Ramadan is a month for Muslims to retrain, re-educate and rejuvenate their souls, minds and manners and ‘graduate’ as better persons.
THE month of Ramadan holds immense importance for Muslims. Highly venerated in Islam, it is distinguished from other months of the Islamic calendar by a number of characteristics, privileges and virtues.
Fasting is made compulsory throughout Ramadan on all Muslims who have attained the age of puberty and of sound mind.
While fasting, Muslims are not only prohibited from eating or drinking anything from dawn till dusk, but are also required to observe some other added prohibitions, in words and actions, which are otherwise allowed without much restriction outside the sacred month.
Ramadan is a month for Muslims to retrain, re-educate, rejuvenate – in greater intensity – their souls, minds and manners. A good external manifestation of one’s behaviour reflects a refined internal condition of one’s heart and soul.
That explains why Ramadan is regarded by Wahbah al-Zuhayli, in his celebratedFiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuh, as a “great school of ethics”, where people are expected to graduate as better persons.
The Noble Qur’an and the authentic prophetic traditions (ahadith, sing. hadith) have expressed the virtues of Ramadan in abundance.
One hadith states that rewards for any act of worship performed during the blessed month is manifold – seventy times compared to other normal times.
Under certain circumstances, some other reliable ahadith relate that the rewards could even be multiplied almost beyond imagination.
If Muslims were to properly understand these virtues, it would provide tremendous motivation and encouragement for them to perfect their fasting, purify their souls in earnest, seeking the promised multiplicity of rewards and the pleasures of Allah.
Realising this, no good Muslim would ever attempt to abandon fasting during Ramadan.
Among the virtuous acts recommended during Ramadan is the performance of umrah (minor hajj/pilgrimage) for those Muslims who have the means to do so financially and physically.
Briefly, umrah includes visits to the two Forbidden Cities (al-haramayn), namely Medina and Mecca, with a number of prescribed rituals especially in the latter.
As a form of worship, two most important pillars of umrah are circumambulation (tawaf) around the House of God (Baytullah) or Kaabah, and the brisk walking (sa’i) between Safa and Marwah.
Muslims are encouraged to perform umrah prior to hajj because of various reasons. Among them are economic and/or health constraints as hajj requires more energy, time, money and is physically more challenging. Not all Muslims are bestowed with good health and wealth simultaneously in all situations. Two most prominent scholars on hadith, Imam al-Bukhari and Muslim, reported in their respective Sahih that Prophet Muhammad said, “When Ramadan comes, go for umrah, for umrah in (that month) is equivalent to hajj,” or in another narration, “is equivalent to having performed hajj with me!”
“Equivalent to hajj” means the reward to which hajj is eligible. It does not mean that umrah will serve as a substitute for hajj and absolve able individual Muslims from the obligation to perform it.
Hence, any Muslim who vies for such a reward of hajj may perform the umrah during the blessed month.
Other than the promised rewards, Muslims should also feel motivated to perform umrah during Ramadan in light of other virtues as described by the following ahadith:
“There is no city on earth through which Allah multiplies one good deed by a hundred thousand except Mecca.” (Sahih Bukhari, lbn Hibban).
“Whosoever offers a prayer in Mecca, then that prayer is enhanced a hundred thousand fold over.” (Sahih Muslim/Sunan an-Nasai).
“Whosoever gives one dirham in charity in Mecca, Allah writes for him the reward of having spent a hundred thousand dirhams in charity.” (Sunan Tirmizi).
“Anyone who completes the recitation of the entire Quran once in Mecca, AIIah records for him the reward of a hundred thousand full recitations.” (Baihaqi, lbn Majah).
“Whosoever glorifies Allah once in Mecca, for him is recorded the rewards of having glorified Allah hundred thousand times elsewhere. Every good deed which a servant enacts in the Forbidden City is equivalent to a hundred thousand deeds enacted elsewhere.” (Sunan an-Nasai).
“Each pious deed performed in Mecca is multiplied a hundred thousand fold.” (Sunan Abu Dawud).
“Anyone who observes the fasts of the month of Ramadan in Mecca, Allah records for him the reward of a hundred thousand months of fasting in any other city.” (Sunan Ibn Majah).
“The prayer offered in Masjid al-Haram is increased by a hundred thousand prayers.” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim).
“Anyone who falls ill in Mecca for one day, Allah renders his body and his flesh forbidden from the fire of Jahannam/Hell.” (Sahih Bukhari)
All the prophetic traditions mentioned above do not constitute religious superstition. On the contrary they form and become part and parcel of religious teachings transmitted by reliable scholars whose trustworthiness and authorities are hardly questionable.
The climax of Ramadan is the attainment of “the Night of Power” (laylah al-qadar), or the Night of Honour and Glory, achievable during the last nine days of the month. Its virtue(s), as conclusively carved in the Quran, is better than a thousand months of good life (al-Qadar, 97: 2-3). It is equivalent to 83 years of worship to Allah!
Considering all the understanding and knowledge aforementioned are in the minds and hearts of Muslims, it’s truly heartening to see millions of them flock and converge on Mecca every year during Ramadan to perform umrah and other acts of devotion – obligatory or recommended – and improve them in quantity and quality, to reap the magnificent harvests.
Their spiritual salvation is virtually complete if they are fortunate enough to capture the laylah al-qadar in the Holy Land, securing forgiveness, blessings and pleasures from Allah the Almighty.
Dr Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad is Director/Senior Fellow of The Centre for Shariah, Law and Politics. The STAR Online Home News Opinion Columnist IKIM Views 06/08/2013