What a night!
By Abdur Rahmaan Umar
"So, sheikh," asked Ahmed fidgeting with his topee(hat), "Why did Allah put this night of Shabe Bara'at(Lailatul Bara'at) right here so near to Ramadaan. I mean in two weeks time we have the greatest month with all the forgiveness and good things.... so why would Allah want to put this night of forgiveness so close?"'
Without waiting for a response he continued, "In Ramadaan we have the special night of Qadr. So there is really no need for this night, is there? Maybe it should have been in another part of the year?"
Sheikh Hamaad quietly shifted in his seat, his tasbeeh moving in synch with his mouth, saying nothing he continued paying careful attention to Ahmed's words.
"So what's the meaning of this?" said Ahmed his face distorting with confusion.
Sheikh Hamaad wordlessly gathered his thoughts. Such questions he knew were always better explained by way of example. He continued stroking his beard and a few white hairs fell onto his kurtha(thobe). He meticulously picked up each one of them then began:
"Hmmm, have you ever helped your mother with the washing?" he enquired still searching for any stray hair that may have gone unnoticed.
"You know I don't do that sort of stuff," Ahmed shot back without a pause, his head jerking back in surprise.
"Perhaps you should help your mother," advised Sheikh, "but I'm sure you've watched her do the washing."
"Yea, sometimes," replied Ahmed shifting his topee(hat) over his face, "I try to help....sometimes, but..."
Sheikh Hamaad didn't wait for his full defence but continued, "Have you noticed how she takes out some garments with really bad stains on them? And then she gives them a bit of a pre-wash, usually spraying one of those many new cleaners on the stain for good measure."
Ahmed's eyebrow lifted as he remembered, "Yea, I've seen her do that a couple of times. Usually its Little Joe's.... errr...Yusuf's clothes with all the food stains." He shot a quick glance at his own T-shirt - quick check for any stains.
"Well, in the same way ..., " explained Sheikh Hamaad his Tasbeeh resting quietly on his lap, "Ramadaan is a great month and it's meant to purify and elevate us all. But some of us, actually all of us, need a bit of a pre-wash. So Allah Ta'ala, in His mercy has granted this night. So we can be cleansed of our sins before Ramadaan."
"Then what will Ramadaan do for us," question Ahmed, "Isn't Ramadaan supposed to be for that?"
"For some, but what Allah really wants is to elevate our stages in Ramadaan, so He grants us these opportunities to cleanse ourselves of all sins and to use Ramadaan to pour His mercies upon us. And for us to be drawn closer to Him."
"Wow!" exclaimed Ahmed, "Allah is really very merciful. But what about those few who will not be forgiven like the drunkard, the one who is disobedient to his parents, those who drink alcohol...and the one who wears his trousers below his ankles...and...Ay, I can't remember the others."
"Yes, there are a few that Allah will not forgive. To add to your list those who harbour enmity against one another, those who sever family ties, idol worshippers and those who commit adultery and murder."
"So Allah will never forgive them!" cried Ahmed, "They're doomed then!"
"No, no it's not like that," Sheikh softened his voice to calm Ahmed, "Allah will forgive whoever he wants but these people have committed such crimes that will require a very special effort on their part to get forgiven."
"Like the really, really stubborn stains?" Yusuf smiled, pleased at understanding the Sheikh's example.
"Yes, they will have to give up their ways and make sincere Tauba, repentance to Allah before He will forgive them. They must make a firm resolution never to commit that crime again and be very remorseful of what they did in the past. And if they turn to Allah on this special night He will forgive them too."
A silence filled the room as the two became awed by the magnanimity of Allah's mercy.
Sheikh wiped the little moisture that gathered in his eyes and continued, "And you notice all these crimes beside idolatry are crimes against man. Man upon man! Not crimes against Allah Ta'ala?"
"Yup, that's true," replied Ahmed, "Never really noticed that ... but you right."
"That's how much Allah cares for us, that it's not only what we do with Him but what we do to one another that's so important."
Ahmed continued staring at his T-shirt for a while, waiting for the tears to settle, then he asked, "So what should I do on this night?"
Sheikh Hamaad closed his eyes contemplating the long list of activities usually prescribed for this night and knew that many of them were not substantiated from the Ahadith.
"You need to do just two things."
"Just two things!" exclaimed Yusuf
"Firstly you must make sure that you are not one of those that Allah has mentioned as stubborn stains, and if you are then you must repent and make Tauba (Repent). If you have been disobedient to your parents or cut off family ties then you must set this right first. It doesn't help you try to earn Allah's pleasure while these things still hang over your head."
"And the second thing?" he asked while the Sheikh paused to sip some water.
"The second thing is to do those things that will draw Allah's attention and earn His pleasure like reading the Quran, salaah, zikr and of course, dua to beg Him for His Mercy and Favours."
A broad smile covered Ahmed's face, "I am so glad Allah Ta'ala granted us this opportunity for a pre-wash before Ramadaan. Allahu Alkbar!"