Answered by Sidi Suheil Laher
An Excellent article on Ramadan
O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves.
The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion. [Quran: Chapter 2, 183]
It is appropriate that every Muslim should receive the blessed month of Ramadan with repentance, sincerity, resoluteness and earnestness. He/she should make the intention to perform extra acts of devotion and worship therein, including the Night Prayer (qiyam), recitation of Qur'an, and abundant charity to the poor and needy.
On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him): The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), used to say the following when the month of Rajab began. "Oh Allah! Bless us in Rajab and Sha`ban, and bring us, oh Allah, to Ramadan." [Narrated by Tabarani and Ahmad]
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) addressed his companions on the last day of Sha`ban, saying, "Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer's sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast, shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Fire of Hell, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all." [Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah]
In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) says, "Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted." [Narrated by Tabarani]
The preceding hadiths bring attention to readiness and preparation for receiving Ramadan. This is achieved by having a clear understanding of this month in one's mind, and greeting Ramadan with love and yearning. Also, one should have the determination and intention to perform good deeds and worship, and one should lay down a program to accomplish this in the days of the blessed month.
It is communally obligatory upon the Muslims to seek the crescent at the time of sunset on the 29th day of Sha`ban, and the 29th day of Ramadan, in order to verify the status of the start and end of their fasting. When seeing the crescent, it is sunnah for the Muslim to supplicate with the following supplication, which has been reported from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).
On the authority of Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah (may Allah be pleased with him): when the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) saw the crescent, he used to say, "Oh Allah! Cause it to appear over us with prosperity, faith (Iman), security and Islam. (Then to the moon:) My Lord and your Lord is Allah." [Narrated by Tirmidhi, who said it is a good (hasan) hadith.]
Qatadah said that he was informed that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to say, when seeing the crescent, "A crescent of goodness and orientation, a crescent of goodness and orientation, a crescent of goodness and orientation. (To the moon:) I believe in Allah who created you." (Three times), and then he would say, "Praise be to Allah who has taken away such- and-such month and brought such-and-such month." [Narrated by Abu Dawud]
The month of Ramadan has excellences over the other months, as is testified to by the Qur'an and Sunnah, and out of these we will bring to attention the following virtues:
1. It is the month of the Qur'an, with regards to revelation and study. ("The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Qur'an." [Qur'an, 2:185]). On the authority of Ibn `Abbas: Angel Gabriel used to meet the Prophet every night in Ramadan and used to study Qur'an with him.
2. It is the month of seclusion. Ibn `Umar said, "The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to seclude himself for the last ten days of the month of Ramadan."
3. It is the month of generosity. Ibn `Abbas said, "The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to be at his most generous in Ramadan."
4. It is the month of standing (in voluntary night prayer). On the authority of Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, "Whoever stands (in voluntary night prayer) during Ramadan, with faith and in expectancy of reward, his previous sins are forgiven him."
5. It is the month of the compulsory fast, because of Allah's saying, "So, whoever among you witnesses the month should fast." [Qur'an, 2:185] A terrible error prevalent among people is to talk about Ramadan just as they talk about the obligation of fasting, as if Ramadan and fasting are synonymous, each carrying the meaning of the other and not anything more nor less. Yet, fasting is one of many acts of worship in Ramadan.
Many reports have been narrated from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) explaining the distinction of Ramadan, of which we have selected the following.
"The month of Ramadan has come to you; a month of goodness and blessing." [Ibn Khuzaymah]
"The Master of the Months is Ramadan, and the Master of the days is Friday." [Ibn Khuzaymah]
"Whoever fasted Ramadan with faith and in expectancy of reward, his previous sins are forgiven him." [Bukhari and Muslim]
"When Ramadan comes, the gates of Heaven are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained." And in a narration from Nasa'i, the following words are added: "and a caller calls out every night: 'Oh seeker of Good, draw near! Oh seeker of Evil, desist!' "
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