"Ramadan Spiritual Sustenance"
رسولُ اللَّهِ صلى اللَّه عليه وآله:
مَن أدرَكَ شَهرَ رَمَضانَ فلَم يُغفَرْ لَهُ فَأبعَدَهُ اللَّهُ
The Prophet (ṣ) said:
He who experiences the month of Ramadan and remains unforgiven has indeed been distanced by Allah.
Bihār al-Anwār, v. 74, p. 74, no. 62
Is it permissible for a person who is not sure whether they have due qaḍa fasting or not, to observe Mustahab fasting? What is the ruling if such a person takes a Nadhr (vow) for Mustahab fasting, for instance, they intend Mustahab fasting for Eʿtikāf?
It has no problem.
A Commentary on the Supplicatory Prayer of Ramadan 26th
Thesupplicatory prayer of Ramadan 26th is as follows:
اللهُمَّ اجْعَلْ سَعْيى فيهِ مَشْكُوراً، وَذَنْبى فيهِ مَغْفُوراً، وَعَمَلى فيهِ مَقْبُولًا، وَعَيْبى فيهِ مَسْتُوراً، يا اسْمَعَ السَّامِعينَ
“O’ Lord! Let my efforts [toward worshipping You] in this month be recognized, my sins forgiven, my good deeds accepted, and my faults unexposed, O’ the Most Hearing of the hearing.”
Among the key teachings presented in the supplicatory prayer of Ramadan 26th are the following:
The ways of making efforts in the cause of Allah which would be recognized and appreciated by Him; the conditions for one’s good deeds to be accepted and one’s sins to be forgiven in the month of Ramadan; the importance of not exposing other people’s faults and shortcomings; exploring the concept of the Divine Attribute of “All-hearing”.
* Ramadan, a Means toward the Deeds which are Worthy of Allah’s Recognition and Appreciation
The month of Ramadan is a time for cultivating piety in oneself and engaging in self-purification and moral training. It is therefore the best opportunity to purify oneself and cultivate piety in oneself to the point where one would become worthy of being granted entry in to Paradise and to do good deeds for one’s eternal life in the Hereafter.
This issue has also been reflected in the Islamic traditions; for instance, Imam al-Ṣādiq (‘a) has been quoted as saying: “The gates of the heavens are open in the month of Ramadan, devils are in chains, and the good deeds of the believers are accepted.” 
To such people who seize this great opportunity toward earning the good pleasure of Allah, Allah will say the following in Paradise:
إِنَّ هذا كانَ لَكُمْ جَزاءً وَ كانَ سَعْيُكُمْ مَشْكُوراً
“Indeed, this is your reward, and your endeavor has been appreciated.”
By delving in to the deep meaning of the word “مشکورا” [meaning appreciated] used in this Quranic verse and also in the supplicatory prayer of Ramadan 26th one realizes that this word is used to refer to a reward far greater than Paradise. Because the depth and grandeur of the appreciation of an individual is obviously based on how great their own self and essence is not based on the quality or amount of what the other person has done.
This being said, it is clear that Allah’s appreciation of good deeds will be based on His infinite essence; this means that Allah will appreciate the good deeds of His servants in this world with unimaginably great rewards, both physical and spiritual ones.
* Ramadan, a time for Divine Pardon and Forgiveness of the Sins
Ramadan is a time for seeking and receiving Divine forgiveness and pardon. This is because the immense forgiveness of Allah is close at hand in this month, the gates of Paradise are open, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are in chains.
According to an Islamic tradition, every night of the month of Ramadan seventy thousand people will be forgiven and the number of the people who are forgiven on the Night of Qadr will equal the number of all the people who were forgiven on all other nights of this month. 
* The difference between the Validity of a Deed and its Acceptance
The first and most important factor which can ensure that a deed will be accepted by Allah is piety. A certain act of worship which is done without ikhlāṣ and piety may be technically valid, however, it will not be accepted nor will it yield any positive effect or reward. 
In order for good deeds to be rewarded by Allah, they need to be done with the sincere intention of pleasing Allah and attaining nearness to Him. Therefore, although, for instance, some traditions instruct us to fast in order to remain healthy (صوموا تصحوا), one should not fast merely for good heath! If one wishes his fasting to be rewarded as a good deed, one needs to do it with the sincere intention of obeying Allah’s orders and attaining nearness to Him this way.
* Submitting to the Wilāyah of the Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a), a Necessary Condition for the Acceptance of Good Deeds
One of the most important conditions which must be met for one’s acts of worship to be accepted by Allah is submitting to the Wilāyah and leadership of the Prophet’s Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a). Without this condition being met, all acts of worship will be like a dead body without a soul, because Wilāyah is the spirit of all acts of worship and something which gives them meaning.
It should be noted that the acceptance of good deeds shows that they are of a high quality. Similarly, if the services one provides to one’s community and their fellow human beings are accompanied by a strong faith in Allah, they will be the worthiest of deeds. However, if the faith in Allah is absent, all deeds will be meaningless, worthless, and unworthy of any reward.
* We Must Conceal Other People’s Faults and Shortcomings
One of the Attributes of Allah is “Sattār al-‘Uyūb” meaning “the Concealer of Faults”. He conceals people’s faults and sins so that they might not be disgraced among their friends and foes so that they might wake up from their state of negligence, repent, and stop sinning.
