Kiran Ansari invites to re-evaluate the attractions of Ramadan and offers tips for keeping the spirit of blessed month in our hearts all year long
We wait anxiously for Ramadan – and before we know it, it has come and gone; faster than the year before. Irrespective of how religiously inclined one is, most Muslims enjoy the spirit of Ramadan. The question is – what exactly do we enjoy?
Is it the atmosphere of peace and harmony or is it the fruit Chat and Pakoras? Is it the coming together of the community for Taraweeh or is it the lavish Iftar parties? Is it the knowledge of the extra reward or is it the quest for a short-cut to Jannah?
As quickly as the Blessed Month comes and goes, why does the zeal with which we connect to Allah (swt) start evaporating as well? Are we just ‘Ramadan Muslims’?
Ramadan should not be our cultural festival, where talks about food and Eid shopping rule our minds. Ramadan should not be mechanical worship, where we program our bodies to perform some extra Nawafil for a month. Ramadan should also not be a time for display, where we boast about our Siyam in the day and Qiyam in the night or revel in our accomplishments.
What we gain from Ramadan depends a lot on our intentions. Did we want to reestablish our connection with the Quran and its Author, or did we want to join friends in losing a few pounds? Did we want to train our Nafs, or did we want to put in some effort and then rest easy for the remainder of the year?
The actual purpose of Ramadan is to train ourselves by setting aside time from our fast-paced lives and recharging our rusty batteries, in order to be prepared for the whole year. Shaitan is chained, our lives are more disciplined, and our hearts softer. It might be unrealistic to expect the same level of enthusiasm throughout the year, as Allah (swt) has blessed these 29 or 30 days with His Special Mercy. Nevertheless, we can try to reap at least part of the benefits throughout our lives. Who knows, if we will be around next Ramadan?
“Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.” (Al-Imran 3:8)
Perhaps, wisdom behind the extra worship and reward associated with the last ten nights of Ramadan is to remind us not to slack right after Eid. We might reach our peak of Ibadah in search of Layaltul Qadr, but we must remind ourselves not to make our graph plummet soon after. Perhaps, the recommended six fasts of Shawal are also intended to keep our memories of fasting fresh.
Here are some tips to help us keep the spirit of Ramadan alive:
- Instead of storing the Quran in a velvet cover on the highest shelf for the 11 months following Ramadan, or feeling that you have done a lot in this month, Imam Ghazali says: ‘Our heart should be like a pendulum – swinging to and fro, praying and hoping that our worship was accepted. If we were able to achieve some goals, it wasn’t because of our strength but rather the Bounty of Allah (swt), Who gave us the opportunity, willingness, and ability to do so. Without all three, we would not have been able to reap any benefits from Ramadan.’
- When one is sent on a one month training course, one is expected to return with knowledge to make ones work productive, as well as pass that knowledge on. So, evaluate what you gained from Ramadan, practice it in your daily life, and spread the word.
- Don’t waste all your efforts on Eid day. For instance, if you intended to dress more modestly in Ramadan, don’t let your Eid attire and make-up wash it all away. If you shared meals with the less fortunate in Ramadan, don’t let your Eid party guest list include the affluent friends only.
- If you are unable to continue reading as much of the Quran after Ramadan, don’t just abandon it because you consider too little of it to be pointless. The Prophet (sa) recommended deeds that were small but regular. Understanding five Ayahs daily might make more of a difference than five chapters read speedily in one night. If you do not have the time for a week-long Aitekaf, make Niyah for a mini-Aitekaf lasting a few hours, when you disconnect with the world to connect with your Lord.
- Islam is a Deen of moderation; therefore, set realistic and achievable goals and take it from there. Try to start fasting Mondays and Thursdays as was the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah, or add just two extra Nafl in your prayers.
- Maintain ties with your buddies from Taraweeh and remind one another to keep check of each other’s good deeds. Organize a weekly study circle or a monthly Islamic book club, where you all meet to discuss a particular book.
- Strengthen the relationship you established with your Rabb, the Quran, and the community. Do not say good-bye to the Masjid after the Eid prayers.
- Our Ramadan training course is meant to ensure we adhere to our manual – the Quran- throughout the year. We are not just Saturday or Sunday worshippers. Consider Ramadan as the down payment on your house. Regardless of how hefty the down payment may be – if we fail to keep up with regular monthly installments for several years, our house can be taken away from us.
Ramadan is like the spring of good deeds, when acts of kindness are in full bloom, and certain fruits and vegetables are at their peak of ripeness. They are there for us to reap and enjoy their goodness in numerous ways.
Let us add some preservatives to our Ramadan Ibadah to make the rewards last throughout the year.