Lecture 1 in the Ramadaan series:
DUA IN THE LIGHT OF QURAN & AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
Tuesday 7 May 2018 (1 Ramadaan 1440)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
First of all, I would like to extend my Tabrikaat and greetings on the arrival of this great month of Ramadaan. This most important month of the Islamic calendar, and most important season and time of the year, and this most important period of spiritual upliftment in our life.
We hope and pray that Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to really benefit from this great month of Ramadaan.
RAMADAAN – THE MONTH OF SPIRITUAL REFORM
Naturally, the month of Ramadaan provides a very special and fruitful environment. That well-known sermon of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) at the end of Shabaan to usher in Ramadaan, and various other Hadith narrations, reaffirm that the doors of the Mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) are wide open for us during this month.
So, we can imagine that whatever we seek and want to achieve is much easier now than any other time of the year, since the doors of His Mercy and the gates of His Favours are wide open. Therefore, let us take the maximum benefit of every minute and every second of this extremely crucial and important period, for uplifting us spiritually, for empowering us educationally, and in our understanding of Islam, especially the Holy Quran and its message and teachings.
Let us avail some time in our busy schedules to do a thorough introspection and cleanse our souls and realise who we are, where are we standing, which direction are we going, what have we achieved in the past year and what are we planning to achieve in the year ahead.
I have mentioned many times before, that the calendar year starts with January and Muharram. However, as Sayyed ibn Tawus (r.a) says – the spiritual calendar starts with the month of Ramadaan being the first month!
Therefore, it is indeed the time to accumulate as much spiritual capital as possible. In any business, the first month is about capital injection, because you are going to do business on this capital for the whole year, and will therefore be dependent on it. Sayyed ibn Tawus (r.a) says that spirituality is no different, in that whatever you accumulate and treasure, spiritually and internal strength, you will depend on it for the entire year, until Ramadaan returns.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to achieve as much as possible from this great month, Insha Allah.
DUA ESTABLISHED IN THE QURAN ALONGSIDE FASTING IN RAMADAAN
As we have announced, that for this first half of Ramadaan (first 15 nights) we will have a series of lectures and discussions on the topic of Dua in the light of the Holy Quran and the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
I would like to start by reading verse 186 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran), where Almighty Allah (SWT) addresses Rasulullah (SAWA) as follows:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“When My servants ask you about Me, [tell them that] I am indeed nearmost, I answer the supplicant’s call when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me, and let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly.”
This particular verse is clearly about Dua. The reason I have decided to start our discussion from this particular verse is because it is connected to Dua and amazingly co-mingled amongst all the verses which speak about the month of Ramadaan.
Verses 183 – 187 of Surah Baqarah all relate to Ramadaan and fasting. In these verses, fasting is established and various issues relating to fasting are discussed. Firstly, after establishing fasting, these verses prescribe fasting during the month of Ramadaan, and rules pertaining to fasting and who is eligible etc. This is well-known to all of us as they are commonly recited verses of the Holy Quran.
Now, amongst all these verses discussing fasting and Ramadaan, and the Holy Quran being the ultimate book of guidance and the criterion for truth and falsehood, we find verse 186 noted above giving us the confidence in reaching out to Almighty Allah (SWT) through supplication.
This means that there is a very close connection between dua and Quran and Ramadaan.
RAMADAAN IS THE SPRING OF THE HOLY QURAN!
Naturally, there is absolutely no doubt that the spirit of Ramadaan, and the most important focus in Ramadaan, is the Holy Quran, besides fasting. Another very important aspect of this holy month of Ramadaan noted in the Holy Quran and Hadith narrations is Nawafil salaah during the nights of Ramadaan.
However, besides these areas of focus in the month of Ramadaan, we see that the Holy Quran directly brings about the focus on dua, in between the verses of Ramadaan. Ramadaan is indeed about the Holy Quran, as it is noted in Hadith narrated from the 5th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s), that for everything there is a Spring period, and the Spring of the Holy Quran is Ramadaan!
Let me connect this very beautiful Hadith narration to a narration from Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s), where he says that hearts blossom with the Holy Quran, like trees which flourish in the Spring time!
Now connecting this narration of Imam Ali (a.s) to the narration of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s) leads us to the following premise and subsequent conclusion:
- Imam Ali (a.s): Blossoming of the heart is the Holy Quran;
- Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s): Blossoming of the Holy Quran is Ramadaan
- Conclusion: Ramadaan is the peak of the blossoming of the hearts and souls.
Now, the Holy Quran needs to be the focus for these hearts to really blossom. Recitation, understanding, learning, teaching, absorbing and practicing of the Holy Quran is therefore emphasised. In addition, the Holy Quran teaches us that there is an institution besides the Quran called DUA!
THE INTRINSIC LINK BETWEEN DUA, QURAN AND RAMADAAN
What is Dua in Ramadaan? This will be the focus of our discussion in these sacred nights. To give you the substance of the matter, the connection of the Holy Quran with Dua is to follow!
