Friday Sermon: Seeking forgiveness in Ramadhan

September 19th, 2008

Huzur said it feels as if the blessed month of Ramadan started just yesterday. Even the middle ten days of the month are nearly over and the last ten days are upon us. In a tradition of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) it is related that the first ten days of Ramadan bring Allah’s mercy, the middle ten days His forgiveness and the last ten days save one from the fire of Hell.

Huzur said he would give a discourse about the distinction of the current ten days of Ramadan and also the last ten days. Allah has commanded Istaghfar (seeking forgiveness) on believers and as well as His prophets have enjoined it. When Allah states ‘seek forgiveness’ He also declares ‘surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful’ (2:200). When Allah has His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) announce that this is a month of forgiveness and also states it Himself, then He also forgives. It is not possible that His servants turn to Him for forgiveness and are not forgiven. In actual fact, forgiveness and salvation from Fire are linked together through distancing oneself from Satan and seeking Allah’s nearness.

It is with His mercy alone that one is enabled to fast and Allah forgives all of one’s past sins and covers one with His forgiveness. Forgiveness too is with His mercy. The continuation of repentance and forgiveness carries on with His mercy. As it carries on a person endeavours to be completely sincere with Allah, he does good works and follows all the commandment and as a result he is saved from Fire. Surely Fire cannot touch one who attains the beneficence of Allah’s pleasure.

The three sets of 10 days of Ramadan are interconnected and their excellences are conditional to one’s practices, one’s deeds. It is not just not eating food etc. between dawn and dusk that makes a person deserving of the beneficence of Ramadan. Indeed Allah creates a special environment for Ramadan where He puts Satan in fetters and Himself comes nearer to mankind. It is then the task of His servants to make concerted efforts to seek His blessings. Huzur read an excerpt from the writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) elucidating Divine forgiveness and said that Allah states I forgive the sins of one who repents even if the sins are [the size of] mountains. Huzur said when Allah is so forgiving in ordinary times then during Ramadan His mercy must shower down. Fortunate are those who take advantage of His mercy and His forgiveness. There is still time to seek His mercy and forgiveness. When a person turns to Him in absolute humility then Allah states no one is as merciful as I am.

Huzur said in order to attain Divine mercy and forgiveness we need to look and search. Allah declares especially in these days that His door is open. Whoever will look for Him will find His door open. Allah has employed the words ‘I am near’ (2:187) in the Qur’an when citing Ramadan. Allah says come into the refuge of My forgiveness. Even in ordinary times My mercy is more and My chastisement is less but in the days of Ramadan further doors of mercy are opened. Indeed the Holy Qur’an states: ‘…they would have surely found Allah Oft-Returning with compassion, and Merciful.’ (4:65). Allah says I am Merciful and Compassionate but man continues to wrong his soul and does not ask for forgiveness. Huzur said Hadith relates as well as the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has said that whenever a person ‘walks’ towards Allah, Allah runs to him. As the Qur’an states: ‘And as for those who strive in Our path - We will, surely, guide them in Our ways. And, verily, Allah is with those who do good.’ (29:70).

Huzur said Istaghfar is the way to Allah. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that the real and true meanings of Istaghfar are to supplicate to Allah that one’s human frailties are not evident and one is taken in the sphere of His help that He may cover one’s natural weaknesses. Huzur said it is not possible that one’s human weaknesses are not evident, Satan is ever ready to attack. Therefore it is only possible to stay protected with continuous Istaghfar and continually seeking Allah’s pleasure, otherwise as the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said Satan runs in a person’s bloodstream. Huzur said we will truly avail of this when we make all that we have attained during Ramadan part of our lives. Otherwise just as some diseases cannot be completely eradicated, they stay dormant in the body and when a person is not strong physically they are active once again. Similarly one’s moral and spiritual ills are curbed through Istaghfar and Istaghfar also provides future protection from them. It is Allah’s grace and favour that He has commanded us to continually focus on Istaghfar and has also provided an ‘intensive spiritual training’ in the form of Ramadan once a year to facilitate our attainment of Divine nearness and spiritual development. If it was to be understood that one concentrated during these ten days and forgot about it all for the rest of the year then these days cannot be ten days of forgiveness. We can only achieve success in this respect if we strive and promise not to repeat our past mistakes. This indeed is true Istaghfar.

Explaining the two words Istaghfar and Taubah (repentance) that are cited in the Holy Qur’an many times Huzur cited verse 4 of Surah Hud and said this is the true Istaghfar and repentance that Allah wants. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) explained the difference between Istaghfar and repentance and said the Muslim ummah is granted two things, one to attain strength and the other to put the attained strength in practice. That is, Istaghfar is a weapon with which Satan can be contended with and Taubah is the usage of this weapon. That is to say the manifestation of those practical strengths which will help keep Satan away and our nafs (self) is never vanquished. For this one has to continually strive to do pious deeds which are commanded, otherwise Istaghfar does not bring any results.

