“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him.” (Quran, 65:2-3)
Ramadan as a Trainer in the Awareness of Allah (Taqwa)
Humans, by nature, are prone to commit sins and crimes. This tendency gets accelerated when they believe that at the time of the commission of sins or crimes nobody sees them or there is no likelihood of their being caught (Ansderson 2002). This sort of belief leads them to commit crimes even in open space and in broad daylight.
For example, in the eighteenth century, England had the law of capital punishment for pickpocketing and some other 220 crimes. And this punishment used to be executed in public. Astonishingly, however, there were cases where pickpocketing took place at the time when people were seeing the execution or hanging for the same or similar crimes and the pickpockets were caught red-handed (Norton, n.d.; Anderson 2002 citing Gatrell 1994).
Cases of this sort vouchsafe the fact that even deterrent punishment like the death penalty cannot stop people from committing crimes when they are convinced of their being not seen or caught. Now, the question is – why do they feel so convinced? The answer is that they feel so because they rightly believe that people or law enforcers cannot see them all the time. At the same time, they probably do not have the real belief or knowledge that their Lord-Creator, Allah, is All-Seer, All-Knower, and All-Hearer at all times and at all places. And Allah is the Judge on Day of Judgment Who will take account of this life and reward them with the Heaven for good deeds or condemn them to Hell for bad deeds.
If they believe in Allah, in the true sense of the term, with all these attributes and keep up this belief at all times, they should be able to stay away from sins and crimes. This state of mind is known in Islam as Taqwa (literally Fear of Allah) or Awareness of Allah’s ever vigilance of our thoughts and actions, open or hidden.
Taqwa is the root of all good deeds. This is more effective than a constant CCTV camera that may be fooled by people. But nobody can escape Allah’s knowledge and sight nor can what he keeps secret in his heart (Qur’an, 3:5; 40:19) escape Him. Besides, Allah’s kingdom reigns everywhere. Man cannot go beyond the limits of His kingdom (Qur’an, 55:33). Both in life and death, man is in His control (Qur’an, 11:56). Eventually, he will be placed before Him for reckoning on the Day of Judgment (Qur’an, 62:8). By feeling of Allah’s presence with him by knowledge and sight at all times he can regulate his will and actions. This is how Taqwa is important in human life.
Attaining Taqwa in Ramadan
Now, how to attain this quality of Taqwa? Allah prescribes fasting as a means of the attainment of Taqwa, especially fasting in the month of Ramadan. To quote Him, “O you who have Faith (Imaan)! Fasting (As-Siam) has been ordained for you the way it was ordained for the people before you so that you can receive Taqwa” (Qur’an, 2:183). So how does Ramadan fasting help us fear Allah or obey Him?
Fasting makes us practice self-restraint by refraining from, let alone prohibited (haram) things, even permissible (halal) things during the day time like eating, drinking, and spousal sexual intercourse. Even though we have opportunities to do these things in private without people seeing or knowing, we do not do so because of the sense of Taqwa.
For this reason, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him- PBUH), calls fasting a “shield” against all sinful acts (Sunan an- Nasa’i 2228). If, however, fasting cannot prevent one from an evil deed like lying, then its purpose fails and hence Allah will not accept such fasting (Sahih al-Bukhari 1903). Again, fasting encourages us to do, in addition to obligatory actions, extra good deeds like Salah al-tarawih, reading Qur’an (preferably completing the whole Qur’an), and making optional charity (sadaqah). Thus, for one month, we develop a habit of not doing prohibited things and practicing good deeds, which should continue for the rest of the year.
Besides this, Ramadan trains us in Sabr (Patience). The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) calls it a “month of patience” (Sunan an-Nasa’i 2408). One of the most important virtues (sifat) a Muslim should have is patience, which includes three things.
First, they must guard themselves against all prohibited (Haram) acts. Second, they must be firm in the obedience of Allah and His Prophet (PBUH). Third, they must have full trust (tawakkul) in Allah and bear with any problem/hardship or calamity that may befall them from Allah as a test (Muhammad Shafi 1998, pp. 401-402). In Ramadan, for the fasting to be accepted by Allah, as said above, we have to obey Allah’s commands (ahkam), obligatory or optional, and stay away from sins even in privacy. Plus we have to endure the hardship of hunger and thirst. In this way, we have an opportunity to attain all these three types of patience.
Penultimately, it should be relevant to remember how rewarding Taqwa is in the Court of Allah. According to one Hadith, Taqwa will be a reason for people to enter Jannah (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2004). Patience, a branch of Taqwa, will also be rewarded likewise (Sunan Ibn Mājah 1597). That is why our Holy Prophet (PBUH) advises us to “have Taqwa of Allah wherever you may be” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1987).
Apart from the reward in the afterlife, Taqwa is a means of the solution of worldly problems as well. To quote the Holy Qur’an (65:2-3):
And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him.”
In conclusion, probably because of the Taqwa and character-building role of fasting and its associated rewards and goodness in both worlds, Allah ordained this hukm (command of fasting) for all foregoing monotheistic people as well like the followers of Prophet ‘Isa (Jesus) and Prophet Musa (Moses) [peace be upon both of them] (Qur’an, 2:183). As such, it is a sine qua non for a true Muslim. Its importance cannot be overemphasized.
David A. Anderson, ‘The Deterrence Hypothesis and Picking Pockets at the Pickpocket’s Hanging’, American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 4, Issue 2 (Fall 2002), pp. 295-313.
Jami’ al-Tirmidhī 1987 at https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2012/02/17/akhlaq-fear- allah-wherever/ accessed on 10 April 2020. (Found here).
Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2004 at https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/27/ accessed on 9 April 2020. (Found here).
Muhammad Shafi (1998), Ma’riful Qur’an, (New Delhi: Idara Isha’at-E-Diniyat (P) Ltd., 1998).
Rictor Norton (n.d.), Pickpockets & Shoplifters, https://www.academia.edu/35720720/Pickpockets_and_Shoplifters/ accessed on 8 April 2020. (Found here).
Sahih al-Bukhari 1903 at https://sunnah.com/bukhari/30 accessed on 7 April 2020 Sunan an-Nasa’i 2228 at https://sunnah.com/nasai/22/ accessed on 7 April 2020.
Sunan an-Nasa’i 2408 at https://sunnah.com/nasai/22/ accessed on 8 April 2020. (Found here).
Sunan Ibn Mājah 1597 at https://ahadith.co.uk/chapter.php?page=17&cid=164&rows=10/ accessed on 10 April 2020. (Found here).
- A. C. Gatrell, 1994. The Hanging Tree. New York: Oxford University Press.