Thanks to God Who granted us the great bounty of life. Man must always be thankful, that is, he should appreciate every bounty. The basis of every bounty and its benefits is the life of man. When life ends, the file is closed. Thereafter, there is no more gain. If man knows the original and main bounty, the perfection of bounty, the benefits of them all turn to life. When your breathing is over, neither is there any remedy for your sins, which can be purified by repentance, nor your reward is going to increase. How true has the poet said:
How much valuable it is! He is stupefied. He understands in the grave. He realizes inside the grave. He breathes on dust. How many benefits were there in the world (during his life), which he could have obtained? At last, when he realizes he says, “My Lord, send us back that we may perform good deeds! My God! Now I have understood how valuable my lifespan was. How effective were the hours of my life! I have realized only now. O Lord! Make me return so that I may take full benefit of my life.” It is then said to him, “Never. It is over. No more life now. Who has been given two lives that you may also be given? Everyone who has died has finished his role. Now you know what a great bounty God gave you that once again the holy month of Ramadhan has been a part of your life?”
Recall those who were here last year but now they are beneath the earth, even those who were younger than you have met with some accident and died. Now that you and I are here, how many times must we say, “Praise be to Allah the Lord of the worlds. I want to be thankful.” So thank God as Ramadhan has arrived once again and we are fortunate to get its benefits. Firsts of all pray for the dead and know that special emphasis for prayers for the dead has been made during Ramadhan. During the month of Ramadhan, the dead have more than usual hopes from the living that they (the living) may send supplications for them and also make charities for them. O Lord! Now that You have favored us and preserved us, give us good sense also so that we may thank You and may take full benefit from Your bounty. Let us now begin in the name of Allah and gain the benefits.
The first and foremost benefit is by reciting Salawat1 as many times as possible, every day and every night, a thousand times in a sitting. Say, “O Allah, bless Muhammad and the Progeny of Muhammad.” After the ‘Asr2 prayer say a hundred times, “O Allah, bless Muhammad and the Progeny of Muhammad and hasten their reappearance.”3 Doubtlessly, among all the recitals mentioned for Ramadhan is the recitation of Salawat during the day and night of this month. Only one narration is sufficient to realize its importance.
Shaykh Saduq has, in his book Amali, narrated authentically that from the Asr time on Thursday, a number of angels holding books made up of heavenly silver and pens made of heavenly gold come down to the earth and they rise up by sunset on Friday. Their only job is to note down the Salawat recited for Muhammad and his Progeny.
Now as regards the subjects in the Holy Qur’an (The month of Ramadhan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed)4, since this is the month of Qur’an, the topics of sermons are based on some holy Surahs, and one of them is Surah Hujurat, so that its subjects and revelations may be heard by all and everyone may benefit from them.
Today, the heavenly revelation is wholly based on the Qur’an of Muhammad, but I have desired to begin with this holy Chapter, because I have been reminded that today is the best of all other days, being the first of Ramadhan. The Holy Prophet had given some admonitions in the sermon on the last Friday of the month of Shaban. I would like to mention about it inter alia in such a manner that it may not become too long.
Ibn Babawahy has, through authentic chains narrated in Amali, that the Holy Prophet said, “O Muslims! Be glad. Be happy, as the Month of God has arrived. How nice. How has it come? With Mercy, with Forgiveness, with Bounties!”
Bounty means abundance, benefit-taking. What abundance can be higher than this? This holy month has lots of bounties. Every breath that is inhaled and exhaled has the reward of reciting: ‘Glory be to Allah’. O the one who fasts in this holy month of Ramadhan! Your breathing in it is also worship. Moreover, your sleep is counted as worship.
Reciting of one verse of Qur’an in this month is like reciting the whole Qur’an in any other month. The offering of two units of obligatory prayer in this month is equal to offering seventy units in any other month.
All efforts are aimed at strengthening of spirit and spiritualism and in weakening the forces of animalism. Doors of Satan are closed. Do you know how it is done? All these tongues are put under strict control. Right from the first night of the month of Ramadhan, a believer does not say any wrong to another believer. Thus, he closes the door of hell. The tongue, which is the door of hell, is shut. One no more backbites anyone. One does not slander others. He does not spread rumors. He does not lie.
