Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, once said: “When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of the heaven are opened; the gates of Hell-fire are closed, and the devils are chained.” (Sahih Bukhari 1800)
Ramadan, the month of fasting is no different than any other month as far as crimes are concerned. Sins and crime continue to take place in this month all around the world. Does this hadith mean the deviations in this month would not count? Does it mean that every sin in this month would be forgiven or does it mean that people cannot commit sin in this month?
I believe this hadith explains some key concepts of Ramadan in an allegorical manner. If we consider the language as symbolic, the hadith offers a logical and viable rationale for developing a strong conviction and appreciation of the Prophetic wisdom.
We can infer from the opening of the gates of heavens to mean that God makes our journey to the heavenly state of utmost peace and happiness effortless and accessible under His divine grace in the month of Ramadan. During this month believers have a month long opportunity to change their life style and environment to attain a higher state of self-consciousness. Such a journey would help them enjoy every moment of the month and qualify for an uninterrupted mercy and blessings of the Divine in this life and the hereafter.
Closing the gates of hell means that the Creator is eager and ready to forgive every sin committed by anyone if sincere repentance is sought. The month invites us to self-evaluation and identifying weaknesses in character followed by actions to better ourselves. In other words, forgiveness is the divine offering for this month. However, one must realize that repentance and forgiveness has to be done in a manner that is genuine. It means a person is conscious of wrong actions and is willing to change the life style and never to repeat it. God says in the Quran "Except those who repent, make amends, and declare the truth. I will certainly accept their repentance: I am the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful. 2:160
Chaining the devils means that God makes it easier in this month for people to control their behavior in the wake of all temptations, physical, social and spiritual. In a moment of high self-consciousness an individual would ensure that he or she does not commit any act that would either defy the divine or reject his mercy. In other words, each believing person has to have personal battle with one's own ego, the biggest satanic whisper that sits in the sub-consciousness of each one of us.
Thus this month provides opportunities to earn the boundless bounties, limitless forgiveness and reigning one's own ego. The more intense a person becomes in seeking these goals, the more beneficial the month becomes to him or her. Humans have the capacity to change themselves and earn the blessings of God through their efforts and good deeds and they would always be supported by the Divine in this endeavor. But as for those who strive hard in Our cause -We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold, God is indeed with the doers of good. (Quran 29:69)