Today is the first day of the month of Rajab, according to the Islamic calendar. It marks the beginning of a yearly three-month spiritual journey Muslims try to undertake, ending with the Eid at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Spiritual Muslims consider the two months before the month of Ramadan as preparatory, in the sense that they enable one’s spirituality to gradually increase until it peaks during the holy month (and again, within the holy month of Ramadan, we see a similar pattern, with spirituality peaking during the last third of the month…).
There are also a number of distinction that can be mentioned for each of these three months. One of these sets of distinctions is mentioned by a famous narration from the holy prophet when he says:
The month of Rajab is the month of God; The month of Sha’ban is my month; and the month of Ramadan is the month of my Ummah.
Much can be said about this narration. One possible way to understand this narration is to see it as though the prophet has given us a map of sorts, with indications along the way so that we know where to concentrate our efforts in each step of the journey.
By saying that the month of Rajab is the month of God, the Prophet is telling us to concentrate our efforts on the supplementary (mustahhab) acts of worship that are well-known by Muslims (saying istighfar, tasbeeh, reciting the Qur’an, fasting, and performing additional prayers — all of these every day of this month), so that we seize this opportunity in trying to renew and strengthen our relationship with God. Numerous acts of worship have been specifically mentioned for the month of Rajab – in addition to the ones we know for the entire year – some of them in general for the entire month, while others are specific to this day or that night. These are mentioned in detail in the books explaining the acts of worship of the different days and months of the year (such as Mafateeh al Jinan). Try to take a look at the pages addressing the month of Rajab, and to perform what you can during these 30 days; they will be over before you know it… And don’t just do these acts of worship because they are “ritual”. Do them to benefit from the spirituality they are supposed to bring. Have the patience to worship your Lord — be it by performing Salatul Layl or fasting during these long days — because you want to show Him the efforts you want to make to please him, to get closer to Him, to thank Him for the blessings in your life.
The narration we just mentioned goes on to say that the month of Sha’ban, which follows Rajab, is “my month,” that is, the month of the holy prophet. This may be understood as an invite to rebuild our relationship with the holy prophet and the purified members of his household – because he has said that this would please him. This can be done through readings books and listening to lectures detailing their lives and different aspects of their existence, as it can also be done by seeking their intercession for the affairs of both worlds.
Finally, that the holy month of Ramadan is the month of his Ummah, is perhaps alluding to the importance of the social ethics and teachings of Islam. During the month of Ramadan, we are asked to improve our manners with our families and those close to us; to rekindle our relationships with our relatives – even those with whom we have not interacted in a long time for whatever reason; and to remember to help out all those who may need help in society, because they are sick, or poor, or lonely. All such acts create a better, and a more Islamic Ummah.
If this roadmap is followed, then the next ninety days will certainly deserve to be celebrated with a Eid.