By Shaykh 'Abdul-'Aziz
The Virtue of Ramadhān
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadhān with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins. Whoever stands (for prayer at night) during Ramadhān with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins. Whoever stands (for prayer at night) during Laylatul-Qadar (the Night of Decree) with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins.” [Al-Bukhari no. 2014 and Muslim no. 759-760]
This brief is related to the virtue of fasting and standing at night for prayer during Ramadhān, and the virtue of competing to do righteous deeds during it. Along with this is an explanation of some important rules that some people are not aware of. The Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to give his Companions the good news of the coming of the month of Ramadhān. He (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) informed them that it is a month in which the Gates of Mercy and the Gates of Paradise are opened and the Gates of Hell are closed. During it the devils are chained.
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “When it is the first night of Ramadhān the Gates of Paradise are opened and not a single of them is closed, and the Gates of Hell are closed and not a single one of them is opened. The devils are fettered and a caller calls out saying, ‘O seeker of good, come forth (with your good), and O seeker of evil, restrain yourself.’ Allāh has people that He frees from the Fire and that are every night (of Ramadhān).” [Al-Tirmidzi no. 682 and Ibn Majah no. 1642]
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) also said: “The month of Ramadhān has come to you all. It is a month of blessing. Allāh covers you all during it. He sends down the Mercy, removes the sins and answers the supplication. Allāh looks at your competing for good works during it and He tells proudly to the angels about you all. Therefore, show Allāh goodness from yourselves. For verily the wretched person is the one who is deprived of Allāh’s Mercy during it (Ramadhān).” [Majma’-uz-Zawa’id 3:142]
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) informed the ummah on the merit of Ramadhan, who said: “Whoever fasts Ramadhān with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins. Whoever stands (for prayer at night) during Ramadhān with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins. Whoever stands (for prayer at night) during Laylatul-Qadar (the Night of Decree) with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins.” [Al-Bukhari no. 2014 and Muslim no. 759-760]
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) also stated that Allāh said: “Every (good) deed of the Son of Adam will have ten rewards like it up to seven hundred times in increase, except for fasting. For verily it is for Me and I will give the reward for it. He (the fasting person) leaves off his desire, his food and his drink for My sake.” The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) continued “The fasting person has two times of delight. He is delighted when he breaks his fast and delighted when He meets his Lord. And verily the foul odor from the mouth of the fasting person is better to Allāh than the fragrance of musk perfume.” [Al-Bukhari no. 1904 and Muslim no. 161/1151]
The virtue of fasting and standing for prayer during Ramadhān
The Hadiths regarding the virtue of fasting and standing for prayer during Ramadhān and the virtue of fasting itself (as a type of worship) are many.
Therefore, the Muslim should take advantage of this opportunity, which is Allāh’s blessing upon him by allowing him to catch the month of Ramadhān. Thus, he should make haste in performing acts of obedience (to Allāh) and he should avoid the evil deeds. He should strive hard to perform all that Allāh made obligatory upon him, especially the five prayers, for they are the pillars of Islam. The prayer is the greatest of the obligations after the two Testimonies of Faith. Therefore, it is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman to guard the prayers and offer them in their times with humbleness and tranquility.
From the most important obligations related to men is offering the prayers in congregation in the Houses of Allāh (i.e. Masjids), which Allāh ordered to be raised, and in which His Name is mentioned (or remembered). This is as Allāh said: “And establish the prayer (As-Salah) and give Az-Zakah and bow down along with those who bow down.” [Al-Baqarah, 2:43]
And He, the Most High said: Guard strictly (five obligatory) As-Salawât (the prayers) especially the middle Salât (i.e. the best prayer is 'Asar). And stand before Allâh with obedience [and do not speak to others during the Salât (prayers)]. [Al-Baqarah 2:238]
And He, the Mighty and Majestic said: Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Salât (prayers) with All solemnity and full submissiveness. [Al-Mu’minun 23: 1, 2]
Then Allāh continues (in the same Surah) until He says: And those who strictly Guard their (five compulsory congregational) Salawât (prayers) (at their fixed stated hours). These are indeed the Inheritors. Who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise). They shall Dwell therein forever. [Al-Mu’minun 23: 9-11]
The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “The covenant that separates between us and them is the prayer (As-Salah). So, whoever abandons it, he has disbelieved.” [At-Tirmidzi no. 2621]
The most important of the obligations after the prayer is paying Az-Zakah. This is as Allāh, the Mighty and Majestic said: And they were commanded not, but that they should Worship Allâh, and Worship none but Him alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to him), and perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât) and give Zakât: and that is the Right religion. [Al-Baiyyinah, 98:5]
Indeed the Noble Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His noble Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) prove that whoever does not give the Zakah due on his wealth will be punished by it on the Day of Resurrection.
