The blessed month of Ramadan is here!
The number of months in the sight of the Almighty Allah is twelve (in a year)- so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred: that is the straight path; so wrong not yourselves therein… (Q9: 36)
Brethren, I should begin this sermon today with a disclaimer: it is not addressed to those who are usually sad once Ramadan is at the corner. It is not meant for those who have become hostages to their bodies. It is not intended for those who are only a step above the realm of animals: those who eat, drink and engage in excessive, and I should say, perverse sexual relations all in the erroneous belief that that is all there is to life.
Each time Ramadan appears in the corner, this group of people becomes jittery. Each time they hear the following verse being rehearsed unto them they tremble: “O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may learn self-restraint. Fast the prescribed number of days; except if any of you is ill or on a journey, then fast a similar number of days later. For those who cannot endure it there is a ransom: the feeding of one poor person for each missed day. Whoever does more good than this voluntarily, it is better for him. However, if you truly understand the rationale of fasting, it is better for you to fast.[Q2:183-184].
The extremely vegetative among person sees see no rationale in fasting. Call him an hypocrite and you would behold the gravitas of hypocrisy in him as he goes about pooh-poohing the divine wisdom which makes fasting in the month of Ramadan obligatory on every able Muslim. Each time the verses quoted above are recited by those who constantly derive pleasure in reciting al-Dhikr, the hypocrite begins to experience some trepidation and anxiety. To him, the month of Ramadan is a nemesis. It is a threat from which he frowns and frets; to him the month of Ramadan is a plot not a writ for divine redemption nor a pathway to celestial prosperity.
This sermon is, therefore, addressed not to the above but to you- this sister of mine who rejoices with the advent of Ramadan. Do you know what day is today?. Today is 20 Shaaban1437 A.H. This means the month of Ramadan is less than two weeks from today depending on the sighting of the moon and the location of each Muslim community across the world. The month of Ramadan is a month of spiritual examination and training. It is a month of high social and communal value. Ramadan helps you discover the human in you, the same way it awakens your spiritual potentials. Ramadan comes to bond the individual to and with his community; it functions in waking the community up to its strength in the individual. Ramadan frees Muslims from their appetitive and vegetative bondages; it raises them up to such heights as are open only to the angels and the chosen ones among the servants of the Almighty. If humanity gets to know of its huge blessings, so goes the tradition, they would request that the Almighty makes fasting a whole year, not just a month or twenty-nine days, as is presently the case.
Now this sermon today is concerned with the exploration of newer paths towards a successful and more rewarding fasting season. Perhaps this should begin with the call for early preparation for the month of Ramadan. In other words, though experience has taught us that early planning in all human endeavour makes for successful outcomes, and that the earlier the preparation of a student the more the likelihood of his success in the examination, it appears that this timeless wisdom often enjoys little patronage with reference to Muslims’ approach to the month of Ramadan.
Thus hours to the first day in the month, there usually occur a bedlam in some markets across major cities of this country. This is often caused by the sudden realization, by adherents of Islam, that the first supererogatory prayer (al-Tarawih) which usually marks the beginning of the month would be held that same night and that the early morning meal (Sahur) would be due on the following day. Thus, Muslim women and men would now proceed to the various markets in order to buy food materials with which their families would begin fasting. On such days, traders in the market usually hike prices of food stuffs. A cup of rice which hitherto used to sell for, for example, fifty naira would now be sold for a hundred naira.
Dear brethren, the above represents the very antithesis of the preparation a Muslim can undertake ahead of Ramadan. It is the pathway we should all avoid in order for us to have a more rewarding and fulfilling Ramadan this year. I should then advise, if I may, that each of our families should have a Shuura (family consultations) days before the onset of Ramadan. Endeavour to prepare an estimate of every item that your family would need in order to enjoy the bliss of Ramadan and make effort to go out for shopping days before the appearance of the crescent. If the crescent for the month of Ramadan takes eleven months before it appears, it means we should not wait till it is twenty-four hours to its beginning to begin to prepare for it.