Allah did confer abundant blessings on this ummah and elevated it among the nations and one of the these blessings was that He singled out for this Ummah the best times of the year, in which reward is multiplied and the multiplication of reward is a blessing exclusively assigned to this ummah.
Ibn `Umar Narrated: The Prophet ﷺ said,
"Your example and the example of the people of the two Scriptures (i.e. Jews and Christians) is like the example of a man who employed some labourers and asked them, 'Who will work for me from morning till midday for one Qirat?' The Jews accepted and carried out the work. He then asked, Who will work for me from midday up to `Asr prayer for one Qirat?' The Christians accepted and fulfilled the work. He then said, 'Who will work for me from the `Asr till sunset for two Qirats?' Those are you (i.e. the Muslims). The Jews and the Christians became angry and said, 'Why should we work more and get lesser wages?' (Allah) said, 'Have I withheld part of your right?' They replied “No”. He said, 'This is My Blessing, I bestow upon whomever I wish.' [Sahih Bukhari]
This is the favour of Allah upon this Ummah. He increased our reward multiple fold, and made for us seasons in which sins are erased, and mercy descends, seasons which are frequent during the year. They renew our faith, and bolster our resolve. Never does the believer leave a season in which he is reminded more of Allah, except that he closely approaches another.
The virtues of the month of Rajab
And we are now in the month of Rajab, the sacred month which was exalted by some of the Arab tribes pre-Islam. But it was also a month that our Messenger ﷺ focused on every year. Usamah ibn Zaid asked the Messenger ﷺ:
Usamah bin Zaid said:
I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Shaban.' He said: 'That is a month to which people do not pay much attention, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds be taken up when I am fasting.' [Sunan an-Nasa'i]
The Messenger’s ﷺ answer indicated a virtue to Rajab, as al-Imam Ashawkaani said the companions used to exalt Rajab and Ramadan with fasting, and would forget about Sha’baan.
And Rajab is without a doubt from the sacred months of the year. It is the opinion of many scholars that sins are multiplied during the sacred months, as they were singled out with the prohibition of oppression and aggression.
Much of what has been reported from specific prayers during Rajab is either weak, or has been classified as fabricated in some cases.
What has been authenticated, is the recommendation to fast some days of the sacred months and leave some days.
And fasting is of the greatest deeds performed by the Muslim.
It was narrated from Abu Saeed Al-Khudri that the Prophet ﷺ said:
"Whoever fasts a day in the cause of Allah, Allah will separate his face from the heat of Hell (a distance of) seventy autumns."
And in the hereafter, there are only two destinations. Therefore the one distanced from the Fire is logically brought closer to Paradise. May Allah make us from its inhabitants.
And to attain the great reward of observing the Sunnah of fasting during the month of Sha’baan, Rajab is an opportunity to make up any days still owed from the previous Ramadan.
So while this lockdown is still on, with many people confined to their homes, and their movement is minimal, let us observe the fast as frequently as we can, not least so that we can accustom our bodies and condition them before the start of the blessed month of Ramadan.
Preparing for Ramadan
Ramadan is the highlight and climax of the year for the believer, which he anticipates with eagerness and zeal. Ramadan is not a sprint, but a marathon. A month where the believer races, pacing himself to attain the greatest rewards and highest stations through perseverance upon worship throughout. But the endurance needed for such a race is built in the run up to the month of Ramadan.
We must know that worship requires stamina and resolve. A player sat on the bench must warm up before substituting his team mate, or he risks injury. To achieve a car’s top speed, the driver must accelerate, moving from the lowest to the highest gear, or he risks damaging the car. So too must the believer prepare for Ramadan, so as not to enter the race ill-prepared and collapse at the first hurdle.
The Messenger’s companions would prepare in advance of Ramadan, where it is known they would make dua for their fast of the previous Ramadan to be accepted for half a year, and during the second half they would ask Allah to extend their lives to witness Ramadan.
Now that we have entered Rajab, the hard work begins for those who wish to excel in Ramadan, as was the tradition of our righteous predecessors. Some of them used to describe Rajab as the month of planting the seed, and Sha’baan the month of irrigation or watering, and Ramadan as the month of harvest. Others scholars said Rajab is the month of the wind, and Sha’baan the month of clouds, and Ramadan the month of rain, with which descend the blessings. While other scholars said the months of the year are like a tree, which sprouts its leaves in Rajab, blooms in Sha’baan, and its fruits picked in Ramadan.
And thus, the hard work begins from now dear brothers and sisters.
Allah’s plentiful rewards and blessings are awaiting the runners in the race of the year, those who participate in a righteous noble competition with their fellow believers.
The key to getting your deeds accepted in Ramadan
So now with Ramadan fast approaching, and during this opportune time of the year in which transgression is strongly prohibited, it is necessary to start our preparations. And these preparations begin with repentance and lessening our burden of sins. For sins are incurred by disobedience, and disobedience is contrary to taqwa (God-conciousness), and the prerequisite for acceptance of deeds is taqwa, as Allah said:
God accepts only of the God-fearing [5:27]
Therefore the first condition for qualifying for the race that is Ramadan is taqwa. So let us increase in our istighfaar (seeking forgiveness) and tawbah (repentence), in order to be eligible for admission into the competition of the year.
The prizes in store for those who compete are lucrative and enticing. But the one who does not know the results of competing will not be so eager to participate. But the one who knows that the prizes is what no eyes have seen, and ears have heard, and what no mind has conceived, and knows what Allah has prepared in this life and the next for those who draw near to Him with righteous deeds- the one who knows this, knows the prizes are worth the exertion and the escalation of their efforts.
For students exert themselves according to how high the stakes are, not least when they approach the finals. They stay up the nights, studying, making notes, revising and memorising. They learn their curriculum inside out.
Our curriculum is Allah’s Book. We must reconnect with it from now. Read, memorise and revise. Study its commentaries. Compare and contrast the sayings of the scholars. Just as the student does with their further readings. For those who wish to excel.
Many people who witnessed Ramadan last year are no longer with us. And many of us will not make it to this coming Ramadan. Therefore, let us observe an intention to make the most of the coming Ramadan, and begin serious preparations from now, to display to Allah the sincerity and truthfulness of our intention.
Let us increase in recitation of the Qur’an, increase in dhikr (remembrance of God), increase in fasting, increase in charity, decrease our sins with repentance, so that if Allah wills for us to witness this Ramadan, we enter it with pace and momentum.
May Allah bless for us Rajab and Sha’baan, and extend our lives to witness Ramadan. May Allah make us of those who fast often, and of the generous in giving, the constant in recitation, frequent in dhikr, conscious of Him, obedient to Him, submissive before Him, loving of Him, yearning to meet Him.