“… fast Ramadan…”

The next of the acts mentioned by the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, that would take the believer to Paradise, was fasting in the month of Ramadan.

We often think of fasting as abstaining from food, but fasting in the Islamic sense has a much wider application and includes abstaining from speaking bad words, as well as marital relations, and food and drink. Fasting was prescribed by Allah for the Prophets before the Prophet Muhammad, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, and its goal is to develop self-restraint, piety and God-consciousness, known in Arabic as taqwa. Allah, all praises and glory be to him, says in the Qur’an:

“O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa.”

(Surah al-Baqarah:183)

It is also, by the grace of Allah, all praises and glory be to him, a source for the forgiveness of sins, and a protection from the Fire. The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:

“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and hoping for its reward shall have all of his previous sins forgiven for him.”

[Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim]

“Fasting is a shield from the Hell-fire like one of your shields shielding you while fighting.”

[Recorded in Ahmad]

Further, our fasting will intercede for us on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:

“The fast and the Qur’an shall come as intercessors on the Day of Resurrection. The fast shall say, ’O Lord, I prevented him from his food and drink during the day, so let me intercede for him’. The Qur’an will say, ‘I kept him from sleep during the night, so let me intercede for him.’ Then they will be allowed to intercede.”

(Recorded in Ahmad)

Fasting serves to demonstrate our sincerity to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and draws us closer to Him. Only He knows if a person has truly fasted or not, and He has a special reward for those who are sincere enough to do it. He, all praises and glory be to Him, says in a hadith qudsi (the words of Allah narrated by the Prophet but not included in the Qur’an):

“He leaves his food, drink and desires because of Me. Fasting is for My sake and I shall reward it. And every good deed shall be rewarded ten-fold.”

[Recorded in Bukhari]

SubhanAllah the rewards for fasting are so great. Many times we have a sense of fear when Ramadan comes in the summer months because we think ‘The days are so long!’, but Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, in His infinite mercy, always bestows His blessings and makes it easy.

What you will note from the ahadith and Qur’anic ayat that have been quoted, is that the blessings of the fast are not limited only to Ramadan. Fasting Ramadan is an obligation upon us and we must ensure that we fast sincerely with the intention of pleasing Allah, and that we make up any missed fasts. But any extra fasting that we choose to do on top of that, promises an even greater reward. The Companions of the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, used to love the short days of winter because they could get the reward of fasting during the day and pray longer in the night.

May Allah make it easy for us to fast for His sake, and develop self-restraint, piety and taqwa, Ameen.

“… and make the pilgrimage to the House.”

The last of the things that the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, mentioned in this portion of the hadith, is the last of the five pillars of Islam, the pilgrimage to the House of Allah in Makkah, the Hajj. The performance of Hajj is an obligation on every Muslim who has the means to perform it. This has been clearly established in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and as we can see from this hadith, it is one of the acts that the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, listed as placing a person in Paradise and saving them the Fire.

The ritual of pilgrimage to Makkah stretches back thousands of years to the time of the Prophet Abraham or, in Arabic, Ibrahim. Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was ordered by Allah to leave his wife Hajar, and his infant son Ismail alone in the desert, in the valley where Makkah now stands. While Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was gone, the baby became thirsty, and Hajar ran back and forth between two hills, now known as Safa and Marwah, seven times searching for water for her son. The baby cried and hit the ground with his foot (some narrations say that the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) scraped his foot or the tip of his wing along the ground), and water miraculously sprang forth. This source of water is called the Well of Zamzam and is now located next to the Kabbah. The Kabbah, or House of Allah, was built later by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, may Allah’s peace be on them both, as a place for the worship of Allah alone.

Muslims today emulate this journey in the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar. When the Prophet Muhammad, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, led his followers from Medina to Makkah to make this pilgrimage, it was the first Hajj to be performed by Muslims alone, and the only Hajj ever performed by the last Prophet of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam. He cleansed the Kabbah, destroyed all the idols that had been worshipped there, and re-ordained the building as the house of Allah.

The Hajj pilgrimage, sees millions people from all over the world come together to worship Allah. The rich and the poor have their differences removed as they dress in the same manner and perform the same rituals. People must undertake a long journey and suffer hardship in the search of their ultimate goal. It is a physical as well as spiritual pilgrimage and believers must practice sincerity, and patience and love for their fellow Muslims. They must forget their material comforts and the lure of the material world and concentrate on only Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and His worship and their relationship with Him. Spiritually, the Hajj can provide an individual with a complete cleansing of the soul, as the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said,

“Whoever performs the Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not commit any lewdness or sins returns like the day in which his mother gave birth to him [without any sins].”

[Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim]

Successfully completed with the right intention, the Hajj can also provide the ultimate reward, as the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, stated,

“And the Hajj that is accepted by Allah and performed properly has no reward other than Paradise.”

[Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim]

We can see the reward, so why aren’t more of us rushing to perform the Hajj? A culture has grown in which people delay the performance of Hajj until their old age, hoping to be purified of their sins close to the time of their death. Yet, we don’t know when the angel of death will come. We can see that Hajj is obligatory upon us if we ’have the means’, so what does this entail? And if we ‘have the means’ but we delay performing Hajj, does this make us sinful?

In general ‘the means’ are considered to include physical health, financial well-being and the provisions needed to undertake the journey. In addition, women should have amahram [male relative or husband] to travel with them as they are not allowed to travel alone, although some scholars allow for the lone woman to travel in a ‘trustworthy’ group made up of men and women. If one does not meet these conditions, one is not obliged to perform Hajj.

If we have the means, is there any excuse not to be making immediate plans to perform the Hajj? Can it be delayed?

Some scholars including Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ahmad and some Shafi’ees state that one must perform Hajj at its first feasible opportunity. As soon as you have the means and ability you should make arrangements to go and you are sinful if you do not. The evidence for this position includes the hadith:

“If anyone breaks [a bone] or becomes lame, he comes out of the sacred state and he must perform Hajj the following year.”

[Recorded in Ahmad]

The deduction here being that the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, didn’t say they could perform Hajj at any time in the future, but rather the next time they were able.

One of the strongest pieces of evidence to indicate that it is permissible to delay the Hajj is that Hajj was made obligatory on the 6th year after Hijrah to Madinah, but the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, didn’t perform his Hajj until the 10th year, four years later. Some scholars have stated that the reason for his delay could have been because the Kabbah was still filled with idols and frequented by polytheists who would worship while naked, so the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, waited until Allah (swt) purified the House of these people before performing Hajj. Therefore the delay was due to an acceptable excuse and may not provide evidence for those who have no acceptable excuse.

I have laid out these evidences in detail because I imagine that there are many of us who actually have ‘the means’ both physically and financially, but are choosing not to perform this obligatory act at this time in our lives. We should look into the state of our own affairs and ask ourselves whether we should be striving to make an arrangement to perform the Hajj if we have not already done so. And Allah knows best.