How the Salaf Observed Ramadhan
A Message to Every Muslim
On the Occasion of this Blessed Month
(Editor's Note: Salaf means
precedessors. The term is used to describe our pious predessors,
i.e. the first generations of Muslims, the Sahaabah, the tabi'een
and the tabit-tabi'een, who were closest to the Prophet Muhammad,
saws, in their understanding and practice of Islam.)
Reprinted from As-Sahwah.com
Brother and sister Muslims, may the peace, mercy and blessings
of Allah be upon you.
I send you this message filled with love and greetings. I
send it to you from a heart that loves you for the sake of Allah
and I ask Him to bring us together in the abode of His Benedictions
On the occasion of the blessed month of Ramadan, I extend
to you this advise as a humble gift which I hope you will accept
with an open mind and that in turn, you advise me. May Allah
protect you and take care of you.
How do we receive the blessed month of Ramadan? Allah the
"You who believe, fasting has been
prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you
that you may attain piety" [Qur'an 2:183].
My esteemed brothers and sisters:
Allah has distinguished Ramadan from other months with many
merits and virtues which include:
- The bad breath from the mouth of a fasting person is sweeter
to Allah than the fragrance of musk.
- The angels ask forgiveness for those fasting until they break
- Allah beautifies His Paradise each day and says, "My
righteous servants are about to be spared suffering and harm,
then they will be sent to you."
- The devils are chained during the month.
- The doors of Paradise are opened while those of Hell are
- The night, Laylat al-Qadr, which is better than a thousand
months occurs in this month. Whoever is deprived of the good
of this night has indeed been deprived of goodness altogether.
- Those fasting receive forgiveness on the last night of Ramadan.
- Allah saves people from Hellfire during each night of Ramadan.
My esteemed brother and sister:
How then do we receive the month containing these merits and
virtues? Is it by occupying ourselves with playfulness and spending
our nights with non-beneficial things? Or do we feel burdened
and panic at its arrival? We seek refuge with Allah from such
attitudes. The righteous servants of Allah welcome it with repentance
and true determination to reap its benefits and fully utilize
its precious time. They ask Allah to help them perform their
acts of worship in the best manner. I therefore present to you
my dear brothers and sisters, the righteous deeds that are stressed
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him) said, "Every good deed of the
son of Adam will be multiplied. He will receive ten-fold to seven-hundred-fold
reward for a good deed. Allah the Glorious and Majestic has said
'but fasting is exceptional, for it is done for Me and I will
give reward for it, since one abandons his passion and food for
My sake. There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts, joy
when he breaks it and joy when he meets his Lord; and the breath
(of an observer of fast) is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance
of musk." [Related by AI-Bukhari and Muslim].
Undoubtedly, this great reward will not be for those who only
abstain from food and drink, but as the Prophet (pbuh) said,
"Whoever does not abandon obscene
speech and evil action, Allah does not need his refraining from
eating and drinking." [Related by Al-Bukharij. The
Prophet (pbuh) also said, "Fasting
is a shield. When anyone of you is fasting on a day, he should
neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise his voice; rather
if anyone reviles him or quarrels with him, he should say, 'I
am fasting."' [Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Therefore when you fast, servant of Allah, let your hearing,
sight, tongue and all your limbs fast, so that your fasting and
non-fasting days are not the same.
Praying Qiyam Al-Layl:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh.) said, "He
who observes the fast of the month of Ramadan with sincere faith
and hope for the reward of Allah will have his past sins forgiven."
[Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Also, Allah says,
"And the servants of Allah most
gracious are those who walk on the earth with humility, and when
the ignorant address them, they say (Peace); Those who spend
the night in adoration of their Lord prostrating and standing"
Thus, waking up in the night to pray qiyam al-layl i.e. performing
prayer in the middle of the night, was a regular act of the Prophet
(pbuh) and his Companions. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her)
said, "Do not abandon qiyam al-layl, for the Messenger of
Allah (pbuh) never left it. If he was not well or he felt heavy,
he prayed sitting."
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, used to pray at night what he wished,
until it was in the middle of the night, when he would wake up
his family to pray; then he would say to them "prayer..
prayer," and would recite this verse of the Qur'an, "Enjoin prayer on your people, and be constant
therein. We ask you not to provide sustenance: We provide it
for you. But the fruit of the Hereafter is for righteousness"
Ibn Umar used to recite,
"Is one who worships devoutly during
the hours of the night, prostrating himself or standing (in adoration),
who takes heed of the Hereafter, and who places his hope in the
Mercy of his Lord like one who does not?" [Qur'an
He said that was referring to Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah
be pleased with him). Ibn Abi Hatim said Ibn Umar said that it
was due to the length of the prayer of the commander of the faithful,
Uthman, at night and his recitation to the extent that he may
have recited the entire Qur an in one rak'ah.
