Bismillah wa-salaatu wa-salaamu 'ala Rasulullah
Indeed all praise and gratitude is for Allah azza wa jall and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger, Muhammad salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam. Brothers and sisters in Islam, underway is what our beloved Messenger salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam addressed as an "old friend". This dear, special friend is indeed the month of Ramadan. A month very beloved to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. A month which Allah explains in Surah al-Baqarah that He first revealed al-Qur'anul 'Adeem (the Great Qur'an). A month which comes with it immense blessings and leaves with it purity and salvation for our Lord to grant the sincere companion of this beautiful month.
Ramadan is a mirror. A month at which we can truly examine and become acquainted with our true "colors". The unadulterated essence of a human being is exposed during this blessed month. Muhammad salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam said: "When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of Jennah are opened, the gates of al-Jahim (the Fire) are closed and the Shayateen (rebellious devils) are chained." So when the Malaekah (angels) heed Allah's command to restrain the devils and restrict them from interfering with us humans, no whispering or influence from them whatsoever, what excuse do we have to engage in haraam or the slightest disobedience to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala during these holy days? Backbiting, lieing, impoliteness, impatience, aggression, etc. Every deed and every thought will strictly be from our own selves. In preparation of this blessed month, a month that offers salvation like no other, wise would the beleiver be to purify and perfect their manners and behavior to reflect that of the Prophet salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam. Muhammad salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam said:
"Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then Allah azza wa jall has no need that they should abandon food and drink. It may be that a fasting person attains nothing but hunger and thirst from their fast."
All the qualities we beg from Allah: strong iman, strong taqwa, strong sabr, better ihsan and so forth are practically handouts on these days. As good hosts of this beloved visitor, fasting purely for the pleasure of Allah, we excel our taqwa and entitle ourselves to the immense rewards of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Most notably, salvation. Allah says what means:
"O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed to you as it has been prescribed to those before you, that you may attain taqwa." -Surah al-Baqarah ayah 183
Additionally, Rasulullah salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam said: "whoever fasts during Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven."
The challenge is that once our friend, our special guest, Ramadan, departs that we hold tight to the refined qualities we attained (i.e. taqwa, iman, sabr, ikhlas, etc.) even as the devils are set loose and these qualities become like hot coals.
It is no wonder why the Sahabah radiallahu anhum would embrace this friend upon arrival and cry upon its departure. Spending 6 months preparing their homes, manners and habits for this dear friend and when this friend finally came they would welcome it with the utmost sincerity and warmth. During it's stay they'd treat it with the utmost respect, acknowledging and servicing all its rights upon them. To them, whether winter or summer, the visit of Ramadan was always short. So when it left, they would weep. They would literally cry and concern themselves over whether they did enough for this friend. When we reflect upon this and compare our situations, we should humble ourselves. It should make us feel ashamed.
In'sha'Allah, in the spirit and example of Rasulullah salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam and his sahabah radiallahu anhum, let us prepare ourselves for this blessed month. Allah has not legislated or commanded us to do anything for the sake of its being easy or difficult, rather He azza wa jall has done so for the sake of their being for our good. Our Lord hasn't prescribed us anything and His Messenger salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam has not ordered or advised us anything except that it is best and most beneficial to us. With this in mind, let us strive during this blessed month, observing all those things Allah Loves and rewards and removing ourselves from those things Allah Hates, bi'idnillah.
Muhammad salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam said: "Ramadan is a month whose beginning is mercy, whose middle is forgiveness and whose end is freedom from the Fire." So let us prepare our intentions, our thoughts, our habits... our entire life and everything in it of which we have control for this very special friend who is well around the corner.