Muslims all over the world eagerly await the start of Ramadan – the month of mercy, clemency and deliverance from Jahannam. We describe the positive impact that the month has in accentuating worship and purifying the soul and what inspirations can be drawn beyond Ramadan, for Muslims, to lead a socially responsible and environmentally conscious life as God’s vicegerents on earth.
The word Ramadan derives from the Arabic root R-M-D which denotes ‘scorching heat’, perhaps underlining the pre-Islamic name of a scorching hot summer month. It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims the world over, as the month of fasting. The annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam as stated by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) in a hadith narrated by Ibn ‘Umar:
“Islam is based on five: witnessing (shahādah) that there is no god but Allah and that Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allah; establishing the prayer (ṣalāh); paying the zakāt (almgiving), the Ḥajj to the House and the fast (ṣawm) of Ramaḍān.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Ramadan lasts for twenty-nine to thirty days, from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next, during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and abstain from eating, drinking and marital relationships whilst fasting. Beyond these purely physical aspects, Ramadan is also a month of deep piety and devotion. Many Muslims, sometimes less fervent during the rest of the year, take advantage of the blessings of this month to frequent the mosques and pray and practice spiritual reflection, self-improvement and communal attention; motivated by the many sayings of the Messenger (peace be upon him) that extol the virtues of this month:
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said:
“When Ramadan comes, the Gates of the Garden are opened, the gates of Jahanam are closed, and the Shaytans are chained.” [Bukhari]
Similarly, he narrated that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said:
“Every action of the son of Adam is multiplied. A good action receives from ten to seven hundred times. Allah Almighty says fasting is mine and I will repay it. He leaves his appetite and food for My sake. The fasting person experiences two joys, a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The changed breath in the mouth of a fasting person is more fragrant to Allah than the scent of musk.” [Muslim]
Sahl ibn Sa‘d narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“There is a gate in the Garden called Rayyān which those who fast will enter on the Day of Rising, and none but they will enter it.” It will be said, ‘Where are the fasters?’ They will stand up and none but they will enter it. When they have entered it, it will be closed and no one else will enter it.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Ramadan is that time of year when Muslims devote more time and resources than any other month, to acts of charity, empathy and generosity for those less fortunate, including planning on which charities their annual Zakat (almsgiving) of 2.5% will go to. This is in line with the Prophetic tradition narrated by Ibn ‘Abbās:
“The Messenger of Allah was the most generous of people in giving alms. He was even more generous in Ramaḍān when Jibrīl would meet him. Every night of Ramaḍān, Jibrīl would come to him and the Messenger of Allah would recite the Qur’ān to him. When Jibrīl came to him, the Messenger of Allah was more generous in giving alms than the blowing wind.” [Adab al-Mufrad, Bukhari]
The surge in religious and social consciousness of Muslims during Ramadan should be carried forward throughout the year. As God’s vicegerent on earth, our duties are not limited to our daily prayers, avoiding interest and other daily acts of worship – but extend to becoming stewards of our respective communities. If we own a business, we should ask ourselves, is my business harming the climate? Do we use non-renewable sources of energy and how can we reduce our carbon footprint? Am I paying fair wages or am I overworking my staff? Is my company products safe to sell in the market or am I misrepresenting its benefits? Am I an equal opportunities employer and do I complete my tax returns on time and with full disclosure?
Allah Almighty says,
“…Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption” [2:60]
Let us make a firm resolution that Ramadan 2021 will be the turning point in our lives to bring about all the positive changes described above and let us achieve in this month, mercy, clemency and deliverance from Jahannam.