Alqamah Ibn Qays narrated, "I slept with Abdullah Ibn
Mas'ud (may Allah be pleased with him) one night. He woke up
in the early part of the night and began to pray. He recited
with a recitation similar to that of the neighborhood imam with
a medium regular pace. Those around him could hear him and he
continued until what remained of the night's darkness was equal
to the time between the adhan (call) for maghrib prayer and the
end of the maghrib prayer time, i.e. a short time before daybreak.
He then performed witr prayer."
Furthermore, Al-Sa'ib Ibn Zayd narrated in a hadith that the
reciter would recite (the Qur'an) with hundreds of verses such
that we supported ourselves with staves due to the lengthiness
of the prayer and did not leave until the time of fajr (dawn
Caution: Brother Muslim, you have to complete the tarawih
prayer with the imam in order to be reckoned as one of those
who stood (the night) in prayer. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever stays with his imam until he completes
the prayer, will have the night written for him as one who performed
qiyam al-layl, i.e. one who stood the night in prayer."
[Related by compilers of sunan books].
The Prophet (pbuh) was the most generous of people, and he
was most generous during Ramadan. He was more generous with good
deeds than the blowing wind. The Messenger of Allah also said,
"The best charity is one given during
Ramadan." [Related by Al-Tirmidhi from Anas].
Zayd Ibn Aslam narrated from his father as saying, "I
heard Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) say,
'The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) commanded us to donate to charity,
so I gave some of my wealth. Then I said, 'Today I will compete
with Abu Bakr if I can ever do so.' Then I donated half of my
wealth. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked me, 'What
did you leave for your family?' He said, 'I said the same
as what I gave out.' But Abu Bakr brought all of his wealth and
the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked him, 'What
did you leave for your family?' He replied, 'I left them
with Allah and His Messenger,' I said, 'I will never compete
with you for anything again.
Talha Ibn Yahya Ibn Talha narrated, "My grandmother Sa'da
bint Awf AI-Mariyah who was the wife of Talha Ibn Ubaydullah
related to me, 'Talha came to me one day disconcerted. So I asked
him, 'Why is it that I see you with a gloomy face? What is the
matter with you? Is there anything that I can help you with?"
He said, "No, you are a faithful Muslim wife." I said,
"Then what is the matter?" He said, "The wealth
that I have has increased and that disturbs me." I said,
"Don't worry, distribute it." She said, 'He divided
it until not even a single diniam was left." Talha Ibn Yahya
said: "I asked the custodian of Talha's property how much
the amount was." He said, 'Four hundred thousand."'
Therefore dear brothers and sisters, charity during Ramadan
has special significance, so hasten to give it out according
to your means. Charity takes many forms.
a) Feeding the Needy:
Allah the Almighty says,
"And they feed, for the love of
Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, (saying), 'We
feed you for the sake of Allah Alone. No rewards do we desire
from you, nor thanks. We only fear a Day of frowning and stress
from the side of our Lord.' But Allah will deliver them from
the evil of that day, and will spread over them brightness and
a (blissful) joy. And because they were patient and constant,
He will reward them with a garden (and garments of) silk."
The Salaf used to ensure feeding others and they placed it
before many acts of worship, and it is equally rewarded whether
you feed a hungry person or a good Muslim brother of yours. Hence,
poverty is not a condition for feeding a person.
The Messenger of Allah (')buh) said, "When
a believer feeds a hungry believer, Allah will feed him from
the fruits of Paradise. And when he quenches the thirst of a
believer, Allah will make him drink from the pure sealed wine
of Paradise." [Related by Al-Tirmidhi with a good
chain of narration].
Some of our pious predecessors said, "For me to invite
ten of my friends and feed them with a meal that they like is
better for me then freeing ten of the descendants of (Prophet)
Isma'il." Many among the Salaf used to leave their food
for breaking the fast for others. They included Abdullah Ibn
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), Dawud Al-Ta'i, Malik Ibn
Dinar and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. Ibn Umar did not break his fast except
with the orphans and the needy. Sometimes, if he learned that
his family had turned back the orphans and the needy, he would
not break the fast that night. Also among the Salaf were those
who fed their brother Muslims while they still continued to fast.
They also served them and attended to their well-being. Among
them were AI-Hassan Al-Basri and Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak.
