Articles, Islamic Studies

A Simple Ramadhan Program

“O you who believe! Fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become pious. Fast for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number should be made up from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, they have to feed a poor person. But, whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast, it is better for you if only you knew” [I]
“It is, as the Lord of Glory Said, a fixed number of days. Rather, it is a fixed number of hours! The month of Ramadan is either 720 hours, or 696 hours, and every minute of it has a price and a value. The Salaf and the Companions – May Allah be Pleased with them – used to await these days of Ramadan from the year to year, as it has been reported in a narration that the Companions used to say, when Rajab had arrived: “O Allah, assist us in worshiping You in Rajab and Sha’ban, and allow us to witness Ramadan.”Because Ramadan is the annual occasion of the cleansing of the soul, spirit, and body, its effect on the human spirit and body is not that profound. The acts of worship of the soul are many, and as much as the body receives its share of pain during the course of its worship, it will receive its share of light. That is why Jihad is the uppermost peak of Islam; because it is the most painful and difficult of the acts of worship. Its reward is greater; its effect on the soul deeper and its result in building the spirit and in ingraining Tawheed in it is great.
Therefore, there are acts of worship dealing with one’s wealth. However, its effect on the soul is usually less than the effect of an act of worship dealing with the body. So, Zakah has a deep effect on the soul, as it purifies it from covetousness. However, you cannot truly sympathize with the poor person unless you feel his pain, live as he lives, and starve as he starves. If you starve, then you feel your body becoming stronger and more durable. At that time, you become joyous that you were able to sacrifice something and purify yourself from covetousness.
Jihad is the same way: Jihad with one’s wealth does not purify one’s soul in the same way as Jihad with one’s self does. And because of this, Islam did not relieve any of the Companions of the obligation of Jihad with his self, no matter what his position in society, and no matter how good his reputation, such as in the case of ‘Uthman.
And the Salaf – may Allah be Pleased with them – would calculate Ramadan by the minute. They were praying behind Ubayy bin Ka’b – and ‘Umar bin al-Khattab was praying Tarawih behind him – and they would require sticks to support themselves on as a result of his long standing in the prayer, and the Companions would say: “We fear that we will miss the suhur praying behind Ubayy, and we fear that the Fajr time will come, causing us to miss the Blessed Meal – they used to refer to suhur as the Blessed Meal – so, let our children rush to prepare the meal.”
And it was reported from some of the Tabi’in, and those who came after them, in regards to their Qur’an and prayer, that some of them would complete reciting the Qur’an sixty times in Ramadan, and this was specifically narrated in regards to al-Imam ash-Shafi’i; he used to complete it once during the day, and once during the night. Some of them would complete it once during the night and day, and others would complete it once every three days, until they reached the last ten days, in which they would seclude themselves in the mosque, completing it once a day.
And to complete the Qur’an in a day is easy, if we keep in mind that to recite the Qur’an slowly (tartil) takes about 24 hours, and a quicker recitation takes about ten hours. It is possible for the one who has memorized the Qur’an to complete one juz’ in 20 minutes, allowing him to complete all thirty juz’s in ten hours. I was told by Abu al-Hasan an-Nadawi: “I saw my teachers, and some of them would not speak at all in Ramadan. Rather, they would only engage in worship; either Qur’an or prayer. If someone were to speak to them, they would count out their words, and calculate them by the minutes and seconds.”
So, Ramadan consists of fasting and prayer.
Because of this, the Salaf, such as al-Imam Malik, would seclude themselves until the time of giving a class, saying: “Verily, Ramadan is for praying and reciting the Qur’an.” Some of them would say: “Ramadan is praying, giving charity, and reciting the Qur’an.”
And in Ramadan, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of Hell are shut, and the devils are chained up. This is something that actually happens, as one of my trustworthy friends who used to have contact with the jinn – but has since repented – informed me:
“When I would ask the jinn who I would work with to relay to me any news, they would say: “We are inactive in Ramadan.” I used to think that they were believing jinn, as they would pray and fast with me. However, I realized from their answer, that they were devils (i.e., disbelieving jinn).
Later, after an experiment, I confirmed for myself that they were disbelievers: I requested from them one day that they heal my cousin, so, they said: “She will not be cured unless she puts on a cross.”
So, I said to them: “You really are devils. You are from the disbelieving jinn.”
They said: “We are from the believing jinn.”
I said: “From now, we have nothing to do with each other.”
They said: “We will hurt you, then.”
I said: “I dare you to try to hurt me. We will meet at midnight at the graveyard, the most secluded and frightening place I can think of,” and at midnight, I made ablution and prayed two rak’ahs, and went to the graveyard. I did this for three nights in a row, but the jinn were unable to even come near me.”
So, it is something physical, not simply metaphoric. The devils are chained, and they are unable to move about and cause evil between the people. The major jinn are the ones who are chained, while the minor devils are left to move about.
And Ramadan is the Ramadan of Jihad, so, I advise everyone of you to not fall short in a single day in Ramadan.
