The month of Ramadan is one of the essential occasions in the Islamic calendar. It’s the month in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), it’s the month in which the most important nights of the Islamic year, the Qadr nights, or the nights of ordainment, are. It’s the month in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) used to pray a lot. It’s the month in which practicing Muslims fast, keeping themselves from sins, evil acts, and their worldly desires. But why this month has a significant role in the Islamic calendar, and how does it play a role in the life of Muslims? Here, we are going to discuss this matter.
Fasting is not a thing just belonging to Islam. It’s been in the former religions, and it’s been referred to in other holy books. The Quran refers to the time when Allah ordered Mary not to speak to anyone, as a form of fast:
Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, ‘‘Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today. (19:26)
“Muslims are asked to be fasting in the month of Ramadan: O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be God-wary.” (2:183)
Also, Allah promises a great reward for both men and women who fast:
“Indeed, the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the faithful men and the faithful women… the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, the men who remember Allah greatly and the women who remember [Allah greatly]—Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward.”(33:35)
As a result, the month of Ramadan is when Muslims begin to have a close relation with Allah and practice preserving themselves from evil acts, temptations, human passions, etc. In response, Allah promises to reward those who do so, with the best rewards.
As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said, “The Month of Ramadan starts with mercy, goes on with forgiveness and ends with redemption.”  Therefore, this month is a chance for Muslims to ponder on their deeds, find where they have gone wrong, and ask Allah’s help and forgiveness to fix those mistakes and become a better version of themselves. Allah’s mercy includes everyone, at any time and anywhere. Yet, the month of Ramadan is when He pours down His blessings upon His creatures more than ever and is an excellent opportunity for the ones who are willing to benefit from it.
Qadr Night or the Night of Ordainment is highly sacred in Islam. On 19th, 21st, 23rd or 27th of Ramadan, Allah inspired the holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and it refers to this fact:
Indeed We sent it down on the Night of Ordainment. And what will show you what is the Night of Ordainment? The Night of Ordainment is better than a thousand months. In it, the angels and the Spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, with every command. It is peaceful until the rising of the dawn. (97:1-5)
So, one of the significances of this night is the inspiration of the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
The other significance of this night, according to the Imams (AS), is being known as the night of destiny. Imam Sadiq (AS) calls it the heart of Ramadan . He also says that in the night of ordainment, everything, from death to life, is predestined. So Muslims usually stay awake during that night, praying to Allah to excuse their sins, and they pray for their earthly and unearthly wishes. That is the night in which Allah has said He does listen to the prayers of His servants. That is the night when one can change his/her fate for better, praying and asking Allah to do so.
The month of Ramadan is a chance for anyone who wants to be closer to Allah, a better person, and a guided human being. There are many divine purposes for this holy month, and especially the ritual of fasting, which will be discussed in another article.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, p.342.
- Bihar al Anvaar, vol 58, p 376.
Although all social systems try to conceal poverty from their society, poverty has always been an important challenge in different societies. Poor people have always existed in the world throughout history.
Some people may not like to give charity to others. Since they think that giving charity to the poor will make them more useless and will make the view of the society unpleasant. At the time of the prophet (PBUH), the same way of thinking existed. Concerning that, this verse of the holy Quran was revealed: “When they are told, ‘Spend out of what Allah has provided you,’ the faithless say to the faithful, ‘Shall we feed [someone] whom Allah would feed if He wished? You are only in manifest error.” (36: 47)
Quran uses different words while it encourages people to give charity. Mostly used words are as follows: Infaq, Zakat, Sadaqa.
Infaq is the general word that is used for granting something to others. This is not necessarily money. Infaq includes any kind of help that we provide for those who do not have it. For example, teaching something to someone who does not have the knowledge. Or even spreading positive feelings in different gatherings that make others feel better is a kind of charity . But sadaqa refers to those kinds of donations that are material (not spiritual).
In the Quran, it is repeatedly recommended that believers should give charity to ascend the steps of spirituality; “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend on anything, Allah indeed knows it.” (3: 92)
Giving Alms-tax (zakat) and Infaq are always followed by the order to pray the obligatory prayers. This shows the importance of this social act; “And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do is Seeing.” (Quran 2:110)
It is so important that Allah says in the Quran “Spend in the way of Allah and do not cast yourselves with your own hands into destruction” (2: 195). The destruction that is mentioned here can be the social consequences of the capitalist system.
There are two major types of charity in Islam. These are obligatory charity and voluntary charity.
As its name shows voluntary charity is any kind of charity or almsgiving that are not obligatory for people, but they intend to pay it out to help the needy. Those who give voluntary charity are not necessarily wealthy people. But they share whatever they have, even if not that worthy, with those who may need them too.
Obligatory charities are known as Alms-tax (Zakat), khums and Kaffarah. They are not compulsory for all Muslims unless they meet the necessary criteria to pay them.
“A person will be obliged to pay Zakat if he is grown-up, of sound mind and in possession of something… The amount of money that should be paid depends on the kind of the material through which Zakat has become obligatory; these are two kinds of metal- gold, and silver-, four grains- barley, wheat, date, and raisin- as well as three kinds of animal - cow, sheep, and camel.”
