Ramadan came to make us Muttaqoon (People of Taqwa who are concerned about the pleasure of Allahﷻ). Did we succeed?
Mikel Harry of Motorola, author of the 6 Sigma Quality Standard said, “If you want to see what someone values, see what they measure.” We say, “Time is money.” But we happily waste time but are much more careful about money. So, what do we really value? Time or money? Money can be replaced but not time. We can make money, but nobody can make time. We can borrow money but not time. We will be questioned about our time when we meet Allahﷻ. Yet what are we more concerned about? Making more money or using our time more wisely. We talk about ROI – Return on Investment = Return on Money. Our Balance Sheets and P&L accounts track money. What statement do we have that tracks time? How we spend it? What is the return on it? What can we do differently? What is the profit or loss of our time expenditure? Allahﷻ told us that good deeds and Istighfaar wipe out sins.
إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَـٰتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ
Hud 11: 114 Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds
وَيَـٰقَوْمِ ٱسْتَغْفِرُوا۟ رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِ يُرْسِلِ ٱلسَّمَآءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا وَيَزِدْكُمْ قُوَّةً إِلَىٰ قُوَّتِكُمْ وَلَا تَتَوَلَّوْا۟ مُجْرِمِينَ
Hud 11: 52 And O my people! Ask forgiveness of your Rabb and then repent to Him, He will send you (from the sky) abundant rain, and add strength to your strength, so do not turn away as Mujrimun (criminals).
Do we make Virtue/Vice Balance sheets? Or keep Virtue/Vice (Profit/Loss) Accounts? I know we don’t. But what if we did? How would that affect our lives? The reason we don’t is becasue we don’t see virtue and vice as profit and loss, though that is the only true profit and loss. Allahﷻ spoke about our Books of Accounts. Do we realize who the authors of those books are? The angels, Kiraman Katibeen, are only scribes. They are not authors. They have no authority to write or erase anything in our Book. Do we realize that we have complete control not only on what is recorded in our book but on what we allow to remain in it? Until the day we meet Malakul Mawth, our book is fully editable. When we see the Malaika, it is closed and sent for publication. No change can be made thereafter. On the Day of Judgment, the book will be published and given to us in a way that will show if we won or lost. Our book. Only we can write in it. Only we can edit it. Only we will receive it. And that will seal our fate, forever. Our fate, our call.
In Ramadan, which I call our Taqwa bootcamp, we learned and practiced some new behaviors. We learned to awake early, set goals and to structure our time to meet those goals. We learned to focus and choose that which gives a greater return over something else. We learned to focus on the long term (Aakhira) over the short term and we learned delayed gratification i.e., to wait for the result of our efforts. This is a sign of emotional maturity which is the secret of success. Physical maturity is inevitable. Emotional maturity is optional. That is why the difference between men and boys is often only the price of their toys. In Ramadan we learned to control our anger, greed, and passions. We learned the benefits of being alone, of reflection, introspection, and realigning the path of our destiny.
To refer to the Mikel Harry quote – let us see what we measure now that Ramadan is over for this year. We don’t know if Allahﷻ has written another Ramadan for us. As I keep on reminding myself and you, one Ramadan will be our last. I don’t know if this one was my last. If I don’t want to regret that, then I must take stock and see what I need to do to consolidate my gains.
In 1997, I was in San Francisco and went to see a 3D film. It was a memorable experience. As I put on the 3D glasses and sat in the theatre with Surround Sound, it was as if I was in the movie. It was a film about sharks, and I am sure that if anyone monitored my heart rate, breathing, neuron activity in my brain, and body temperature, they would find clearly measurable changes. The movie was very real to me. It was as if the shark coming directly at me, would eat me up. I had to tell myself from time to time, that this was not real. We have the same experience in all well-made movies. Our emotions are hooked to our experience of sights and sounds until we totally forget that it is not real. We weep, laugh, are terrified, anxious, depressed, and angry, in short, we are sad, glad, bad, mad, based on the story which we are watching, even though we know cognitively that it is all acting, false, and concocted. This is the situation of our lives.
In our real life also, we are in a 3D cinema theatre wearing 3D glasses. The Anbiya came to tell us to take off our glasses and see the reality. Remember that we must leave the theatre shortly and return home. No matter how real the film seems to be, it is a film. It’s not real. The delicious looking food won’t fill your belly. The scenery, danger, thrills, luxury is all Virtual Reality at work. It’s Virtual. Not real. Don’t get fooled by it. We must return home. If we want comfort in our homes, we must get the furnishings we need. We must spend money, go to the store, and buy what we need. It won’t come on its own like in the movie. Needs consistent effort and sweat and tears and smartness. That’s the analogy for Jannah. Our real and permanent home إن شاء لله
Needs consistent effort and sweat and tears and smartness. Needs us to make the right choices based on one criterion alone: the Ridha of Allahﷻ alone. And the sooner we take off the VR headset, the sooner we can prepare for the reality that we will face when the show ends. That is the truth about all shows; that they end.
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 Everyone 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, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).