The eyes, which were the gates of hell, got closed since last night. One who fasts is restrained from all sins. He does not indulge in dishonesty through these eyes. He does not look at banned scenes. If it happened last night, it happened. Now it should not recur. Ears too are closed. They were also leading to hell and now they are sealed. Thus the gate of hell is locked. The feet which, God-forbid, were moving towards prohibited places have also stopped.
I would like to talk about abundance. The holy month has many bounties. They are beyond men’s counting power. Just know this much that Imam Zainul Abideen says,
“Salam and greeting to you, O month of Ramadhan! Salam to you O Eid of the friends of God!”
The Eid of children is Navrooz (New Year Day). The Eid of the wise people is the holy month of Ramadhan. The festival of those whose character is like animals, who are belly worshippers is the day when their animality multiplies and gets perfected through eating and drinking and all kinds of merry making involving lust and passion. The character of such people is child-like. But what is the day of happiness for wise and intelligent people?
It is when their spirit or soul becomes strong, not their belly or stomach. Belly filling, belly worshipping is the occupation of animals. I tell you, O man! However much you may give to your stomach you will not reach the level of a cow. The cow is, O sirs, more clever than you. The more she eats, the more gratification she gets. After all, it is not this eating and sleeping to which man should give importance. This trend is animal-like. Man eats due to helplessness and compulsion. It is not, like a donkey or cow, an aim in itself. The eating must be only to fulfill the need, not gluttony.
By and by, you have missed yourselves. The month of Ramadhan is for regaining yourselves, for reaching yourselves. Who are you? I mean, your spirit and soul, not your flesh and skin. This flesh and skin is a means of riding for you. Your reality, your true self is something else. It is a precious pearl. A siren is sent to you from the turret of the Divine rostrum. It reveals the Truth. During the month of Ramadhan you close the road leading to animalism. You weaken inclination towards eating more, sleeping more, voluptuousness and excessive talking.
Observing Ramadhan honestly strengthens your spirit. It brightens your soul until, on the basis of knowledge and certainty, you say, “I witness that there is no god except Allah.” You proclaim this with conviction, awareness and your knowledge of the Oneness of the God and… When does man’s soul realize? When his spiritualism becomes strong and his trend towards animalism becomes extremely weak.
Imam Sadiq has said, as mentioned in Furu al-Kafi, that the worst condition of man, in the sight of God is when the stomach of man is full to the brim. A belly full of spiritualism makes man perfect like Barrah. A belly-filled gluttonous man is no different from a cow. (Indeed they eat like the cattle eat, and there is Hellfire is their dwelling). Let us now move forward.
The bounties of Ramadhan are innumerable. So, I say, “O Muslims! Make prostration of thankfulness to God and recite, ‘I thank you my God’ that I did not die and got Ramadhan once more. I obtained the Day of Joy for the friends of God. I got the month of God. I got the bounties of this holy and most precious month.” Fasting during its days, rising earlier at its dawns, its prayers, its recitations, its charities, its remembrances and various kinds of good deeds. This month provides you every good opportunity.
The good deeds towards which you must pay more attention during this holy month are mentioned in the tradition of the Holy Prophet, “Do you want to attract God’s Mercy? If so, then try your utmost to behave nicely and generously with your blood relatives. Join with them.” This good deed can be accomplished in many ways. If your relative is poor, fulfill his needs; give him money. Make him your guest (host them). Who are such relatives? Father and mother, through whom you came into the world, then those who are your relatives through your mother and father, that is, brother, sister, cousins. Likewise look downward: Aunt, children of aunt. Take their care especially in Ramadhan so that God also joins His Mercy with you.
In some advanced countries, social life has become so much disintegrated that the very idea of relationship has been nullified. Who is the father? Who is the mother? No one knows about brother and sister, aunt and other relatives. Free sex and liberty to do all kinds of unlawful deeds is rampant. A few years ago a periodical reported that every year five thousand unlawful children are born only in London. Five thousand fatherless babies are being handed over to the state. Such was the condition twenty years ago. What must be the figure today? I do not know. Then these illegitimate ones became the chief of organizations and heads of institutions. What did they bring on the helpless citizens, a hard fist indeed!