“Khums becomes obligatory in seven cases, but the one which is inscribed to income is considered as the most salient kind. In this case, one has to pay one-fifth of what has remained from his income after subtracting his own expenses on the exact date that he has paid Khums in the previous year.”
Kaffarah or Fidya is the penalty imposed by Islamic law for those who commit a sin or make a mistake and wish to make it up. Kaffarah is used in the following cases:
If someone breaks his/her obligatory fast (Sawm)
If someone breaks an oath
If someone makes some specific mistakes in his/her pilgrimage (Hajj)
If someone kills a person
Allah orders Muslims to pay their penalty for their mistakes by donating to the needy. This shows the importance and the value of helping the poor.
Giving charity ‘saves the society from destruction’ (2: 195) and causes the ‘enhancement in one’s wealth’ (2: 261). Those who give charity in the way of God ‘will have no fear, nor will they grieve.’(2: 274)
Some people pay charity as a means of ‘nearness to Allah and the blessing of the prophet,’ and Allah assures them that “it shall indeed bring them nearness, and Allah will admit them into His mercy.” (9:99)
And Allah (SWT) emphasizes that “And neither do they incur any expense, big or small, nor do they cross any valley, but it is written to their account, so that Allah may reward them by the best of what they used to do.” (9: 121)
Allah (SWT) mentions in the Quran, that the reason for which He made some people wealthy and some poor, is to test His servants; “It is He who has made you successors on the earth, and raised some of you in rank above others so that He may test you in respect to what He has given you.” (6: 165) He would test His servants to see if the rich would help the poor and try to erase poverty from the society. This wealth does not necessarily refer to material properties, but it also includes social or political position.
The reason for which Muslims should give different types of charity is mentioned in the Quran; “… so that they do not circulate among the rich among you.” (59: 7). In other words, God orders you to give charity so that unlike capitalist systems, the wealth of the society does not become the property of some particular people.
Allah mentions in different verses of the Holy Quran that whatever we have is from Him, and He can take it back anytime. Quran describes the story of two men “for each of whom We had made two gardens of vines, and We had surrounded them with date palms and placed crops between them.” One of them becomes proud of what he has and says to his companion “I have more wealth than you and am stronger with respect to numbers… I do not think that this will ever perish”.
As a result of his pride and arrogance “ruin closed in on his produce, and he began to wring his hands for what he had spent on it, as it lay fallen on its trellises. He was saying, ‘I wish I had not ascribed any partner to my Lord.” (18: 32-43)
- Tafseer-e nemoone, Hadid, 7
Love and kindness are two of the main components of Islam. To the extent that Allah regards Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as kind and benevolent towards people of all nations in the Holy Quran: “We did not send you but as a mercy to all the nations (21:107).” And says that if he had not been gentle to people, they would have surely scattered from around him. (3:159)
Imam Hussain (AS), following in his grandfather’s footsteps, also placed particular emphasis on this prophetic trait and ethic. He was not only gentle and affectionate towards his children, family, and relatives, but also showed great care, compassion, and respect towards others, even his enemies. The whole Fifty-seven years of Imam Hussain (AS)’s life are replete with such exemplary behavior. He did not give up this attitude towards others even in the hardest situations, like when he was at war with his enemies in the desert of Karbala.
Here we will see only a few examples of Imam Hussain’s (AS) love and affection towards others in the last days of his life:
Imam Hussain (AS)'s Attention to Children:
During the battle, in Karbala, Imam Hussain (AS) would sympathize with his family and children and treated them with love and care whenever possible.
At the night before Ashura, Imam Hussain (AS) refers to his relatives and companions as the best ones ever: “It is a fact that I am not aware of any companions more faithful and honest than my companions and any relatives more righteous and kind than my relatives.” Imam Hussain (AS) then permits all his companions to leave him without any restrictions to save their lives, but they don’t accept. On several occasions, such as the morning of Ashura, he addresses them with the most respectful titles like “the nobles.” Also, it is narrated that during the battle, Imam (AS) would be present near his martyred companions himself, and wept and prayed for them one by one, even for the African slave, Jawn.
Imam Hussain (AS) never used foul language or even one wrong word against his enemy. He would not hesitate to take advantage of any opportunity to stop the violence and invite his enemies to peace. For instance, when Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions came across Hur, and his army, who were supposed to intercept Imam Hussain (AS) outside Kufa, Imam Hussain (AS) quenched their thirst. He, along with his companions, also even gave water to their horses.
Another example of Imam Hussain’s compassion for the enemy is his encounter with Umar ibn Sa’ad and the other commanders of the enemy’s army on the day of Ashura, and his effort to persuade them to stop the war. In fact, Imam (AS) did not want them to commit an unforgivable sin- i.e., killing the innocent Imam (AS) and his companions- that would make them end up in hell.
So, it was only Imam Hussain's (AS) love and mercy towards humankind that touched every one’s heart, even his enemy to the extent that some of whom, like Hur, would surrender to righteousness, accompany Imam Hussain (AS), perform their prayer in congregation behind him, fight against his enemy and finally be martyred along with him.
This is Imam Hussain’s (AS) lesson of tolerance and benevolence towards all human beings, which is beyond any religion or sect; that if one does not want to follow a particular religion, he/she can at least live a human life .