Let us make the most of Ramadan
By Mawlana Javed Iqbal
“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, recognises its boundaries and safeguards that which he should safeguard will have his previous sins expiated.” (Ibn ibbán)
Alláh, Most High, says:
“O you who believe, fasting has been ordained upon you as it was ordained upon those before you so that you become god-fearing” (al-Qur’án 2:183).
We ascertain from this verse that the wisdom behind the fast is attainment of taqwá, which essentially means to refrain from anything that will tarnish one’s relationship with Alláh in any way or form.
Unfortunately, Ramadan has become a ritual for many of us, empty of true spirit and essence, and we end up leaving the month of Ramadan the same way we entered it. Hence, it is necessary that we work towards making this Ramadan different to previous Ramadan’s and achieve the quality of taqwá, making us better Muslims and followers of the Sharí`ah.
Below are a few ways to help us achieve the most of Rama_án. Some of them may seem obvious and simple, but more often than not, the very basics are our biggest weaknesses.
- § Remove the distractions
If we look at the lives of the pious predecessors and see how they spent Ramadan, we will realise that they used to leave all preoccupations to solely focus themselves on worshipping Alláh, Most High, and exerting themselves in this holy month, to the extent that they would even cease the noble act of imparting Islamic knowledge.
Hence, it is evident how important it is for us to cut out the television, radio, internet, lengthy conversations over the phone, newspapers and magazines, even though their content may be of a lawful nature. All these things, amongst others, only serve to distract us from our goal in Ramadan and burn away precious time that can never be recovered. Talking beyond necessity and needless socialising with friends and colleagues should be avoided too. This is going to be the first step toward making the most of Ramadan and will definitely help the other pieces of the jigsaw come into place.
- § Educate yourself about Ramadan
Learn the legal rulings pertaining to Ramadan and the fast (e.g. the obligations of fasting, that which invalidates the fast or renders it makrúh or reprehensible etc.) to ensure that one does not do anything contrary to the teachings of the Sharí`ah, a situation that can easily be avoided by educating oneself properly beforehand. Likewise, read books detailing the virtues of Ramadan and performing various good deeds therein. Inshá Alláh, this will help one understand and appreciate the message of Rama_án and encourage one to practice good deeds throughout the blessed month.
- § Kick out the bad old habits
With the dawn of Ramadan, the atmosphere instantly becomes vibrant with the
colour of ímán (faith) and good deeds, and a Muslim finds himself surrounded by things to aid his journey towards Alláh, the Almighty. This is, then, the perfect time to kick out those bad habits that have probably hindered one’s progress in being a good Muslim during the previous eleven months. Ramadan brings one’s defects to the surface and forces him to recognise and acknowledge weaknesses hitherto unnoticed. Every man is his own best judge; use this opportunity to say goodbye to everything that undermines your Muslim character, such as foul language, backbiting, listening to music, smoking, looking at that which Alláh has forbidden and other similarly detrimental sins. Be honest to yourself and face up to these habits with courage and determination, all the time seeking assistance from Alláh against falling into the snares of Shay>án and the enticement of the lower desires after the month of Ramadan has passed.
The core lesson of Ramadan is purity and control of one’s desires and this is what we have to aim for in this holy month. The Messenger of Alláh said:
“Whoever does not abandon false utterances and practicing upon them [while fasting], Alláh cares not that he abandons his food and drink” (al-Bukhári). In another narration he said: “If someone swears at you or behaves in an ignorant manner with you, say: ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’”
(Ibn Khuzayma, Ibn ibbán)
- § Be extra mindful of your #aláh
It is much easier for a person to excel in good actions during Ramadan. Therefore, make full use of this spirit and ensure you perform #aláh in the masjid with the imam’s first takbir [of tahrímah]. Likewise, perform all the sunan and nawáfil prayers with each saláh. Thirty days of constancy upon this will, inshá-Alláh, allow one to maintain this even after the passing of the blessed month.
Women, while performing their saláh at home, should be mindful of saláh times, ensuring that they perform their saláh at the correct time, and not let anything
preoccupy them from this obligation. It has been seen that women become engrossed in preparing food for iftár and `Íd celebrations, losing track of time and thus delaying saláh. This should be rectified. Furthermore, if in one’s previous life there have been shortcomings and deficiencies in performing saláh, they should resolve now to amend this.
- § Preoccupy yourself with the Noble Qur’án
Ramadan has a unique relationship with the Qur’án, which no other time of the year can parallel. Alláh, Most High, says in the Qur’án:
“The month of Ramadan is that wherein the Qur’án was revealed”
The Messenger of Alláh would revise the Qur’án with the archangel Jibríl during the month of Ramadan every year. Every Muslim should, therefore, make an effort to increase his recitation of the Qur’án and make at least one complete recitation during this blessed month. At the same time, we should make use of this time to seriously contemplate our relationship with the Qur’án and reflect on how much we recite the Qur’án out of Ramadan. Are we in the habit of reciting daily or is it a case of the Qur’án gathering dust from one Ramadan to the next? What effort have we made to ensure our pronunciation of the Qur’án is correct and according to the rules of tajwíd? How zealous are we to understand the meanings of the Qur’án and learn its commandments and prohibitions?
