It often happens that we do not benefit from the early days of Ramadan as we do not prepare ourselves well for them. As a result, we do not feel the virtue of fasting and do not taste the majesty of reciting the Qur'an or the solemnity of performing Tarawih (supererogatory night prayer during the month of Ramadan).
Actually, such are precious moments! No doubt, Du'ah (callers to Allah), scholars and public speakers should work out a preparation program during the month of Sha'ban in order to incite people's energies and to activate non-ambitious persons. Programs should include being frequent in fasting, reciting the Qur'an and offering supererogatory night prayers so that we might be accustomed to performing such and like deeds and might not miss them unaware after the beginning of Ramadan. Actually, such preparation plans are good and even wonderful. To give an example, an athlete who do not warm up or exercise for a short time before an athletic event may not continue active performance till the end of the game. Similarly, a Muslim who comes unexpectedly upon Ramadan cannot make use of its times and moments in the best manner.
In my opinion, however, there is something more important whose significance many Muslims fail to realize, i.e. "mental" preparation for the glorious month. By mental preparation I mean being ambitiously waiting for its coming, passionately longing for its days and nights, restlessly counting remaining hours and obsessed by the fear of not living until then.
No doubt, such is a difficult emotional state. However, those who feel it will unarguably enjoy the glorious month and, in addition, benefit from every moment of it.
The easiest way, I suggest, to reach such a unique emotional state is to imagine that the coming Ramadan is the last Ramadan you will pass by in your lifetime.
To this effect, our honorable Prophet (peace be upon him) advised us to frequently remember death. He said, "Always remember the destroyer of all pleasures." However, he did not define regular intervals for remembering death, e.g. he did not tell us to remember it once a day, once a week or more or less. He left the whole matter undefined so that we might vary as to it in accordance with the degree of our faith. Thus, we find that some Muslims might remember death only on seeing a dead person, on visiting a sick person or while listening to a sermon or a preachment. On the other hand, there are such Muslims as Abdullah bin 'Umar who would say, "If you reach the evening, then don’t expect to reach the morning, and if you reach the morning, do not expect to reach the evening."
Actually, Abdullah said such conscious words making a comment on the Hadith that reads, "Be in this life as if you were a stranger or a traveler on a path."
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said referring to the necessity of remembering death each couple of days, "It is the duty of a Muslim man who has something which is to be given as a bequest not to have it for two nights without having his will written regarding it."
Accordingly, supposing that the coming Ramadan is the last one in life is a very realistic supposition and trying to reach such a feeling is a prophetic commandment. Moreover, the actual fact gives a strong support of it. In fact, there are how many friends and acquaintances of us who were alive during the past Ramadan but are now inhabitants of graves. Undoubtedly, death comes all of a sudden and no one can return to life thereafter. To this effect, Allah (the Exalted) said, "Until when death comes to one of them (those who worship other besides Allah), he says: “My Lord, send me back so I can do good in that which I have left behind!” No. It is but a word that he speaks, and behind them is a barrier until the Day when they will be resurrected."
Thus, it is impossible to return to life after death although all those who die wish to come back to life, wishing to repent if unrighteous or wishing to do more good if righteous. So, how do we think about dying at the end of the coming Ramadan? Either way, we would wish to come back to life in order to fast the month of Ramadan in such a manner as may be more beneficial to us in our graves and in the Hereafter. Let us then imagine that we are returned to life and have a last chance to give our lives a better sense during the last month of our life, to make up for what we missed during our long lives, to add weight to the scale of good deeds and to be well-prepared for meeting the Omnipotent King (Allah).
Through reaching such a feeling, our preparation for, and practice during, the glorious month will be successful, if Allah so wills. Actually, such is not a pessimistic point of view as may be argued by some people. Rather, such a viewpoint is more motivating to action and, at the same time, to exert effort, sacrifice and innovation. In this regard, earlier Muslims achieved many military victories and could subdue the whole world because of awaiting for death and always being prepared for meeting Allah (the Exalted).
How wonderful were the words said by Khalid bin Al-Walid, the Drawn Sword of Allah, describing the army heading for Persia "I have come to you with an army of men who love death as you love life."
In fact, those men who love death achieved glory and honor. Although some of them were martyred, most of them lived having authority over the world. However, their hearts were never attached to worldly pleasures as they always anticipated the soon coming of death.
Now, what should I do knowing that the coming Ramadan is the last in my life?
If I knew so for sure, I would never miss an obligatory act of worship Allah enjoined me to do and would do my best to perform them in the best manner. Thus, I would offer all prayers in congregation at the mosque being distracted by nothing while performing prayer. In other words, I should show complete submission and solemnity while offering prayer while not pecking like a crow; rather, I should prolong may prayer and enjoy it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The delight of my eye is prayer."
If I, moreover, knew for certain that the coming Ramadan is my last, I would be keen to safeguard my fast against anything that might decrease its reward. "Perhaps a person fasting will receive nothing from his fasting except hunger and thirst." Thus, I should have the intention of devoting every moment of fast for the sake of Allah struggling against my inner self and worldly pleasure through fasting. In this regard, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven."
