In the name of Allah
Ramadan provides the human soul with an opportunity to break free. The month of Ramadan is an opportunity for our souls to be purified of material factors that surround us. It provides an opportunity for our souls to become illuminated. This is the reason behind the existence of the month of Ramadan in sharia – it is an opportunity.
Certain characteristics of the month of Ramadan have been mentioned in the duas (supplications) recorded in Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya or other books of prayers. And each of these characteristics are worthy of reflection. The month of Ramadan has been referred to as “The Month of Penitence”, which I will discuss in few sentences later on, and “The Month of Surrender” which is in Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya. The meaning of “surrender” is identical to that of the word “submit” in the ayah: “And whoever submits himself wholly to God and he is the doer of good (to others), he indeed has taken hold of the firmest thing upon which one can lay hold,” [The Holy Quran, 31: 22]. “Whoever submits himself wholly to God” means surrendering one’s heart and soul and making them submissive to divine will, divine orders, and sharia. Ramadan has also been referred to as “The Month of Purification” which means that Ramadan has a quality that purifies people from impurities. When an impure, precious metal like gold is placed inside a furnace, it is purified. Purification means purifying the human soul of its impurities. —These are all qualities that have been mentioned about the month of Ramadan.
It appears that the month of Ramadan among other months of the year is like prayer times among other times of the day. That is to say, holy sharia has provided opportunities in the form of prayers for people who are restricted by material factors. The five daily prayer times are like an alarm. They provide us with a kind of privacy in order to illuminate our hearts and souls. Daily prayers have been made obligatory in order to prevent us from being submerged into the material world. They provide us with the opportunity to step out of the material world, think about spirituality, and prevent our submergence in the material world. It appears that the month of Ramadan has the same characteristic among other months of the year. It provides the human soul with an opportunity to break free. The month of Ramadan is an opportunity for our souls to be purified of material factors that surround us. It provides an opportunity for our souls to become illuminated. —This is the reason behind the existence of the month of Ramadan in sharia: it is an opportunity.
Among the characteristics that have been mentioned for the month of Ramadan—all of which are of course important—what particularly attracts my attention is “The Month of Penitence.” I would like to discuss this point with you government officials. Penitence means taking a step back when you realize that you are treading down the wrong path, doing the wrong thing, or cherishing the wrong thought. It means turning back to God the Exalted. “Penitence” has a meaning that is inherent. Going back means that we should find out where the problem lies and identify the path that is wrong: this is a very important point. As we move along, we often tend to turn a blind eye to the mistakes that we make and to our faults. We fail to notice the problems that plague our efforts. This happens in our individual responsibilities as well as our collective responsibilities—involving our nation, our party, our movement or our camp. We often ignore the problems within everything that is related to us. Therefore, it is other people who should point out our flaws; this would be unnecessary if we had identified the problems and alleviated them ourselves: it would have been unnecessary for other people to point out our flaws.
The first step of penitence is to pay attention to the flaws within our own work, and identify where the problem lies exactly and where we made a mistake. We should start with our personal responsibilities and move on to responsibilities that we share with other people. We should first evaluate our own work and see where we made mistakes: this is a duty for all of us. This is true for everyone—including everyday people, whose work lives include many shortcomings and problems; prominent people, righteous servants of God, and even saints. Everybody needs to engage in penitence. The Holy Prophet of Islam (s.w.a.) says in a hadith, “Dust settles on my heart [sometimes].” This hadith has been narrated by both Shia and Sunni Muslims. When the sun and the moon are covered up by a cloud, they lose some of their brilliance. The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) said that sometimes the same thing would happen to his heart. “And I repent seventy times every day.” The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) said those things, although we know how purified his soul was. According to another narration, “The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) used to repent seventy times a day.” According to a narration by Imam Sadiq (a.s.), the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) used to repent seventy times a day without having committed a sin. As you know, the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) was infallible. Why did he repent? The late Feiz [Kashani] (may God bestow mercy on him) said, “The sins that Prophets and Imams (may God bestow mercy on them) commit are not like the sins we commit. Rather, they sometimes delay dhikr and engage in permitted actions.” In the course of their daily lives, Prophets and Imams may have some moments of neglect. What keeps happening to us all the time may happen to Prophets and Imams for a moment, and they may engage in permitted actions. Even these limited moments of neglect require the Prophets and Imams to repent. Therefore, penitence is not just for ordinary people like us—it is for everybody.