By Kabeer Yousuf -
As the month of Ramadhan has entered the second of the three phases, which means the second 10-day period, masjids in the Sultanate are witnessing increasing number of believers seeking salvation from Allah Almighty for the sins they have committed in the past days.
During the second phase of Ramadhan two attributes of Allah become the most important to the Muslim: Al Ghafoor (The Forgiver) and Al Ghaffaar (The Forgiving).
Islam teaches that God has 99 names through which the Muslim learns the Attributes of God. During the second phase, these two attributes become a point of emphasis everywhere.
According to scholars, the root of “Al Ghafoor” and “Al Ghaffaar” is Ghafara. “Ghafara” means “to cover, hide, conceal, forgive, give protection, set the affairs right, suppress the defect.” As such, these two words express two forms of forgiveness inherent in the attributes of God; first they carry the meaning of protecting the human being from committing a sin; secondly they carry the meaning of protecting the human from punishment for sins.
God is the one who protects the believer from committing sins and protects from the punishment of sins. These two words collectively display the range and characteristics of God’s forgiveness.
Thus, Muslims believe that God actively protects the believer from her/his own self and provides for a way which believers can approach God if a sin is committed.
There is no belief in Islam that humans are made in God’s image. However, Muslims practise spirituality by emulating God through sharing forgiveness in their daily lives. Thus, for the believer, there are three ways in which forgiveness is practised: seeking God’s forgiveness, seeking forgiveness of others, and seeking to forgive others.
During Ramadhan, amidst the fasting and extra prayers, it is believed that Allah further instructs the believers in Allah’s oneness through the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that humanity should seek His forgiveness from all past indiscretions, and ask that they be protected against future indiscretions.
Muslims do not seek forgiveness in front of a pastor, preacher, priest or a saint. Instead, forgiveness is sought at the very presence of God. It is sought through a specific prayer that is conducted by the Muslim called ‘Taubah’.
During this prayer, that consists of two Raka’a (a series of standing, bowing and prostrating while reciting verses from the Holy Quran), the believer sincerely repents to God and asks that past sins be forgiven, and that protection be given to prevent one from committing such sins in the future.
At some point, an individual might have committed an act that hurts another person’s feelings and causes harm to their well-being, either purposefully or inadvertently.
It is the selfish side of the nafs (which means ‘self’, ‘soul’) which can lead a person to eventually cause such harm to someone else and, thus, stand in need of having to seek the forgiveness of those harmed.
Altruistically, a believer will seek out the one harmed, endeavour to make amends, and set things right. This is due to the teachings of Islam which state that if two or more people have a problem, they should resolve it within three days. The one who initiates clemency will be the one most rewarded by God for seeking peace and forgiveness.
Seeking to forgive others
As such, being the initiator of reconciliation is a virtue that Islam works to instil in each believer. During the initiation of reconciliation, actually the Muslim is emulating the attributes of his Lord, Al Ghafoor and Al Ghaffaar. The believer is demonstrating the nature, and godlike qualities, which Islam is meant to develop within the Muslim.
In this way, not only has the Muslim been seeking the forgiveness of others but also is actively forgiving the harm done to him or her by working to forgive and forget the harm that was committed against him or her.
In retrospect, the second ten days of Ramadhan helps the Muslim to focus on aspects of humanitarianism. Thus, the Muslim can be more conscious of Allah and conscious of the needs of humanity without feeling that these two objectives are in conflict. As such, the most spiritual of the Muslim population are not to be found in a cave or some far away sanctuary. In contrast, Islam teaches that the most spiritual and Allah-conscious Muslims are found in the very midst of civilization working to achieve the greater goals of humanity.
Best three hours
The first hour that we need to make use of in achieving what we pray for is the first hour after Salat al Fajr.
Our Prophet said: “the one whoever prays Al Fajr in Jamaah — and set after prayer to read Athkaar until sunrise, then he prays 2 raka’teen, it is rewarded as accomplishing Haj and Umra”.
The second hour of crucial importance is the last hour before sunset (nearing Iftar). Our prayers in this hour are all granted as the Prophet said. So it is urged we should never waste it by watching TV or preparing food.
The third hour is the late night hours, which is the Suhoor time. It is preferred to utilise this hour in Estegfar and praying seeking His mercy upon humanity.