Ramadan began with great expectations. Our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) informed us that the devils in Ramadan are chained, the Gates of Allah’s Mercy are opened, the Gates of Hellfire are closed. Many of us vowed to take advantage of this truly blessed time to regain the sweetness that we previously knew in our worship. Similarly, we vowed to reform our relationship with Allah and to repair severed or damaged ties with our fellow Muslims. Now Ramadan has passed on. We should all seriously ask ourselves, “Have we accomplished our spiritual objectives this Ramadan?”
Ramadan comes and, like the days of our lives, it passes through stages. Those stages are poetically mirrored by the waxing and waning of its moon. It is related that our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said concerning Ramadan, “Its beginning is mercy, its middle is forgiveness, and its ending is liberation from the Hellfire.” (Ibn Khuzaymah, As-Sahih, vol. 3, no. 191) If we take time to reflect, I’m sure that all of us will admit that we do not adequately appreciate the magnitude of Allah’s mercy in this blessed month.
The husband and wife, for example, should be a source of mercy to each other. Allah says in the Qur’an: “Among His Signs is that He has created for you from yourselves spouses, in order that you dwell together with them in Peace and tranquility. And He has made between you love and mercy. Surely in this are signs for people who do reflect.” (Ar-Rum: 21)
The parents should be merciful to their children. Similarly, the children should be merciful to their parents. Perhaps the greatest example of the merciful child is that of Ismail (peace and blessings be upon him). When his father Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) informed him that he was to sacrifice him (Ismail), the son mercifully responded, “Oh, father! Do that which you have been commanded. You will find me, in sha’ Allah, amongst the patient.” (As-Saffat: 102)
We should similarly be a source of mercy to our fellow believers. Our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The similitude of the believers in their mutual love, their mutual mercy, and their mutual affection is like a single body. If any part of it complains of an injury, the entire body responds with sleeplessness and fever.” (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) This narration emphasizes the fact that we are a merciful people. We are a merciful people whose mercy shouldn’t be confined to our immediate circle of associates and acquaintances. Rather it should extend to the entire Ummah.
We have all been blessed to gather on the Eid day in safety and security. We should never forget those who are gathering in the shadow of tanks and cannons. We should never forget those noble men, women, and children whose Eid Prayer could be interrupted at any moment by a shower of tear gas or bullets. Our mercy to them lies in our transcending the oftentimes petty and trivial differences and issues that divide us in order to become a unified, viable, and positive force of change and sanity in this world.
On this `Eid day, we will, in sha’ Allah enjoy the blessings of ample and assorted food. We should never forget those Muslims who literally know no iftar. For many Muslims, daily existence is a continuous fast. We should constantly be thinking of meaningful ways to improve their lot. However, we should also be asking ourselves, “Have we adequately expressed our thanks to Allah for the many blessings He has heaped upon us?”
If the beginning of Ramadan is mercy, its middle forgiveness, and its ending liberation from the Hellfire, its aftermath should be thankfulness. It is interesting to note that after mentioning the fast and some of its rulings, Allah mentions the gratitude that the believer should express. He ends those verses in Surat Al-Baqarah by stating, “…in order that you complete the designated days (of fasting), and extol the greatness of Allah for that which He has guided you to, that perhaps you will give thanks.” (Al-Baqarah: 185) Knowing that Allah has opened the gates of His mercy for us during this blessed month, that He has chained the devils, knowing that He has multiplied every good deed we do countless times, should we not express our thanks?
We should further know what it means when we say that the end of Ramadan is liberation from the Hellfire. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Every night of Ramadan at the time of iftar, Allah liberates a million people from the Hellfire. When Jumuah arrives, hourly He liberates a million people from the Hellfire, all of them deserving to be punished therein. When the last day of Ramadan comes, He liberates on that day alone, a number equal to the number that He liberated from the beginning of the month.”
For all of this, Allah only asks one thing from us: that we thank Him. “When your Lord proclaimed, “If you were to thank Me, I will increase you (in my blessings); and if you were to fail to thank Me, know that My Punishment is severe.”” (Ibrahim: 7)
We should know that our thanks for these blessings lies in continuing our worship and exertion after Ramadan. When asked by `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) why he was exerting himself so arduously in worship when Allah had forgiven any mistakes he may have committed, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) responded by saying, “Should I not then love to be a thankful servant?” (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Now, Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) has informed us that those who have fasted and stood in Prayer at night during this month with sincere faith, anticipating a reward from Allah, have had their sins forgiven. Should we not be thankful servants? And should we not love to express that thanks as our Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) expressed it? Namely, by continuing to be diligent and dutiful in our worship of Allah.
Yes, blessed Ramadan has ended. However, its passing should not witness the end of our exertion in worship. We should continue our Night Prayers, and we should fast voluntarily, at least three days each month, after the six days of Shawwal. This religion is the embodiment of all virtue, the epitome of all goodness. Don’t let your share of this good be that it begins and ends with Ramadan.