God's Invitation, Source of Forgiveness, Checklist of Ramadan
Issue 543 » August 21, 2009 - Shaban 30, 1430
Al-Baqara (The Cow)
Chapter 2: Verse 186
"And when My servant ask you concerning Me, then verily I am near, I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me, so that they may walk in the right way."
The whole verse is based on the first person singular pronoun which shows the great importance which the speaker, i.e. God, attaches to this subject. Then come the words My servants and not "people" or other such words. This enhances its importance even more. The reply (then verily I am near) starts dramatically just after the question without any preamble like, "then say that I am near." The reply is emphasized with "verily." The nearness of the speaker is described with the adjective near and not with any verb like "I come near him." Thus it shows that He is already near and will always remain near. Then the answer (I answer the prayer of the supplicant) is conditional upon when he calls on Me.
These points show how much importance has been attached to the answering of the prayers. In addition, this verse - short as it is - repeats the first person singular pronoun seven times; it is the only verse with this characteristic in the whole of Quran.
In short, God's ownership of His creatures gives Him authority to answer any prayer which is put before Him by any of His creatures, and to fulfill his or her need by accepting his or her supplication.
This verse not only mentions a fact, i.e. answering prayer, but gives its reasons also: Because the supplicants are servants of God, He is near to them; and because He is near to them, He answers their prayers without any reservation. Whatever prayer is addressed to Him, He shall answer it.
The condition when he calls on Me shows that the promise of answering the prayer shall apply when the supplicant is a supplicant in reality; when he or she wants that thing according to his or her natural and deep-ingrained knowledge and when his or her heart is really in what his or her tongue is asking for.
Therefore, the natural prayer addressed to God shall always be answered. If a prayer is not answered, then it lacks both or one of the two things mentioned in the verse: the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me. It may happen in the following ways:
First: There may be no prayer at all. For example, a person prays for an impossible thing (but he or she does not know that it is impossible), or for a thing which, if he or she knew the fact, would not have wanted at all.
Second: There is indeed a prayer, but it is not addressed exclusively to God.
God is near to His servants. Nothing comes between Him and their prayer. He cares for them and for the things they ask for. That is why He invites them to call upon Him and He is of such high attributes. Therefore, they should accept this invitation of their Lord and should advance towards Him, and have faith in Him about this attribute, having firm belief that He is near and He answers their call; so that they may be guided rightly in praying unto Him.
Ramadan: Motivating Believers To Action, "Quranic Commentary on 'I Answer The Prayer'" - Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i , pp. 94-99
Source of Forgiveness
The fast is a source of forgiveness for one's sins. Hence, it removes the effects and stain of these sins from one's heart, leaving the heart pure again. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
"Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and hoping for its reward (ihtisab) shall have all of his previous sins forgiven for him." [Bukhari, Muslim]
Al-Khataabi notes that the meaning of ihtisab means with resolve, hoping for its reward while being pleased to perform it without considering it something heavy or a hardship. Hence, the true believer for whom the fasting will have its desired effect of removing or effacing his previous sins approaches the fast with a desire and love for it. He does not consider it a burden nor does he participate in it lackadaisically, with some heavy burden on his shoulder, being lazy and complaining until it is time to break the fast.
"Purification of the Soul: Concept, Process and Means" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, pp. 239, 240
A Quick Checklist Of Ramadan
- Make a resolve to win the maximum favour of Allah: perform extra voluntary prayers (Nawaafil), make frequent Du'a and increase remembrance (Dhikr).
- Try to recite some Quran after every Prayer. In fact if you read 3-4 pages after every Prayer you can easily finish the entire Quran in Ramadan! Study theQuranic Tafseer (commentary) every morning.
- Invite a person you are not very close with to your home for Iftar, at least once a week. You will notice the blessings in your relationships!
- Bring life to your family! Everyday, try to conclude the fast with your family and spend some quality time together to understand each other better.
- Give gifts on 'Eid to at least 5 people: 2 to your family members, 2 to your good friends, and 1 to a person whom you love purely for the sake of Allah.
- Commit to an Islamic study circles to enhance your Islamic knowledge and practice. Plan to complete reading a book on Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) life in these 30 days.
- Donate generously to the masajid, Islamic organizations, and any where people are in need. "This is a month of sharing!"
- Share Ramadan and its teachings of love & patience with your neighbours. Learn how at http://www.soundvision.com/info/ramadan/
- Initiate a project to promote or revive a ‘forgotten’ social cause in the Muslim and non-Muslim community: fight against racism, AIDS, drugs, cancer, smoking…etc.
- Did you know, our society, which constitutes only 20% of world’s population, actually consumes 80% of world’s resources! Volunteer at food bank or Anti-Poverty campaign, while fasting!
- Seek the rare and oft-neglected rewards of 'the night better than a 1000 months', Laylatul-Qadr.
- Weep in private for the forgiveness of your sins: It is the month of forgiveness and Allah's Mercy! It's never too late.
- Learn to control your tongue and lower your gaze. Remember the Prophet's warning that lying, backbiting, and a lustful gaze all violate the fast! Abandon foul language forever.
- Encourage others to enjoin and love goodness, and to abandon everything evil. Play the role of a Da'ee (one who invites to Allah) with passion and sympathy.
- Experience the joy of Tahajjud prayers late at night and devote yourself purely and fully to Allah in the I'tikaf retreat during the last 10 days of Ramadan.