Alhamdulillahi rabbil-'alamin was salatu was salamu 'ala ashrifil-anbiya wa'l-mursalin nabiyina Muhammad wa 'ala alihi wa sahbihi ajma'in
To many of you reading this the title may seem absurd, and may have even caught you off-guard, as love generally is not associated with the month of worship and blessing. Yet, if we were to contemplate the actions that we partake during this blessed month we would see that the vast majority of them revolve around love, we are often people that just fail to reflect.
The first thing that is needed to actually conceptualize where I am coming from would be to understand what love really is, or at the very least how it is being defined in this treatise. We all know that love has many manifestations, degrees, and types. The way a child loves his or her parents is not the same as the way a woman may love her husband, and likewise, the way a person may love chocolate, per se, is not the same way a person would love his or her Lord (or at least we hope not). However in all of these types of love there is a common and key theme, that of sacrifice and fulfilment. The more we love something, the more we are willing to sacrifice for it, and the more we will strive to fulfil the every command and wish of our beloved. This should not be misunderstood as sacrifice and fulfilment being the only components of love, but rather they are from amongst the essential components that make up love, along with longing and cherishing. And this is why we should see that love, along with hope and fear, is a pillar of our worship. Our worship will not be complete nor acceptable until it encompasses the right amounts of love, hope, and fear. After having comprehended this, we can see how shirk can be performed even in love, yet most of mankind knows not.
If we were to take just a moment to reflect what Islam means linguistically (let alone conventionally), we would see that submission (the true linguistic definition of Islam, and not peace contrary to common belief), entails a common theme with love and that being sacrifice. When we truly submit to Allah we are willing to sacrifice anything and everything for Him. This can be seen in one of the most fundamental mottos of a Muslim:
"Say: Indeed my prayer, and my sacrifice, and my living, and my dying are for none other than Allah, Lord of all that exists." [Al-Qur'an 6:162]
So when one goes about sacrificing and fulfilling the wants of other than Allah, just as much or, more than what he does for Allah then such an individual has fallen into shirk. And if one fails to meet the necessary sacrifices and falls short in fulfilling the required obligations then such an individual has fallen into disbelief. It is in light of these words that we understand the verse:
"From mankind are those people who have taken deities other than Allah, they love them as they love Allah, and those who have faith (i.e. are Muslims) are stronger in their love for Allah." [Al-Qur'an 2:165]
We are now beginning to get a clearer picture of how love is associated with this blessed month. It is a woman's love for her child and husband that will make her wake up in the late hours of the night to prepare a nice meal for suhur (the pre-dawn meal). It is a man's love for his community that will drive him to take time off of work to ensure his fellow Muslims have sufficient food for iftar (the meal at sunset). And it is our love for Allah, as Muslims, which drives us to sacrifice the two pinnacles of desire, food and marital relations, for no other reason than the pleasure of our very Creator.
Our love for Allah (glorified and praised is He) does not stop here but, rather, merely just begins. One of the key pillars of loving Allah lies in following the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and an exemplary role model he is, as can be seen by Allah's statement:
"Say (O Muhammad to the people): 'If you really love Allah, then follow me. And He (Allah) in return will love you, and will forgive you for you sins, and indeed Allah is oft-forgiving and most merciful.' Say: 'Obey Allah and the Messenger', and if they turn away, then verily Allah does not love the disbelievers." [Al-Qur'an 3:31-32]
So what are some of the traditions that we have been left with to follow?
1. Waking up to have suhur, even if it is something little. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"Eat suhur for in suhur there is blessing." [Narrated by al-Bukhari and by Muslim]
2. Not delaying the iftar. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said:
"The people will remain upon goodness as long as they hasten in breaking their fasts." [Narrated by al-Bukhari and by Muslim]
3. Supplicating throughout the day and night, especially during iftar time. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"Three prayers are not rejected: the prayer of a father, the prayer of a fasting person, and the prayer of a traveller." [Narrated by al-Bayhaqi 3/345 and classified as authentic in Silsilat al-Ahadith as-Sahihah #1797]
"Indeed there is for the fasting person, when he breaks his fast, a supplication which is not rejected." [Narrated by Ibn Majah and al-Hakim]
And upon breaking his fast, "The thirst is gone, the veins have been moistened and the reward is assured, if Allah wills." [Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Bayhaqi and classified as hasan in Irwa al-Ghalil 4/39]
'A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, reported that Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, instructed her to say: "O Allah indeed you are one that pardons, and you love to pardon, so pardon me." [Narrated by Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]
4. Spending the nights in prayer, as well as encouraging the family to do so. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"Whoever stands in prayer with the Imam until its conclusion, will be like the one who prayed the whole night." [Narrated by at-Tirmidhi (who graded it as sahih), Abu Dawud, an-Nisa'i, and Ibn Majah]
"Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadhan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven." [Narrated by al-Bukhari]
5. Being generous and feeding the people iftar. The Messenger of Allah said:
"Whoever gives iftar to one who is fasting will have a reward like his, without detracting from the reward of the person fasting." [Narrated by al-Bukhari and by Muslim]
He was also described as "being the most generous of people, and he was at his most generous during Ramadhan." [Narrated by at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ibn Hibban]
6. Staying away from all immoral acts, especially those of the tongue. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"Fasting is not abstaining from eating and drinking alone, but it is also abstaining from vain speech and foul language. If one of you is being cursed or annoyed, he should say: I am fasting, I am fasting." [Narrated by al-Bukhari and by Muslim]
"Allah does not need the fast of the one who does not abandon falsehood in speech or in action." [Narrated with this wording by Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibban, and al-Hakim. The key portion of the hadith can also be found in al-Bukhari and Muslim]
"Perhaps a fasting person will get nothing from his fast except hunger, and perhaps the one who stands to pray at night will get nothing from his prayer except tiredness." [Narrated by an-Nisa'i, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim]
7. Performing 'Umrah. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said:
"Perform 'Umrah when Ramadhan comes, for 'Umrah in Ramadhan is equal to Hajj (in reward)." [Narrated by al-Bukhari]
Like all things in life, this treatise has come to an end. But prior to concluding it is only befitting that we be reminded of a plague that lies in the hearts and minds of many Muslims today. And that is one of affirming words but not affirming their respective meanings. How often do we hear Muslims cry and shout of their love of Allah, yet it is a love that has no meaning as their actions show likewise. This is something that Allah (glorified and praised is He) warns us of Himself when He says:
"O you who believe, why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful to Allah is that you should say that which you do not do." [Al-Qur'an 61:2-3]
As Muslims we are to be people whose actions speak louder than their words. If we truly love Allah then we need to show it with our actions. As everyone claims love but very few go about proving it.
Lastly, it is not hidden from anyone that indeed Ramadhan is a month of blessings. In it everything is blessed from, our food to our actions. It is in this very month that we should plant the seeds for goodness that we hope will last us throughout the year. It was the Prophet, peace be upon him, who said:
"The best of deeds are the most consistent of them." [Narrated by at-Tirmidhi]
So we should always be looking for self-improvement, and enrichment, and not just in Ramadhan. At the end of the day we have enough 'Ramadhan Muslims', now we are in need of Muslims who live in Ramadhan all year long.
And Allah knows best.
With all the best wishes of a blessed, beneficial, benevolent, and fruitful Ramadhan.
Abu 'Abdir-Rahman Muhammad Navaid Aziz
From the Holy City of Al-Madinah
The 1st of Ramadhan, 1426H