In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
SAWM – THE SUREST PROCESS OF INCULCATING TAQWAH: HOW?
[Shamim A Siddiqi,
Allah (SWT) in His infinite mercy prescribed one month of continuous fasting in the month of Ramadan as an obligatory Ebadah for inculcating Taqwah [Allah consciousness] in our life both at individual and collective levels. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad Rasulullah (S) pin-pointedly and assertively declared in a Hadith, narrated by Abu Hurairah (RA) as quoted in Bukhari: “Mun Sama Ramadanun Imanun wa ehtesabun Ghufera lahu mataqaddama min Zambehi” [Translation: Who fasted in Ramadan with “Iman and Ehtisab”, his or her past sins are pardoned (by Allah)]
Unfortunately many of our learned scholars take this Hadith in its literary sense. They neither explain the importance of Iman nor the omnipotency of Ehtisab that governs the Iman. As such, the process that this Hadith prescribes very prominently is missed. As a result, Ummah is fasting in millions and millions every year with “enthusiasm” but the real manifestation of Taqwah and its impact on the character of Muslim men and women is not visible. The society too remains barren and the atmosphere of piety is hardly traceable in our actions and deeds. Whatever its little signs are seen in the society during the month of Ramadan it evaporates next day when the Ramadan ends. I will now elaborate the meanings and concept of this Hadith in depth and show what is missing from our life and what we are neglecting without understanding the process that this Hadith prescribes.
This Hadith contains three important terminologies: Sawm, Iman and Ehtisab. It must be understood what each word connotes and what process of inculcating Taqwah it suggests leading to pardon of ones past sins.
1. SAWM: It means restriction from certain things or to give up something. The Arabs used this word “Sawm” for their horses when they were training them against the bursting cold winds from the north and scorching heat of the day while keeping them hungry and thirsty. “Saama al-farasu sawmun” – [the horse hasn’t taken its fodder] was the terminology that was used by the Arabs when training their horses. This terminology when adopted by Islam, it stands for a person while fasting, restricting himself or herself from the basic human urges for food, water, rest and sex during the prescribed hours and times.
2. IMAN: The word “Iman” has been used here in its most comprehensive [Mutlaq] sense. This total concept of Iman must be understood by us and its significance in the context it is used in this Hadith. Briefly speaking it connotes:
i. Allah is the Creator and Sustainer of man with three strong urges of hunger/thirst, rest and sex with a free will;
ii. Allah created this cosmos for man and harnessed it for his/her benefit and use to satisfy his or her urges the way he/she likes;
iii. Allah (SWT)ordained humans by sending Books of Guidance to man through His appointed messengers from Adam to Prophet Muhammad [Peace be upon them] as how to live, act and behave on this earth;
iv. By having Iman [faith or believe]in Allah, a Muslim accepts His supreme authority, commits to live as per Guidance that comes from Him, the Qur’an and follows the life pattern of Prophet Muhammad (S) as his or her only model;
v. Whatever he/she possesses – time, talents and resources, are Amanah [trust] in his/her hands and he/she will use them the way He ordains and not the way he/she likes;
vi. Allah (SWT) has clearly enlisted what is Haram [prohibited] and what is permissible for humans to live by;
vii. He/she feels accountable in Akhirah for the manner he/she has lived on earth and used these Amanah: fro the pleasure of Allah or serving the forces of the devil?
viii. He/she will be rewarded by Him with eternal pleasure of Jannah [paradise] if he/she has lived on earth for His pleasure or may be thrown in the hellfire if he he/she has violated the injunctions of Allah on this earth through his/her free will;
ix. Seeking the pleasure of Allah is the ultimate reality for a Muslim and Muslimah while living on earth
x. This is the total concept of Iman and a Mumin is to live by that unto the last breath of his/her life.
3. Ehtisab: A Muslim has to be constantly watchful of this situation, always evaluating that he is living by the standards that his Islam sets before him, is extremely careful that none of his Amanah is used for the service or the promotion of Batil system and expects to get reward from Allah on the Day of Judgment. This mental life-time conscientious exercise is called “Ehtisab” [self-criticism or self-evaluation]
A month long fasting in Ramadan provides the opportunity of constantly evaluating the situation as to whether a Mumin is living by the commitment of his or her “Iman” or just fasting in name only. The ever consciousness of the evaluation process is the other name of “Taqwah.” If it is there, Allah will pardon the sins of a “Saa’em” [who is fasting] for His sake as the Hadith proclaims. Taking the stock of every moment of life is what is ordained in this Hadith and that is the “Iman with Ehtisab.”
If this process of evaluation is missing, fasting will leave no lasting effect in our life. This is the basic point that must be emphasized by our scholars when presenting this Hadith and exhort the Ummah to perpetuate this habit of “Iman with evaluation” as an integral part of our living condition, if we are to better our life both in this world and in the life Hereafter. May Allah bless the Muslim Ummah to live with Iman and a constant habit of doing Ehtisab. It makes no difference, whether it is an individual or a Millah [nations], if neither does nor live with the conscious process of Ehtisab, it soon whither away without living any impression on the rock of time. A Muslim through the aforesaid Hadith is exhorted to live on these lines and gain the benefit of both worlds.
Shamim A Siddiqi
October 18, 2004