Maximizing Ramadan

Psychologists tell us that habit change takes 21 days of practicing the new way. Ramadan is the Annual Habit Change Bootcamp. Ramadan gives us an opportunity to choose henceforth to live as Allahﷻ wants us to live instead of as we want to live. To move from a desire-based existence to an Allahﷻ’s Will-based existence. In Ramadan we are ready to stop ourselves from doing what we normally enjoy, only because Allahﷻ ordered us to do so, then how much more important is it to stop ourselves from doing what Allahﷻ prohibited for us throughout our lives? This is the essence of Taqwa which Ramadan comes to teach us in a powerful experiential way.

Let us ask if Ramadan entered us or if we entered Ramadan. If we entered Ramadan, we will exit it on the 1st of Shawwal. If Ramadan entered us, then it will remain in our hearts and lives, throughout the year. The spirit of obedience, which is Ramadan, is the key to success in this life and the next. That is what must enter our hearts. To obey joyfully and eagerly because we love Allahﷻ. That is Taqwa. Remember that all the promises of Allahﷻ are for the Muttaqoon. Ramadan is the gateway to all that Allahﷻ promised us in this life and the Aakhira (Hereafter). It is for us to enter through that gateway and succeed.

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (RA) reported that Rasoolullah said, ‘Anyone who fasts for one day for Allah’s sake, Allah will keep his face away from the Jahannam for (a distance covered by a journey of) seventy years. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Uthman ibn Abi Al-Aas (RA) reported that Rasoolullah said, ‘Fasting serves as a shield from Jahannam.” (An-Nasa’i)

Islam is a religion of action. Ramadan is the month that comes to help us to practice living Islam. It begins with the most critical, fundamental attitude, that is Taqwa; the consciousness of Allahﷻ in our lives and the sole concern to please Him in all that we say and do. Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an.

Do we reflect as we listen to the Imam’s recitation, that we are listening to the exact words that were revealed to Rasoolullahﷺ and which the world heard for the very first time in his voice? Are we aware as we recite that Allahﷻ is listening to us in real time and is mentioning us by name to those who are around His Arsh? Are we overwhelmed with awe and gratitude, and do we fall into Sajda in thankfulness? Are we excited? Or are we among those who a curse word can transform but the Word of Allahﷻ leaves unmoved?  Allahﷻ asked us this question:

قَالَتْ رُسُلُهُمْ أَفِى ٱللَّهِ شَكٌّ فَاطِرِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ يَدْعُوكُمْ لِيَغْفِرَ لَكُم مِّن ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَيُؤَخِّرَكُمْ إِلَىٰٓ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى

Ibrahim 14: 10   Their Messengers said: What! Can there be a doubt about Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth? He calls you (Islam) that He may forgive your sins and give you respite (life in this world) for a term appointed.

We don’t disbelieve in Allahﷻ’s existence but do we believe in His Promises? Do we believe that Allahﷻ can feed us without us falling for Haraam get-rich schemes of Shaytaan? Allahﷻ asked another question:

كَيْفَ تَكْفُرُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَكُنتُمْ أَمْوَٰتًا فَأَحْيَـٰكُمْ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

Baqara 2: 28   How can you disbelieve in Allah? Seeing that you were dead, and He gave you life. Then He will give you death, then again will bring you to life (on the Day of Resurrection) and then unto Him you will return.

Do we reflect on the fact that this Word is the most truthful word that can ever exist, that it is protected in its exactness, in its meaning and in its application by the One Who Spoke it?

Do we reflect on the fact that this Qur’an changed a people who were despised in the world and transformed them into role models who were looked up to? Do we reflect on the fact that this Qur’an changes the destination of people from Jahannam to Jannah? And then do we ask, ‘But what is it doing for me?’

Do we reflect on the fact that Allahﷻ mentioned us in the Qur’an and mentioned what will happen to each of us depending on the qualities He mentioned? And then as is the demand of intelligence, do we search for ourselves in the Qur’an?