One of my acquaintances quotes, in foreign lands, it has become a system that some millionaires bequeath their wealth to their dogs. I was very much astonished to hear this. So I asked, “Do they have children of their own?” He replied, “Yes, they have, yet they make will in favor of dogs because, they do not believe that their children are their own offspring.” Then, is it not important for Muslims to know the value of Islamic laws and act accordingly? Your family relations are connected with you. You are one. This world’s as well as that Hereafter’s well-being is in maintaining these good relations with your near and dear relatives.
Do not think that these foreigners who build missiles and space ships are all right from the spiritual angle also. In the matter of humanism, spiritualism, in real life, in real comfort and tranquility they are of no value.
One of my friends narrated to me that his acquaintance was ill and confined in a London hospital for a period of time and he relates that: Another Englishman was also in bed beside me. During this long period of time no one came to see me because I was a foreigner there, an Iranian in London. So I could not expect any visitor. But what was strange was that no one came to see this unfortunate Englishman also. Then one day, I saw two young men who came to him. They only held the ill person’s hand to observe his nerve, said to him a word and went away. Thereafter no one came to visit him until he died. The hospital staff took away his body. Thereafter I inquired about this from to the nurse. I asked, “Did the deceased have no relatives in London?” The nurse replied, “Why, he did have.” I again asked, “How is it that during this long period no one ever came to see him? Did he not have any family members?”
The nurse replied, “They had come one day.” I inquired, “Who and when?” The nurse said, “The two youths who had come on such and such day were his sons.” I asked, “Why did they not come today for his funeral?” The nurse replied, “The sons had asked the doctors whether there was any chance of their father’s survival? The doctors told them that he was not likely to survive. So the sons sold their father’s body for a hundred dollars to the hospital for research. They only took the money and went away.” O Muslims! Listen to this so that the shameless behavior of these foreigners, these materialists may not kill you also spiritually. You must never be awed by the dazzle of their material progress in industry and crafts etc. By God! Just throw a glance on their spiritualism. How much anarchist have they become due to this irreligiousness? This is no life at all. That’s all.
Let us move ahead. Our aim in the holy month of Ramadhan should be to remain attached with relatives. You must remain closely attached to your parents in the first degree. Thereafter, be intimate with all others who have become near and dear to you through your father and mother. Thereafter other family relations must be looked after and cared for. O Muslims! Listen to what your Prophet says.
How many benefits for this world as well as for the next life lie in charity? Spend on your poor relatives especially during this holy month of Ramadhan! So much so, that the one who breaks the fast of a fasting believer gets his own sins pardoned. He gets the reward of freeing one slave. Remember that breaking of fast (Iftar) is to give a fasting person food for conclude his fast at sunset, not all those unwise things which are being done. A little quantity of dates (dry or fresh), a piece to everyone in the rows of worshippers. Everyone eats a piece and recites Surah Hamd once. This is selling and buying, if everyone eats a little fruit or sweet meat and recites Surah Fatiha for the departed relatives. If you have utilized a hundred thousand toomans of your mother, give half of it in the path of God for her benefit. Even a piece of sweet food is also a kind of good act for her.
Someone said from beneath the pulpit, “O Messenger of God! We do not have food enough to give for meal for ending the fast.” What they meant to say was, “We do not have enough with which we could gratify the one who fasted.” The Holy Prophet replied, “O believer! Do give Iftar. Even if you have two pieces of dates, give one to the other person and break your fast with the remaining one.”
This is for one who has nothing more in excess. It is not so that one who has a lot of wealth may also think of giving only one piece of date in charity. It is wrong. A morsel of sweetmeat! It is mentioned in the admonitions of Shaykh Shustari too. He remarked in Najaf, “What is this preparation of sweetmeat and to rotate it in the congregation and the shrine?” Who has taught this mockery? To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and repay the debt of the poor indebted person, there are several kinds of good deeds to be done.
They can be for the dead (on their behalf) too. Charity has wider angles. Every good deed is charity. Sometimes your charity may amount to ten thousand toomans too. You must give it. For example, you have given a loan of ten thousand toomans to someone. You know that he does not have this amount. Here Qur’an says, “First give him respite.” Do not raise complaint, as you already know that he does not have this amount. It is unlawful to pressurize him. How would it be if you donate this amount for the benefit of your late father? You spent millions from father’s wealth. So now you may also spend ten thousand in charity for his benefit in the Hereafter.
