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Environs of Devotional Worship in Ramadan

dome-of-the-rock-calligraphy-surat-yasin-15-17By Dr. Ismail Memon Madani

Translated by Asim Ahmad

The month of Ramadan held a very special place in the life of my shaikh, Shaikh Zakariyyā [Kandhlawi]. Throughout the year he taught, researched, guided students along the spiritual path, wrote, and spread the Dīn, but the month of Ramadan was only for devotion to and remembrance of Allah. The great thinker of Islam, Shaikh Abū al-Hasan ‘Alī Nadwī devoted a chapter in his book The Biography of Hadrat entitled The importance of Ramadan and the devotions of Ramadan in Hadrat Shaikh’s life. This whole chapter is reproduced below for the benefit of the reader.

The month of Ramadan is the birthdate of the Holy Qur’an and the month of blessings and rahma (mercifulness). It is the season of devotions and worship and the month where spirituality (rūhāniyya) of Islam is celebrated. Ibn ‘Abbās رضي الله عنه narrates:

In the month of Ramadan, the Blessed Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم surpassed a strong gale in performing good deeds and worship.[1] 

‘Ā’isha رضي الله عنها narrates:

When the last ten days of Ramadan arrived, the Blessed Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم stayed awake the whole night.[2]

This month is the most beloved to the ‘ārifīn and lovers of Allah (‘ushāq). They count the days of the year in anticipation of this long-awaited month and only after it arrives is the yearning in their hearts extinguished. And we are not talking of a bygone era; this was the state of our elders in recent times. It has been said of the recent elders that no sooner was the moon of Ramadan sighted that they began waiting for the coming Ramadan.

The arrival of Ramadan brought an overwhelming change in the spiritual centers and khānqās (sanctums). In addition to the permanent residers [who lived in these khānqās] came the seekers of the spiritual path who travelled from faraway places like shards of metal to a block of magnet or like a moth to the fire. These spiritual centers became hubs of dhikr (chanting the name of Allah), recitation of Qur’an, voluntary salāt (nawāfil) and devotions. Anyone observing this spiritual activity from outside felt as if life truly had no other purpose or that perhaps this would be the last Ramadan. Every devotee competed with the other in the devotions and every day was spent as if it was the last.

Any person who remained in this spiritual atmosphere for even a short time soon became oblivious to the material world. It was a place that warmed and revived the hearts of the dispirited, gave ambition and motivated those who had no feelings for Dīn and purified the ones with corrupted hearts and those who lived a life of sin. It was like a diffusion of light that spread from one heart to another and which wielded the power to give life to the soulless ones. Whoever witnessed such spiritual and mystical gatherings was moved to say that this world cannot come to ruin as long as such gatherings remain, for these gatherings have turned their backs on the material world, the self and the cardinal desire in order to please their Creator and gain for themselves a place in Paradise.

It is unfortunate that there is virtually no documentation about the way of life in the khānqās of Hadrat Khawāja Niżām al-Dīn Auliyā’ from the 8th century or Hadrat Shāh Ghulām ‘Alī Dehlawī from the 13th century. There is no account of the ambiance within these khānqās when Ramadan was celebrated, or of the hum of dhikr and recitation, the nocturnal worship, or a schedule of the spiritual programs that went on during the month of Ramadan, though we are able to capture some glimpses of them in Fawā’id
al-Fu’ād, Siyar al-Auliyā’ and Durr al-Ma‘ārif. My words cannot express the beauty of these khānqās, but for those who have experienced their spiritual programs, the vigor and power of its shaikhs and the illumination that emanated from them, they will understand what I am talking about.

Indeed, many khānqās from the recent past inherited the spiritual wealth of the 8th and 9th century khānqās and their shaikhs, and the shaikhs of these recent khānqās successfully revived the fervor and spirit that was the life and soul of the older ones. It seemed as if history was once again repeating itself.

There are few people alive today who have witnessed firsthand the month of Ramadan in the lifetime of Shaikh Rashīd Ahmad Gangohī [3], though many saw the shaikhs after him like Shāh ‘Abd al-Rahīm [4] in Raipūr and Shaikh Thānwī in Thāna Bhawan. When such people remember those times, they are overcome by nostalgia.

