“My sin burdened me heavily. But when I measured it against Your Grace, O Lord, Your forgiveness came out greater.” -Imam Shafii
Ramadan is a profoundly rewarding month. I did not imagine that I could enjoy Ramadan more than I did last year. First of all, I am so grateful for the opportunity to fast this month with friends and a community of Muslims. There is a Pakistani family from the masjid (mosque) with whom I have grown quite close over the past couple of weeks. We prepare Iftar (meal to break the fast) together - slice watermelon, cut bananas in half, and arrange dates on the plates every afternoon. I observe these parents, who have been married for over 25 years. The husband tells me how happy he is in his marriage, even after a quarter of a century. You can see that they have mutual love and respect for each other, that they listen to each other and still make each other laugh and smile. What an inspiration, what a gift.
Secondly, I'm happy to have the opportunity to pray each night in the masjid and be blessed by the most beautiful of Quran recitations. Apparently the mosque brings a different Quran reciter from abroad every 10 days of Ramadan. Last night they recited Surah Taha, and I was thrilled to understand the Arabic and the meaning completely, since I have memorized the first five minutes of this surah. I felt inspired to memorize more and more, so that I can experience the same joy over all of the Quran.
|Ḥasbiyallāhu la ilaha illa huwa ‘alayhi tawakalltu wa huwa rabbu’l-‘arshi’l-‘aẓīm|
*To be recited seven times in the morning (after fajr) and seven times in the evening (between ‘aṣr and maghrib).
Also, this month I have the privilege of sharing my journey to Islam with many Muslim and non-Muslim women. Muslim women smile and ask question after question. They say الحمد لله (alhamdulillah, praise to Allah). Many non-Muslim women are close to Islam, as I was. They ask questions about how I transitioned from traditional Christian theology to that of Islam, particularly regarding Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). Many women are interested in Islam and are exploring the religion, as I had to over a period of years. I feel honoured to encourage them to take their time to learn about the faith, rather than rushing or feeling pressure. Islam is easy. Allah says in Quran that Islam is intended to make our lives easier. If we feel that it is difficult, then we're pushing too hard somewhere, or we must reevaluate our intentions. Some things that I found a bit difficult in the beginning feel easier every day.
Last night I prayed in the balcony with many other ladies. The entire experience is nourishing and beautiful. I am impressed and overjoyed to see hundreds and hundreds of Muslim men and women bowing before Allah in submission. I don't know of another religion that compels millions upon millions around the world, from every imaginable walk of life, to bow before Allah with their foreheads, noses, hands, knees, and toes on the floor. I already mentioned the beauty of the Quran recitation. I love watching Muslims pull their neighbor on the prayer floor closer to them, to ensure that their shoulders are touching. The Prophet Muhammad صـلى الله علـيه و سـلم (peace be upon him) used to walk through the prayer lines and position everyone so that their shoulders were touching during the prayers. We don't pray alone, in other words. The solidarity and strength in community is displayed even during the prayers. It does not matter where you are from, how rich or poor you are, you will still stand shoulder to shoulder with your brother or sister in Islam. (Watch live Mecca webcam here: Click Visit webcam)
The Prophet (SAW) said: If a group of people sit together remembering Allah, the angels will circle them, mercy will shroud them, peace will descend onto them and Allah will remember them among those with Him. [Muslim]
Finally, I feel that everywhere I turn this month, Allah offers us forgiveness and blessings, far beyond what we deserve or could imagine. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: "This is a month, the first part of which brings Allah's Mercy, the middle of which brings Allah's forgiveness and the last part of which brings emancipation from hellfire" (Hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari). My dear Pakistani mother at the mosque tells me that in Ramadan, "this month, Allah is very happy." Of course, Allah is always pleased and eager to bless and reward us. Allah's Apostle said, "When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, "My mercy overpowers My Anger." (Sahih Bukhari) But Allah's generosity to us during Ramadan is endless.
We are rewarded with forgiveness for praying to Allah:
It is the month of standing (in voluntary night prayer). On the authority of Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, "Whoever stands (in voluntary night prayer) during Ramadan, with faith and in expectancy of reward, his previous sins are forgiven him."
In hadith, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) says, "Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted." [Narrated by Tabarani]
The rewards in the hereafter, in addition to this present moment, are beyond our imagination:
Abu Said al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah, said: "No servant fasts on a day in the path of Allah except that Allah removes the hellfire seventy years further away from his face." This is related by "the group," except for Abu Dawud.
`Abdullah ibn `Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alaihi wa salaam, said: "The fast and the Qur'an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: 'O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.' The Qur'an will say: 'I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.' And their intercession will be accepted." [Ahmad]
Abu Umamah reported: "I came to the Messenger of Allah and said: 'Order me to do a deed that will allow me to enter Paradise.' He said: 'Stick to fasting, as there is no equivalent to it.' Then I came to him again and he said: 'Stick to fasting."' [Ahmad, an-Nasa'i, and al-Hakim].
During Ramadan, the reward for good and generous behaviour is greater than any other month:
"Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, 'Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.' For the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk." [al-Bukhaaree]
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Allah records good and bad deeds in this way: If anyone intends to do a good deed, but does not do it, Allah still records it with Him as one full good deed. If he intends a good deed and then carries it out, Allah records it with Him as ten to seven hundred times in reward or even increases it many times more. If anyone intends to do a bad deed but does not actually do it, Allah records it with Him as one full good deed. If he intends to do a bad deed and does it, Allah records it with Him as only one bad deed.” [Bukhari]