginning of Ramadan. However, to many Muslims, visual confirmation is recommended. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity. It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. The elderly, the chronically ill, mentally ill are exempt from fasting and those travelling are exempt. Also exempt are pregnant women if they menstruation, and women nursing their newborns.
Fasting is another form of worship found universally in the world religions. Although there are vast differences regarding the mode of fasting and the conditions applied to it, the central idea of fasting is present everywhere. Where it is not mentioned clearly, it is likely that it may gradually have either been discontinued or have petered out through gradual decay in practice. The case of Buddha is an interesting example. He started his quest for truth with a severe form of fasting, but later on it is said that he abandoned this practice because it had adversely effected his health. In view of this one can understand why he discontinued, but this does not in any way indicate that he had ceased to believe in fasting. Perhaps that is why some Buddhists, here and there, still observe some form of fasting.
“Laylat-al-Qadr” refers to as “the night of decree or measures”, is considered the most holy night of the year. Muslims believe that it is the night in which the Quran was first revealed to the holy prophet Muhammad, as stated in Chapter 97 of the Holy Qur’an. Also, Laylat-al-Qadr is believed to have occurred on an odd numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramadan, either the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or 29th.
“Eid-ul-Fitr”- a Muslim holiday refers to “festivity of breaking the fast” marks the end of Ramadan and beginning of the next lunar month called Shawwal in Arabic. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions. Eid-ul-Fitr may also be a reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting successfully and returning to the more natural disposition (fitra) of being able to eat, drink.
The Holy Quran said: “O ye who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you so that you may become righteous, as it was prescribed for those seeking righteousness before you.” (Surah Baqara verse 184) A narration from Hadrat Abu Huraira (ra) states that the Holy Prophet (saw) said regarding Ramadan, “When the month of Ramadan comes, the gates of the heavens are opened.” In another narration, it says, “the gates of Heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and Satan is bound in chains.” Yet another narration states that, “the gates of Allah’s mercy are opened.”
The question here is, regardless of whether they are the gates of the heavens or Heaven, what is meant by gates? Also, of the gates that are closed, which gates of Hell are they? And what types of chains is Satan bound to? Do these describe a universal condition or do they have a specific meaning that is limited to certain circumstances that cannot be applied upon the entire world in a universal way?
As far as the month of Ramadan is concerned, this apparently comes upon believers and also disbelievers. It comes to those who reject God and those who accept God. It comes to those who do good and pious deeds, and also to those who remain trapped in iniquity and immorality. This is why one thing is absolute, that a universal connotation is not correct. For as for as Ramadan is concerned, in this month, a great multitude of people remain trapped in iniquity and immorality just as before and have not the slightest care for Ramadan. Therefore, to say that in this month Satan is bound in chains, or that the gates of Divine Mercy are opened and that the gates of Divine Wrath are closed (for all), is the result of not properly understanding this hadith. When the Holy Prophet (saw) said, “When the month of Ramadan enters.” (Sunnan Nasa 1, Bab Shahru Ramadan)
This does not mean that blessings are showered upon the entire world universally. Rather, it means that the month of Ramadan takes blessings to all those places where it enters. The Holy Prophet (saw) was exceedingly eloquent and copious in speech. His blessed tongue was so eloquent and copious that after the Book of Allah, none had heard such eloquence and copiousness from another person.
Therefore, right in the beginning of this hadith, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) has given us the key to understanding this matter. He said, “when the month of Ramadan enters.” Meaning that whenever and wherever the month of Ramadan enters, there it will create these conditions. The intent of this is that when Ramadan enters somewhere with all its stipulations, then it will become a means of blessings for a person. Otherwise, in general, Ramadan is not something that can enter a city or enter a country: it in fact enters the very being of a person. What is meant (by this hadith) is that when Ramadan enters the very being of a person, then it will bring about pious change in his world. Changes will be created in his land and air. That is to say, as far as a person’s associations go, a person who makes himself conform to Ramadan, it is as if Ramadan al-Mubarik had entered that person with all its blessings. Similarly, whatever gates of Heaven there are in such a person’s world, all of them will open. And as many gates there are to Hell, all will be closed. This means that the gates of Allah’s Mercy will be opened on that person and his Satan will be bound in chains. This is the true understanding of this hadith. Now, when we reflect further (on this hadith) from this angle, then it is no longer difficult to determine what those gates refer to.
