A week ago, the Muslim world began the countdown to the sacred month of Ramadan. It did when the crescent which signaled the beginning of the month of Rajab appeared in the horizon. The month of Rajab is the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. Arabic linguists would remind us that the lexical definition of the word Rajab, particularly when it is converted to the tri-literal verb –rajaba, means “to respect”. In other words, the word Rajab speaks to the essence of the month- a month in which, like the ones before, Muslims are expected to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum.
The month of Rajab is regarded as one of the four sacred months in Islam. The other months are Muharram, Dhul-Qi’dah and Dhul-Hijjah. But why is the month sacred? The month is held in awe and reverence because the Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, demands that from us. In fact, He reveres and adores the month in His majesty. This explains why He says “do not perpetrate injustice against yourself during the sacred months)’. Why is it that the Almighty holds the month in reverence? He does that based on His will and wisdom, The Will of the Almighty is unknowable; His wisdom is intractable. But that which is indubitable is this: He forbids all acts of violence during the sacred months except when the Muslims come under aggression.
The month of Rajab is equally held sacred, as has been mentioned, because it comes as a prelude to the months of Sha’aban and Ramadan. Each time the crescent announcing the beginning of the month of Rajab appeared, Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be on his soul) used to supplicate to the Almighty in the following words: Allahumma baa-rik-lanaa fi-rajab wa sha’ban wabal-lig-na shahr-raramadan. “O Almighty, make Rajab and Sha’ban blessed months for us, and grant us the blessing of witnessing the month of Ramadan (i.e. prolong our lives up to (and beyond) Ramadan, so that we may benefit from its merits and blessings).”
Perhaps the greatest reason this month enjoys an iconic status in Muslim weltanschauung is that the Prophet’s journey from the earth to the presence of Almighty actually took place during this month. The Almighty alludes to this important journey in Quran where He says: “Glory be to Him Who took His servant(Muhammad) on a journey one night from Masjid-al-Haram(in Mecca) to Masjid-al-Aqsa, whose vicinity We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs: surely He is the One Who is the Hearer, the Observer. (Quran 17:1).
Otherwise known as al-M’iraj, the Prophet’s journey to the heavens began in Makkah, unto Jerusalem, from where he was guided in the ascension to the heavens by Angel Jibril (upon him be peace). The core of the message which the Prophet (s.a.w) brought from Him to the Muslim world is the observance of the five daily prayers; that the observance of the Salat is the template of Islam and the membership of the Islamic commonwealth. The Prophet’s ascension to the heavens, an event which occurred during this month of Rajab, equally functioned as a marker for the spiritual in contradistinction to the hypocritical. In other words, during this month, Abu Bakr, son of AbiQuhafah, became a Siddiq as a result of his unshakeable belief in the supra-normal and for his trust in the Almighty. During this month, some among humanity particularly during the time of the Prophet equally crossed the Rubicon. They traversed the spectrum of belief to unbelief and infidelity. By disbelieving in the ascension of the Prophet some of the unbelievers in Makkah lost the opportunity to enjoy eternal bliss and forever too.
Brethren, the month of Rajab is also significant because in it the battle of Tabuk, which took place in the ninth year after the Hijrah from Makkah, was fought in defense of Islam. It was also during the month of Rajab that the second Oath of Aqabah took place. It was during the month of Rajab that Salahudin al-Ayyubi set Jerusalem free from oppression of the oppressors. Ironically, brothers and sisters, it was during the month of Rajab that the Ottoman Caliphate in Turkey was liquidated by the combination of external powers in collusion with forces within the Islamicate community- forces which preferred the specious to the real.
Now how should you conduct yourself during this month? It is important and reasonable that you endeavour to do as much of good deeds as you can in it. Keep regular prayers and fast as many days in it as possible but do not go to the extreme of saying you want to fast the whole 29 or 30 days. The Prophet did not recommend that for us.
Seek forgiveness of your sins as many times as you can. A recommended formula goes thus: Astaghfirullah wa as-aluhu a-tawbah –meaning: “I seek forgiveness from the Almighty in penitence”, and endeavour to give charity and alms giving. The Prophet says: “the best of you is the one who is most compassionate with the creatures of the most High”.