It is certainly very customary as we leave the final days of Ramadan to look forward and look towards Hari Raya Aidilfitri in anticipation. But let us not take our minds off what is most important in these final days and nights of Ramadan. And in my viewpoint, there are two things which are very important in these final days and nights of Ramadan.
One is intensification, and the other is preservation. The first is to intensify. Intensify all our efforts in strengthening our relationships with Allah s.w.t, especially as we search for the special moment – the night of Qadr or Laylatul Qadr.
The Prophet s.a.w. has taught us to look for the night of Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramadan, and we are on those nights. But that night is especially significant and special in the sight of Allah s.w.t. because that was the night where God’s guidance, the Quran, was revealed. And that is the night when God comes to us in complete peace and tranquillity.
Because of the peace that Allah bestows on all of humankind on the night of Qadr, his angels (mala-ikah) will scour the earth for the hearts of those who are at peace with their Lord and at peace with humankind. Those whose hearts have been emptied from anger, rancour, ill will, hatred, envy, and revenge and whose lives bring about peace and tranquillity to others through kindness and compassion.
So although we multiply our efforts in prayers, we go to the mosques to do qiyam (night worship), we recite the Dua Qunut in our supplication, asking Allah for forgiveness, but we should not lose sight that the night of Qadr that we are looking for is special because of the peace that Allah brings to earth and humankind.
We may stand in prayer, but with our hearts full of ill feelings towards ourselves and towards others, the peace that Allah brings will encounter an obstacle that cannot be overcome.
The Prophet s.a.w. taught us through a hadith when his wife, Sayyidatina Aisyah r.a, asked him, “What do I recite? What do I ask when I meet the night of Qadr?” Prophet s.a.w. taught her to recite and ask Allah for forgiveness.
But how will Allah forgive us if we have not forgiven others? How will Allah forgive us if we have not forgiven ourselves? So we have to come to terms with peace in our hearts for ourselves and for others around us.
The second important point, as we leave the last days and nights of Ramadan, as we have intensified our efforts, actions and good deeds, we must preserve them. We must preserve our good deeds and actions from being put to waste because we can cancel ourselves. As you know, the cancel culture. We talk about cancelling other people, but we can cancel our own deeds and our own actions if we are not careful.
An example is when the Prophet s.a.w. said in the hadith on fasting; he said that whoever tells lies or cheats or speaks evil to other people, Allah does not need you to fast. Allah does not need you to not eat and drink. Because the actions that hurt other people contradict the very intent and purpose of fasting.
As we increase our charitable deeds, there is a beautiful reminder in the Quran about preserving the sanctity of charity. Preserving the divineness of charity and compassion. Preserving the rewards of helping other people. In Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 264, Allah says:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تُبْطِلُوا۟ صَدَقَـٰتِكُم بِٱلْمَنِّ وَٱلْأَذَىٰ
O Believers. Do not invalidate your charity by boasting or by hurtful words.
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:264)
Yes, you may have taken money out of your pockets and helped people, but you can easily cancel those good deeds when you hurt the very people you wanted to help by way of reminding them of your favours and your help; telling them I’ve been helping you, I’ve been helping you, and you are not grateful. Or by hurting them or insulting the poor and needy.
So there are actions, attitudes and behaviours, if we are not careful, will cancel or nullify and invalidate the good deeds that we’ve done. That is why it is important that we preserve these deeds.
What we will notice is many of the things that relate to the preservation of our good deeds deal with our social responsibility. In other words, our relationship with other people, with humankind and with those around us.
As you have heard earlier, whether it’s with regards to fasting, it can be invalidated when we tell lies or cheat people, or in the example of charity, by recalling our good deeds to people or hurting them and insulting them. These are all about our social responsibilities towards other people. Therefore, what we can conclude is how Islam put all these dimensions together. They are inseparable.
The acts we do for Allah s.w.t. have a very strong social dimension that comes with them, and they cannot be separated. So we may, in Ramadan, pray a lot with our Terawih, with our qiyam (night worship). We may recite the Quran and complete the recitation of the Quran, but we are at risk of gaining nothing from all of it if we hurt and harm other people. And especially at the same time that we are worshipping. So we must be very careful about that, and we must be able to recognise that as a very important teaching in our faith.
The thing is, balancing both is not easy. Especially not easy in normal circumstances. Many of us will often focus on one aspect, such as worshipping, multiplying our prayers and reciting the Quran, but we lose sight of the other aspect.
So that’s why sometimes, pardon me for this example, people rush to mosques to perform their prayers and prioritise finding available space for themselves. However, this behaviour can lead to various social repercussions, such as problems with parking, maintaining order, and properly arranging shoes or slippers. Conflicting attitudes may arise because individuals prioritise their own needs and overlook the impact of their actions on others. In other words, we tend to focus on one aspect and neglect others.
So, once upon a time, we had a crisis. It was a huge crisis, but that crisis allowed us to reorientate ourselves in our religious understanding. That crisis allowed us to reconfigure our priorities, and that crisis enabled us to reconnect with the core values of our faith: social responsibility, compassion, kindness, unity and confidence in our religious life.
These are the very values that define our teachings and practices. That crisis may have passed, but these values must remain with us as we shape our religious life. In fact, we have other challenges, as many of you would be very well aware of.
The issue of determining when Hari Raya starts when Ramadan ends. And some countries and some communities begin to worry about when we decide and how we decide. But the worries stem from the fact that other places or other countries or other communities around the world have decided in a particular way or on a particular date.
So, the problem is a severe lack of confidence in the way we want to shape and structure our religious life. The very basis that we want to use to support our religious life. We would not have survived the pandemic if we do not trust the fundamentals of science and, in the case of the pandemic, medical science.
In the same way, we will not be able to survive the challenges of the future in our religious life if we doubt some fundamentals of science, for example, in determining the positions of the moon and the sun and the celestial bodies in the sky, which are by now, things which are very clearly established. And also reconciling certain conditions of certain places.
For example, in Singapore, because of our atmospheric conditions, in which we are not able to sight the crescent moon. And we would not have been able to survive the pandemic with regard to our religious life if we doubted our own ability to come out with our own solutions for the various challenges that we had.
When we have an issue with space in the mosque, we wanted to encourage more people to attend Friday prayers. If we doubted our ability to come out with solutions such as having multiple sessions, we would have had a situation where only small numbers of people could pray, and we would risk a situation of having lots of Muslim males in Singapore who have lost touch with their Friday obligations.
But today, as we live in a Covid endemic world, we are at a crossroads. And we are at the risk of starting all over again, in terms of being guided by our religious values in shaping our religious life. We may have to start all over again trying to understand the significance of social responsibility, compassion, kindness, confidence in our own ability to come up with our own solutions, and the unity of our community and society.
So, I urge all of us, in the final days of Ramadan, as you soak the blessings of Allah s.w.t. that we are able to gather safely, comfortably and peacefully, that we guide our community to hold strongly to these values of our faith, in everything that we do. Because the values are not detached from the teachings of our faith. In fact, they are the cornerstone of our faith and the principle that underpin it.
These values will guide us in everything we do and in all the policies and activities that we offer and present to our community. So insyaAllah, we can continue to grow and become stronger as we journey together towards success and excellence in this world, in this world (dunya), and in the Hereafter (akhirah).