At the advent of the holy month of Ramadhan, The Holy Prophet (saww) delivered a sermon in which he (saww) said to the Muslims:
â€œO People! Verily the month of Allah has come to you with blessings, mercy and forgiveness. It is a month that is considered by Allah as the best of all months; its days are best of all days; its nights are best of all nights; and its hours are best of all hours. It is a month in which you have been invited to become guests of Allah and you have been made in it the favourites of Allah. Your breaths in this month are counted as glorifications (of God); your sleep is considered as worship; your (good) actions in it are accepted; and your invocations therein are sanctionedâ€¦â€
At the end of this sermon, Imam â€˜Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) asked, â€œO Prophet of Allah! What is the best deed one can perform in this month?â€ The Holy Prophet (saww) replied, â€œO Abul-Hasan! The best deed in this month is to become cautious (and safeguard) against forbidden thingsâ€. (Meezan al-Hikmah)
In order to derive maximum spiritual benefit from any good action that we perform in compliance with the commands of Allah (SWT), the most important thing that is required is â€˜Ikhlaas al-Niyyahâ€™ which means â€˜purity and sincerity of intentionâ€™. Our intention of those deeds should be clearly for the sake of Allah (SWT). This means that we should not be fasting in this month only because we have to, or we should not engage ourselves in extra prayers simply because everyone else does so, rather we should ensure that our every good act should be for the sake of Allah (SWT). This indeed is what Allah (SWT) wants from us and this indeed is what will please Him.
â€œVerily We have sent down the book to you with truth; so worship Allah and be sincere to Him in religionâ€. (39:2)
â€œSay (O Muhammad): I am commanded to worship Allah, sincerely devoted to Him in religionâ€. (32:11)
The Holy Prophet (saww) said, â€œPerform your deeds purely for Allah, for verily Allah does not accept (the deeds) except from the one who sincerely performs for His sakeâ€. (Kanzul-â€˜Ummaal)
One of the obligatory acts of the holy month of Ramadhan is to fast â€“ which means to abstain from certain things from dawn to dusk. The question is why has Allah (SWT) commanded us to abstain from all those things?
In reality, if we careful reflect, the things that we have been commanded to abstain from in the month of Ramadhan are the same things that usually hinder us from getting closer to Allah (SWT). By making us abstain from them, Allah (SWT), with His Mercy, is actually training us to become sincere to Him thereby getting closer to Him and earning His pleasure.
Prophet Musa (a.s.) once asked Allah (SWT) to show him a creature of His who had purified himself for His worship and was unpolluted in his obedience towards Him. Musa (a.s.) was instructed to go to the shores of a certain sea where he would see what he desired for. Musa (a.s.) did as instructed and observed that on a branch of a tree that drooped over the water, sat a bird engrossed in remembrance of Allah (SWT). The bird said to Prophet Musa (a.s.), â€œFrom the time Allah has created me, I have been on this branch engrossed in the remembrance of Allah and His worship..â€ When Musa (a.s.) asked the bird if it desired any thing from this world, the bird said that it yearned to taste a drop of water from the sea. Musa (a.s.) exclaimed, â€œBut there does not exist a great distance between your beak and the water! Why donâ€™t you dip your beak and drink it?â€ Thereupon the bird replied, â€œOut of fear lest the enjoyment derived from the water should make me heedless of the pleasure of the remembrance of my Lordâ€. Musa (a.s.) clasped his head in astonishment. (Khazeenatul-Jawahir)
Imam â€˜Ali (a.s.) has said, â€œAllah (SWT) has made obligatoryâ€¦ the fasting to test the sincerity of the creaturesâ€. (Nahjul-Balaghah)