The common understanding of Muslims is that when Ramadan begins the devils are chained and the gates of heaven are opened. However, this does not seem to make sense because if the devils are chained then how is it possible to do evil during Ramadan? Is the suggestion then that during Ramadan no human beings are being enticed to do evil, but rather it is from within them? This does not seem to make sense either since one could argue that evil continues to exist with the same vigor during Ramadan as it does outside of it.
Before presenting my comments on the referred concept of the Muslims, it may be clarified that it is based on a narrative ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). According to the reporting of Bukhari, the Prophet (pbuh) is ascribed to have said:
When the month of Ramadhan approaches, the doors of heaven are cast open, while the doors of Hell are shut down and the forces of evil are tied in chains.
The correct implication of this narrative, in my opinion, is close to what Ibn Abd al-Burr has mentioned in his commentary on the Mu’atta of Imam Maalik – Al-Tamheed. The narrative, in my opinion, implies that during the days of Ramadhan, God protects all those who faithfully and sincerely intend to fast and earn for themselves the mercy, forgiveness and protection of their Lord. This implication of the narrative is coherent with the declaration of the Qur’an that when a person resolves to do good and to follow the path prescribed by his Lord, God helps him in doing good and makes the path of piety easier for him to tread. In Surah Al-Ankaboot, the Qur’an promises:
Those, who strive in our ways, We shall definitely guide them to Our paths. (29:69)
Then again in Surah Al-Layl, the Qur’an promises:
For him, who gave [in charity], feared God [abiding by His limits] and testified the good [end], We shall, indeed, make the path of bliss easier for him [to tread]. (92: 5 – 7)
In keeping with the cited promise of the Qur’an, the Prophet (pbuh), in the referred narrative, is reported to have said that when Ramadhan approaches, God opens the doors for heaven and shuts down the doors to hell and enchains all evil forces for all those who have a sincere resolve to piety and to live their lives in a manner which is prescribed by their Lord. In this way, God protects the faithful and the obedient among people from the attacks of evil forces and makes the treading of the path of piety easier for them.
November 30, 2000