Ramadan is said to be split into three thirds: the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said, "It (Ramadan) is the month whose beginning is mercy, middle, forgiveness and its end emancipation from the fire" (Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol 93). Salman Al-Farisi (RA) reported that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, "…The first third of the month of Ramadan is the time for mercy, the second third is for forgiveness, the third is for release from Hellfire…"
(IbnKhuzaymah). We hope to make the most of each third so that we can receive the blessing related to each.
For the first third of mercy, the following hadith comes to mind: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "While fasting remember the hunger and thirst on the Day of Judgment. Give alms to the poor and needy. Pay respect to your elders, have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongue against unworthy words, and your eyes from scenes that are not worth seeing and your ears from sounds that should not be heard. Be kind to orphans so that if your children may become orphans they will also be treated with kindness."
The second third of Ramadan is characterized as a time when Allah (SWT)'s forgives. The Quran says, "And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden the extensiveness of which is the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who guard against evil. - Quran 3:132. Will they not turn to Allah and seek His forgiveness, and Allah is oft-forgiving, Merciful? (Quran 5:74).
A prophetic tradition reported by Abu Huraira (RA) says, "Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven." - Bukhari 2: 37. The third portion of Ramadan is considered to be a time for seeking release from the hellfire.
Abu Said Al Khudri (RA) said, "Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said Allah frees some people from hellfire every day and night - meaning of Ramadan - and every Muslim has an answered supplication every day and night [of Ramadan]. (Reported by Al Bazar and authenticated by Sheikh Albaani in SaheehTargheeb No 1002).
This is also the part of the month that Lailat-ul-Qadr falls in. The Quran describes this special night: "Verily! We have sent it (this Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr. And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr is? The night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months Therein descend the angels and the Ruh (Gabriel) by Allah's Permission with all Decrees. Peace! until the appearance of dawn. (Quran 97:1-5)
It is sunnah to spend some time in seclusion (itikaf) for a spiritual retreat in the mosque during the last third of Ramadan. 'Aishah (RA) narrated that "The Prophet (PBUH) used to do a retreat in the mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan until he died. His wives continued to observe this practice after his death.' (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
While fasting for a whole month may seem like a lot, it becomes easier when it is divided into three parts, as above, or even into 30 separate days. If we fast one day at a time, or one third at a time until we complete the entire month, it will seem easier. The benefits of each third are so worthwhile, that nobody who is aware of them can purposefully forfeit them. Wishing all our readers the benefits of Ramadan - mercy, forgiveness, and release from Hellfire.
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By Dr Teresa Lesher