When will the sweeter air arrive? Where is that sweetness we are searching for? Surely this year my faith and actions should be better than the last… Even with Ramadan literally round the corner yet some of us may feel despair. Instead of feeling ready and joyful at the most beautiful, annual opportunity of the celebration of forgiveness we feel disconnect, enveloped with fatigue and chaos of the rat race, that is life today. How can we release our souls and make our hearts migrate to a better place? Believing something is possible is the first step to achieving it; everything is possible with the permission of the Most Merciful…
Every good thing starts with the best intention so I begin by asking Allah to purify our intention and filling us with authentic knowledge of the aim of Ramadan. What is the purpose of Ramadan? There are many reasons why some people may miss out on the true success and benefit of this month. They may think that:
- This month is about spending time cooking and spending time on family gatherings.
- It’s a time to appreciate and be grateful for food and to spend money and precious time on lavish Iftar buffets and Ramadan discounts.
- It’s a detox month and a time to get fit and healthy.
- It’s a time for sleeping and resting because of fasting.
- A focus on work productivity and continuing ‘normality’ is the goal of this month.
These are some examples of a wasted opportunity and depriving ourselves of the true benefits of Ramadan. A better intention brings better outcomes; deeper understanding; and greater benefit in sha Allah. What should success in Ramadan look like?
Sincere repentance and the acceptance of our repentance is the ultimate aim of the cleansing and purification that is the essence of Ramadan.
“Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?” (23:115)
Who has created death and life that He may test you which of you is best in deeds And He is the Almighty, the OftForgiving (67:2)
“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” (51:56)
Eliminating food, drink and needs makes way for a clearer connection and focus on the true purpose of life. This can be sensed by inner feelings of the heart as a result of external actions of worship that are offered.
‘Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
‘Whoever stays up and prays on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.’(Bukhari and Muslim)
‘Whoever prays at night in Ramadan out of faith and the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
These three ahadith are specific to Ramadan and these are the three actions we should be aiming to perfect and excel in. Although there is of course greater reward for all good actions in Ramadan e.g. charity, kindness, generosity, Umrah and excellent manners and relationships are all rewarded more, so we should do as much good as possible to gain more reward from the Most Generous. When we work hard on the true aim of Ramadan and reach the end of the month we can wholeheartedly celebrate. We should thank Allah on ‘Eid for His blessing of the ability to understand and work towards seeking forgiveness.
2. TRUST AND PATIENCE
Life is not plain sailing? Maybe it was not mean to be?! Trusting Allah in less than ideal situations, whilst being happy for what is decreed for us, can be the crux of complete submission that many lack. This is when patience upon Allah’s decree can help us rise:
“We hear, and we obey. (We seek) your forgiveness, our Lord, and to you is the return (of all).” (2:185).
When we say ‘Allah knows best’ we have to mean it and live it. Being patient upon every hardship, and controlling the tongue, thoughts and actions and accepting the decree of the Most Wise is the cornerstone to gaining wisdom. Strive and demand excellence but do so whilst having a heart and soul empowered and enlightened with the patience and trust in Allah’s decree.
This is the basic connection that must be maintained to fuel our hearts, souls and minds and perfecting and strengthening our prayers is vital in the run up to Ramadan. Calling people to Allah and encouraging others to pray is a virtuous deed which brings great reward. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like the rewards of those who follow him, without that detracting from their reward in any way. And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like the burden of those who follow him, without that detracting from their burden in any way.”(Sahih Muslim). So let’s become the ambassadors of Islam calling others to prayer and goodness truly lighting the way.
We should be happy and hopeful welcoming Ramadan with the conviction that it brings mercy and blessings “Say: ‘In the Bounty of Allah, and in His Mercy (i.e. Islam and the Qur’an); —therein let them rejoice.’ That is better than what (the wealth) they amass” (10:58) Priorities should be set to make the most of Ramadan. We should count down the days as we approach Ramadan in the blessed month of Sha’baan as we await the moon sighting.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said about Sha’baan: “Do not anticipate Ramadan by fasting one or two days before it begins, but if a man habitually fasts, then let him fast.” Fasting in Sha’baan is a good way of preparing the body for fast and for those that do this habitually. “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to fast all of Sha’baan, he used to fast Sha’baan except a few days.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
5. METICULOUS PLANNING AND PREPARATION
Be ahead. Discuss, plan and decide goals for the month, for every day within and thereafter. Regarding the Sahabah, ‘They used to ask Allah the Almighty six months before Ramadan to grant them long life so that they could reach Ramadan and they used to ask Allah the Almighty six months after Ramadan to accept their fasting’.
One Ramadan can make all the difference. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said regarding Talha’s dream, ‘What are you surprised about?’ They said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Out of them both, this one strove harder (in Jihad) then he was martyred but this other one was entered into Paradise before him.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Did he not remain behind him for one year?’ They said, ‘Yes (he did).’ He said, ‘Did he not reach Ramadan, fast and pray with such and such number of prostrations in the year?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘So the difference between them is greater than what is between the heavens and the earth.'(Ibn Majah)
Take in to account what is likely to happen in Ramadan and Eid. Hold a family/group meeting to agree realistic plans and set tasks for all. As with exams or travel plans preparation should be started well in advance. Do the Eid shopping; start packing or preparing; calculate and arrange Zakat; and make up missed fasts if not done already. Set goals and plans for reading Quran, praying the night prayer or family invites in advance. Preparing for Ramadan is the tip of the iceberg and a reminder of the bigger context of why we are here on earth. “Indeed, the death from which you flee – indeed, it will meet you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you about what you used to do.” (62:08) “And whatever good you send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah. For Allah sees well all that you do.” (2:110).
While on this journey for that final meeting and destination are our plans ready? I pray that the Best of Planners makes this a blessed month and increases us all in goodness in every aspect. I pray that He allows us this opportunity to grow and become earnest beacons of beneficial knowledge and righteous actions that benefit ourselves and others —Ameen!