Allahﷻ told us four things in this Ayatul Kareema: That this show will end, that final winners and losers will be decided when it ends, that winners are those who are saved from the Fire, and that this show is a show – it is not real. This is the essence of Taqwa, to keep reminding ourselves that this life is not real, its goals are not real, its standards are not real, if not clearly toxic. It is a distraction from what is real; real goals, and the real criterion of success, the Ridha of Allahﷻ (Allahﷻ’s pleasure).
Ramadan came to make us obedient to Allahﷻ in everything in our life. If we find ourselves being obedient in some things but not in others, then remember, selective obedience is disobedience. It is easy to be obedient in things we like to do anyway. That’s why the masjid is full for Taraweeh but not for Fardh Salah. Let’s ask ourselves why and what that means about our real spirit of obedience. That’s what must change. Allahﷻ warned us and said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْخَمْرُ وَٱلْمَيْسِرُ وَٱلْأَنصَابُ وَٱلْأَزْلَـٰمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنِ فَٱجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
Ma’aida 5: 90 O you who believe! Intoxicants (alcohol, drugs), gambling, Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam (fortune telling) are an abomination of Shaitan’s handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.
We go to the masjid, but we will not leave dealing in Haraam. We read Qur’an but with the same tongue we curse, tell lies, backbite, and slander. We don’t eat pork, but we drink alcohol, buy, and sell lottery tickets, deal with fortune tellers. But Allahﷻ didn’t differentiate between these sins. He called them the filth of Shaytaan and warned us to stay away from them if we want to be successful. Why do we indulge in these things? To be successful, right. But Allahﷻ told us the opposite. Who do we believe?
I quote from an excellent article about the harmful effects of alcohol by Ryan Landers in The Observer, “As of the day I’m writing this the official number of deaths from COVID worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic is 6,142, 579. Over the same period alcohol has killed an estimated 7,216,438 people according to WHO.” These deaths also included motor vehicle crashes that happened because of driving under the influence of alcohol. This doesn’t tell us about what happened to the victims of such accidents who didn’t die, but were maimed, paralyzed, or otherwise disabled thanks to the fact that someone had a good time at a party, doing something which is perfectly legal in our society. How should something with this kind of destructive potential be treated in any society of thinking, ethical, moral, and intelligent people? But in our society, alcohol is not only legal but if you are a business, it is a tax-deductible business expense. That is because we have made profit our only criterion of success. That makes us Ibaadul Fuloos (slaves of money) instead of Ibaadullah (slaves of Allahﷻ). But Jannah is for Ibaadullah only. That is the choice we must make if we have Iman.
Baghbaan bhi khush rahay, Razi rahay sayyad bhi. This won’t work. Ramadan came to give us a breather; time out to realign our priorities so that we change our destination. Allahﷻ demands that we choose. Make a clear choice. Shaytaan is our enemy. So, treat him like an enemy. But we treat Shaytaan as our advisor and friend and Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ as our enemies. We want to borrow and lend money on interest and then wonder why our dua is not accepted. If Allahﷻ is our enemy, who will accept our dua and help us? We donate money to the masjid or Madrassa or orphanage, but nothing changes because Allahﷻ accepts only what’s pure. You can’t throw money at Allahﷻ and make difficulties go away. Allahﷻ told us that difficulties come because of what we do. Our actions. A’amaal. Not Maal (money). What A’amaal brought on, Maal can’t remove. Can you lose weight by donating money to the gym or even in charity while still maxing out on carbs and sugar? Try it. So how can we change the conditions we face because of our A’amaal by throwing money at them? What A’amaal brought on, only A’amaal can remove. Let’s ask, “What do I need to stop doing right now? What do I need to start doing right now?” And then do it.
Charity from Haraam wealth doesn’t put out the fire or cool the anger of Allahﷻ. We have been trying it for decades. Has anything changed except for the worse? What are we waiting for? Total disaster? Doesn’t take long if Allahﷻ decides. Let’s not play games with Allahﷻ. That’s always a very bad idea.
Let’s choose wisely our friends and our leisure activities and spots. A person is the product of his/her friends. Rasoolullahﷺ said, “In the Aakhira, you’ll be with those you love.” Who do we love? Where do they look like they’re going? Do we want to go to the same place with them? If not, the time to part company is now.
Remember the Hadith where Rasoolullahﷺ said, “If you sit in the shop of the perfumer, you will enjoy the beautiful aroma and come out smelling good. But if you sit in the blacksmith’s forge, you will smell smoke and your clothes will get stained and burned by the coal and embers of the fire.” We have turned our world upside down and then we wonder why our lives are full of stress, fear, depression, sadness, and anger. Let’s ask, “What were my Ramadan goals? What did I achieve? Shortfall or surplus? What’s the plan to make up?” Don’t wait for next Ramadan to do it. There may not be another Ramadan in our lives. Let us seek forgiveness knowing that Allahﷻ forgives. And change our attitudes, priorities, and actions, knowing that Istighfaar without Tawba is a lie.
Let us make our dua powerful: Earn and eat Halal only. Safeguard against Ar-Riya. Beg Allahﷻ humbly and sincerely. Love Allahﷻ and fear sin. Let’s change our Qadr. Make true Istighfaar. And turn towards Allahﷻ. Not from tomorrow. Now. Now. Now. Because tomorrow is always too late.