During Ramadan one may fulfil all the requisites but if he does not put the Quranic commandments in practice like not usurping one’s brother, then this will not be real Istaghfar and repentance. When Allah enables one to cover one’s faults and weaknesses then one needs to promptly replace them with good and pious things otherwise if the vessel of one’s heart remains empty Satan fills it up again. Allah states in the Holy Quran about sincere repentance (66:9) that through it Allah removes the evil consequences of one’s deeds. Huzur said it is one’s obligation to always be mindful of honouring Allah’s rights as well as the rights of mankind. Huzur said sincere repentance requires three things. Each evil first takes shape in one’s mind. Therefore unless one purifies one’s mind, one’s thoughts, repentance cannot be sincere. Then, if somehow a bad thought does come, one should get rid of it and feel remorseful about it. Huzur said things like arrogating others’ rights etc. are evil and take one away from sincere repentance. A sincere repentance would be when one is extremely anxious even at a small mistake. Of course, one who repents should be resolute in one’s objective. Huzur said if these three things are inculcated then Allah grants the capacity for sincere repentance so much so that one’s ills are replaced with high morals. True repentance transforms ills into piety as Allah states in the Qur’an in (25:71).

Huzur said a revolutionary change is required in that one seeks forgiveness, is remorseful and then makes an unwavering resolve to try and bring each deed and each practice in accordance with Allah’s commandment. During fasting one gets training for resilience and fortitude - all this combined should result in making the ten days of forgiveness actually bring forgiveness and facilitate reaping benefit from the next ten days. In this way the following month after month and indeed year after year will make way for forgiveness. Huzur said this is the spirit of the [aforementioned] saying of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) which we should try and understand.

Fortunate are those who do true Istaghfar and repentance during Ramadan and witness its effects and are thus the recipient of Allah’s mercy. It is man who is negligent otherwise Allah is ever turning to His servants and accepts their repentance as it is cited in (4:28) in the Holy Qur’an. Therefore it is the task of His servants to do Istaghfar and turn to Allah during this month when His mercy and forgiveness is granted more than at other times. We should try our utmost to derive benefit from this. Citing (25:72) Huzur said when Allah states that the middle ten days of Ramadan are of forgiveness, their effect will only materialise when effort is made to aim every deed in accordance with Divine teachings. Then alone will the last ten days of Ramadan bring us salvation from Fire. Citing verse 84 of Surah Al Anfal (8:34) Huzur said during Ramadan when one is fulfilling all requirements and is also practising good deeds, is responding to petulant people by simply saying, ‘I am fasting’ and is striving to make such demeanour part of one’s life, one will be attaining Allah’s pleasure and as one is attaining His pleasure one is freeing oneself from the Fire and ultimately entering His Paradise.

Huzur said usually the so-called religious leaders of Pakistan try and influence people to persecute Ahmadis in emotional, financial and spiritual ways. However, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has taught us never to let go of patience and steadfastness in particular during Ramadan. Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) have given glad-tidings of Paradise to that true believer who does good works. Then, in this specific blessed month when one is receiving training through enhanced praying and worship, one may be striving to bring Paradise closer still. It is to people who do sincere and good works that Allah addresses in verse 13 of Surah Al Dahr (76:13) and promises them supreme reward. Today if we are persecuted it is because we have obeyed Allah’s commandment. Let the enemy transgress. Show steadfastness because we are those who wish to seek Allah’s pleasure. The Qur’an is full of warnings for the transgressor and Allah knows best how He will deal with them.

Huzur said during these days we should pray for mankind in general and Muslims in particular. The majority of Muslims are highly charged and emotional about faith but rather unaware of religious teachings or perhaps frightened of the so-called religious scholars who lead them astray. During the last ten days of Ramadan we should exercise patience, do good works and pledge to tread the path of taqwa. We will then be those who save themselves from the Fire and who attain Paradise. We should endeavour to be counted among people who are cited in (50:32) of the Holy Qur’an. We should try and spend the last few days of Ramadan in the manner which Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) commanded. May we be enabled to gather blessings in the last ten days and do good works.

Huzur said after Jummah he would lead some funeral prayers in absentia. Huzur said last week he had requested for prayers for brother Sheikh Saeed Ahmad sahib who had been injured. After twelve days in the hospital he has passed away. Inna lillahe wa inna alaihe raji’oon. This shaheed too was young of age; he was 42 years old and was only married last year. It was during his hospitalization that his first-born was born. He was given this news of a baby boy to which he could not respond verbally but his eyes became tearful. Huzur said his family has had three other martyrs, including his father, his brother and an uncle. Sheikh Seed shaheed was very keen on Tabligh and had been imprisoned once on the complaint of a maulwi. He is survived by his wife, baby son and an elderly mother. Huzur said when he mentioned the martyrs last week he had referred to Dr. Abdul Mannan. He was very well known in his area, in addition his region is larger than the region of the other martyr. This does not in any way mean that there is any difference in the status of the martyrs. Someone wrote to Huzur and only sent condolences for Dr. Abdul Mannan’s martyrdom. Huzur said the other martyr from last week’s Sermon, Saith sahib was also known to Huzur personally. He had great passion for religion and would always come to meet Huzur every time Huzur went to his region and Huzur said he had visited the area many times. Huzur said he wanted to clarify this.

Next Huzur said recently our Syrian sister Merwa passed away. She was involved in a road accident. She was a young woman of 24 and was working very hard on our Arabic website. She had also translated a book on Zakat for website. She was working on having it published and was going to see the printers or such like when she met with the accident. She was a pious young lady. Her fiancé Muhammad Malas sahib also works at MTA Al Arabia. May Allah forgive her and elevate her status.

Another Syrian Ahmadi, Sami Kazak sahib has also recently passed away. He had great passion for faith. He had come for Jalsa Salana in 1996 and the affection of Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV (may Allah have mercy on him) further enhanced his faith. On his return he gave away one of his houses for the use of the Community. He was a pious, sociable person. May Allah elevate his status and enable his children to join the Ahmadiyya Community.