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Etiquette of Entering the Holy Month of Ramadan

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In the Islamic culture and the narrations of the religious leaders, there are specific etiquettes and acts mentioned for the occasions of the lunar months;[1] etiquettes and actions for the start of each month that strengthen the bond between creation and the Creator, keep the remembrance of God alive in memories, and place humans under the shelter of His eternal power; undoubtedly, this attention will solve many problems and ward off calamities and misfortunes.[2]

Among all the months of the year, there is no month as magnificent as the blessed month of Ramadan;[3] the month of God’s feast and hospitality, where the best hospitality of the Merciful Lord in this blessed month is the “Holy Quran” that has been revealed in it. What feast could be greater than the Host sending a book to His guests that contains all of human happiness.[4]

On the other hand, it is the month in which Laylat al-Qadr occurs, a night when the destinies of humans are determined according to their merits and worthiness, and worship in it is better than a thousand months![5]

It is also the spring of worship, a month of teaching and training, a month of purity and cleanliness, and a month of piety and self-building; a month in which one can quickly and firmly advance through the stages of divine proximity and the journey towards God.[6]

Thus, the blessed month of Ramadan is among the most valuable gems, and making proper use of it; including entering into this month, is contingent upon sufficient knowledge and understanding of it.

One cannot welcome the month of Ramadan unprepared;[7] in any feast or hospitality, both the host and the guest must be prepared, the host must prepare the amenities, and the guest must prepare themselves in terms of dress and cleanliness. The Lord, who is our host in this month, being universally merciful and endless, is always ready to host, and it is we who must prepare ourselves to enter this feast,[8] and to make the most of this precious opportunity, we must ready ourselves with the etiquettes and preliminaries mentioned in some narrations.

Entering Ramadan requires repentance and seeking forgiveness

The month of Ramadan is the spring of worship, just as spring brings vitality to the human body, so too should humans experience spiritual vitality through worship in Ramadan, and this is only possible if one prepares in advance, primarily through repentance.[9] Therefore, we must seek forgiveness extensively in the last days of Sha’ban to find the joy of worship.[10]

In a sermon from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) given on the last Friday of Sha’ban about the month of Ramadan, we read: “O people, your selves are mortgaged by your deeds, so release them by seeking forgiveness…”.[11]

Yes, ourselves and our freedom are mortgaged by our deeds, our ugly actions and sins are the shackles and chains binding ourselves, which are unlocked through seeking forgiveness and freeing the self.[12]

Undoubtedly, this important Prophetic advice is addressed to everyone. When a person commits any sin they reach, they promise themselves that they will repent when the month of Ramadan comes, this postponement is one of the tricks of Satan and the self. If one is going to the divine feast and hospitality, one must first cleanse and dress in clean clothes before stepping into the grand person’s feast, not participate with dirty clothes.[13]

The reward of fasting the last three days of Sha’ban

It has been narrated from Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) that whoever fasts the last three days of Sha’ban and connects it to the blessed month of Ramadan, the Almighty God will write for him the reward of fasting for two consecutive months.[14]

Imam Reza’s (peace be upon him) recommendations for the last Friday of Sha’ban

Abasalt Herawi said: I reached Imam Reza (peace be upon him) on the last Friday of Sha’ban. His Holiness said: “O Abasalt! Most of Sha’ban has passed, and today is the last Friday of the month, so make up for past shortcomings and negligence in the remainder of this month, and turn to what benefits you; pray a lot, seek forgiveness, recite the Quran a lot, and repent for your sins, so when the month of Ramadan enters, you have purified yourself for God and fulfilled any debt or trust you have, release any grudge you hold in your heart, cease the sins you were committing, fear God, and rely on Him in your hidden and apparent affairs, for whoever relies on God, God will suffice his matters, and in the remainder of this month, frequently recite this prayer: “O Allah, if You have not forgiven us in the past days of Sha’ban, then forgive us in what remains of it.”[15]

Imam (peace be upon him) continued: In honor and greatness of the blessed month of Ramadan, God frees many of His servants from the fire of Hell in the month of Sha’ban.[16]

Purging Malice, a Prelude to Entering Ramadan

Among the preparations for entering the blessed month of Ramadan is to purify our souls and hearts, and to remove malice, envy, deceit, and treachery from our spirits.[17]

The Noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) further states in the Sha’ban sermon about the conditions for praying: “So, ask your Lord Allah with sincere intentions and pure hearts”; meaning, the heart, which is the place of human intentions, must be free of malice and moral vices.[18]

Undoubtedly, just as we wish our faults to be forgiven if we err, we should do the same towards others, and accept their excuses for their faults. It’s strange that in moments expected for prayers to be answered, we hope the Almighty forgives all our sins and misdemeanors, yet when it comes to others’ mistakes, we sometimes harbor resentment for years, unwilling to forgive them.[19]

Purity and Cleanliness, a Condition for Entering Ramadan

To enter the month of Ramadan, one must prepare in the month of Sha’ban; as the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) has said: “It is a month in which you are invited to the feast of Allah.”‏[20]

A person who is invited to the feast of the Lord enters it with clean clothing, not with dirty attire that they plan to wash there. One must enter the month of Ramadan with the garment of piety and purity to benefit from its blessings; God willing.[21]

The Prophet’s (PBUH) Recommendation for the Last Friday of Sha’ban

It is understood from the narrations that the Noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) would alert and prepare the people towards the end of Sha’ban,[22] including on the last Friday of Sha’ban, where the Prophet of Islam delivered a sermon to prepare his companions for the arrival of the blessed month of Ramadan, emphasizing its importance:

“O people! The month of God with blessings, forgiveness, and mercy is approaching you. This month is the best of months. Its days are better than other days, its nights are the best of nights, and its hours are the best of hours.

