Seize the moment

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam:-
By the time you get to read this, only two days of Sha’abaan will be left. That is, only two days before the holy month of Ramadhan dawns upon us, bringing with it all the bounties and favours from Allah Subhanhuta’ala. All praise to Allah Who favours us thus, and in other uncountable days.
Needless to say, this is going to be a blessed month of close communion with Allah, with the larger part of days and nights spent in the remembrance of our Lord, prostrations and meditation on the Divine. Fasting from dawn to dusk, in obedience to Allah’s command, following His prophet’s (PBUH) shining example, days would be spent in frequent prostrations, supplications and contemplating Allah’s beauty and bounties. Nights will be marked by an increased count and duration of salaat, including the additional 20 raka’t of taravih that is exclusive to Ramadhan only. (Some Muslims, equally legitimately, offer only eight or 12 raka’ts).
This month has a special relationship with the holy Quran as it was given to us during this month. Before that, over the aeons it was there with Allah in its full form, even though it was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) in bits, to be later collected and canonised as a single Book. This holy month brought to us this Book of Guidance to live our lifes by, which we have been doing for generations and will continue to do so for generation after generation till the Day of Judgment.
The holy month was so dear to our Prophet (PBUH) that he used to prepare for welcoming it since the beginning of Sha’baan, the month preceding Ramadhan. His prostrations and remembrance of Allah grew in intensity and duration so remarkably that the change was visible to everyone. His expenses on the poor grew so much that according to his wife Aisha Siddiqua (God’s mercy be on her) it looked like a torrential, “ceaseless rain.”
The holy prophet said, “Sha’baan is my month and Ramadhan is Allah’s”. The ulema point out that the remark of the prophet suggests that it is only a way of saying and does not really mean that Sha’baan is the month of the prophet (PBUH) as all months are from Allah alone. All that he meant was that he built up the intensity and duration of his prayers, supplications and charity over the entire month of Sha’baan in preparation of Ramadhan.
The prophet (PBUH) fasted through Sha’baan, but clarified that his Ummah did not have to do that. To persons who insisted on fasting through Sha’baan, he said they should avoid doing it and should not fast beyond the 15th of Sha’baan. He warned that fasting throughout Sha’baan would weaken Muslims and they would not be able to concentrate on Allah’s worship in full measure in Ramadhan. He preferred that his followers conserve energy for Ramadhan, instead of copying him in everything.
Muslims generally pay their zakaat (poor due) during Ramadhan though it is not mandatory. It can be paid in any month. However, Muslims prefer to pay it during Ramadhan because the reward for acts of faith during the holy month grows 70 times. Because of this powerful incentive Muslims desire to pay zakaat during Ramadhan only.
This, however, has created a problem that needs some resolution. Muslim areas in big cities are suddenly flush with zakaat collectors from madaris, big and small, right with the onset of Ramadhan. All of them observe the dawn-to-dusk fast and move around in the Muslim areas in great discomfort. People offer them iftaar, dinner and sehri, but there are some who do not get much food besides the iftaar offered in mosques. They have to buy their dinner and sehri from some nearby eatery. They do not have proper accommodation and generally sleep on mosque floor in areas of mosques where prayers are not generally offered.
The hardship is felt on the side of the donors as well: they often fail to cope with so many people asking for a share in their zakaat which is often in a few thousands of rupees only. In short, most middle-class individuals cannot donate to them all and feel guilty about it.
Some ulema think there is a need for innovative thinking here and finding an Islamically approved solution to it. Some say if zakaat can be paid in any month why not pay it round the year rather than accumulate it for Ramadhan? And what about the lost benefit of charity during Ramadhan? Possibly, pray a little more, read from the Quran a little more, etc.
One way of reducing the difficulties of collectors moving from door-to-door and mosque-to-mosque could be to place all the zakaat at some anjumanor baitulmaal in every city or locality and make it possible for the collectors to collect their zakaat from one place and go back to their areas. Think of some solution to it, and have a great Ramadhan. Use every precious moment of it as it is going to fleet away so fast that it would be Eid before you catch your breath.
Welcome Ramadhan with enthusiasm. Prepare for it in the two days left to it. Hope to get back to you in Ramadhan. Salaam and good wishes.