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> Eid-ul-Fitr Sermon [Delivered at the
London Mission House on 16th December 2001] by
Nasir Ahmad Sahib, B.A., LL.B.
Articles Section > Eid-ul-Fitr Sermon [Delivered at the London Mission House on 16th December 2001] by Nasir Ahmad Sahib, B.A., LL.B.
"The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the Criterion" (2:185).
Islam has appointed two festivals for Muslims, i.e., Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. As with other festivals, these are occasions for expressing joy, merriment and celebrations, but the purpose of these festivals for Muslims is not merely to indulge in joyous and merry-making activities, rather, it is primarily to give thanks to Allah for the successful completion of a programme of spiritual training in obedience to the commandment of Allah. This month-long spiritual training is to inculcate in the character of a Muslim social nobility, concern for others' problems and difficulties and willingness to sacrifice for their amelioration. This is the standard of nobility which Islam wishes its adherents to maintain in their thoughts and actions. Allah refers to it in the Holy Quran in the following words:
"Certainly We created man in the best make" (95:4).
Dr. Basharat Ahmad, a well-known commentator of the Holy Quran, describes beautifully the lowliness and height in the character of a man, in his beautiful commentary, Anwar-ul-Quran, in the following words:
"Good and evil are intertwined in the activities of human beings. On the one hand we see persons with fine sentiments of nobility and gentleness, while on the other hand we find persons who are selfish and ferocious like animals. If we see angelic persons observing benevolence and love, then we also see persons who are greedy and selfish like wolves and bloodthirsty and ruthless like scorpions.... It is the man who guards outside the houses so that the inmates may enjoy peace and security, and it is again the man who stealthily enters a house from the back and takes away valuables and causes insecurity and misery to the inmates."
Brothers and sisters! If we require years of education and hard work to reach a high position in worldly life, so, too, do we require much more education and hard work to discipline our inner self which is the centre of our thoughts and which ultimately motivates our actions. The Holy Quran refers to this reality of human life in the following words:
"O men, there has come to you indeed an admonition from your Lord and a healing for what is in the hearts, and a guidance and a mercy for the believers" (10:57).
I may point out here that Prayer, Zakat [obligatory charity], Fasting and Pilgrimage to Makkah are various stages in the spiritual training programme of Islam. When a person passes through these stages, a particular attitude and behaviour evolve in his character as envisaged by the teaching of Islam and it brings him nearer to his Creator and consequently his inner qualities shine out for the benefit of his fellow human beings. For instance, during the blessed month of Ramadan a Muslim makes special effort to obey the commandments of Allah by reciting the Holy Quran, observing prayers with deep concentration and devotion, shuns evil thoughts and actions and tries to entertain noble ideals and resolutions. He also shows greater concern for the amelioration of difficulties and sufferings of other human beings and offers them help and sympathy by means of fitrana, charity and other modes of ease and comfort which he can afford. This is how a man's heart is cleansed of the dross and dirt of greed, selfishness, hate, jealousy and feelings of class distinction and instead love and compassion are generated in his attitude and relationship towards his fellow beings. For instance, it is quite interesting to find that it has been made obligatory for a person who is incapable of keeping fast to feed a needy person. The obligation of feeding a needy person can be discharged by providing what the person needs and it does not necessarily mean giving of food only. Now a question arises that if a person is incapable of keeping the fast and for this reason Allah has exempted him, why it is that Allah still wants him to feed a needy person? It teaches that the showing of sympathy towards one's fellow beings is one of the primary objects of fasting and even if one is incapable of fasting, he is required to demonstrate sympathy and concern for his fellow human being. Innumerable references can be quoted from the Holy Quran and examples can be shown from the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad which bear witness to the fact that human sympathy and well-being are the essence of the teachings of Islam. The following verse of the Holy Quran shows how liberal and broad-based should be the attitude and treatment of a believer in showing sympathy and kindness to others:
"And serve Allah and associate naught with Him, and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphan and the needy and neighbour of (your) kin and alien neighbour, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hand possess. Surely Allah loves not such as are proud and boastful" (4:36).