It’s the month in which you are invited to the feast of God and are among those honored by God.

Your breaths count as tasbih (glorification of God), your sleep as worship, your deeds are accepted, and your prayers are answered.

Therefore, with pure intentions and clean hearts, ask God to grant you success in fasting and reciting the Quran in this month, for the wretched are the ones who are deprived of God’s forgiveness in this great month.

In your hunger and thirst in this month, remember the hunger and thirst of the Day of Resurrection. Be charitable to the poor and needy, honor your elders, show mercy to the young, and strengthen family ties.

Refrain your tongues from sin, shield your eyes from what is not lawful to see, close your ears to what is forbidden to hear, show compassion and love to the orphans of others, so that compassion may be shown to your orphans…”[23]

Self-Improvement, the Most Important Requirement for Entering God’s Feast

It is said that people in the face of Ramadan fall into three categories:[24]

  1. Those who neither prepare themselves before Ramadan nor in Ramadan, fulfilling the words of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) on the last Friday of Sha’ban: “Indeed, the wretched one is he who is deprived of Allah’s forgiveness in this great month.”[25]
  2. Some cleanse themselves upon entering Ramadan and exit the month purified.[26]
  3. The special servants of God who prepare themselves before Ramadan, entering the month as a time for intimate discourse with God and seclusion with the Beloved.[27]

Final Word

Who is truly fortunate?

From all the points mentioned, it is clear that this month is for refining souls, self-improvement, and starting a new phase of journeying toward Allah. Fortunate are those who recognize the value of this month and fully benefit from it.[28] For truly fortunate and blessed are those who recognize the high value of this month and make the most of its endless blessings to solve their spiritual and material problems through fasting and worship in this month.[29]

O Lord! Now, as we are in the last days of Sha’ban, on the verge of the month of mercy, Ramadan, include us all in Your special mercy,[30] and grant us the success of sincere servitude and absolute submission to Your command and the recitation of the verses of Your Holy Quran.[31]

O Allah! Show us a new aspect of Your majesty every day so that we may know You better and be grateful for all the blessings You have bestowed upon us.[32]

O God! A multitude of problems has engulfed our Islamic society, and enemies, both internal and external, are striving hard to extinguish Your light.[33] Grant us victory over these enemies and shatter those who are beyond guidance![34]

By: Makarem Shirazi

References:


[1] General Principles of Mafatih al-Jinan, p. 598.

[2] Ibid., p. 595.

[3] Ibid., p. 695.

[4] The Highest Servants, p. 11.

[5] General Principles of Mafatih al-Jinan, p. 695.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sayings of the Infallibles (peace be upon them), Vol. 2, p. 122.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 122.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, Vol. 4, p. 227; (Islamic Ethics in Nahj al-Balagha (Sermon of the Pious), Vol. 2, p. 36).

[12] Islamic Ethics in Nahj al-Balagha (Sermon of the Pious), Vol. 2, p. 36.

[13] Lights of Guidance, A Collection of Ethical Discussions, p. 97.

[14] Iqbal, p. 723, (This narration is quoted in Zad al-Ma’ad, p. 81, from Imam Reza (peace be upon him)); (General Principles of Mafatih al-Jinan, p. 691).

[15] General Principles of Mafatih al-Jinan, p. 692.

[16] Zad al-Ma’ad, pp. 81 and 82; (General Principles of Mafatih al-Jinan, p. 692).

[17] Sayings of the Infallibles (peace be upon them), Vol. 2, p. 122.

[18] Ibid., p. 125.

[19] They Ask You (A Collection of Quranic Questions from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)), p. 79.

[20] Sayings of the Infallibles (peace be upon them), Vol. 2, p. 121.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., p. 122.

[23] Exemplary Interpretation (Tafsir Nemooneh), Vol. 1, p. 636.

[24] Sayings of the Infallibles (peace be upon them), Vol. 2, p. 120.

[25] Uyun Akhbar al-Reza (peace be upon him), Vol. 1, p. 230; Rawdat al-Muttaqin, Vol. 3, p. 277; Arba’in of Sheikh Bahai, p. 84; (Sayings of the Infallibles (peace be upon them), Vol. 2, p. 120).

[26] Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 120.

[27] Ibid., p. 121.

[28] General Principles of Mafatih al-Jinan, p. 624.

[29] Ibid., p. 696.

[30] Exemplary Interpretation (Tafsir Nemooneh), Vol. 11, p. 466.

[31] Ibid., Vol. 15, p. 577.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Exemplary Interpretation (Tafsir Nemooneh); Vol. 15; p. 577.

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