Do we reflect on the fact that the Qur’an is Shifa – a cure for illness; the most serious of which are the illnesses of hypocrisy, hatred, envy, greed, jealousy, fear, and hope from creatures instead of from Allahﷻ? And then do we seek that cure before it is too late?

Do we reflect on the fact that Qur’an gives solace to the bereaved, comfort to the aggrieved, safety from danger, takes away our fears and anxieties? Do we seek these things from the Qur’an before we run to anyone else for help?

Do we learn to read the Qur’an properly according to its rules and do we teach our children ourselves? Do we enjoy the recitation of the Qur’an in Taraweeh, or do we complain that the Qari is reciting too slowly and tell him to step on the gas? What will we say if Allahﷻ asks us why we never complained about watching Superbowl or World Cup or Ertugul all night but complain about staying up a bit late to witness the moon or if Taraweeh takes a few minutes longer because the Qari is reciting from his heart?

Do our children listen to us reciting the Qur’an at home? How many of our homes are bereft of the sound of our voices reciting the Kalaam of Allahﷻ? Our children will remember us for many reasons, some good, some bad, but will they remember that they used to hear us reciting the Kalaam of Allahﷻ in the dead of the night when the world was asleep?

Finally, how many of us have children who come to us and say, ‘Mummy, Baba, please make dua for me because I am in this difficulty. I know your connection with your Rabb. Please ask Him to help me.’

And how many of us can then lift our hands and look up at the heavens with confidence and say, ‘O! Allahﷻ, give me because I am asking.’ Ramadan is the month of change. Let us maximize its benefits for ourselves. If not now, then when?

Ramadan is the month of the Mercy and Generosity of Allahﷻ. Rasoolullahﷺ said about Ramadan and the bounties it brings:

Abu Hurairah (R) reported that Rasoolullah said: “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Jannah are opened and the gates of Jahannam are shut, and the Shayateen are put in chains.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

Abu Hurairah (R) reported that Rasoolullah said: “When the first night of Ramadan comes, the Shayateen and mischievous jinn are chained up, and the gates of Jahannam are shut, and none of its gates is opened. The gates of Jannah are opened and none of its gates is shut …” [Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah]

Allahﷻ chains the Shayateen in Ramadan as we know from these Ahadith. Therefore, the question to ask ourselves, if we still find ourselves committing sins, operating, or working in Haraam businesses and jobs, dealing in interest, and disobeying Allahﷻ is, “If Shaytaan is chained and out of the game, then who is responsible?” I don’t think the answer is a mystery. I advise myself and you to stop playing games with Allahﷻ’s Mercy. If not, there can come a time when Allahﷻ decides to allow us to continue on our chosen path. If that happens, that is the greatest calamity because the doors of Hidaya (guidance) will be shut. Then in the midst of our enjoyment of all that is prohibited, we will suddenly be ceased without time to repent. I seek Allahﷻ’s refuge.

فَلَمَّا نَسُوا۟ مَا ذُكِّرُوا۟ بِهِۦ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَبْوَٰبَ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا فَرِحُوا۟ بِمَآ أُوتُوٓا۟ أَخَذْنَـٰهُم بَغْتَةً فَإِذَا هُم مُّبْلِسُونَ

An’am 6: 44   So, when they forgot (the warning) they had been reminded with, We opened to them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, suddenly, We took them to punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows.

Ramadan is an opportunity to repent, to realign our lives and to return to Allahﷻ for which Allahﷻ made it easy by skewing the field in our favor. Let us not lose that advantage and fall back into the hole that we dug for ourselves. Ramadan is about habit change. Let us realign our lives.

