Khutbas by Hajj Abdalhaqq
Ramadan Khutba (29th September 2006)
First Khutba Friday 29th September 2006
The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur'an was sent down as guidance for mankind, Clear Signs containing guidance and discrimination. of you who are resident for the month should fast it. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a number of other days. Allah desires ease for you; He does not desire difficulty for you. You should complete the number of days and proclaim Allah's greatness for the guidance He has given you so that hopefully you will be thankful. If My slaves ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (2: 184-185)
This Ramadan is now well and truly under way. Today is our sixth day of fasting. For most of us Ramadan and fasting are virtually synonymous – the fast and the month are considered as a single event – but in fact two quite separate elements are brought together in it: one is the actual activity of fasting and the other is the nature of the time itself.
Salman, radiya'Llahu ‘anhu, said that the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, spoke on the last day of Sha‘ban and said, "O people! A great and blessed month has come to you – a month in which there is a night which is better than a thousand months; a month in which Allah has made it obligatory to fast and in which He has made standing in prayer during the night a voluntary action. Anyone who draws near to Allah during it by means of a voluntary good action is like someone who performs an obligatory action outside it and performing an obligatory action during it is equivalent to performing seventy obligatory actions at any other time.” And he concluded by saying, “It is a month whose beginning is mercy, whose middle is forgiveness and whose end is freedom from the Fire.” In another hadith related by Abu Hurayra the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “When the month of Ramadan arrives the gates of the Garden are opened and the gates of the Fire are shut and the shayateen are chained up.” These two hadiths and several others which speak in a similar vein clearly mark out Ramadan as being a special time, different from other times in the year.
The Prophet, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, speaks about time in another hadith in Sahih Muslim. Abu Rib'i Hanzala ibn ar-Rabi' al-Usaydi the scribe, one of the scribes of the Messenger of Allah, said, “Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, met me and said, ‘How are you, Hanzala?’ I said, ‘Hanzala is a hypocrite!’ He said, ‘Subhanallah! What are you saying!’ I said, ‘We were with the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who reminded us of the Garden and the Fire and it was as if we could see them with our eyes. Then when we leave the presence of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, we attend to our wives, children and property in a state of great heedlessness.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allah, I have experienced the same thing!’ So Abu Bakr and I went to visit the Messenger of Allah and I said, ‘Hanzala is a hypocrite, Messenger of Allah!’ The Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, ‘Why is that?’ I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, when we are with you, you remind us of the Garden and the Fire and it is as if we could see them with our eyes. But when we leave your presence, we attend to our wives, children and property in a state of great heedlessness.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘By the One in whose hand my soul is, if you were to remain in the state you are in when you are in my presence, the angels would shake hands with you on your bed and in the street, but, Hanzala, there are times and there are times, there are times and there are times, there are times and there are times.’”
Apart from giving us a delightful insight into the texture of the life of the first community, this hadith also gives us a vital indication about the nature of time itself. It makes it clear that time is not the rigid, mechanical, clock-measured, linear progression posited by Newtonian physics but something far more subtle and fluid and mysterious, something which should understood qualitatively as well as quantitively. Just as there are special places in space where the presence of Allah seems particularly close, such as the Masjid al-Haram, the Mosque of the Prophet, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the tombs of the great awliya, so there are also special periods of time when the same thing applies. There is the famous example which applies to today. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, mentioned the day of Jumu'a and said, “There is a time during it when Allah Almighty gives to a Muslim standing in prayer whatever he asks for.” With regard to Ramadan, as we saw in the passage of Qur’an which prefaced this khutba, inserted into the middle of the ayats prescribing the rulings of the fast in Ramadan we suddenly find:
If My slaves ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me.
This, together with what the Prophet, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, has told us about the month in various hadiths, are a clear indication that the whole month of Ramadan is one of these special times. Every Muslim has tasted this in one way or another. It is not that fasting makes Ramadan special, it is rather that Allah has made it obligatory for us to fast during it so that we gain the maximum benefit from its specialness as a time. We must remember that the Messenger, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, chose it for his retreats, even before Islam and, as we know, Allah Himself chose it as the time for the Revelation to begin. The nearness to Himself Allah ta’ala talks of, the immanence of the Divine Presence, permeates the whole month. The gates of the Garden are open and a faint resonance of the soft and fragrant breezes which come through them waft down to us in this world; and the shayatin which usually crowd in on us, poking at us and making it difficult for us to remember Allah and act rightly, are chained up, giving our hearts a welcome taste of ease and freedom. It is a twofold blessing. Firstly it makes right actions of all kinds easier to perform and secondly, as the hadiths make clear, it ensures that the reward for them is exponentially greater than at other times.
Then on top of that Allah has made it the setting of a great secret – that night which is better than a thousand months – the night when the beyond time and the in time intersected – the night when the Qur’an was sent down. As several mufassirun have pointed out, a thousand months is eighty-three and a bit years, the life-span of a reasonably long-lived human being, in other words all the experience of time that any of us can really expect to have. So what is being indicated by the description in the Qur'an of the Laylatu'l-Qadr is that it is out of time, beyond time, a moment in the year when a window opens for us onto timelessness, when we can somehow have access to the very presence of Allah.
