All praises to Allah, Lord of the worlds. He who revealed in His Glorious Qur'an, "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those who came before you that you may keep your duty to your Lord (having taqwa)." [Al-Qur'an 2:185] And may blessings and peace of Allah be upon His last Messenger Muhammad ibn Abdullah, forever.
O you who believe, Ramadhan is a sacred month wherein Almighty Allah is constantly testing His creation and giving humanity the opportunity to achieve infinite, endless Bliss. Fasting is a complete purification and a means to developing the consciousness of Allah's presence. The consciousness of Allah (Taqwa) is a protection against the schemes of Shaytan, and the suffering of this world. Allah has informed us that, "Whoever keeps his duty to Allah (has taqwa), He ordains a way out for him and gives him sustenance from where he imagines not. And whoever trusts in Allah, He is sufficient for him. Surely Allah attains His purpose. Allah has appointed a measure for everything." [Al-Qur'an 65:2]
Many Muslims today have a misconception about fasting and the activities of a fasting person. They go into a state of semi-hibernation, spending most of their daylight hours in bad. If they fear Allah, they wake up for prayer, but then return to sleep immediately. This unnatural sleep makes them become lazy, dull-witted and often cranky.
Ramadhan is actually a time of increased activity wherein the believer, now lightened of the burdens of constant eating and drinking, should be more willing to strive and struggle for Allah. The Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, passed through approximately nine Ramadhans after the Hijrah. They were filled with decisive events and left us a shining example of sacrifice and submission to Allah.
In the first year after the Hijrah, the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, sent Hamzah ibn 'Abdul-Muttalib with thirty Muslim riders to Sayf al-Bahr to investigate three hundred riders from Quraysh who had camped suspiciously in that area. The Muslims were about to engage the disbelievers, but they were separated by Majdy ibn 'Umar al-Juhany. The Hypocrites of Madinah, hoping to oppose the unity of the Muslims, built their own masjid (called Masjid ad-Dirar). The Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, ordered this masjid to be destroyed in Ramadhan.
On the seventeenth of Ramadhan, 3H, Almighty Allah separated truth from falsehood at the Great Battle of Badr. The Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and 313 of his companions set out to intercept a caravan of their own goods that had been left in Makkah. It was led by Abu Sufyan himself, and estimated at 50,000 dinars. They were met, instead, by a well-equipped army of the nobility of Quraysh, intend on putting out the light of Islam. Despite being outnumbered three to one and appearing weak and unseasoned, the Muslims defended their faith with a burning desire to protect the Prophet and meet their Lord through martyrdom. Allah gave them a decisive victory on this day of Ramadhan, that would never be forgotten.
In 6H, Zayd ibn Harithah was sent to Wadi al-Qura at the head of a detachment to confront Fatimah bint Rabiah, the queen of that area. Fatimah had previously attacked a caravan led by Zayd and had succeeded in plundering its wealth. She was known to be the most protected woman in Arabia, as she hung fifty swords of her close relatives in her home. Fatimah was equally renowned for showing open hostility to Islam. She was killed in a battle against these Muslims in the month of Ramadhan.
By Ramadhan of 8H, the treaty of Hudaybiyyah had been broken and the Muslim armies had engaged the Byzantines in the North. Muhammad, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, felt the need to strike a fatal blow to disbelief in the Arabian Peninsula and conquer the city of Makkah. Allah has declared His Sanctuary a place of peace, security and religious sanctity. Now the time had come to purify the Ka'bah of nakedness and abomination. The Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam set out with an army having more armed men than al-Madinah had ever seen before. People were swelling the army's ranks as it moved toward Makkah. The determination of the believers, guided by the Will of Allah, became so awesome that the city of Makkah was conquered without a battle, on 20 Ramadhan. This was one of the most important dates in Islamic history for after it, Islam was firmly entrenched in the Arabian Peninsula. During the same month and year, after smashing the idols of Makkah, detachments were sent to the other major centers of polytheism and al-Lat, Manat and Suwa, some of the greatest idols of Arabia, were destroyed.