In the very next verse a stern warning has also been given to those who are negligent in being kind and sympathetic towards others. The verse says:
"Who are niggardly and bid people to be niggardly and hide that which Allah has given them out of His grace. And We have prepared for the disbelievers an abiding chastisement (4:37).
So Brothers and sisters, fasting is a training programme for promoting a spirit of restraint, selflessness and human sympathy -- a programme during which a man not only experiences hunger and thirst but he also exercises control over his emotions and passions. It is written in the Hadith [Saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)] that if someone talks to you harshly or quarrels with you during fasting, tell him politely that you are keeping fast. In other words, one is enjoined to keep one's passions and emotions in restraint and to show forbearance and humility on occasions when one is likely to loose one's temper. Time does not permit me to explain what sort of self-control, patience and kind treatment one is required to observe as a result of fasting.
I would now like to read to you a short part of a long narration related by the famous Companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Hazrat Salman, who hailed from Persia, which highlights the objectives and blessings of the month of Ramadan.
"It is reported by Hazrat Salman Farsi that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), while addressing us on the last day of the month of Sha'ban, said: "O people, a month of grandeur and blessings is about to spread its wings over you. In this month there is a night which is better than a thousand nights. It is a month of patience, and reward of patience is Paradise. It is a month of sympathy and sharing of sorrows. The first ten days of this month bring blessings, the second ten days bring Allah's forgiveness and the last ten days grant deliverance from the fire of Hell. Anyone who lightens the workload of his slave or servant in this month, Allah shall forgive his sins and shall save him from the fire of hell."
Brothers and Sisters, the last part of this hadith needs our special attention. The Founder of Islam (pbuh), who has been called "A mercy unto the nations", has implicitly enjoined us in this way to be kind during the month of fasting even when we are taking work from our servants by lessening their workload. In other words, by doing so one will be showing concern and sympathy for the hardship of others. Exploitation in any form for one's own benefit is against the spirit of Islam. The Holy Prophet's particular concern for servants, and for that matter, for subordinates, during the month of fasting, shows how important it is for a Muslim to practise social welfare and kindliness towards the weaker sections of the society.
And now I would like to quote a well-known British writer, Thomas Carlyle, who, in his beautiful book, Heroes and Hero-worship, pays tribute to the teachings of Islam and in particular to the social edicts of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). While appreciating the spirit of compassion for one another which the Holy Prophet preached and practised, Thomas Carlyle, in his second lecture entitled "The Hero as a Prophet", quotes the following words of the Holy Prophet of Islam:
"'Ye have compassion on one another'. This struck me much; Allah might have made you having no compassion on one another -- how had it been then!"
At another place in the same lecture, the Christian author, while analysing the teachings of Islam, regards doing of noble and virtuous deeds as earning God's heaven, and in this connection he especially refers to the five daily prayers and abstinence from wine.
"His religion (i.e., the religion revealed to the Holy Prophet) is not an easy one: with rigorous fasts, lavations, strict complex formulas, prayers five times a day, and abstinence from wine, it did not 'succeed by being an easy religion'. As if indeed any religion, or cause holding of religion, could succeed by that! It is a calumny on men to say that they are roused to heroic action by ease, hope of pleasure, recompense -- sugarplums of any kind, in this world or the next! In the meanest mortal there lies something nobler. The poor swearing soldier, hired to be shot, has his honour of a soldier, different from drill-regulations and the shilling a day. It is not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true things, and vindicate himself under God's heaven as a God-made man, that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs. Show him the way of doing that, the dullest day-drudge kindles into a hero. They wrong man greatly who say he is seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom and death are the allurements that act on the heart of man" (pp. 236, 237).