I was in Qatar, or the Emirates, and I was told: “The brothers in America called, asking if you could go spend the last ten nights with them.” I said: “Subhan’Allah! I spend the last ten nights in America, and I leave Jalalabad, Qandahar, and Kabul erupting? The hour in these places is better than standing in prayer for sixty years, and I go and enter America, even if in Ramadan?” And because of this, for the duration of my stay here, especially in the last five years, I always loved to spend every Ramadan outside of Peshawar, and to not enter Peshawar unless it was necessary. I would spend it either in the training camp in Sada, Jadji, or any other place, so that it would be written for me as a Ramadan of ribat, and the Ramadan in the land of ribat is a thousand times better than Ramadan outside of the land of ribat, as the Prophet said: 
“Ribat for one day in the Path of Allah is better than a thousand days in any other place, even if one were to fast all day and pray all night.” [II]
So, brothers, whoever of you stays in Peshawar, then let him comply with the following daily program:
Do not stay up late in Ramadan, as Ramadan is the time of praying, fasting, and seeking Allah’s forgiveness during the morning hours. So, break your fast in your homes on some dates or water, or in the mosque, and provide some dates and water in the mosques for those who might break their fast there, and glad tidings to the one who provides food for the one breaking his fast: “Whoever provides food for the fasting person, then, he will have the same reward as the fasting person, without the fasting person’s reward being diminished at all,” even if it is only on a piece of a date, so, for this, let the competitors compete for this great reward.
I was in Qatar, and some of the good-doers said to me: “We wish to provide food for a thousand fasting Mujahidin for all of Ramadan. How much does each Mujahid require in Ramadan?” I said: “He requires three Qatari riyals or dirhams.” Suddenly, a check was being written for 90,000 Qatari riyals, with him saying:”This is the cost of food for a thousand Mujahidin in Jalalabad, and I ask that you alert me of its arrival.” When it arrived the next day, I was surprised to hear the phone ring, with him telling me: “The money for the food of two thousand more is on the way. Feed them rice and meat, as they are the best of foods.”
Comply with this program, and it is easy: break your fast in the mosque, then pray the Maghrib. Return to your homes, eat as much as Allah has Willed for you to eat, and after that, make istighfar while you are awaiting the time for ‘Isha’. Then, pray the ‘Isha’ and Tarawih in the mosque, then, return to your homes. Eat the suhur, and be particular about this time. In addition to it being a blessed meal, the best time to make istighfar is in these early morning hours.
So, after the suhur, rush to make ablution and perform some Tahajjud and increase in your connection with the Lord of Glory: “Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, Asking: ‘Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?’“
So, take advantage of these times – the early morning hours – in which an answered supplication is almost certain. 
“Those who are patient, those who are true, the obedient with sincere devotion in worship to Allah, and those who spend in the Way of Allah, and those who pray and beg Allah’s Pardon in the last hours of the night” [III]
“They used to sleep but little by night, and in the hours before dawn, they were asking for forgiveness” [IV]
So, when the Fajr time enters, go to the mosque and pray there. And try, if you do not have work, to not sleep during the time between Fajr and sunrise: 
“For me to sit with a group of people after the Morning Prayer remembering Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – until the Sun rises is more beloved to me than freeing four slaves from the children of Isma’il…” [V]
After this, go and rest until midday. From midday until ‘Asr, attend to the needs of your family.
Try to generally decrease in eating, drinking, and consuming sweets, keeping in mind that you are surrounded by widows, children, and orphans who are unable to afford plain rice. Set aside your sweets, bread, and rice for such people.
Your women are also in need of cleansing their souls, and they are in need of freeing themselves for the recitation of the Qur’an and worship. Their preoccupation with preparing food is a preoccupation from the essential activities of Ramadan; it is a preoccupation from istighfar, recitation, and worship. So, if you pray the ‘Asr, and you have no other obligations to keep you busy, seclude yourself in the mosque until the Sun sets, and indulge in the recitation of the Qur’an: “…and for me to sit with a group of people after the ‘Asr prayer, remembering Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – until the Sun sets is more beloved to me than freeing four slaves from the children of Isma’il.” So, when it is time for Maghrib prayer, pray it, and return to your home.
This is a program that anyone can follow, either most or all of it. Pay close attention to these days, in particular, and pay attention to these hours. In Ramadan, there is no time for ‘he said, she said,’ or watching television, or socialization. Do not visit one another in your houses during the nights of Ramadan, as this constitutes wasting and theft of time of this blessed month. There is the mosque in which you are able to meet and chat in after praying Tarawih and any of your brothers who need something from you, your meeting place is in the mosque, and your place of departure is the mosque. Do not preoccupy the people with your presence in their homes during the nights of Ramadan…”
I: Surah Al-Baqarah; 183-184
II: Reported by at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasa’i
III: Surah Al ‘Imran: 17
IV: Surah Adh-Dhariyat; 17-18
V: Reported by Abu Dawud
Source: Shaykh Abdullah Azzam [External/non-QP]