If you give a loan to someone its benefit is in your account. It is only for you though it may be in the name (or in the cause) of a mosque, a madressah, poor people, giving breakfast to near and dear ones. But in every way you have aided your own self. You have earned a real income. You have discovered the path to Paradise after your death. You have opened the door of heaven for yourself. A miser, by God, is stingy against himself. One who holds so fast to his wealth in this world closes the gates of Paradise for himself. He is preparing a yoke of fire for himself. The one who gave generously in this world will make this good quality manifest for him after death also.
There are some narrations in Wasaelush Shia that indicate that anyone who became famous in this world will be famous in that world also. Do you know what famous means? It means that you became a righteous person in the town and hence people said that you are generous and righteous. They said, “Such and such Haji is pious; that he fulfills the needs of others; he solves the difficulties of people, his hands are good, his feet are good. He knows well about the reality of his wealth. He does not think that his wealth is his and for him only. He loves guests. Anyone who approaches him does not return empty handed. He deprives none.”
Imam Sadiq says, “One who became famous in this world will be famous in the Hereafter too.” It means that the one who perfected his virtue, justice, charity etc will similarly benefits other souls also after death. Just as you hosted guests in these nights of the holy month of Ramadhan, your dinner-cloth will remain spread for relatives as well as non-relatives after death. In short, whatever God gives you, you must spend it on others also and intercede for them. O the unfortunate one who kept your doors closed here! After your death the door of your house also will remain closed. You are unaware of this.
There is a story of Abul Khaibari, the chief of an Arab tribe. When he was moving with his family members towards the tribe of Tayy, which was the center of Hatim Tayy, he saw that from early evening a lamp was alight above the house of Hatim so that, throughout the night, if a guest arrives from any corner of the forest, he may find his way to his house. This light was a sign of his generosity and charity. It is mentioned that here the door is open for all guests.
In short, Abul Khaibari arrived here, and on the basis of some books, he did not know that Hatim Tayy had passed away. He arrived near the tribe of Tayy and, as was being done then, he camped where Hatim used to welcome the guests and provide food. But this time no one knew about their arrival. Nobody came to welcome them, nor asked about them or sent any food. So they slept hungry. Abul Khaibari saw in his dream that Hatim approached them and pierced a spear in the neck of one of the camels of Abul Khaibari. Abul Khaibari woke up frightened and looked at his camel, which was thrashing its legs. He cried, “O Caravan men!” They gathered round him and asked, “How did this happen?” He replied, “Please come here and see for yourselves. Hatim himself had arrived here. I saw him in my dream and he has slaughtered my camel.”
They said, “Did you not see that he slaughtered this camel so that you may hold a feast and all of us may eat therefrom? Poor Hatim was not in a position to offer his own camel so he slaughtered yours. So now it is for you to have a feast on behalf of Hatim tonight.” So they did so accordingly. Everyone ate to gratification. They intended to move next morning. Suddenly they saw dust rising at a distance and a rider came to them in a hurry and asked, “Who is Abul Khaibari?” Abul Khaibari said, “It is I.” “Is it you whose camel was caught and slaughtered last night by my father?” “Yes.” he replied. The newcomer said, “Come take this horse in exchange of your camel.” The horse was much more costly than the slaughtered camel. Abul Khaibari asked, “Whose horse is it?” He replied, “This is the horse of Hatim, my father.” Last night I saw him in my dream telling me, “My son! Tonight we had some guests. As we had nothing to offer to them, we slaughtered the camel of Abul Khaibari. Now, take this horse of mine and give it to Abul Khaibari in exchange of his camel that we slaughtered.” Abul Khaibari accepted the horse.
Hatim was very just and generous and he loved his guests and welcomed them heartily. He was never selfish. He had nothing like self-praise and self-pride. So much, so that when he heard about people starving in his tribe due to famine, he slaughtered his most precious horse and distributed its meat to all, without eating a piece therefrom. His dinner-cloth is widely spread in the other world as it was during his lifetime. Should I produce more proofs for you?