As far as a person’s being is concerned, he has five senses, referred to as the five senses (Hiwas Khamsah). (They are), the ability to smell, hear, see, taste and touch. Aside from these, there are two other means that allow a person to enter or exit, means they have been given him so that he may enter or leave. Man has (also) been given some pathways that have both abilities. Something can enter them, and also come out of them. These have great importance in human life. If these gates are also included then there are seven gates in man’s world (and seven gates of heaven as well). This is the blessing of Ramadan al-Mubarik and there is only one act of worship that can appoint a sentinel over all seven of these gates. Aside from it, you cannot think of another act of worship that can completely surrounded these senses and pathways.
We, therefore, come to know from the words of the Holy Prophet (saw) that when Ramadan enters a believer’s life, then the paths of his seven strengths, that can lead him to Heaven and also lead him to Hell, because devoted to leading him Heaven. Each of the seven paths become gates for heaven. So as to say, rather than taking a person down, they prove to be his aid and helpers towards his (spiritual) exaltation. Satan takes advantage of these same seven paths to attack man. But it is said that the Satan of such a believer is bound in chains and can find no escape because at each of the seven paths sits a sentinel of Allah’s pleasure. God’s Angels stand watch at each of the paths. Satan becomes completely frustrated and helpless. Therefore, fasting is such a complete act of worship that as a result, Satan is left with absolutely no way of entering human beings.
Consequently, this means that when a person makes his seven strengths, or seven means, obedient to the pleasure of Allah, then seven gates from Heaven also open for him. The number seven is symbolic, as this is a method of expression, it implies that a person who makes all his strengths obedient to the pleasure of Allah, the gates of Mercy open for him as a result of Allah the Exalted’s powers. When, by the grace of Allah, the gates of Heaven open on such a person, they do not remain seven gates, rather innumerable gates open. Therefore, when believer lets Ramadan enter his being, his task becomes to use the blessings of Ramadan to open everything up for God and close off everything from Satan. In such a situation, the gates of mercy, meaning the gates of Allah’s grace, are opened which though are numbered seven, but practically are unlimited. They cannot be counted. They cannot be numbered. So when a believer presents his world to God, then Allah’s world rains mercy upon him from all sides. This is the meaning of this hadith of the Holy Prophet (saw), which he said so as to inform us of the blessings associated with Ramadan.
Therefore, this understanding of Ramadan is very dreadful and ignorant, that on one side this blessed month enters a person’s life and places an Angel to watch over all his faculties, opening up all avenues to his Lord and all Angels, while also shutting off all of Satan’s means of approach. And on the other side when it leaves, rather then leaving Angels, it leaves Satan’s agents closing off entry for Allah, giving Satan full opportunity to do as he pleases. Furthermore, this situation will last for not just one month but for the remaining eleven months. This is a very harmful trade. This can in no way be what is meant by Allah and His Messenger (saw). Benefiting from Ramadan means that its prescribed acts worship be granted steadiness; whatever blessings are found in this month should be made permanent; whatever troubles you were saved from, do not become tied up in them again and do not again turn your face towards the filth that Ramadan Mubraik saved you from.
Ramadan has come to us as a great and special favour because this is the age in which the enemies of Ahmadiyyat have opened all the door of their rage and fury. This is the age in which the opponents of Ahmadiyyat openly teach in the countries – Pakistan and Indonesia that ’you must kill Ahmadis and destroy Ahmadiyyat and tear it into pieces. Let rivers of blood flow in these countries until not a single Ahamdi can be seen.’ This teaching is being given openly.
At this time, Ramadan al-Mubarik has come to us to open the gates of Allah’s mercy. Ramadan has come with a message stating, God has been hearing our prayers before but now has come even closer to us. He is covering us with mercy. The gates of answering prayers have been opened. Our every distress will reach heaven. Not a single voice that our heart pour out is such that will not shake the Throne of Allah.
Ramadan Sharif has come with the message of mercy. If doors of disobedience to God are being opened (by our enemies) then for Ahmadis Allah`s gates of obedience are sending all Ahmdis invitations of security and calling all members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at towards them. Ramadan Sharif has come to take care of us and grant us refuge at precisely the right time. Thus, a nation that attains such good fortune finds a path to prosperity. The question of fear never comes up for such a nation. May Allah wrap us in the cloth of His love and pleasure. Ameen!