Brothers and sisters, the Christian scholar has regarded "doing of noble and true things as earning God's heaven", and undoubtedly the very object of enjoining fast is to provide training and discipline for leading such a pure and purposeful life to which the Christian author has referred. During this blessed month a believer is eager to comply with the commandments of Allah and to impress upon his mind Allah's sovereignty and grandeur so that his whole being is immersed in submission and subservience to his Creator. Let us examine the wording of the niyyah of keeping fast and see how the concept of the All-pervading Allah is being impregnated into the mind and soul of a Muslim:
"O Allah, I keep fast to seek Your pleasure, and I profess belief in You, and I trust in You and I break the fast with what You have provided."
How beautiful is the way in which a servant expresses his gratitude to his Master and how submissive is the style in which he shows his obedience to his Creator and how elegant is the manner in which close relationship between the servant and Master has been depicted! And see how Allah conveys acceptance of His servant's expression of thankfulness and obedience to his Lord through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which is mentioned in the hadith in these words:
"Fasting is for Me and only I shall recompense it."
And in the Holy Quran we find that Allah acknowledges a servant's supplications and submissions and graciously accepts them in these majestic words:
"And when My servants ask you concerning Me, surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me; so they should hear My call and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way" (2:186).
Here Allah has laid down a condition for accepting the prayers of His servant and granting him His audience and that is, that he should have complete faith in Him and should obey all His commandments with complete sincerity and submission.
While giving details of the injunction of fasting, Allah especially mentions two other things; firstly, regard and respect to be shown to women and secondly, not to devour the wealth of others unlawfully. In my humble opinion, these are the two areas of the social fabric of a society where self restraint plays an important role in maintaining social justice and that is why Allah, while enumerating the objectives of keeping the fast, has enjoined a believer to avoid indulging in these social evils.
Brothers and sisters, you will bear me out that these two social evils are eating away at the social fabric of every society, particularly the Muslim countries and the third world. It will be worthwhile to listen to the divine admonition given in the Holy Quran in this regard:
"And swallow not up your property among yourselves by false means, nor seek access thereby to the judges, so that you may swallow up a part of the property of men wrongfully while you know" (2:188).
The Holy Quran has given detailed instructions to inculcate and promote civilised social attitude and behaviour such as good manners, sympathy and good wishes for each other and the society at large and also shows concern for the weaker sections of the society, with special emphasis on restraint of sex relations and the guaranteeing of honour and respect for women. And that is why while dealing with the details of how to observe the fast, special attention has been drawn towards the building up of a congenial and pleasant atmosphere at home. This is what the Holy Quran says in this regard:
"They (women) are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them" (2:187).
Brothers and sisters, husband and wife together constitute an important unit of a society and through their mutual love and affection and spirit of sacrifice, usher in a pleasant and congenial domestic life, where children find a haven of care and compassion. This in reality is the crux of the well-known saying of the Holy Prophet, "Paradise lies under the feet of a mother." By regarding woman as apparel for man, Allah has driven home the importance of woman for man in a beautiful manner. Just as dress not only covers defects and the nakedness of the body but it also enhances its outward beauty and elegance, so does a woman provide physical and mental peace and comfort to the family. This is what the Holy Quran says in the following words:
"And of His signs is this, that He created mates for you from yourselves that you might find quiet of mind in them, and He put between you love and compassion." (30:21).
The word "apparel" in this verse also alludes to the patient and selfless service a woman renders not only in embellishing and decorating the home, but also in bringing up and educating the children. If I were to describe it in modern terms, she is the "interior decorator par excellence".
And now I conclude this sermon with a prayer that May Allah grant us wisdom and courage to fulfil the religious and social obligations envisaged in the institution of fasting so that we are able to inculcate in our attitude and behaviour sympathy, kindness, patience, sincerity and forbearance. I also beseech Allah that He may shower His blessings and mercy on all our friends and dear ones and their families and bless them with peace, happiness and prosperity. May Allah grant health to those who are suffering from illness, and grant ease and comfort to those who are passing through difficult times.
At the end, on my behalf and on behalf of the President and members of the London Mission, I wish you all a very happy and joyous Eid. May Allah bless you all.