Abu Al-Sawar Al-'Adwi said, "Some men from Banu Adiy
tribe used to pray in the mosque. None of them ever broke the
fast alone with his food. If he found someone to share with,
he ate with him, if not, he would take it to the mosque, so that
others ate with him and he ate with others. Feeding other people
is an act of worship which triggers many other acts of worship.
Ties of love and brotherliness are strengthened between you and
the person you feed and that may lead you to Paradise."
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "You will
not enter Paradise until you believe and you will not believe
until you love one another." This deed will keep
you close to righteous people and Allah will reward you as the
food you provide helps them with their acts of obedience (to
b) Providing Food to Break the Fast:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "Whoever
feeds a fasting person will have a reward equal to that of the
fasting person, without any reduction in his reward." [Related
by Ahmad and Al-Nasai. Also verified by Al-Albani as sahih].
In a hadith narrated by Salman Al-Farisi, the Prophet (pbuh)
said, "Whoever feeds a fasting person,
will be recompensed with forgiveness of sins and salvation from
Hell. He will receive the same reward as the fasting person without
causing him any reduction (in his reward)." (The
Companions) said, 'Messenger of Allah, not all of us can find
something to feed a fasting person.' The Prophet (pbuh) said,
'Allah will give this reward to he who
feeds a fasting person with a sip of milk or a piece of dates,
or a sip of water. And Allah will make him who quenches the thirst
of a fasting person to drink from my cistern a drink that he
will never feel thirsty until he enters Paradise (where there
is no thirst)."
Intensifying the Recitation of the Qur'an:
I will remind you dear brother of two actions of the pious
Salaf of this Ummah:
a) Undertaking Much Recitation of the Qur 'an:
The month of Ramadan is the month of the Qur'an. The Muslim
must therefore recite the Qur'an a great deal. The Salaf used
to pay particular attention to the Book of Allah, and angel Jibril
(Gabriel) used to study the Qur'an with the Prophet (pbuh) during
Ramadan. Uthman Ibn Affan used to complete reciting the Qur'an
once each day. Some of the Salaf also completed the Qur an in
their qiyam prayer every three nights. Others completed it every
seven days, while some others completed it every ten nights.
They used to recite the Qur'an during prayers and at other times.
During Ramadan, Al-Shafi'i used to complete reciting the Qur'an
sixty times, excluding prayer times. AI-Aswad used to complete
reciting the Qur'an every two nights. Qatada regularly completed
the Qur'an within seven nights, while during Ramadan, he completed
it every three nights, but in the last ten days of Ramadan, he
completed it every night. When Ramadan came, Al-Zuhri left studying
the hadith and study circles with scholars and he concentrated
on reciting the Qur'an from the book (i.e. not from memory).
Also, when Ramadan came, Sufyan Al-Thawri left all other acts
of worship and concentrated on the Qur'an.
Ibn Rajab said that it was reported from the Prophet (pbuh)
that the Qur'an may not be completed in less than three days
by those who recite it constantly. As for the blessed times such
as Ramadan, especially during the nights of expecting Laylat
al-Qadr or when in holy places such as Makkah for those not inhabiting
it, it is recommended that the recitation of the Qur'an be increased
in order to benefit from the blessings of the time and the place.
This is the opinion of Ahmad, Ishaq and others among the distinguished
scholars. As we indicated earlier, the actions of other scholars
also support this view.
b) Weeping During the Recitation of the Qur'an:
It was not reported from the Salaf that they chanted the Qur'an
like poetry without pondering and understanding (its meanings);
rather, they were moved by the Words of Allah, and they in turn
changed the hearts of others with it. In a hadith in AI-Bukhari,
Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "The
Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, 'Recite
(the Qur'an) to me.' Then I said, 'How can I recite to
you when it was revealed to you?' The Prophet (pbuh) said, 'I like to hear it from someone else."'
Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud said, "I recited the Qur'an from Surah
Al-Nisa' until I reached the verse that says, 'How
will it be then, when We bring from every nation a witness and
bring you to witness over all of them"' [Qur'an 4:41].
The Prophet (pbuh) said, 'That is enough.'
I turned to the Prophet (pbuh) and found his eyes flooding with
Al-Bayhaqi related from Abu Hurayrah that he said, "When
the verse of the Qur'an that says 'Do you
then wonder at this recital (the Qur'an) and you laugh at it
and weep not.' [Qur'an 53:59-60] was revealed, the Companions
residing in the Suffah, (the courtyard of the Prophet's mosque)
wept until tears began to trickle down their cheeks." When
the Prophet (pbuh) heard their weeping, he wept with them and
his weeping made us weep. The Messenger of Allah said, "The person who weeps in humility to Allah
will not enter Hell."