The most important of matters after the prayer and Az-Zakah is fasting Ramadhān. It is one of the five pillars of Islam as it were mentioned by Rasulullah (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): “Islam is built upon five (pillars): the testimony that none has the right to be worshipped but Allāh and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allāh, the establishment of the prayer, paying Az-Zakah, fasting Ramadhān and performing Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House (the Ka’abah).” [Al-Bukhari no. 8 and Muslim no. 16]
It is obligatory upon the Muslim to protect his fasting and his standing for prayer at (night) from that which Allāh has made forbidden for him of statements and deeds. This is because the intent of the fast is obedience to Allāh, honouring the things He has made sacred, forcing the soul to oppose its desires for the sake of obeying its Master and accustoming it to being patient in avoiding what Allāh has forbidden. The purpose of the fast is not merely leaving off food, drink and other things that break the fast. For this reason it has been authenticated from the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) that he said: “Fasting is a shield. So, if it is a day that one of you is fasting, he should not say obscene things nor should he raise his voice in anger. If someone verbally abuses him or fights him, he should say, ‘Verily I am fasting.’” [Al-Bukhari no. 1904 and Ahmad 6:244]
It has also been authenticated from him that he (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “He who does not abandon false speech, acting according to it and ignorant behaviour, then Allāh has no need of him abandoning his food and his drink.” [Al-Bukhari no. 1903]
From these texts and other than them it is known that it is obligatory upon the fasting person to beware of all that Allāh has made forbidden for him and to take care in guarding all of what Allāh has obligated him with. In this way it is hoped that he will gain forgiveness, freedom from the Fire and the acceptance of his fasting and standing at night for prayer.
There are some matters that some people are unaware of.
It is obligatory upon the Muslim to fast with faith and hoping for reward and not to be seen or heard of the people or follow the customs of the people or follows his family or the people of his country. Rather, it is obligatory upon him that that which has caused him to fast be his belief that Allāh has made it a duty upon him. He should fast hope for the reward with his Lord in that. Likewise for standing in prayer at night, it is obligatory that the Muslim does it with faith and hoping for reward, not for any other reason.
This is the reason when the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “Whoever fasts Ramadhān with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins. And whoever stands for prayer (at night) during Ramadhān with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins. And whoever stands for prayer (at night) during Laylatul-Qadar (the Night of Decree) with faith and hoping for reward, he will be forgiven for all of his previous sins." [Al-Bukhari no. 2014 and Muslim nos. 759-760]
From the matters which some of the people are unaware of, their ruling is when the fasting person happens to have wounds or a nosebleed or vomiting or the passing of water or gasoline fumes to his throat unintentionally. All of these things do not break the fast. However, whoever intentionally vomits, he breaks his fast. This is due to the statement of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): "Whoever is overcome by vomiting, he does not have to make up for the day, and whoever causes himself to vomit, he must make up for the day." [Abu Dawud no. 2380]
From this is that which happens to the fasting person of delaying the bathing for sexual impurity until the Fajr time begins and what some women experience of delaying the bathing for menses or postnatal bleeding until the time of Fajar begins if she thinks she is pure before Fajar. She is still obligated to fast and her delaying her bathing until after the Fajar time begins does not prevent her fasting. However, she should not delay the bathing until sunrise. Rather, she must bathe and pray the Fajar prayer before sunrise. Likewise is the case for the sexually impure person. He should not delay bathing until after sunrise. Rather, he must bathe and pray the Fajar prayer before sunrise. The man must make haste in this so that he can catch the Fajr prayer with the congregation.
From the matters that do not nullify the fast is having blood tests or an injection, as long as that is not intended to provide nourishment. However, it is better and safer to delay this until nighttime if that is easy, due to the statement of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): "Leave whatever causes you to doubt for that which does not cause you to doubt." [Al-Bukhari no. 2518]
It is also due to his (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) statement: "Whoever avoids the doubtful matters, and then verily he has freed his religion and his honour (from blame)." [Al-Bukhari no. 52 and Muslim no. 1599]
From the matters which some of the people are unaware of their rulings is lacking tranquility in the prayer regardless of whether it is an obligatory prayer or voluntary prayer. The authentic Hadiths from the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) prove that tranquility in the prayer is a pillar from the pillars of the prayer. The prayer is not correct without it. This means to have stillness and humbleness in the prayer and not rushing. In this manner each joint returns to its place (in the positions). Many of the people pray Salat at-Tarawih during Ramadhān in a manner such that they do not understand it (the recitation), nor are they tranquil in it. Rather, they peck it out like pecking (of a chicken). The prayer performed in this fashion is not valid and the person who prays like this is a sinner who is not rewarded.