However, mixed in with all this good news there is inevitably an element of warning and that is that this time is extremely precious and we cannot afford to waste a moment of it. At this point we are still near the start of the month and Ramadan seems to stretch out abundantly in front of us; “Plenty of time,” we say to ourselves. But how often have I heard people say, as the end of the last week approaches, “Oh, if only I had taken more advantage of this Ramadan!” So that person you were going to invite for a meal and haven’t got round to – invite them. That thing you were thinking of getting for so-and-so and never did – buy it and give it to them. Stay up that extra ten minutes to complete the recitation you promised yourself to finish. Make the extra effort to come to tarawih after you finish futur. What ever it is do it; so that on the day of the ’Id you will have nothing to reproach yourself with and will know you have done everything you can to benefit from Allah’s great gift to you and all the Muslims, this special time of the month of Ramadan.
Second Khutba Friday 29th September 2006
O you who have iman! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you – so that perhaps you will gain taqwa – for a specified number of days. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a number of other days. For those who are able to fast, their fidya is to feed the poor. And if someone does good of his own accord, it is better for him. But that you should fast is better for you, if you only knew. (2:182-184 )
As for him who overstepped the bounds and preferred the life of the dunya, the Blazing Fire will be his refuge. But as for him who feared the Station of his Lord and forbade the lower self its appetites, the Garden will be his refuge. (79:37-40)
We have been looking at the time element of Ramadan and I would now like to focus on our main activity during it, the act of fasting. There is no spiritual tradition which does not practise fasting in one form or another. One of the reasons for this is that the act of fasting is a defining human practice. No other creature, given hunger or thirst and access to suitable food or drink, would refrain from feeding itself. Only a human being is able, by an act of will, to abstain from eating and drinking in those circumstances. This makes it a very special act of worship which is very highly rewarded by Allah when it is done for His sake. Its high status with Allah is attested to by the fact that He makes Himself directly responsible for rewarding it, saying of fasting in the course of a well-known hadith qudsi:
“It is mine and I reward it Myself.”
The whole hadith related by Abu Hurayra goes: The Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Every good action of the son of Adam is multiplied from ten to seven hundred times. Allah ta’ala says, ‘Except for fasting. It is mine and I reward it Myself. For the faster abandons his appetite and food for My sake.’ The faster has two joys: the joy when he breaks his fast; and the joy when he meets his Lord.”
There are many benefits to be gained from fasting, not least of which are the well-attested medical ones – there is no doubt that it is excellent for our bodily health. However, perhaps the greatest benefit lies in the fact that, by not eating and drinking when we want to, we disrupt one of the fundamental and basic links chain us to this lower world and prevent us from gaining access the higher world of the spirit.
From one point of view the fast of Ramadan is nothing other than a divinely prescribed rehab programme for the Muslims. It is to treat us for an addiction that is even more pernicious than addiction to alchohol or other addictive drugs. Indeed those addictions are merely faint reflections of an addiction which has almost everyone in its unyielding grip. What nearly all of us are helplessly and hopelessely addicted to is this world. Allah ta‘ala says in His Book, referring to the Bani Isra’il:
They were made to drink the Calf into their hearts…(2:92)
As we know the Golden Calf is the great symbol for the love of this world and although it is the Jews who are being addressed here, the fact is that this sickness is by no means confined to them and in our time has infected most of the population of the globe. Love of this world dominates almost everyone’s heart and the vast majority of people have no desire or aspiration beyond it whatsoever.
However, a great, if indeed not the greatest, benefit of fasting is that it loosens the hold which this world has on our hearts; it clears a space in the dense and tangled undergrowth of attachments to this world which clog them up and creates a clearing which allows the light in. Remember that Allah reminds us that each of us only has one heart and that heart can only face in one direction at a time. If it is filled with this world it does not have room for anything else. The fast of Ramadan sets the heart loose on its moorings so that it begins to turn away from this world towards its Lord and allows love for Allah and His Messenger, salla'Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to begin to filter in and replace our normal worldly preoccupations.
There is no doubt that our primal attachment to the world is through food and drink. Our first tangible contact with the world is the milk we receive from our mother’s breast and that link continues on through our lives measured by the relationship we develop with what we eat and drink. In Ramadan this most basic of all human instincts, this primal dependence pattern, is sharply disrupted by our conscious and deliberate abstention from any intake of physical nourishment during the daylight hours. So through the fast we are able to gain knowledge of the nature of our attachment to the world and loosen the grip it has on our beings. Shaykh al-Busiri expresses the whole matter wonderfully in his famous couplet in the Burda:
“The nafs is like an infant if you leave it be it will grow up
loving the breast, if you wean it, it is weaned.”
The fast of Ramadan is, therefore, a golden opportunity for us to wean ourselves from our total dependence on this world and open ourselves up to the vastly more exciting and rewarding world of the spirit which lies beyond it.
So let us this year be people who take full advantage of this priceless blessing from Allah. Let us increase in our ‘ibada; let us be generous in our giving; let us curb our tongues and open our hearts; let us be ready and waiting when the Laylatu'l-Qadr arrives so that we can receive the gifts it offers; let us reap every benefit from this Ramadan, allowing ourselves to be changed by it in a way that will enable us to go out from it renewed and able to take on to the full the task of re-establishing Allah's deen and taking it out to those around us who so desperately need it.