Ibn Umar read surah Al-Mutaffifin until he reached '...the
Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds...'
[Qur'an 83:6]. He wept to such an extent that he fell to the
ground and could not move on to the next verses. Furthermore,
Muzahim Ibn Zafar related, "Sufyan Al-Thawn lead us in maghrib
prayer, and when he reached 'You (Alone)
do we worship and You (Alone) do we ask for help' [Qur'an
1:5], he began to weep so that his recitation was disrupted.
So he started from Alhamdulillah again."
It has been reported that Ibrahim Al-Ash'ath said, "One
night, I heard Fudhayl Ibn Ayadh reciting this verse of the Qur'an,
repeatedly as he wept, 'And We shall try
you until We test those among you who strive their utmost and
persevere in patience, and We shall test your facts (whether
true or false)' [Qur'an 47:31] But he kept on saying the
words of Allah, 'And We shall test your
facts', then he would say, 'And You will test our facts?
If You test our facts, You will disgrace us and expose our secrets.
Indeed if You do that, You will destroy us and punish us,' and
he would continue crying.
Sitting in the Mosque Until Sunrise
"When the Prophet (pbuh) prayed fajr prayer, he sat in
his prayer place until sunrise." [Related by Muslim].
At-Tirmidhi narrated from Anas that the Prophet (pbuh) said,
"Whoever prays fajr in the congregation
and remains seated, remembering Allah until sunrise, then performs
two rak"at; it will be for him as the reward of complete
Hajj and Umrah." [Verified by Al-Albani as sahih].
This is the reward promised for everyday, so how will it be
Dear brother, may Allah protect you, have a good sleep at
night to assist you in getting this great reward. Also, emulate
righteous people and train your soul to strive for the pleasure
of Allah. Have high aspirations to reach the highest of the grades
The Prophet (pbuh) used to observe I'tikaf during ten days
of Ramadan. But in the year of his death, he stayed in I'tikaf
for twenty days. [Related by Al- Bukhari). Thus, I'tikaf which
means staying in the mosque continuously for a certain period
of time, is an act of worship that embraces many acts of obedience
to Allah, such as reciting the Qur'an, praying, remembering Allah,
The person who has not experienced it might think that is
difficult to bear, but it is easy for whomever Allah makes it
easy. Thus, whoever arms himself with good intentions and true
determination, Allah helps him undertake the task with ease.
I'tikaf is stressed more during the last ten days of Ramadan
in anticipation of laylat al-Qadr. It is a permissible form of
seclusion as the person observing it holds himself in seclusion
out of obedience to Allah and His remembrance. He also cuts himself
off from anything that would distract him from the observance
of I'tikaf His heart is set on all deeds that draw him closer
to Allah and the only desire he has is to do what pleases Allah.
Performing Umrah During Ramadan:
It has been established that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "An Umrah performed in Ramadan is equal
in reward to Hajj." [Related by AlBukhari and Muslim).
In another version the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The
same (reward) as performing Hajj with me." So, congratulations
to you my brother (who succeeds) in performing a pilgrimage with
the Prophet (pbuh).
Anticipating Laylat Al-Qadr:
Allah the Almighty says,
"We have indeed revealed this (Message)
in the Night of Power. And what will explain to you what the
Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand
months." [Qur'an 97:1-3).
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "He who
observes laylat al-Qadr with sincere faith and hope for the reward
of Allah will have his past sins forgiven." [Related
by AI-Bukhari and Muslim). The Prophet (pbuh) used to look out
for laylat al-Qadr and commanded his Companions also to look
out for it. He used to wake up his family members during the
last ten nights in the hope that they would succeed in meeting
the blessed night (in worship).
It is related in Musnad Ahmad from Ubada that the Prophet
(pbuh said, "Whoever stays awake in
anticipation of laylat al-Qadr, and succeeds in getting it, will
have all of his sins both past and future forgiven."
[AlNasai reported a similar hadith, while Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar
said that its chain meets the conditions for authenticity].
It has been reported that some of our predecessors among the
Companions and their successors took a complete bath and used
perfume during the last ten nights (of Ramadan) in anticipation
of laylat al-Qadr, which has been highly honored by Allah.
