Take advantage of this month, may Allah show you mercy, because for many of you it will not return. So grasp this opportunity with whatever ability Allah has given you – and with whatever endeavour He (the Most High) has facilitated for you from acts of obedience and encouragement for you. So recognise the status of this month, and give it the right it deserves by obeying Allah, the Most High. Increase in supplications, and in seeking His forgiveness and in repenting to Him, for the arrival of this month is good for the Muslim. So if a Muslim strives in the obedience of Allah throughout the year, then this month is only an increase upon the good that he has been doing. As for the Muslim who has been falling short in obedience to Allah through the year, then he repents to Allah in this month and then starts his life anew – and then continues upon Allah’s obedience even after this month. And if he was one for whom the punishment of the Fire became an obligation due to his major sins or sins that bring about his destruction, then he must repent to Allah and then Allah will forgive him and free him from the Fire. There occurs a narration ascribed to the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) wherein it is stated: “The beginning of Ramadan is a mercy; its middle part is forgiveness; and its end is freedom from the Fire.”*
The whole of the month is a mercy from Allah, forgiveness for the servants and freedom from the Fire for the sinners. A Muslim must not deprive himself of goodness in this month: either by increasing upon righteous deeds that preceded this month as was the habit the pious predecessors (the Salaf); or by repenting for one’s deficiencies and thus fill the deficiencies with acts of piety and obedience; or that one repents to Allah for the major sins and heinous transgressions that necessitate the Fire for him, so that Allah may free him from punishment. So this is a tremendous month, a kind and generous period so give it its true worth and status with acts of obedience and piety. And Allah (the Most High) stated:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِم مُّوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَظَلَمُوا بِهَا ۖ فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۚ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as a substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Al-Baqarah: 183-185)
Be grateful to Allah that He has given you the opportunity to have reached this blessed month. For many good Muslims, this month is a blessing for them, goodness and salvation from the Fire and raising in their rank due to the fact that they keep themselves busy upon the obedience of Allah and worship of Him.
And from the people are those who enter this month wasted, having transgressed against their souls with sins and wicked deeds – so they do not repent to Allah, and they pay no attention to this month and what it contains of goodness and blessings – so they pass through this month as they did the other months. They are deprived of its blessings and they exit it as they entered it without benefitting at all:
أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
“Those are the ones over whose hearts and hearing and vision Allah has sealed, and it is those who are heedless.” (An-Nahl: 108)
وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Those are defiantly disobedient.” (Al-Hashr: 19) So these people are not elevated in the month, they do not know its worth and value – and they deprive themselves. We ask Allah for well-being.
Then there are some who do not see this month except as a month of food and drink and excess, and visiting restaurants, and filling their stomachs – and going to excess in purchases and eating. Do they not know that this is a month of fasting and not a month of desires. It is a month of fasting, standing in prayer at night and worship – so he eats what is sufficient for him to carry out the various acts of obedience.
And there are other people who are even worse than this: they spend their nights in this month awake in gossip, watching fantasy movies, argumentation, playing cards, engaged in vain speech, useless conversations and folly. And when fajr comes, they are sleeping and remain so till the Sun sets in the evening! They do not pray and they do not remember Allah. To these people, it is a month of staying awake through the night and sleeping throughout the day. They waste the obligatory prayers and waste their time – this is what the month of Ramadan means to them, from its start till its end. So what benefit have they achieved? Instead, they just amass for themselves in this month sins and loss. We ask Allah for safety and well-being.
So it is upon the one who is afflicted with these affairs that he repents to Allah and that he hastens to repentance – that he rectifies his soul before it is taken. That is because if one loses wealth, property, family or children it is an easier affliction – but to lose one’s religion and to lose one’s soul it is far worse, and we seek refuge in Allah from that.
فَاعْبُدُوا مَا شِئْتُم مِّن دُونِهِ ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ الْخَاسِرِينَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَهْلِيهِمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ أَلَا ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ
“So worship what you will besides Him. Say: Indeed, the losers are the ones who will lose themselves and their families on the Day of Resurrection. Unquestionably, that is the manifest loss.” (Az-Zumar: 15) So fear Allah the Mighty and Majestic, O servants of Allah – and pay attention to the excellence of this month. Take advantage of that which will benefit you, and bring you nearer to Allah. Make this month a cause for raising your rank before Allah and as a means of expiating and washing away your sins.
* Portion of a hadeeth reported by Ibn Khuzaymah but it has Ibn Jad’ān in the chain of narration, and he is weak.
Ref: Khutub al-Minbariyyah, vol. 5. pp. 259-262