Countdown to grand finale — last ashra of #Ramadan
As of writing this (afternoon of 24th Ramadan in the subcontinent) much of the holy month is already gone. The first ashra (ten days) of rahmat (God’s mercy) has gone by ; the second of maghfirat (God’s pardon) too gone, and we are already half way through the last and, in many ways, the most crucial ashra of nijaat (release from damnation).
The last ashra is the culmination of all our efforts, trials and sacrifices of the preceding ashras of the holy month. We try to compensate for the mistakes, insufficiencies and lapses of the earlier days and nights of the month with greater devotion, care, focus, attention to detail and hard work in this ashra. This ashra is the crux of the month as all is well that ends well. We have a small window of opportunity still left open for us to try our best.
It is a happy arrangement that God has made by placing the Lailatal Qadr (night of power) in this ashra so that we get the maximum benefit by striving harder towards the end of the month. In Islam this single night is so important that prayer and supplication of this night is more virtuous than prayers of a thousand months. If one prays well in that night one will be rewarded by God as if one has prayed for more than 80 years. For some reason God has not pinpointed that single night of the year, but the Prophet (PBUH) has told the Ummah to seek it in the odd nights of the last ashra (21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 29th).
The Prophet (PBUH) has warned that if someone misses the blessings and virtues of this night one is a loser in every sense. In the last third of the month the Prophet (PBUH) used often to leave home and stay at the mosque till the sighting of the moon of Eid. In his final years, including the year of his death, he stayed at the mosque in the last ashra of the month. This ritual is called aitkaaf and it is fard alal kifayah, which means if one person in a particular locality does it, the aitkaaf would be sufficient for the entire habitation. However, if more do it each of them would be rewarded. But if no one does it, the entire locality would earn God’s displeasure.
An important gain of aitkaaf is that a person doing it (motakif) is virtually sure of getting the blessings of Lailatal Qadr. Persons who are not able to exert to the full to get the blessings of Lailatal Qadr have been advised to exert to the maximum at least in the night of 29th Ramadhan from 12 O’clock at night till the adhan (call for prayer) of Fajr at the break of dawn and hope from Allah that He would grant him Lailatal Qadr’s blessings.
It is important to keep in mind that the holy Quran descended from God’s seat to samaai ardh (the sky that envelops us, the earthings) to be finally revealed to the holy Prophet (PBUH) over several years. Hence, the month of Ramadhan in general and Lailatal Qadr in particular have an extraordinary significance for the Quran. Reading the Quran brings merit in any season or month, but reading it in Ramadhan is a more meritorious. Reading it on Lailatal Qadr is even more so. Read the Quran (with its meaning and exegesis, preferably) as frequently as you can in whatever remains of the month, and particularly in the night of the 27th and 29th of this month. That means we have only two nights left for us to seek Lailatal Qadr in.
However, we must be thankful to God that Ramadhan’s blessings do not end with the end of the month after sighting of the moon of Eid. Continue the intensity of prayers and supplications even after the Eid moon is sighted (Islamic calendar being lunar) and a new month begins. On this night God releases from eternal damnation virtually innumerable persons who, with their sins, had made hell mandatory for themselves. This continues till the Eid prayers next morning when we gather usually at Eidgahs (large enclosures open to the sky), to offer our prayers. At that time also God releases as many persons from damnation, which they had earned for themselves with their sins.
Eid prayers are for offering thanks to God for having given us such a blessed month of fasts, prayers and supplications to earn His pleasure. We pray to God to accept our fasts and acts of worship and forgive us our sins. It is also a day of rejoicing for Muslims. The Prophet (PBUH) said all peoples have their day of rejoicing and this (Eid) is ours.
Significantly, fasting is prohibited on Eid. Muslims are expected to eat something sweet before living for the Eidgah or some large mosque in the neighbourhood in their holiday best. There is some science in the insistence on eating something sweet. A month-long fast in the days depletes carbohydrate reserves in the blood and liver (glycogen). Eating something sweet replenishes it, improves mood and energy level.
Finally, we must remember that the happiest person on the day of the grand finale, Eid, will be the person who has exerted the most in the way of God. The countdown for the day has begun. Prepare for that day with dedication. Happy Eid.