With the approach of Ramadan every year, I always recall the following Prophetic hadith:
"My people (Ummah) are granted five gifts that no prophet before me had been given. First, when it is the first night of Ramadan, Allah looks at His servants. He will never punish those at whom He looks. Second, the smell of their mouths when night approaches is more pleasant [to Allah] than the scent of musk. Third, angels seek Allah's forgiveness for them everyday and night. Fourth, Allah commands Paradise saying, 'Be prepared and adorned for My servants; they are about to be relieved from the pains of the worldly life and move to My Home and Honor.' Fifth, when it is the last night (of Ramadan) Allah forgives the sins of all people." Thereupon, a man asked, "Is it the night of Qadr (Power)?" He (the Prophet) said, "No, don't you see that once workers finish their tasks, they take their wages?" (Ahmad and Al-Bazzar)
In addition to enjoying common merits of the nights of the blessed month, the first night of Ramadan is singled out with particular virtues. According to the above hadith, in Ramadan's first night Almighty Allah looks favorably at His servants and He, Most High, will never punish those at whom He looks.
Reflecting on the great divine gift that a Muslim, man or woman, could have in the first night of Ramadan, some questions came across my mind:
Why the first blessed night of Ramadan is singled out with such a unique position over the other nights?
At whom will Allah look in that blessed night?
How could I — as well as my beloved Muslim brothers and sisters — be favored with Allah's look on that night?
Of course, Ramadan's first night is blessed with these great favors of Allah for a divine wisdom that He, Almighty, knows. It may be — among other reasons — because it is the opening gate to the month of mercy, forgiveness, blessings, and freedom of Hellfire.
Many people, unfortunately, ignore and don't prepare themselves for the special merits of the first night of Ramadan. Some people busy themselves with the day-to-day affairs and live it as the other nights of the year. Some people go shopping, enjoy entertainment, etc., and miss being among those whom Allah will favorably look at in that night.
Blessed with such a great divine gift and blessing, Ramadan's first night does deserve a special program and due attention. Due prior preparations should be made and a plan should be set. It is a very precious night that occurs only once every year. So, we should not miss it.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) drew our attention to the this unique and blessed time. He said,
"When the first night of Ramadan comes, the devils and rebellious jinn are put in chains, and the gates of hell are closed, none of them remains open. The gates of heaven are opened and none of them remains closed. And a caller calls, "O seeker of goodness, come forward, and O seeker of evil, desist. And Allah has many (in this month) who will be freed from Hell.' This announcement is made every night." (At-Tirmidhi)
If a Muslim, brother or sister, wishes to be among those at whom Allah will look, he or she should work for it. They should expose themselves to Allah's favor, mercy, forgiveness, and blessings. The following program may help us gain the divine gift of Ramadan's first night:
1. Determine to refrain from doing evils and sincerely repent your wrongdoings. 2. Intend to fast the whole month of Ramadan with unswerving faith in Allah and looking for taking the reward from Him alone. 3. Say the night dhikr (remembrance of Allah) shortly before the sunset of the last day of Sha`ban, preferably in the masjid. 4. Go to the masjid to offer the Maghrib Prayer in congregation; sisters may pray at home if they like. 5. Sit in the masjid, with the intention of i`tikaf (spiritual retreat in the masjid), and engage yourself in dhikr (remembrance of Allah) and Qur'an recitation until `Isha' Prayer. 6. Pray `Isha' and Tarawih in congregation with devoutness and sincerity. 7. Smile when you meet your fellow Muslims and wish them a happy Ramadan. 8. Before sleeping, do some virtuous good deeds such as giving in charity, reciting the Qur'an, making dhikr, visiting sick people, etc. 9. Wake up for the suhur (predawn meal) and pray qiyam (Night Vigil Prayer) before Fajr. 10. Go to the masjid to pray Fajr; sisters may pray at home. 11. Sit after Fajr in the masjid, reciting the Qur'an and making dhikr, to pray Duha after sunrise. 12. Remember to supplicate Allah for the suffering Muslims everywhere. 13. Throughout the night, earnestly ask Almighty Allah to favor and look at you with His mercy and forgiveness in this blessed night. 14. Encourage your family and friends to take the chance of the blessings of the first night of Ramadan. May Almighty Allah look at and bless us all with His favors and blessings. May He guide us to what is best in this world and the world to come, Amen.