The great Islamic jurisprudent, Shaykh Ali, author of Durre Manthur, has written: I intended to proceed from Isfahan to visit the House of God in Mecca. I had no money. I also did not want to tell anyone about it. As a last resort, I told myself that I should sell my books, collect the proceeds and go for hajj. So I started selling my books secretly. Next day, in the morning someone knocked at my door. When I came to door I saw that Khwaja Iltifaat had arrived. He was a servant of the harem of Shah Abbas. He asked, “Is your name Shaykh Ali?” “Yes.” I replied. He asked, “Do you intend to sell your books?” (This was a matter not known to anyone). Shaykh Ali said, “I will not reply until you tell me from where you came to know this?” He said, “Sir, I am a slave of Khanam Zaib Begum, the daughter of Shah Tahmasp.
She called me and asked, ‘Have we, in Isfahan, a scholar named Shaykh Ali in the progeny of Shaykh Zainuddin?’” I replied, “Yes.” She said, “Last night, I saw Shah Tahmasp in my dream. He raised an objection telling me, ‘O Zainab Begum! Have all in the family of Shah Abbas died? A scholar of high rank, Shaykh Ali, has to sell his books! Have you also died?’” “Finally, this morning, the Khanam asked to make inquiry. Hence I have come here to your house to ascertain whether you are here.” He replied, “Yes, I am Shaykh Ali and I do intend to go for Hajj but I have no money and it can be obtained only by selling these books.” The Khwaja returned and reported this to the Shah’s daughter. She sent a lot of wealth from her personal jewellery so that all the debts of the Shaykh might be repaid and he may have enough money for his pilgrimage to Mecca.
Everyone who was a generous person in this world will remain so in the Hereafter too. So much, so that even in the Purgatory (Barzakh) he benefits others. What to say about the Day of Judgment?
You have heard that a believer intercedes. Which believer? A believer, who besides having Faith and good deeds was also generous and charitable. He will intercede. But what about the one who held fast to his wealth and deposited millions and billions in banks? What he has to do with intercession? He has made yokes of pythons for himself. He has himself closed the doors of Paradise. How can he get them opened for others?
(And remember by your hunger and your thirst the hunger of the Day of Judgment and its thirst!)
Thanks to God Who brings Ramadhan gradually in summer. “The fast in summer” has more benefits in the Hereafter. God has promised that the one who fasts for Him gets two joys: One, at the time of breaking the fast and another, at the time of his death.5 He will be given the water of Kauthar by the hands of the Victorious Lion of Allah, Ali bin Abi Talib.
God is ‘Shakoor’ that is He is the best appreciator, especially when a youth, early in the age of his maturity, comes up to obey his Commands (Whose Commands are also for the purification and fortification of the man himself). He does not take even a drop of water for sixteen hours in hot season. Despite his thirst, he restrains himself. How will the appreciator God deal with him?
They say: Once Hajjaj bin Yusuf Thaqafi was on a journey to Yemen to rule from there. He had all the royal facilities with him. Wherever he camped, his servants erected tents and his cooks got busy in preparing royal dishes. At one of such halts, the climate was very hot. Arrangements were made for cooling and ventilation and they spread the dinner-cloth and put various kinds of food and sweets. As he was about to begin, his eye fell on a shepherd busy grazing his two or three sheep in a terribly hot atmosphere.
The sun was extremely hot and the poor young shepherd was hiding his head beneath the belly of one of his sheep to ward off the heat to some extent. Thus all other parts of his body were being badly burnt by the scorching sun. Hajjaj was very much impressed by this. He ordered his slaves, “Go and bring that shepherd here.” So they asked him to come to Hajjaj. The shepherd said, “I have nothing to do with the ruler, why should he call me?” The slaves replied, “It is his order.” They brought him to Hajjaj and he said to the shepherd, “I saw you from a long distance that you are hit by the sun; that you are restless. It moves me. Come and rest in the shade of this tent.” The shepherd replied, “I cannot do that.” “Why?” asked Hajjaj.
The shepherd replied, “I am duty bound. I have been appointed for grazing these sheep. How can I come and sit in a tent? I must go back to my duty.” Hajjaj said, “Well, then just sit here for a little while, take some food and then go.” The shepherded said, “I cannot eat.” Hajjaj asked, “Why? Why can you not eat?” The shepherd said, “I have been given a promise from another place.” Hajjaj asked, “From where? Is there any place better than this?” The shepherd replied, “Yes.” Hajjaj asked, “Can there be any food better than this royal one?” The shepherd replied, “Yes, of course. It is both better and higher.” Hajjaj asked, “Whose guest are you today? Who has given you a better promise and appointment?” The shepherd replied, “I am the guest of Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I am fasting for Him. One who fasts for God is His guest.”
