الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد:
فَأَيۡنَ تَذۡهَبُونَ (٢٦) إِنۡ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكۡرٌ۬ لِّلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (٢٧) لِمَن شَآءَ مِنكُمۡ أَن يَسۡتَقِيمَ (٢٨)
وَمَا تَشَآءُونَ إِلَّآ أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُ رَبُّ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (٢٩)
Then where are you going? (26) Surely, this (the Quran) is no less than a Reminder to the whole world. (27) To whoever among you who wills to take the Straight Path, (28) And you cannot will, except by the will of Allah, the Lord of all worlds. (29)
[Quran: Al-Takweer, Chapter 81]
عن عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال :
«إن اللهَ يَرفعُ بهذا الكِتابِ أقْواماً ويَضَعُ به آخَرِينَ». [رواه مسلم]
Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) said: “Indeed Allah, through this book (al-Quran), elevates some people and abases others.” [Muslim]
In the surah (chapter) from which the Quranic verses (ayaat) above are quoted, Allah Almighty first describes the horrors at the end of time and reiterates that everyone will meet the consequences of their worldly beliefs and deeds. Then Allah (SWT) emphasizes that the Quran is His revealed Word through Prophet Muhammd (SAW) and the path to salvation, and asks: “So what other path would you take?” (81:26). Many will remain heedless but, as stated by Allah here, there will be others who chose to receive admonishment from the Quran - those who seek to walk straight and be rightly guided. And Allah, by His will and Providence, will make it possible.
Muslims usually recommit to their spiritual journey and struggles when Ramadan approaches, and demonstrate - whether consciously or not - their desire to proceed more devotedly on the Straight Path. They also invariably end up asking the same or similar question as in the above surah; “Where are we going (this month)?”, or “Which path will we take?”. In answering this question, the Quran itself, as a book of guidance and the revelation of Allah, is the most critical component in determining the direction to follow towards the Straight Path - or how to remain steadfast on that path. And, as the Hadith cited above indicates, the Quran is the deciding factor in the final estimation of what our destiny will be in this world and in the Hereafter. In another Hadith, the Prophet (SAW) said that ”the Quran is either a proof (or argument) for you or against you”.
The Prophet’s Companion Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RAA) added that; “If you place the Quran ahead of you (as a guide), it will lead you towards Paradise. But if you put it behind your back (by ignoring it), it will push you to Hellfire.” The choice is left to us after all. A smart choice is undoubtedly to adopt the Quran as our guide and the constitution by which we live - not just for Ramadan, but for all of our lives. This means to follow its teachings and adhere to the commands and prohibitions, and to believe that its guidance is the most superior, sensible and practical one, and thus to implement it at all times and in all situations. This requires that we read the Quran above and beyond just reciting the words or translation (tilaawah lafZiyyah) and focus more on reflecting on its content and implications (tilaawah Hukmiyyah).
Reading the Quran in an audible and chanting, rhythmic manner (and therefore naturally applying the rules of Tajweed) is more conducive to its full comprehension and appreciation - besides it (slow, measured recitation) also being a requirement from every Muslim (Quran 73:4). Studying and contemplating the (exoteric and esoteric) meanings and nuances of the ayaat are an absolute imperative and thus we cannot dispense with Tafseer (commentaries) and some knowledge of the classical Arabic language. Allah, Exalted and Almighty, says about the Quran:
كِتَـٰبٌ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ إِلَيۡكَ مُبَـٰرَكٌ۬ لِّيَدَّبَّرُوٓاْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُوْلُواْ ٱلۡأَلۡبَـٰبِ
(This is) a Book which We have sent down to you, full of blessings, that they may ponder over its verses, and that people of reason may be mindful. [Quran 38:29]
Indeed, Ramadan is the month of the Quran. But do we have to wait until Ramadan to start with any of the extra, voluntary acts of worship, like reading (more) Quran, dhikr (utterances of reflection remembering Allah), fasting, charity, tahajjud salah (the nightly vigil), etc.? Indeed the Messenger of Allah (SAW) would start his final and earnest preparation for Ramadan two or more months before the great month, and he would consciously seek out the blessings in the form of optional acts of worship; it is well known, for example, that he fasted most of the month of Sha’ban. (“O Allah, Bless us in these months of Rajab and Sha’ban… “) It appeared too as if he was deeply concerned and afraid that he would die in the month or two before Ramadan and miss out on the huge blessings that accompany the greatest month of the year. (“.... and give us the opportunity to be alive in Ramadan.”) We should not procrastinate and/or wait for a future time to return to Allah or intensify our submission to Him - that time may never arrive! The attitude we must have should be like those who come to see the reality or have experienced regret and say: ‘We should have started yesterday!”
The bottom line is that, as our predecessors have explicitly stated: “We do not worship Ramadan (nor should we act as if we do)”. Ramadan or Sha’ban, or any other month is born and dies (or comes and goes), but Allah (SWT) is the Eternal and Ever Living, and He gives life to everything and everyone. Nor do we worship Allah in the month of Ramadan only; He is the Lord and Deity of Ramadan and every month, and of all times and places, and all people. The sustenance and blessings He provides is continuous, and our gratitude to Him as well as our obedience should be consistent. Yes, we increase our acts of devotion in the special seasons of heightened spirituality and add many supererogatory deeds, in the hope that we can carry some of that into our daily routines after the season ends. However, there is no way that we, as believers, should ever drop below the required minimum submission outside of those seasons. We have been created primarily to serve Allah’s cause and submit to Him, and that is the main purpose and substance of our worldly existence, and the determination of our destiny in the Afterlife. (Quran 51:56 & 18:107-108)
May Allah, the Cherisher, the Benefactor, bless us with obedience and steadfastness always and enter us into Paradise. May He (SWT) shower His mercy and grace upon us and our families and community always, and in this month and especially in Ramadan: May it be a month of peace, comfort and forgiveness for all, and a month of individual growth and mutual love. Ameen, O Allah!