From the matters which some of the people are unaware of their ruling is some people's thinking that it is not permissible to pray less than 20 Raka'at (units) of Salat al-Tarawih. Also, some people mistakenly think that it is not permissible to pray more than 11 or 13 Raka'at of Salat al-Tarawih. All of this is incorrect thinking, and it is a mistake that is opposed to the evidences.
Verily, the authentic Hadiths from the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) prove that the night prayer is an easy matter. There is no fixed limit that is impermissible to oppose concerning it. Rather, it is confirmed from the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) that he used to pray 11 Raka'at during the night and sometimes he might pray 13 Raka'at. Sometimes he would pray less than that, both during Ramadhān and in other times. When he was asked about the night prayer he said: "In sets of two, in sets of two. Then when one of you fears the coming of morning, he prays one (Raka'ah) that will serve as a Witr (i.e. make the number odd) of what he has prayed." [Al-Bukhari no. 990 and Muslim no. 749]
The authenticity of this Hadith has been agreed upon.
He, the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not fix a specific number of Raka'at, neither in Ramadhān nor in any other times. For this reason, the Companions (radiallāhu`anhum) sometimes prayed 23 Raka'at, and sometimes 11 Raka'at in the time of Umar Ibn Al;-Khattab (radiallāhu`anhu) All of that it has been confirmed from Umar and the Companions in his time.
Some of the Salaf used to pray 36 Raka'at during Ramadhān and then pray three Raka'at of Witr prayers. Some of them prayed 41 Raka'at. Sheikh-Islam ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullāh) mentioned this from them and that the matter concerning this is broad (i.e. easy). He also mentioned that it is better for whoever lengthens his recitation, bowing and prostrating to lessen the number of Raka'at, and whoever lightens (shortens) the recitation, bowing and prostrating, to increase the number of Raka'at. This is the meaning of his statement, may Allāh have mercy on him.
Whoever pays close attention to his (the Prophet's) Sunnah will know that what is best in regard to all of this is to pray 11 or 13 Raka'at during Ramadhān and other times. This is because that is in agreement with the practice of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) in most of his situations (i.e. what he usually did). Also, this is easier for those who are offering prayer and better for humility and tranquility (in the prayer). Whoever prays more, there is neither harm in neither that nor any dislike, as was mentioned previously. What is best for whoever prays with the Imām (of the Masjid) in the night prayer of Ramadhān is that he does not stop until the Imām stops praying? This is due to the statement of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): "Verily, if the man stands for night prayer with the Imām until he finishes, Allāh will write for him (the reward of) standing the entire night (in prayer)." [Abu Dawud 1375, At-Tirmidzi no. 806, Ibn Mājah no. 1327 and Ahmad 5:159.]
Striving hard in the various types of worship
It is legislated for all of the Muslims to strive hard in the various types of worship during this noble month. They should strive to pray voluntary prayers and recite the Qur'an with reflection and thinking. They should increase in the glorification of Allāh, declaring his right to be worshipped alone, praising Him, declaring his greatness and seeking His forgiveness. They should say legislated supplications, command the good, forbid the evil, invite to Allāh, be generous to the poor and needy, strive to be kind to parents, keep good family ties, honour the neighbor, visit the sick and other types of good deeds. This is due to the Prophet's statement in the aforementioned Hadith: "Allāh looks at your competing for good works during it and He tells proudly to the angels about you all. Therefore, show Allāh goodness from yourselves. For verily, the wretched person is the one who is deprived of Allāh's Mercy during it (Ramadhān)." [Majma ‘uz-Zawa'id 3:142 and Kanzul-Ummal no. 23692]
This is also due to what is reported from him (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) that he said: "Whoever draws near to Allāh during it (Ramadhān) with a single characteristic from the characteristics of (voluntary) goodness, he is like whoever performs an obligatory act in other times. And whoever performs an obligatory act during; he is like whoever performed seventy obligatory acts in other times. [Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah no. 1887.]
This is also due to his (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) statement in the authentic Hadith: "An Umrah performed during Ramadhān is equal to a performance of Hajj - or he said - a Hajj with me." [Al-Bukhari no. 1863 and Muslim no. 1256]
The Hadiths and narrations prove the sanctioning of competing and being aggressive in performing the various acts of goodness in this noble month is numerous.
Allāh is the One Who is asked to help us and the rest of the Muslims to do all that contains His Pleasure and to accept our fast and standing for night prayer. We ask Him to correct our situations and protect us all from the deviations of trials and temptations. Likewise, we ask Him to make the leaders of the Muslims righteous and unite their word upon the truth. Verily, He is the Guardian of that and He is capable of doing it.
[By Shaykh 'Abdul-'Aziz bin 'Abdullah bin Baz (Rahimahullāh) - General President for the Administration of Scientific Researches, Religious Verdicts, Preaching and Guidance]