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Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Holy Month Begins

Ramadan: Month of Mercy, Forgiveness & Freedom
By Fayyaz S. Pathan

The first 10 days of the month of Ramadan are dedicated to mercy from Allah. The next 10 days focus on forgiveness from Allah and the last 10 on freedom from Hell Firs.

The month of Ramadan serves as a reminder to the faithful that it is impotant to set aside special time to reflect and share, a time for atonement and forgiveness that contributes to greater inner and outer harmony among individuals and communities.

Contemplating on texts on fasting and its goals in Shariah, it becomes clear that there is a wide gap between reality and our obligations. Ramadan is a bounty that Allah has blessed us with., to strengthen our faith and increase piety or taqwa. Allah said: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become pious" (Al-Baqarah 2:138).

One who abstains from fasting is answerable to Allah, for fasting and praying also involve staying away from sinning, to attain purity of the heart. The Prophet warned Muslims, "There are those who got nothing from their nightly prayers, but loss of sleep."

As an obligation upon Muslims, zakat is one of the essential requirements of Islam. Muslims prefer paying zakat in this holy month, as the reward of each good deed is manifold.

Zakat must be paid by every Muslim, on any amount of money remaining after meeting the expenses for necessities such as food, clothing, housing, transport and craft machines. The conscious setting aside of an amount of money - that is a small percentage of one's income or wealth - in order to be able to give it away to those deserving charity is an essential feature of this holy month. Allah ordains: "Ye who believe! Render not in vain your almsgiving by reproach and injury like him who spendeth his wealth only to be seen of men" (Qur'an V:2:264).

There are eight categories of the beneficiaries of zakat which Allah specifies in the Holy Qur'an: "Alms are only for the poor and needy, for those who collect them, for those whose hearts are to be reconciled, for the freedom of those who are captive and in debt, for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarers: (It is) a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is the all-knower, the wise" (Al-Taubah 60).

It is verily mentioned in the Holy Qur'an that Allah says: "Take alms of their property that you may purify and sanctify them and pray for them. Verily, your prayers are a comfort for them" (Al-Taubah 103).

It authorises the Holy Prophet to take either a stipulated amount of alms from believers' holdings in the form of obligatory zakat, or a voluntary stipulated amount. Here, "purify" means to purify them for miserliness, greed and meanness and a lack of remorse towards the poor and the wretched.

To sanctify them is to raise them in esteem through good deeds and blessing so that they will be worthy of happiness both now and in the life after.
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