- § Be more charitable
Fasting throughout the day naturally makes a person feel compassionate and merciful toward the poor and destitute, and encourages one to spend generously on the less fortunate. We also learn that the Messenger of Alláh was extremely generous in the month of Ramadan (al-Bukhári, Muslim). In a hadíth, the Messenger of Alláh said that the best charity is in the month of Ramadan (al-Tirmidhi). One should therefore spend in the path of Alláh throughout the month of Ramadan and seek to spend in different avenues of good (zakáh, sadaqah, providing iftár, sadaqat al-fitr at the end of the month etc.), expecting reward only from Alláh, Most High.
- § Attain the reward of more than one fast
Yes, one can attain the reward of more than one fast and it is really quite simple. Zayd ibn Khálid Juhani (رضي الله عنه) narrates that the Prophet said: “He who feeds a fasting person will receive the same reward as him without the reward of the fasting person being decreased at all” (al-Tirmidhi). This reward is not conditional with providing a full meal; the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever feeds a fasting person therein, it will be a means of forgiveness for his sins, freedom from the Hellfire and he will receive the same reward without his (i.e. the fasting person’s) reward being decreased at all.” The blessed Companions
(رضي الله عنهم) said: “Not all of us have the means to feed a fasting person.” The Messenger of Alláh said: “Allah grants this reward to one who gives the fasting person a date, a drink of water or a sip of milk” (Ibn Khuzayma). One should therefore endeavour to provide whatever he can to those who are fasting, even if that be a single date.
- Supplicate unto Alláh at the time of iftár
As the fast approaches its close it reaches its pinnacle and Alláh’s special mercy is directed towards His servants who lift their hands in supplication unto Him, humbling themselves and expressing their utter indigence towards their Creator and Master. The Messenger of Allah said there are three people whose supplications are not rejected; one of them is the fasting person when he breaks his fast (Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Májah and others).
Many people do not appreciate these invaluable moments and waste this time in futile talk, gossip and other useless pursuits. The servant who pays heed to the sayings of the Messenger of Alláh will ensure that he turns to Alláh in
supplication before the time of iftár and will not let such an opportune moment be wasted.
- § Be regular in taraweeh and qiyám al-layl
The taraweeh prayers need no introduction to any Muslim as we all witness how the masjids are brimming with people as the Qur’án is melodiously recited during the month of Ramadan each year. However, all too often our perception of the taraweeh prayers is tainted and instead of viewing it as a great act of worship, we consider it a burden. It is not uncommon to hear complaints at the conclusion of the taraweeh prayers over how extremely tiring and lengthy the prayers were; within a week or so into Ramadan, people start comparing which masjid has the shortest taraweeh prayers.
The Messenger of Alláh said: “Whoever stands [in the night prayer] during Ramadan with faith and full expectation of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven” (al-Bukhári, Muslim, Abu Dáwúd and al-Tirmidhi). It is this “full expectation of reward” we must keep in mind so that our taraweeh prayers are a means of forgiveness from Alláh, Most High.
Our extra prayers during this blessed month should not end with just the taráwí< prayers. Let us wake up a little early before the pre-dawn meal (su<úr) and perform at least two raka`át of prayer as qiyám al-layl or tahajjud, placing our
needs before Alláh, Most High, and seeking forgiveness from Him.
- Observe i`tikáf
Whosoever has the opportunity to engage in this great act of worship during the last ten days of Ramadan should do so, for, the Messenger of Alláh observed i`tikáf of the last ten days of Ramadan every year until his demise (al-Bukhári, Muslim). In a narration reported by Ibn Májah, the Messenger of Alláh said that the one who observes i`tikáf receives the reward of the actions he cannot perform due to being secluded in the masjid. It is also a way of ensuring one does not miss Laylat al-Qadr, a night better than a thousand months, which the Messenger of Alláh ordered to be sought in the odd nights of the last ten days. Those who cannot observe i`tikáf should at least endeavour to spend as much time as possible in the masjid, or even tend to the needs of, and serve, those who perform this highly virtuous act of worship.
- Supplicate unto Alláh
The doors of mercy are opened in the month of Ramadan, the doors of Hellfire are closed and the devils are chained (Muslim), and Alláh accepts supplications in this month (al-tabaráni). Therefore, supplicate unto Alláh, Most High, with humility and conviction of acceptance, for, indeed supplication is a powerful weapon which Alláh has equipped the believer with. Ask Alláh for His pleasure and entry into Paradise, security from His wrath and Hellfire, for every good in this life and the Hereafter, and for Him to keep you firm and steadfast on the teachings of Islam. Do not forget to keep a share in your supplications for
your Muslim brothers and sisters across the globe and the deceased of the ummah of the Prophet . Along with supplications, keep yourself occupied, and your tongue moist, with the remembrance of Alláh, Most High. In particular, engage your tongue in the excessive dhikr of ‘lá iláha illalláh’ and istighfár (seeking of forgiveness from Alláh). If this is done, inshá Alláh, every second of Ramadan will become a means of gaining proximity to Alláh, Most High.
- Create the spirit of Ramadan in the home
Just as it is a duty upon a Muslim to work toward correcting his own relationship
with Alláh, it is important to ensure that the fruits of Ramadan blossom within the home too. One cannot become totally absorbed in his own worship and not pay attention to what happens within the four walls of the home. Thus, parents have an extra responsibility of encouraging their children to recite the Qur’án and worship Alláh in this blessed month, and of training them to fast from a young age. The Messenger of Alláh said: “Verily, each of you is a shepherd, and each of you will be questioned [on the Day of Judgment] regarding his flock” (al-Bukhári, Muslim).
May Alláh, Most High, enable us all to earn His pleasure and forgiveness, reap the fruits and benefits of Ramadan and make that change in our lives we so need. Ámín.