A couple of days 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 Muslims are expected to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum.
The month of Rajab is equally held sacred 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 bāriklanā fi-Rajab wa Sh’abān wa ballignā ShahraRamadān (“O Almighty! Make Rajab and Sha’bān blessed months for us, and grant us the blessing of witnessing the month of Ramadān (i.e. prolong our life up to 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 Qur’an where He says: “Glory be to Him Who took His servant (Muhammad) on a journey one night from Masjid-al-Harām (in Makkah) to Masjid-al-Aqsā, 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 the Almighty for 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 that 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 Abi Quhafah, 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. There circumstance reminds me of the tendency in humans to grumble when opportunities come their way. When it rains, humans complain of lack of sunshine; sometimes when they are blessed with daughters they become disconsolate because they desire sons. We often miss life opportunities because we are incapable of recognizing the rahmah of the Almighty for what they are. Some among humankind would learn about and appreciate the truth in the message of Islam only after they have left this world.
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 thatthe second Oath of Aqabah took place. It was during the month of Rajabthat Salahudin al-Ayyubi rescued Jerusalem 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 Islamic community- forces, which preferred the specious to the real. Now how should you conduct yourself during this month? It is useful and reasonable that you endeavor 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 twenty-nine or thirty days. The Prophet did not recommend that for us.
Seek forgiveness of your sins as many times as you can. Are commended formula goes thus: Astaghfirullah wa as-aluhu a-tawbah –meaning: “I seek forgiveness from the Almighty and penitence”, and endeavour to give Sadaqa- charity and alms giving. The Prophet says: “the best of you is the one who is most compassionate with the creatures of Allah”.
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Afis Ayinde Oladosu is a p rofessor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.