If I also knew for certain that the coming Ramadan is my last, I would be keen to offer the Tarawih prayer in a mosque where I can enjoy the recitation of the Qur'an and where the Imam goes through the whole Qur'an while I hear and contemplate. Moreover, I would come back home eager to the Words of my Lord and thus open the Mus-haf (Arabic copy of the Qur'an) and recite more. I would also offer Tahajjud (late night prayer) and then recite more and would also recite more during the period between Fajr (Dawn) Prayer and sunshine. Indeed, it is the Word of my Lord! 'Ikrimah bin Abu Jahl would often place the Mus-haf on his face and say, "The Book of my Lord, the words of my Lord" and he would cry out of the fear of God.
If I, furthermore, knew for certain that the coming Ramadan is my last, I would never dare commit a sin or eagerly browse newspapers and magazines looking for show times of drama series, movies and disreputable programs. Actually, moments of our lives are limited. How come then that I destroy the huge structure of fasting, night prayers, recitation of the Qur'an and charities I construct during Ramadan through a look at unlawful thing, a foul word or an impudent laugh?!
In my last Ramadan, I do not accept wasting time through even sleeping for so long. How come then that I make way for committing sins, evils and bad deeds. Actually, this is by no means reasonable.
If I, in addition, knew for certain that the coming Ramadan is my last, I would not hoard money for myself or my heirs. Considering what is beneficial for me before my Lord, I would relentlessly look for a poor person in need, a helpless student, a young man who cannot afford marriage expenses, a Muslim in a calamity or any other kind of needy persons.
I would provide for such kinds of people through my money even if little. Actually, money given in charity remains while the money I keep for myself vanishes away.
Besides, If I knew the coming Ramadan to be my last, I would not forget the multiple calamities and hot issues of my Ummah. I would be interested in how to meet my Lord while I am not concerned with my Ummah, i.e. besieged Palestine, occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, persecuted Chechnya, oppressed Kashmir, divided Sudan and destroyed Somalia. In brief, Muslims are totally heedless while there Ummah is endeavored by world monsters!
What am I to say to my Lord when I stand before Him tomorrow?!
Will it be suitable then to give the answer that I was busy watching a football match, pursuing art news or even providing for myself and children.
Where is the feeling of the one Ummah?!!
Do we share in the fever and sleeplessness the pains felt by Muslims all over the world?!!
Even if busy performing obligatory and supererogatory prayers, is it a valid excuse before the Lord to have forgotten men who are killed, women who are kidnapped, children who are startled, houses that are destroyed, lands that are bulldozed and inviolabilities that are encroached upon?
In fact, the Prophet (peace be upon him) broke his fast and ordered Muslims to do the same while on the way to conquer Mecca after the Quraish and Banu Bakr tribes had committed treason.
This indicates that fast may be put off while Jihad may never be put off.
This is not my or your Fiqh (jurisprudence). Actually, this is how the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself judged the matter.
So far, I have presented how my last Ramadan should be.
In a better sense, this is how my whole life should be.
What if I live after Ramadan? Shall I accept to be seen by Allah in Sahwwal or Rajab while living in heedlessness, unconsciousness and oblivion?
How wonderful was the advice given by Abu Bakr to Abu 'Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (may Allah be pleased with both of them) while paying him farewell before the latter's departure to Jihad in Levant!
Abu Bakr said, "O' Abu 'Ubaidah! Do good, live as a Mujahid (struggler in Allah's Cause) and die as a martyr!"
Oh my God! What a wonderful advice and what a deep understanding!
Thus, good deeds are not enough. You have to be keen to reach the tip of Islam's peak, i.e. Jihad in Allah's Cause. Jihad covers all wakes of life, including Jihad in the war against Muslims' enemies, verbal Jihad said to an unjust ruler, Jihad using the Qur'an in face of those who cast doubts, Jihad using Da'wah to awaken those heedless of Allah's religion, Jihad persisting in performing acts of worship and Jihad refraining from committing sins.
This is how a Mujahid's life should be.
In fact, there is a great difference between a person who practiced Jihad for one or two minutes and another who practiced life-long Jihad.
Furthermore, Jihad is not even enough!
We should, moreover, die as martyrs.
It may be argued that we cannot chose to die as martyrs as we do not chose the time, place or manner of our death.
Anyhow, I do not need to speak in length to explain this delicate notion. Suffice to refer to one Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in order to grasp the notion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever sincerely asks Allah to grant him martyrdom, Allah makes him attain the station of the martyrs, even if he dies in his own bed."
Please, dear Muslim brothers and sisters, pay a special attention to the Prophet's word "sincerely". Actually, Allah is fully aware of our inner intentions and secrets of hearts.
My dear Ummah,
It is not beneficial to disguise under a feigned appearance.
In our last Ramadan, we should never outwardly do acts of worship. Rather, we are to know that obeying the Merciful is our way to Paradise and that neither good deeds benefit Him nor do bad deeds harm Him. It is we alone who may benefit from doing good deeds, practicing Jihad and martyrdom.
My Dear Ummah, embark on good deeds, practicing Jihad and being sincere.
Undoubtedly, the remainder of our lifetime is less than the past.
In fact, a wise person is one who keeps a watch over his bodily desires and passions, and checks himself from that which is harmful and strives for that which will benefit him after death.
I ask Allah to glorify Islam and Muslims.
Dr. Ragheb ElSergany