Jumuah lecture on Friday 24 April 2020 (30 Shabaan 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
It is our annual tradition to welcome the blessed month of Ramadaan by discussing the sermon delivered by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) on the last Friday of Shabaan. This remarkable sermon was recorded by the 1st Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s).
I would like to draw your attention to the first paragraph of this special sermon on the last Friday of Shabaan, where our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) addressed the people as follows, to usher in this special month:
“O People! Indeed, ahead of you is the blessed month of Allah. A month of blessing, mercy and forgiveness. A month which with Allah is the best of months. Its days, the best of days, its nights, the best of nights, and its hours, the best of hours. It is the month which invites you to be the guests of Allah and invites you to be one of those near to Him. Each breath you take glorifies him; your sleep is worship; your deeds are accepted, and your supplications are answered.”
These sentences require a great deal of understanding and reflection. It is very deep! What does it mean when Rasulullah (SAWA) says that this is the month where we are invited to be the guests of Almighty Allah (SWT)?
There are at least 3 angles to explore on this question:
- Guests must prepare for a special reception;
- Allah (SWT) is the most gracious host;
- Capacity of the guest to receive
GUESTS MUST PREPARE FOR A SPECIAL RECEPTION
Firstly, the value of the hospitality very much depends on the status of the guest. If you are invited by a dear friend or family member, then it is not a big deal, because it is very much a homely feeling and no preparation is needed. However, if you are invited by a very important personality like the Grand Marja (spiritual authority) you will feel very excited about this invitation.
If you want to join this type of reception, then naturally, you have to prepare. Now, what if your host is Almighty Allah (SWT)? The question is, what type of preparation do we require to be adequately prepared for a reception hosted by Almighty Allah (SWT), Lord of all the worlds?
ALLAH (SWT) IS THE MOST GRACIOUS HOST
Secondly, the reception differs accordingly to the level of nobility and generosity of the host. If you are invited by someone who is very generous, then you can imagine the wide variety of meals on the table to enjoy. This is because the host is generous! Naturally, you find people who are more generous than others. So now, what if your host is Almighty Allah (SWT), the absolute generous and absolute honourable and gracious? It is His generosity which is infinite and whose graciousness has no limits.
You can imagine, what will be offered at this reception has no limit! This is another important aspect to reflect on with this holy month where we are the guests of Almighty Allah (SWT) and His infinite generosity.
CAPACITY OF THE GUEST TO RECEIVE
The third angle to reflect on is what do we expect from this generosity of the host? Naturally, if your host is someone whose generosity is limited to material favours, then you will only enjoy such a person’s generosity in the form of material blessings. However, if your host is Almighty Allah (SWT), then the pleasure of this hospitality and reception is not confined to food or other material benefits. It goes way beyond this.
On this aspect, we do not need to only look at the type of host we have. We also have to look at the guest, because perhaps the host is very generous and has no restrictions or limitations, but the capacity of the guest to receive is limited. The host is granting and rewarding, but unfortunately, the guest has a small pot to receive!
We have often given the example of taking a container to a river to fill it with water. You will receive the amount of water which is equal to the capacity of your container. You cannot say that the river only gave me water equal to the capacity of the container. The river has no limitation, but your container cannot hold more than its limited capacity of let’s say 25 litres. So, the problem is your capacity to receive.
This is therefore the third angle, namely the infinite generosity of the host on the one hand against the limited capacity of the guest on the other hand.
SPECIAL GUESTS RECEIVE EXTRA IN RAMADAAN!
In this month of Ramadaan, some people expect the blessings, mercy, kindness of Almighty Allah (SWT). There is no doubt about this. However, some guests have a greater capacity and will receive a commensurate greater amount.
Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 72 of Surah Tauba (chapter 9 of the Holy Quran):
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا وَمَسَاكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِي جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ ۚ وَرِضْوَانٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
“Allah has promised to the believing men and the believing women gardens, beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual abode; and best of all is Allah’s goodly pleasure; that is the grand achievement.”
Indeed, we all expect from our Heavenly host, Almighty Allah (SWT), to grant us a nice place in paradise and forgiveness of our sins. But this verse explains that some guests have a greater capacity to receive from the treasures of Almighty Allah (SWT). So, the question to ask ourselves is, what do we want to achieve from the divine feast in this auspicious month of Ramadaan? Besides forgiveness and paradise, we hope to receive the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT).
THREE GREAT PLEASURES TO ACHIEVE IN RAMADAAN
A great religious scholar explained that this feeling of excitement to be the guest of Almighty Allah (SWT) can only be felt by someone who has the Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT). He further explains that there are 3 pleasures that one can realize along this journey.
The first pleasure is the thrill of love of Almighty Allah (SWT) explained in verse 165 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran):
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَتَّخِذُ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَنْدَادًا يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللَّهِ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِلَّهِ ۗ
“And there are some among men who take for themselves objects of worship besides Allah, whom they love as they love Allah.”
The second pleasure is the enjoyment of communicating secretly with Almighty Allah (SWT). The pleasure of dialogue with Allah (SWT), opening that channel of communication with Him. Verses 1 and 2 of Surah Mu’minoon (chapter 23 of the Holy Quran) refer:
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“Successful indeed are the believers,
الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ
Who are humble in their prayers.”
The third pleasure is that of realizing that Almighty Allah (SWT) is kind to me. It’s the pleasure of knowing that we are the subject of His attention and His kindness is devoted to us. This pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) cannot match any other blessing.
With this sinful tongue and heart full of shortcomings and sins, I advise myself and all of you to enter this divine feast with this intention, that we could at least feel and touch even at a very lower level, the pleasure of love of Allah (SWT), the pleasure of speaking to Allah (SWT) and the pleasure of realizing that we are the subject of His attention and kindness.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to be amongst those who benefit from this auspicious month of mercy, blessings and forgiveness.
IMPORTANT REMINDERS OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN RAMADAAN
While this is the month of Ibadah (acts of worship) and spiritual upliftment, it is also the month of our social responsibility towards others. This year, we unfortunately do not have that privilege to offer Iftar the way we normally would.
In the same sermon from Rasulullah (SAWA) at the end of Shabaan, he spoke about provided Iftar to the fasting people. Since we don’t have the platform to congregate at mosque or our homes this year for Iftar, due to the lockdown challenges, it does not mean that we cannot achieve that Sawaab. We can indeed share by contributing towards Iftar for those who do not have anything to break their fast in these very serious challenging times.
There are so many people who are jobless, who have no source of income. The month of Ramadaan is here and they are with their families without basic needs and groceries for Suhoor and Iftar. If we cannot provide Iftar directly the way we always do, this year we should contribute towards the expenses of Iftar for those who are underprivileged and earn the reward of providing Iftar to the people who fast.
Aside from those who are fasting, we continue to have a primary responsibility to those in the greatest need during this lockdown crisis.
Once again, we welcome this sacred month of Ramadaan with an exciting line-up of online programs to be stream off our Facebook page.