Shaikh Madanī and the Month of Ramadan

One of the only shaikhs we know from this era who revived this forgotten Sunna was Shaikh al-Islām Husain Ahmad Madanī. Upon the request of his murīds and sincere seekers (mukhlasīn), he revived the Sunna of i‘tikāf in this blessed month. His students and devotees arrived from every part of the subcontinent to Silhat (Bangladesh), where he spent many of his Ramadan. After that, he spent a few Ramadan in Bāns Kandī (U.P. India) and then one or two years in his hometown of Daudpūra, district of Faizabād (U.P. India) at his residence. Thousands of his murīds, devotees and others looking forward to this month gathered together in these places and stayed as his special guests.

Throughout the month of Ramadan, he himself recited the Qur’an in tarāwīh. Those gathered too devoted all their time to the dhikr of Allah, ashgāl (meditative devotions), recitation of the Qur’an, and other worships. During this time, they experienced heightened spiritual states and progressed tremendously spiritually. Years after, they remembered the sweetness of īmān they gained in those Ramadan.

Shaikh al-Islām Husain Ahmad Madanī might have continued to spend Ramadan in Daudpūra, and only Allah knows how many people would have attained their spiritual objective if he had done so. They would have progressed through the different phases that one who treads this path [of tasawwuf] must experience, finally completing the course and achieving spiritual purification. Unfortunately, Hadrat passed away in 1377/1957 and these blessed gatherings came to an abrupt end. When he died, many regretted that they had not derived the full blessings of his auspicious presence while he was still amongst them.

The Ramadan at Raipūr and Other Places

This month was an essential part of Hadrat Shaikh ‘Abd al-Qādir Raipūrī’s [5] life. Before the partition [between India and Pakistan], a large number of his votaries from Punjab, many of them scholars, employees of the schools (madāris) and successors (khalīfas) who had gained their successorship (khilāfa) from other shaikhs arrived at the end of Sha‘bān to spend the month of Ramadan with him.
They isolated themselves from the material world and gathered in a remote village that was without a paved road or a railway station leading to the outside world in order to devote their days and nights
to dhikr, ashgāl, and recitation of Qur’an. They spent all their time in worship of Allah from the first day of Ramadan until the last, only leaving after they prayed Eid salāt. To understand the beautiful atmosphere of the khānqā and the spirituality of the students who took refuge there in the month of Ramadan, one can refer to my book, “Biography of Shaikh ‘Abd al-Qādir Raipūrī.”

Aside from Raipūr, Hadrat spent a few Ramadan in Bahit house (Sahāranpūr, U.P, India), ‘Abd al-Hamīd’s [former minister of Punjab Province] villa in Lahore (Pakistan), Ghaura Galī (Murree Hills, Pakistan), and Masjid Khalsa College (Faisalabad, Pakistan). The same fervor and spiritual zeal were observed in these Ramadan when hundreds of votaries and devotees gathered and filled the air of the khānqā with the chants of the dhikr of Allah, recitation of Qur’an, and other devotions.




[1] al-Sunan al-Kubrā, al-Jūd wa al-Ifđāl fī Shahr Ramađān.

[2] Muslim, al-Ijtihād fi al-‘Ashr al-Awākhir.

[3] Maulānā Rashīd Ahmad Gangohī (1829-1905) was the spiritual father and guardian of the school of Deoband. He combined the best of Shari’a and tasawwuf; he was a brilliant scholar and also on the highest spiritual state of tasawwuf. In one of his letters to his shaikh, he writes, “praise for me and denigration are equal in my eyes.” His letters and fatwas (religious law edicts) tell of his acumen and prove that he was a true inheritor of the insight and intellect of Shāh Walī Allāh.

[4] Maulānā Shāh Abd al-Raĥīm Raipurī (1853/1919) was one of the highest ranking successors of Maulānā Gangohī. He was a master in tasawwuf and loved recitation of Qur’an. He established centers for learning recitation of Qur’an [for children and adults] throughout his region and spent his night and days reciting Qur’an in the blessed month of Ramadan. Due to his devotion to Qur’an in Ramadan, no one was allowed to meet him in the holy month. Maulānā Shaikh ‘Abd al-Qādir Raipūrī [see next footnote] was his main successor.

[5] Maulana Shaikh ‘Abd al-Qādir Raipūrī (1878-1962)- spent 14 years in the service of his shaikh until his death. He spent many years in spiritual exertions (mujāhadāt) and developed profound understanding of life for which he became well known. His discourses are deeply intellectual and offer an in-depth discussion of the intricate aspects of tasawwuf.


Extracted from The Ramadan of Shaikh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya and Our Elders, Madania Publications.

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