We should look to the example of the Prophet, his Companions, and the earliest generation of Muslims if we want to get the maximum benefit from this blessed month of Ramadan. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The best of my Ummah would be those of the generation nearest to mine. Then [come] those nearest to them; then [come] those nearest to them” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
We will look at some of the things to which our pious predecessors used to pay extra attention during the month of Ramadan.
Reading the Qur’an
Almighty Allah says,
[The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed] (Al-Baqarah 2:185)
For that reason, our pious predecessors used to increase their recitation of the Qur’an in Ramadan. Al-Aswad ibn Yazid used to complete reading the entire Quran every two nights in Ramadan. He would sleep between Maghrib Prayer and `Isha’ Prayer. Outside of Ramadan, he would complete reading the Qur’an every six nights.
Sa`id ibn Jubayr would also complete reading the Qur’an every two nights in Ramadan.
It is also narrated that Al-Walid used to normally complete reading the Qur’an every three nights, but in the month of Ramadan, he would entirely read it 17 times.
Qatadah used to read the whole Qur’an every seven days, but in Ramadan he would take three days to do so. During the last 10 nights of Ramadan, he would read the entire Qur’an every night.
Al-Qasim ibn `Ali described his father, Ibn `Asakir, author of The History of Damascus, as follows: “He used to always perform his Prayers in congregation, and he was consistent in reciting the Qur’an. He would always complete a reading of the entire Qur’an by Friday. However, in Ramadan, he would do so everyday and retreat to the eastern minaret of the mosque.”
Describing Abu Barakat Hibatullah ibn Mahfuz, Adh-Dhahabi , the prominent scholar wrote, “He learned Islamic law and read the Qur’an. He was known for his charity and his good deeds. In the month of Ramadan, he would read the Qur’an 30 times.”
Night Vigil Prayer
As-Sa’ib ibn Yazid said, “`Umar ibn Al-Khattab ordered Ubayy ibn Ka`b and Tamim Ad-Dari to lead the people in Prayer in Ramadan. They would each read hundreds of verses at a go, until we had to support ourselves with canes because of the length of time we had to stand. We would only finish praying close to the time of Fajr Prayer” (Musannaf `Abdul Razzaq and Sunan Al-Bayhaqi).
`Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr narrated that he heard his father say, “By the time we finished our Prayers [i.e. Night Vigil Prayer] in Ramadan, the servants would have to rush to prepare food in fear of the coming of Fajr” (Al-Muwatta’).
`Abdur-Rahman ibn Hurmuz said, “The reciters [leading the Prayers] would complete the reading of Surat Al-Baqarah in eight rak`ahs [units of Prayer]. When the reciters took 12 rak`ahs to complete it, the people regarded it as if the reciters were making things easy for them” (Musannaf `Abdul Razzaq and Sunan Al-Bayhaqi).
Nafi` reported that Ibn `Umar used to pray in his house during the month of Ramadan. When the people departed from the mosque, he would go off to the Prophet’s Mosque with a flask of water. He would not leave the mosque again until after Fajr Prayer (Sunan Al-Bayhaqi).
`Imran ibn Hudayr narrated that Abu Mijlaz would lead the Prayers in Ramadan for the people in his neighborhood. He would recite the whole Qur’an in Prayer in the course of seven days (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah).
Ibn `Abbas reported, “Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was the most generous of all people in doing good, and he was at his most generosity during the month of Ramadan. Jibreel [Angel Gabriel] used to meet with him every year throughout the month of Ramadan, so that the Prophet could recite the Qur’an to him. Whenever Jibreel met with him, he [the Prophet] became more generous than a beneficial breeze” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Al-Muhallab, a famous Maliki scholar, explained this hadith, saying,
This shows the blessings of good works and shows that engaging in some good deeds opens the door to performing others. Doing some good deeds assists one in further good works. We can see here that the blessings of fasting and of meeting Jibreel increased the Prophet’s generosity and charity, so much so that the Prophet became more generous than a beneficial breeze.
Az-Zayn ibn Al-Munir explained the description “beneficial breeze” as follows:
His charity and good treatment for those who are poor and needy, as well as for those who are well-off and possess sufficient means, are as general as the relief brought by a beneficial breeze.
After Maghrib Prayer, Ibn `Umar used to break his fast only in the company of the poor. Whenever someone came to him while he was eating and asked him for something, he would take from his food what he deemed to be the beggar’s rightful share. Then he would stand up and leave the rest of the food for that person. He would then take what was in his hand and give it to his family, so that when he woke up in the next morning to resume his fast, he would not have eaten anything the night before.
During the month of Ramadan, Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhri would engage in nothing besides reciting the Qur’an and providing the poor with food.
Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman would take it upon himself to provide 500 people with food enough to break their fast, during the month of Ramadan. Then, on the day of `Eid Al-Fitr, he would give each of those people 100 pieces of silver.
Watching One’s Tongue
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said, “For those who do not abandon false speech and false acts, Allah has no need of their abandoning of food and drink” (Al-Bukhari).
Al-Muhallab made the following observation about this hadith :
This shows that fasting entails refraining from obscene and false speech, just as it entails refraining from food and drink. Those who engage in false or obscene speech detract from the value of their fast. They expose themselves to their Lord’s displeasure and to the possibility of their fast to be unaccepted.
The Prophet said,
If someone of you starts off the day fasting, they should avoid obscene speech and ignorant behavior. If someone abuses them or starts to fight with them, they should reply by saying, “I am fasting; I am fasting.” (Muslim)
Al-Maziri, the most prominent Maliki jurist of all time, had the following observation about this hadith, “It is possible that one is recommended to say, “I am fasting; I am fasting,” only to remind him- or herself that he or she should refrain from getting engaged in the exchange of insults.”
`Umar ibn Al-Khattab said, “[In Ramadan] one does not abstain only from eating and drinking but also from lying, from uttering falsehood, from engaging in vain talk, and from swearing” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah).
`Ali ibn Abi Talib said, “Fasting is not to leave off food and drink but rather to leave off lying, uttering falsehood, and engaging in vain talk” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah).
Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari (may Allah be pleases with him) said, “When you fast, be on your guard as mush as possible.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah).
Jabir ibn `Abullah said, “When you fast, your hearing, your vision, and your tongue should also fast by avoiding lies and sins. You should not abuse your servant. You should maintain your composure and dignity on the day you fast. Do not make your fasting day the same as your normal day” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah).
Abu Hurairah said, “When you fast, do not act in an ignorant manner and do not insult people. If someone acts ignorantly toward you, say, ‘I am fasting'” (Musannaf `Abdul Razzaq).
Mujahid said, “If you avoid two things, then your fast will be all right. You must avoid backbiting and lying.” Abu Al-`Aaliyah added, “A fasting person is engaged in worship as long as he or she does not backbite someone.
By Sheikh Salman Al-`Udah