It is already 1438 years since Ramadan’s iconic battle of Badr, and if the daily conversation topics of Muslim leaders and Daies during the blessed month only revolved around which mosque offers a more sumptuous Iftar or nicer recitations by the Imam, it would not be a surprise if the present despicable state of the ummah continues.
It is undoubtedly great when the Daies excel one another in their Ilallah and good deeds (fastabiqul khairat, 2:148), particularly in completing the 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh, enlivening the night with prayers and recitation of the Quran, and offering more and more sadaqah during the day. Those excellent acts of Ibadah are for an individual Muslim’s personal improvement. The question is do they contribute significantly to the collective wellbeing and revitalisation of the ummah?
Or to put it in another way, does a Daie’s intensified personal Ibadah during the blessed month of Ramadan make him a better Daie, an agent of Da’wah who carries the obligation of bringing other people to Allah?
A Daie’s intent and impact of fasting in Ramadan: Taqwa.
Muslim scholars have long discussed what Allah means by Taqwa in the well-known verse of the Quran about the goal of Ramadan, namely, righteousness, God-fearing, getting spiritually closer to Allah; or a lengthy definition of it such as ‘a state of consciousness where one constantly feels the presence of his Creator, obeys His commands in order to attain His pleasures, and avoids disobedience to Him, not only out of fear of Him but also for the love of Him’.
In the teaching of Islam, Taqwa is the measure of a believer’s worth. Hence, it is equally important for a Muslim, not to mention a Daie, to acquire more or a higher state of Taqwa.
“Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (al-Quran 49:13)
Let us ask, would a God-fearing Daie give priority to the attainment of self-fame or self-glory over the interest of the ummah? Would a righteous Daie do his preaching to the people while charging them a fortune for his own pocket?
“And give food — despite their desire for it — to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, saying, “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah, seeking neither reward nor gratitude from you. Indeed, We fear from our Lord a Day austere and distressful.” (al-Quran 76:8-10)
Let us ask further, would a Daie who is supposed to be spiritually close to Allah fall for corruption, mismanagement, and prejudices, which are all clear forms of vices and evils forbidden by Allah?
“The biggest enemy of Islam is the ignorant Muslim, whose ignorance leads him to intolerance, whose actions destroy the true image of Islam, and when the people look at him, they think that Islam is what he is.” (Sheikh Ahmed Deedat)
Would a Daie who aspires to attain Taqwa be satisfied with his voluminous personal Ibadah while leaving the ummah to be trampled over by Islamophobia, maligned by anti-Islam propaganda, confused by rivalling ideologies, and even threatened with physical oppression and violence as is currently experienced by fellow Palestinian and Ughyur Muslims?
Some anecdotes of the great Daie’s Taqwa.
Let us reminisce the letter from Abdullah ibn Mubarak to Fudail ibn Iyaad, concerning the priority of a Daie:
‘O ye who worships in the vicinity of the Two Holy Masjids! If you but see us, you will realise that you are only jesting in worship. He who brings wetness to his cheek with his tears should know that our necks are being wet by our blood. He who retires his horses without purpose, know that our horses are getting tired of battles. Scent of perfume is yours, while ours is the glimmer of spears and the stench of dust (in battle).’
A Daie chasing after Taqwa during Ramadan shouldn’t feel that his extra effort for Ibadah is adequate to be a remedy for the disease of the ummah. This is not to say that the Daie should not make the most of Ramadan for his personal Ibadah, for ar-Rasul and the Sahaba did, in fact, intensify their ibadah during Ramadan.
The difference is that Ibadah in Ramadan should be for strengthening the foundation of a Daie’s Ilallah and of Da’wah.
The early observance of Qiyam al-Layl, for example, was imposed on ar-Rasul and the Sahaba so that it would prepare them for the daunting tasks ahead:
“O you the (sleeping) enwrapped one! Arise (to pray) the night, except for a little — half of it, or reduce it a little; or a little more — and recite the Quran (properly) in a measured way. (For) We will soon send upon you a weighty revelation. Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence (of heart and tongue) and more suitable for words.” (al-Quran 73:1-6)
It was by the Qiyam al-Layl that they should seek protection and strength in facing up to the ensuing challenges and obstacles of Da’wah. That obligation of Ibadah was never about themselves alone but about fulfilling their responsibility of doing Da’wah:
“So remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with exclusive devotion. He is the Lord of the East and the West; there is no god but He. So take Him alone for your Guardian. And bear patiently the vain things they utter, and gracefully forsake them. And leave Me with (the matter of) the deniers, those of ease (in life), and allow them respite a little.” (al-Quran 73:8-11)
It was during the month of Ramadan that the great battle of Badr took place, regarding which Allah s.w.t kept mentioning about Taqwa to remind the ummah, including its leaders and Daies, of Allah’s help if, first and foremost, they are truly God-fearing:
“Indeed, Allah has given you victory at (the battle of) Badr while you were few in number. Then fear Allah (فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ); perhaps you will be grateful.” (al-Quran 3:123)
“And recall when you (O Prophet) said to the believers: ‘Will it not suffice you that your Lord will aid you by sending down three thousand angels? Most certainly, if you remain patient and conscious of Allah (وَتَتَّقُوا) and the enemy come upon you (attacking) in rage, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand angels having marks (of distinction).” (al-Quran 3:124-125)
Fasting like a layman
Self-interest should never be the basis of a Daie’s Ibadah and good deeds. The same goes for a Daie’s understanding of Taqwa. These should all be for the interest of the ummah, and consequently, for attaining the pleasure of Allah in the Hereafter. In short, a Daie’s life should be totally ummah-oriented as embodied in the meaning of this verse:
“Say, “Surely my prayer, my Ibadah, my life, and my death are all for Allah — Lord of all worlds.” (al-Quran 6:162)
The great Muslim scholar, Imam al-Ghazali in his book, Ihya’ Ulumiddin (The Revival of the Religious Sciences), classified fasting into three distinct levels: the general fast, the specific fast, and the more specific fast.
A layman’s meaning of fasting will always stop at himself where the general fast is about abstaining from indulging his tummy and private parts. The specific fast is about abstaining his limbs. Finally, the more specific fast is about abstaining his heart from vile intentions and thoughts.
By comparison, a Daie’s fasting and ibadah during Ramadan are about strengthening the foundation of his self so he can fulfil his obligation of Da’wah better. His concern should extend far into the plight of the ummah. For instance, it would need him to ensure that the ummah’s fasting during Ramadan is free from a desire for luxurious and wasteful buffets and whether the impoverished had anything to break their fast with?
In the same light, he need to ensure that the ummah while fasting, ceases from spreading lies and distortions, stealing from people, and misusing the religion for their personal gains?
And over and above that, the ummah abandons its submission to Shaytan; ranging from worshipping of lust and desire, fighting with one another, and dumping the sovereignty of Allah somewhere in the backyard?