Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
In this khutbah I would like to remind us with regard to the significance of the lunar months of Rajab and Sha`ban and to advise us to use this time period fruitfully in order to prepare ourselves to welcome the most blessed month of the year, namely the holy month of Ramadan.
The lunar months of Rajab and Sha`ban acts as a prelude to Ramadan and marks the beginning of a spiritual season which holds great benefits and rewards for us.
The lunar month of Rajab in particular derives its sacredness from the most primary source of Islamic guidance, the Glorious Qur’an, which refers to it as one of the four sacred months of the lunar year (Surah al-Tawbah, 9:36) In addition to Rajab being one of sacred months (al-ash-hurul hurum) its practical significance for the conscientious Muslim is that it followed by Sha`ban and comes as a timely reminder of the imminence of the blessed month of Ramadan.
This practical significance has been noted by our early Muslim scholars. The 9th century mystical scholar Abu Bakr al-Warraq al- Balkhi (d.893), for example, use to say: “Rajab is a month of cultivating the soil, Shaban is a month of irrigating the fields, and the month of Ramadan is a month of reaping and harvesting.”
In order to sow the seeds of goodness and virtue let us at this time turn towards Allah in sincere repentance (istighfar), increase our supplications (du`as) for Allah’s forgiveness and mercy, and most of all multiply our acts of worship (`ibada and `amal al-salihat) during these months of Rajab and Sha`ban. One of the ways of spiritually and physically preparing ourselves for the month of Ramadan is to increase our voluntary (nafl) fasting during these preceding months. This is also the advice and teachings of our scholars
The twentieth century Azhari jurist, Shaykh `Abd al-Rahman al-Juzayri in his book Kitab al-fiqh `ala al-madhahib al-arba`a (Islamic law according to the Four Schools), informs us that according to the Shafi`is, the Hanafis it is recommended to fast during the month of Rajab as a nafila or voluntary act of worship.
Consonant with the above, the contemporary African-American Muslim scholar, Imam Zaid Shakir advises the following: “Let us all take advantage of the weeks that come before the blessed month of Ramadan. If we begin to fast voluntarily now, the fatigue and discomfort that sometimes accompanies the beginning of our obligatory fast will be behind us and we will enter the month with great spiritual momentum.”
Fasting during Rajab and Sha`ban especially on sunnah days such as Monday or Thursday and the middle three days of the month, the 13th, 14th and 15th (known as Ayyam al-Beed) is a useful way of preparing ourselves for the onset of the blessed month of Ramadan. Moreover, voluntary fasting siyam al-tatawwu` at any time of the year is one of the best forms of worship and spiritual disciplines which purifies the individual, and nourishes our souls and draws us closer to our Creator.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) loved fasting and was an exemplary embodiment of a hadith qudsi reported by the companion Abu Huraya (ra) and recorded in the hadith collection of Imam Muslimin which Allah, the Exalted, proclaims: “Every virtuous act performed by the child of Adam benefits and is rewarding for him or herself, except fasting (siyam), it is for me, and I am its reward.” Meaning the reward for fasting is immense and known only to Allah.
Last but not least, it is my considered view that by encouraging the entire family to fast together it would be a wonderful gesture and would strengthen our spiritual and familial bonds.
For those who are unable to fast due to a chronic health condition and frailty, may Allah accept your feeding of a needy person (sadaqa) instead, and may Allah grant you an even greater reward for your perseverance (sabr) with your health condition.
In conclusion, please join me in reciting a famous (du`a) supplication which our scholars recommend should be frequently read during Rajab and Sha`ban:
Allahuma Barik lana fi Rajab wa Sha`ban wa ballighna Ramadan” –
O Allah bless us in the months of Rajab and Sha`ban and let us reach the month of Ramadan‘ so that we may benefit from its great merits and spiritual blessings.