The Last One-Third by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (July 19, 2014)
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
I am writing this column for the second time in a month, although usually it comes only once in a month. The departure from routine is because of the significance of the holy month of Ramadhan.
Today (that is, since last night) we have entered the last ashrah of the holy month. See, how quickly time passes, especially good times. And there could be no better times for a Muslim than Ramadhan, every moment of which is full of God’s blessings. Every act of piety or prayer brings 70 times more reward than in the rest of the year.
Muslims are aware of it. Hence, they offer not just the faraid (mandatory) prayers, but a lot of nawafil (optional) prayers as well in this month. As a rupee spent in Allah’s way for the benefit of the poor, the indigent, the sick and others deserving such help is worth spending seventy in other months, most Muslims pay their zakat in this month.
By the way, this practice is not mandatory and has its limitations. Zakat is paid on assets over which a year has passed since its acquisition. It is not necessary that all acquisitions are made in Ramadhan, so that a year would pass between the acquisition and the next Ramadhan. Secondly, it is extremely difficult for zakat collectors to travel in Ramadhan to collect it.
As of now, the moment of writing this, we have crossed the ashrah of Mercy and that of Deliverance. This is the ashrah of permanent freedom from Hell. During this ashrah innumerable people will be freed from Hell who, otherwise, had earned hell-fire with their sins. This ashrah is for maximum striving and trying to attain the ultimate blessing of Allah.
In the Sub-continent many people will observe aitkaaf from sunset today. It involves confining oneself to an aloof corner of the mosque for the rest of the ashrah and spend most of the time in prayer and Allah’s remembrance, some more prayer and meditation, and little sleep. One goes out only for the call of nature, a bath, or to console the sick. Aitkaf ends with the sighting of the Eid moon.
An aitkaf brings virtue equal to two Hajjs and two Umrahs, accepted and blessed by Allah. This is a great opportunity for people who do not have the means to go on a pilgrimage to Makkah Mukarramah. A point to remember here is that it is a fard alal kifayah for a community near a mosque. This means if even one person in the community observes aitkaf it is taken as an offering from everyone in the community. If not a single person from the community offers it, everyone will incur sin. Thankfully, every mosque has several motakif (people in aitkaf).
The priceless jewel of the ashrah and the month is Lailat-al-Qadr (night of power), a night in which worship brings the rewards of worship of a thousand months. There is no surety about which night of the last ashrah this comes, but this much is sure that it comes in one of the odd nights (21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 29th) of the holy month.
Wake up frequently on these nights and offer prayers. Or, better still, don’t sleep on these nights at all, pray and read from the Quran and spend the night in God’s remembrance. This is the Prophet’s (PBUH) way of doing it, and his way is the best way.
One advantage for the motakif is that they are sure to get Lailat-al-Qadr. If you cannot strive too hard over those five nights, make sure you do so on the 27th night. Do not let this great opportunity to slip you by. Best of luck and salam.