Such was the month of Ramadhan in the time of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. It was a time of purification, enjoining the good, forbidding the evil, and striving hard with one's life and wealth. After the death of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, Muslims carried on this tradition and Allah used the true believers to affect the course of history. Ramadhan continued to be a time of great trials and crucial events.
Ninety-two years after the Hijrah, Islam had spread across North Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria. Spain was under the tyrannical rule of King Roderic of the Visigoths. Roderic had forced his six millions serfs and persecuted Jews to seek the aid of the Muslims of North Africa in order to be delivered. Musa ibn Husayr, the Umayyad governor of North Africa, responded by sending his courageous general Tariq ibn Ziyad at the head of 12,000 Berber and Arab troops. In Ramadhan of that year, they were confronted with a combined Visigoth army of 90,000 Christians led by Roderic himself, who was seated on a throne of ivory, silver, and precious gems and drawn by white mules. After burning his boats, Tariq preached to the Muslims warning them that victory and Paradise lay ahead of them and defeat and the sea lay to the rear. They burst forth with great enthusiasm and Allah manifested a clear victory over the forces of disbelief. Not only was Roderic killed and his forces completely annihilated, but also Tariq and Musa succeeded in liberating the whole of Spain, Sicily and parts of France. This was the beginning of the Golden Age of Al-Andalus where Muslims ruled for over 700 years.
In the year 582H, Salahuddin al-Ayyubi, after battling with the Crusaders for years, finally drove them out of Syria and the whole of their occupied lands in the month of Ramadhan. The Muslim world was then destined to meet one of its most frightening challenges.
In the seventh century Hijrah, the Mongols were sweeping across Asia destroying everything that lay in their path. Genghis Khan called himself "the scourge of God sent to punish humanity for their sins". In 617H, Samarkand, Ray and Hamdan were put to the sword causing more than 700,000 people to be killed or made captive. In 656H, Hulagu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, continued this destruction. Even Baghdad, the leading city of the Muslim world, was sacked. Some estimates say that as many as 1,800,000 Muslims were killed in this awesome carnage. The Christians were asked to eat pork and drink wine openly while the surviving Muslims were forced to participate in drinking bouts. Wine was sprinkled in the masajid and no adhan (call to prayer) was allowed. In the wake of such a horrible disaster and with the threat of the whole Muslim world and then Europe being subjected to the same fate, Allah raised up from the Mamluks of Egypt, Sayf ud-Din Qutuz, who united the Muslim army and met the Mongols at Ayn Jalut on 25th of Ramadhan, 658H. Although they were under great pressure, the Muslims with the help of Allah, cunning strategy and unflinching bravery crushed the Mongol army and reversed this tidal wave of horror. The whole of the civilized world sighed in relief and stood in awe at the remarkable achievement of these noble sons of Islam.
This was the spirit of Ramadhan that enabled our righteous forefathers to face seemingly impossible challenges. It was a time of intense activity, spending the day in the saddle and the night in prayer while calling upon Allah for His mercy and forgiveness.
Today, the Muslim world is faced with drought, military aggression, widespread corruption and tempting materialism. Surely we are in need or believers who can walk in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, the illustrious Sahabah, Tariq ibn Ziyad, Qutuz, Salahuddin and the countless heroes of Islam. Surely we are in need of believers who are unafraid of the threats of the disbelievers, yet kind and humble to the believing people; Muslims whose fast is complete and not just a source of hunger and thirst.
May Allah raise up a generation of Muslims who can carry Islam to all corners of the globe in a manner that befits our age, and may He give us the strength and the success to lay the proper foundations for them. May Allah make us of those who carry out our Islam during Ramadhan and after it, and may He not make us of those who say what they do not do. Surely Allah and His Angels invoke blessings and peace upon our Prophet Muhammad. O you who believe, send blessings and peace to him forever.
(s) The Message, Canada, January 1997