This part of the prayer bears an important lesson for us, the human being, too; it implies that like Allah, we too must conceal other people’s faults and avoid exposing them as soon as we learn that they have committed some secret sin. This way, we give them a chance to correct themselves and repent of their sins without disgracing them.
* The meaning of the Divine Attribute of “All-hearing”
When the term “hearing” is used about Allah, it loses all its physical denotations and it turns in to a non-physical concept and issue because the pure Essence of Allah is far beyond attributes which belong to the physical world.
When used about Allah, hearing means a complete and all-encompassing knowledge of all sounds and voices. In other words, Allah has such a vast and encompassing knowledge of everything that is said and spoken in this world which sets Him high above any sort of physical hearing.
This is why He has been described as “Asma‘ al-Sāmi‘īn”, i.e. the “Most Hearing” of all beings, in this prayer.
FIGHTING AGAINST THE CARNAL DESIRES
قَالَ الامام الصَّادِقُ(علیه السلام): «إِحْذِرُوا أَهْوَائَکُمْ کَمَا تَحْذَرُونَ أَعْدَائَکُمْ فَلَیْسَ شَی ءٌ أَعْدَی لِلرِّجَالِ مِنْ اِتِّبَاعِ أَهْوَائِهِمْ وَ حَصَائِدِ أَلْسِنَتِهِمْ»
Imam al-Ṣādiq ('a) is narrated to have said: ‘Stay away from [following] your carnal desires just as you would stay away from your enemies, for there is no greater enemy for the virtuous than following their carnal desires and the vain talk of their tongue.’
The biggest enemy of man is following his carnal desires and vain talk. The carnal desires are those unrestrained desires of man’s heart which constantly keep pulling him towards them. If these desires are under the control of human reason, they no longer pose any danger. Their danger is only when they are left unchecked and unrestrained at which point they will be considered as mankind’s greatest enemies.
Oftentimes, when an individual becomes aware of his enemy, he makes sure that he is out of the enemy’s range. Yet, when it comes to the dangers of the carnal desires, many people do not make this distinction and instead of being wary, they end up following them. There are many people who let their carnal desires rule over them and some even take them as their god, submitting to them in worshipful adoration. The Quran has also referred to this issue in the following verse: ‘Have you ever considered the case of the person who has made his lust his god? Can you take the responsibility of guiding such a one aright?’
One of the criteria of Tawḥīd [monotheism] is obedience to Allah. The true monotheist is someone who does not obey other than Allah and who obeys the prophets ('a), the Imams ('a), and one’s mother and father, because Allah has commanded him to obey them. If one obeys others alongside Allah, he will be guilty of polytheism in worship. Sometimes, carnal desires take hold of the heart and set up various partners to Allah such as love of wealth, rank and position, and children.
There is a tradition which mentions that: ‘When one chooses to listen to an individual, it is as if he has worshipped them’. In real life, when we listen to a speaker, we follow them in what they say. So if they speak of Allah and obedience to Him, we will naturally be guided in the right path, while if they speak of various evil things, we will in reality be obeying Satan. When one follows their lower desires, they are in essence following Satan.
Allusions to Some Points:
There are a number of points in the aforementioned tradition which are worth noting:
1. The tradition indicates that we should stay away (in the original Arabic it says that we should be wary) from our carnal desires and it doesn’t simply say that we shouldn’t obey them. This indicates a higher level of caution than if it were to say do not follow these carnal desires.
2. The tradition has called carnal desires ‘an enemy of men’; however it seems that by ‘men’, it means to refer to virtuous and faithful men in the original Arabic text. This means that even for such pious individuals, the greatest enemy is their carnal desires. Not only are they not immune from this danger, but instead, they must be even more careful than others in regards to it.
There is a famous saying which supports the above mentioned tradition: ‘Mankind will all be destroyed except for the scholars. And the scholars will all be destroyed except the ones who practice (what they know). And all of those who practice will be destroyed except those who are sincere (in intention). And all those who are sincere are in great danger’. It can be said that this great danger is posed by carnal desires.
3. The term ḤaṣāÞid which has been used in the original Arabic of the tradition refers to that which is attained through harvest. In this way, the tongue has been referenced much like a sickle which mows things down and reaps a harvest. When we look at the sins of the tongue, we see that they are obviously related to the carnal desires; in spite of this, they have been mentioned separately in the tradition. Why is this the case?
The reason behind this separation is to show the great importance of this issue. The sins of the tongue are in such a way that they don’t need a special means in order to be committed; the tongue is something which is ready and at hand twenty-four hours of the day. The dangers of the tongue are quite immense and there are about thirty mortal sins which have been attributed to it. While the sins committed by the tongue are among the most serious ones, many people underestimate and ignore them. Unfortunately, people commit some of the worst sins with their tongues while they don’t consider them as being much at all.
 The New Mafātīḥ, p. 817.
 The Beautiful Parables of the Quran, vol. 1m p. 312.
 Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 626, hadith No. 58.
 Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 27, p. 191.
 Al-Insān, 22.
 Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 25, p. 373.
 Ibid, vol. 12, p. 66.
 Wasā’il al-Shi’a, vol. 7, p. 18, hadith No. 21.
 The Beautiful Parables of the Quran, vol. 1, p. 7.
 Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 2, p. 392.
 The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 12, p. 562.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 1, p. 417.
 The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 13, p. 178.
 Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 10, p. 313.
 The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 12, p. 188.
 The Message of the Quran, vol. 4, p. 126.