Our beloved Imam Khomeini (r.a) use to say that the Holy Quran is the message of Almighty Allah (SWT) which descends towards us. This means it is coming from a higher level towards a lower level. This is the Holy Quran, coming from the Lord (SWT) to His servants.
Referring back to verse 186 of Surah Baqarah cited earlier, we read that Almighty Allah (SWT) emphasises that he is very close to us, and we should also reach out to Him. Allah (SWT) reaches out to us through the Holy Quran, and we (His servants) reach out to him through dua!
Quran descends to us from our Lord (SWT), while dua ascends to our Lord (SWT) from us. Dua therefore connects us to Allah (SWT), while Allah (SWT) connects with us through the Quran. This is the connection between dua and the Quran, and between dua and Ramadaan.
Therefore, amazingly in this verse, we see such a great emphasis from Allah (SWT) in wanting to be close to His servants.
Commentators of the Holy Quran have expressed that, in this verse, Almighty Allah (SWT) refers to Himself 7 times and He also refers to His servants 7 times! This is a most remarkable observation for this verse, which is nothing more than 2 sentences long!
This shows the deep connection between dua and the month of Ramadaan.
RAMADAAN GAINS US PROXIMITY TO ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
Ramadaan is of course significant due to various reasons, such as the revelation of the Holy Quran as an example. Interesting to note that according to Hadith narrated by the Ahlul Bait (a.s), other books of divine revelation also occurred during this holy month.
According to Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s), the Torah, Injeel and Zaboor were revealed during this holy month of Ramadaan.
The prime purpose of fasting is indeed to achieve Taqwa (God consciousness). As I explained, attaining Taqwa requires closeness to Almighty Allah (SWT), and closeness to Almighty Allah (SWT) is possible through various channels as expressed in the Holy Quran, of which dua is one of them, along with sincere repentance (istighfaar) and expressing appreciation (shukr).
In verse 7 of Surah Ibrahim (chapter 14 of the Holy Quran), we understand this deep connection between Allah (SWT) and His servants, and His promise of a positive response when we reach out to Him:
لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ
“If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more.”
This deep connection is again relayed in verse 7 of Surah Talaaq (chapter 65 of the Holy Quran):
وَمَنْ يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ
“and whoever trusts in Allah, He is sufficient for him.”
These verses are in addition to verse 186 of Surah Baqarah cited earlier, which establishes that Allah (SWT) is there for us when we call on Him.
Dua is therefore the channel of communication in reaching out to Almighty Allah (SWT).
DUA – THE RICH INSTITUTION IN THE SCHOOL OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
With this background, we find amazing emphasis on dua in the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), throughout the year, but more particularly during the month of Ramadaan. After recitation of the Holy Quran, I don’t think there is any other act of worship (Ibaadah) more highly recommended and virtuous and rewarding than dua, for which the Ahlul Bait (a.s) have taught us numerous duas.
These duas already start from the time the moon is sighted for Ramadaan, then continuing into the first night of Ramadaan etc. That most beautiful dua of Joushan al-Kabeer which is recited to usher in the month of Ramadaan is supplemented by common duas which are recommended to be recited every night and every day.
The collection of duas which is recommended from the Ahlul Bait (a.s) during the month of Ramadaan is vast, and honestly talking, we probably only read 1 tenth, or at most 1 seventh. We do not get a chance to read most of them, unfortunately.
Our fourth Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) read Dua Abu Hamza Thumali every night during Ramadaan, whereas we only try and go through it once in the whole month! Dua Iftitah is another one recommended to be read every night in Ramadaan, which we do consistently.
Similarly, there are plenty of duas recommended to be read during the days of Ramadaan, which we again do not get a chance to do.
In fact, in the rich treasure of duas from the Ahlul Bait (a.s), we find that there are specific duas for every day and every night of Ramadaan. Then, there are specific duas for the special nights like Lailatul Qadr etc. You name it, it is there! This is the rich treasure of duas which the Ahlul Bait (a.s) have left us with.
DUA – OUR CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION WITH ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) have a great emphasis on dua in the month of Ramadaan, which is inspired and connected to what we discussed earlier from the Quranic point of view. The heart of Ramadaan is dua! Therefore, this verse of dua (verse 186 of Surah Baqarah) appears in between verses of fasting in the month of Ramadaan.
This culture is unique to the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), and we don’t find this emphasis in other schools of thought in Islam. This rich legacy of duas of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is mind-blowing, and the rich meaning and inspiration one can derive from these duas is out of this world!
Therefore, I thought that the focus of this introductory lecture should be to draw your attention towards dua and its importance, together with its understanding, from the Holy Quran and the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
The question is, what do the Ahlul Bait (a.s) want us to achieve from reading all of these duas? What do they want to awaken within us? What do they want us to develop through these duas? What is the role of dua in our life? What are the conditions of dua? Why are duas not accepted? What are the important messages from the Ahlul Bait (a.s) through these duas? These are the questions we will unpack through this series of discussions.