As the last ten nights are now upon us, it is time to re-evaluate how far we have come. Two-thirds of the month have already passed and will not return. However, we still have enough time to make a final push in this month, to maximize the benefit that we can attain, and draw closer to Allah the Almighty.
One of the main goals of our fasting is the inculcation of taqwa (piety),
(O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become pious [people of Taqwa].) (Al-Baqarah 2:133)
`Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) defined taqwa as follows: “Taqwa is to fear the Most Exalted One, work upon His revelation, become content and ascetic and always prepare for the departure from this life.”
Taqwa means to be constantly aware of Almighty Allah and to worship Him with love, fear, and hope. Taqwa is also one of the main objectives of the revelation of the Qur’an, and our fasting is not complete without reciting it. There is a triangle of virtue formed with taqwa in this month: the revelation of Quran and fasting in this month.
The main purpose of fasting is to give us constant awareness and fear of Almighty Allah, as well as protection against evil. It is something that becomes ingrained in our minds at all times.
Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:
(And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for the people of Taqwa.) (Aal `Imran 3: 133)
Allah the Almighty has prepared paradise specifically for pious people. The beginning of the ayah is an encouragement to action; to have taqwa does not mean idleness, it means constant activity.
Ramadan trains us for this. It teaches us to be consistent in worship, to fast every day, to go to the masjid every night, to retrain ourselves to be mindful of what we say, watch, and do.
If we cannot derive spiritual benefit during the month of Ramadan, then in what other month can we find benefit? If we are lazy to do good deeds now, then when will we do them?
If we compare Ramadan to the rest of the year, we will see that our worship increases on a daily basis. This is training us to establish a regiment of worship, and focus – both mentally and physically – to sustain us throughout the rest of the year. This is also similar to what we often see in our work place when we have training every year or two. In the context of the work place, if we do not increase our knowledge or skills, we could lose your license or certification.
Ramadan has shown us what we are capable of doing when we push ourselves, and this is what we have experienced up to this point. Then, in the last ten nights we receive yet another push. Allah the Almighty says:
(Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.) (Al-Qadr 97: 1-5)
The theme of this surah is devotion in worship.
In the last ten days of Ramadan, there is Laylat Al-Qadr (The Night of Power). Whoever prays during these nights, believing in it, and hoping for its reward from Almighty Allah, He will forgive all his previous sins. Whoever misses this night and deprives himself of its good, has only himself to blame.
Laylat Al-Qadr is one of the last ten nights, and in some narrations one of the last ten odd nights. Of its signs is that it is not too hot, or too cold, and the heat of the sun is not intense.
These signs show that we should be devoted in worship throughout the ten nights, and not just one. For this reason, the signs that show Laylat Al-Qadr are towards the end of the night, and not before.
Almighty Allah did not specify its order among the ten nights so that people may exert their utmost efforts throughout all the ten days in worship. This is similar to the hour on Fridays when prayers (du`aa’ are accepted), performing optional night prayer, reciting the Glorious Qur’an and doing righteous deeds.
In the last ten nights – the best and most blessed nights of the year – we push ourselves even more than we did during the first twenty. It is like Allah the Almighty is showing us what our real potential is to worship Him. After all, this is the purpose of our creation:
(And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).) (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)
Part of this worship is knowing how to worship Allah the Almighty properly. For example, a person who has knowledge of Ramadan and Laylat Al-Qadr will know that it is hidden, and will understand the reasons why this is so. In this way, the person will know when to seek it, whereas someone without knowledge will simply come to the masjid on the twenty-seventh night only and do one night of worship. Only the person with knowledge can maximize his efforts in worshipping Almighty Allah, and obtain the reward.
Such a person knows that the twenty-seventh night is not a lottery jackpot, but a culmination and bonus for the one who has persisted in doing good deeds.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that Allah the Almighty says,
“My servant does not draw close to Me with anything as he does by carrying out what I have made obligatory upon him. My servant continues draw closer to me by performing optional deeds such that I love him, and when I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me I would surely give him and were he to ask Me for refuge I would surely grant it to him.”
A person cannot expect to not be constant in the five daily prayers and then receive eighty-three years worth of rewards from one night alone. Similarly, a person cannot skip fasting in Ramadan, and then fast six days of Shawwal thinking he will have a whole year’s worth of fasting recorded for him.
Allah the Almighty says,
(Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allah’s Signs and Verses). (Az-Zumar 39:9)
So, here Allah the Almighty gives two examples –a worshipper with another person who does not worship, and then couples it with one who knows and one who does not. Indeed, both of these go hand in hand. It is only when we combine the two that we can reach the highest stages of worship and attain success in this life and the Hereafter.
Knowledge cannot be attained without devotion, and devotion is not complete without knowledge. As Ramadan inculcates taqwa, one of the descriptions Allah the Almighty gives to those who practice it is:
(Verily, those who are pious, when an evil thought comes to them from Satan), they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).) ( Al-A`raf 7: 201)
One example of this could be, for example, the trial of Dajjal, as only the knowledgeable and pious will be able to see through his plots while those who are ignorant will be misled. In this context, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When Allah desires good for someone, He gives him understanding of religion.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
By Ibn Abee Omar