Ramadan has commenced and Muslims across the globe are fasting to observe one of the five pillars of Islam. Islam’s holiest month comprises three Ashra or stages and culminates in the festival of Eid-al-Fitr. Muslims spend the month in prayers and introspection in a bid to attain piety and closeness to the Almighty.
Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad received the relevation during the month of Ramadan. Depending on the sighting of the moon, Ramadan lasts 29 to 30 days. According to Hadith or sayings of Prophet Muhammad, the three Ashra pertain to Rehmah (mercy), Maghfirah ( forgiveness), and Nijaat( protection). Ashra literally means 10 days in Arabic.
The Prophet is quoted as saying that Ramadan is the month, “whose beginning is mercy, its middle, forgiveness, and its end, emancipation from the fire (of hell).” There are also particular dua or supplications for each of the Ashra.
The first ten days of Ramadan are the days of Mercy and Muslims spend this Ashra seeking the Mercy and Blessings of Almighty Allah.
The Dua or supplication for this Ashra, according to Islamic tradition is:
O! My Lord forgives and have Mercy and You are the Best of Merciful”
Muslims seek the mercy of Allah after the daily five prayers, especially the special Taraweeh prayers.
Day 11th to day 20th of Ramadan form the second Ashra of forgiveness. Muslims seek forgiveness for their transgressions and misdeeds, and their consequences both in this world and the hereafter. The holy Quran emphasizes the importance of seeking forgiveness from the Almighty in several verses.
“And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden the extensiveness of which is the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who guard against evil. – Quran 3:132.
A Hadith quotes the Prophet as saying: “Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven”.
The Dua for Second Ashra is.
“I seek forgiveness from Allah, my Lord, from every sin I committed”
The third Ashra of Ramadan is considered to be the most important as it is believed that Laylatul Qadr or the Night of Decree falls on one of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Laylatul Qadr, in Islamic belief, is the night when the Quran was first sent down from Heaven to Earth.
The Quran describes the night of Laylatul Qadr as “better than a thousand months”. Muslims observe Laylatul Qadr by performing nightlong prayers and supplication for protection from hellfire. The holy Quran also says that angels descend to earth on this night with all Decrees until the appearance of dawn.
Many Muslims also observe i’tikaf by worshipping in seclusion during this ashra.
The Dua for the Third and last Ashra is:
“O, Allah! Save me from Hell (Jahanum), Fire.”