Abu Huraira (R) reported: Rasoolullah ascended the minbar and he said, “Ameen, Ameen, Ameen.” They asked, “Ya Rasoolullah, you ascended the minbar and said Ameen, Ameen, Ameen.” Rasoolullah said, “Verily, Jibreel (AS) came to me and said, ‘Whoever reaches the month of Ramadan, and he is not forgiven, then he will enter Jahannam and Allah will cast him far away, say Ameen. I said Ameen. Then Jibreel (AS) said, ‘Whoever sees his parents in their old age, one or both, and he does not honor them, and he dies, then he will enter Jahannam and Allah will cast him far away, say Ameen. I said Ameen. Then he said, ‘Whoever has your name mentioned in his presence and he does not send blessings upon you, and he dies, then he will enter Jahannam and Allah will cast him far away, say Ameen. I said Ameen.” Sahih – Ibn Hibban

Let us realize the seriousness of this Hadith. Jibreel (AS) is making the dua and he and Rasoolullahﷺ are saying Ameen. Let us ensure that we correct ourselves, our relationships, our priorities, and our affairs.

As we draw to a close of the month, Allahﷻ sends down His greatest reward, Laylatul Qadr. Rasoolullahﷺ told us to search for it in the last ten nights of Ramadan in the odd nights. Allahﷻ told us about Laylatul Qadr:

إِنَّآ أَنزَلْنَـٰهُ فِى لَيْلَةِ ٱلْقَدْرِ

وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ

لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ

تَنَزَّلُ ٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُ وَٱلرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ

سَلَـٰمٌ هِىَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ ٱلْفَجْرِ

Qadr 97: 1-5   Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree) And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is? The night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months (better than worshipping Allah for 83 years and 4 months). Therein descend the Angels and the Ruh [Jibreel] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees. Peace! until dawn.

It was narrated from our mother Sayyida Ayesha Siddiqua (RA) that she asked, “Ya Rasoolullah, what dua should I ask if I find Laylatul-Qadr?” He said:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي

“O Allah, You are Forgiving and love forgiveness, so forgive me.” [Hasan Sahih, Tirmidhi]

I ask Allahﷻ to help us to appreciate Ramadan and all its blessings. To do this we must structure our days. Limit, if not get rid of social media. Spend as much time as we can in worshipping Allahﷻ. Spend as much as we can in charity, knowing that it is an investment the reward of which is multiplied 70 times in Ramadan. Nothing happens without effort, and nothing fails if we make enough effort. It is up to us. When you write your cheques for charity, don’t ask yourself, ‘How much should I write?’ Ask, ‘How much do I want from Allahﷻ?’ Ramadan is the month for especially expressing our gratitude to Allahﷻ through charity, Dhikr, Fikr, and Istighfaar. To help in this, let us remember who Allahﷻ is and allow His Glory to fill our hearts with His Noor that abolishes all darkness of Kufr, Shirk, Bida’at, and rebelliousness. Allahﷻ gave us the metrics for success and declared:

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ ٱلْمَوْتِ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ ٱلنَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ ٱلْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ وَمَا ٱلْحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنْيَآ إِلَّا مَتَـٰعُ ٱلْغُرُورِ

A’al Imraan 3: 185   Every living being shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Jannah is indeed successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).

Shaytaan plays the opposite game, where he makes this world appear to be real and the Aakhira to be unreal. Allahﷻ told us what to do about this.

إِنَّ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنَ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ فَٱتَّخِذُوهُ عَدُوًّا إِنَّمَا يَدْعُوا۟ حِزْبَهُۥ لِيَكُونُوا۟ مِنْ أَصْحَـٰبِ ٱلسَّعِيرِ

Fatir 35: 6   Surely Shaytaan is your enemy so treat him like an enemy. He only invites his Hizb (followers) that they may become the dwellers of the blazing Fire.

Ramadan comes to get us back on track. Allahﷻ favors us with His special mercy. Let us open our hearts to the message of Islam and become obedient to Allahﷻ and fight the Shaytaan, seeking Allahﷻ’s help and protection. Let us remember that our end too, will come. At that time the only thing which will matter is whether we pleased Allahﷻ or not. Ramadan comes to remind us about that day, so that we can make it the best day of our lives, the day when we meet our Rabb and look forward to the reward that He promised.

I ask Allahﷻ to be pleased with you and never to be displeased.