So those of you who have wasted their time with nothing beneficial,
make up for what you have missed by observing the night of laylat
al-Qadr, as it is reckoned from your age. Good deeds undertaken
in this night are better than (the deeds of) a thousand months,
and whoever is deprived of its benefits has indeed been much
Remembering Allah, Supplicating and Seeking Forgiveness
Dear brother, the days and nights of Ramadan are distinguished
times, so seize the opportunity by increasing your remembrance
of Allah, and making supplications, especially during the chosen
periods when they are more acceptable to Allah. These include:
- When breaking the fast, since the fasting person's supplications
are not rejected.
- The last third of the night, when our Lord descends and says,
"Is there anyone asking that I may give;is there anyone
seeking forgiveness that I may forgive?"
- Asking for forgiveness at dawn, as Allah says, "And
in the hours of early dawn, they (were found) praying for forgiveness."
- Looking out for the chosen hour on Friday when supplications
are answered. This hour is most likely to be the last hour of
Friday (before sunset).
Finally, dear brothers and sisters:
After this round in the garden of Paradise, under the shade
of righteous deeds, I would like to draw your attention to an
important issue. Do you know what that is? It is sincerity. Yes,
sincerity. How so many are the people who fast but benefit nothing
other than hunger and thirst from their fast. And how so many
are the people who stay awake in worship but get nothing other
than sleeplessness and fatigue. May Allah save you and me from
that kind of outcome. Consequently, we find the Prophet (pbuh)
stressing this matter when he said, "(Fasting)
with full faith and hoping for a reward from Allah."
The Salaf therefore used to do their righteous deeds secretly
in fear of falling into showing off.
Hence, we find this great Tabi'i, i.e. from the generation
succeeding the Companions of the Prophet, Ayyoub Al-Sakhtiyani,
about whom Hamad Ibn Zayd said, "Sometimes, when studying
hadith, Ayyoub would be so moved and he would turn (away) to
blow his nose. Then he would say, 'How severe this cold is! Pretending
to be having a cold to hide his weeping."
It has been reported that Muhammad Ibn Wasi' said, "I
have known men among whom there is one whose head would be placed
beside that of his wife on the same pillow, so that the part
of the pillow under his cheek would become wet from tears without
his wife noticing it. I have also known men, who while in the
row for prayer, tears would pour down their cheeks and the one
next to them would not notice it. Ayyoub Al-Sakhtiyani used to
remain awake for the entire night (in worship) yet he would hide
it. So when morning came, he raised his voice as if he had woken
up that instant. Ibn Adiy related that Dawud Ibn Abi Hind fasted
for forty years without his family knowing about it. His occupation
was embroidery, so he would take his lunch along with him (to
work) but donate it to charity on the way. When he returned at
night, he would break his fast with the family and they did not
know that he was fasting."
Sufyan Al-Thawri said, "The servant of Allah would do
his deeds secretly, and the devil would persist in tempting him
until he convinces him to do it openly. The devil would then
continue to insist until the person wants to be thanked for the
deed. So, it will be converted from a deed done openly to one
done for showing off."
Amusement During Ramadan:
Dear brothers and sisters, I think I have prolonged my admonition
to you to seize this opportunity. I have taken some of your time,
but let us look together at a very critical phenomenon that we
all fall into, especially during Ramadan. It is the phenomenon
of wasting time and spending it in ways other than obedience
to Allah. This indeed means a lack of awareness and amounts to
turning away from the Mercy and Bounty of Allah Who says,
"But whosoever turns away from
My Message, Verily for him is a life narrowed down, and We shall
raise Him up blind on the Day of Judgment. He will say, 'My Lord,
why have You raised me up blind while I had sight (before)?'
Allah will say, 'Thus did you, when our signs came upon you,
forget them; So will you be this day forgotten. And thus do we
recompense him who transgresses and believes not in the signs
of his Lord. And the chastisement of the Hereafter is far more
grievous and enduring." [Qur'an 20:124-127].
One feels so much pain in his heart and is so much dismayed
to find Muslim youth filling the sidewalks and playgrounds during
the most virtuous nights of Ramadan.
How so many are the sins and forbidden acts committed during
the nights of Ramadan! Yes, the Muslim must be truly concerned
about the manner in which Muslims spend their time. He must also
be disturbed to find Muslim youth spending their time in ways
that are not pleasing to Allah. But do not worry. The path to
your happiness and that of your Muslim brothers is to call them
to apply Islamic teachings (i.e. doing da 'wah) and to make supplications
for them. Yes, da 'wah to those Muslims who have become unaware
of their Islamic duties, and guiding them to the Straight Path.
Also, make supplications for them in their absence that Allah
may accept it from you and that they do not become among those
deprived of guidance.