Now, the shepherd is a man of wilderness but God has given him divine recognition and Faith. He observes fast in this terribly hot place and says, “I am a guest of God. My breakfast is with Almighty Allah which is both better and higher than all other foods.” This stunned Hajjaj. How could he compete with God? The shepherd gave such a reply that Hajjaj fell silent and he could not utter a word. He said, “All right. There are many days ahead. Break your fast today and exchange it for tomorrow.”
The shepherd replied, “Very well, provided you give me surety that I will live tomorrow to observe a fast; that I would be alive tomorrow.” Do you see? How aware is this truly wise youth? He has full faith in God. How wisely he speaks! On the other hand is a tower of ignorance. Hajjaj is a totally ignorant and unaware fellow.
Finally, when he saw that he has no reply to this, he said, “Well, let us give up this dialogue, from where are you going to get such delicious and nice foods? Why are you kicking your provision like this? How mad you are!” The shepherd replied, “O Hajjaj, Have you made it nice? O Hajjaj! If God makes one of your teeth painful, all these sweet meats become useless. If you are healthy, a loaf of barely is sweet. It can give taste and delight. If there is no health, all food is useless. It would have to be swallowed like poison!”6
I am also saying the same thing: May God gives us health and safety. Appreciate the safety, which God has given. That is best for you.
O Muslims! It is necessary to supplicate with your hands raised in this best month of Ramadhan and in the best hours after Prayer. In these hours, raise your hands before Almighty Allah and ask from Him. He has sworn by His might and honor that He will not chastise those who pray and make prostrations. In this holy month whenever one who offers fast and after prayer, says, “O Allah, here I am, O my Lord! Whenever you call me, I am ready to answer your call.” He says, “Ask whatever you want.”
The prayer of one, who fasts for God, is always answered. O Allah! Our request is pardon all those of our sins, which are likely to make us leave this world hungry and gather us hungry and thirsty in the Grand Gathering on the Day of Judgment. In hell, the heat is so much that one is ready to drink the boiling water. O Allah! Due to the bounty of this holy month of Ramadhan, make our hearts cool with the sweet and cool water of the Pond of Kauthar. Our Lord! Erase all our sins, which come between us and the Pool of Kauthar.
O God! Make us clean and pious. This is the month of piety in which God makes all pious and holy. Whatever comes from You makes us pure and makes us say: Please forgive. Do you not forget dawn prayers? Lighten your heart before God in the early morning solitude. Put your needs and troubles before Him. Complain against Satan who creates doubts in your hearts. God too will be so kind to you that your eyes will brighten.
(And remember by your hunger and thirst the hunger of Husain and his companions and the thirst of Husain and his companions.)
I do not know how long that day was, of sixteen hours or seventeen; before breaking a fast. They were fasting in terribly hot sandy lands and the climate was terribly hot. You are in a shade now. But Husain and his companions were in scorching sun. How hot was the sun! They wore armors of iron. Iron itself creates heat. I do not know on which aspect I should speak. One more among many other things was the fighting itself; hitting and receiving wounds, running and running. Coming and going. All these things in hot sun create heat and result in thirst. They increase thirst. All afflictions cause thirst. I am unable to imagine how thirsty were Husain and his men. I may tell you what Ali Akbar had uttered.
It is mentioned in books of Kerbala tragedy, that when he sent one hundred twenty or more of the enemies to hell it so happened to Ali Akbar that he could not bear any more. He hastened to Husain and said, “O father! I am almost killed by my thirst. The weight of iron (armors) has troubled me too much.” Perhaps you will ask, “Did Ali Akbar not know that Husain had no water?” Why? Perhaps this youth thought his father might be permitted by God to help him miraculously. Husain was not permitted do anything in a supernatural way at that time. It is narrated that Husain put his tongue in the mouth of his thirsty son and said, “Young man! See, my mouth is drier than yours; I am thirstier than you.”
Then he said, “Go back to the battlefield. I hope that before the sun sets, you will be gratified at the hands of your grandfather.” Thus Husain had no hope of his son’s remaining alive any longer.