By Ammar Awais
Ramadan is a time of abstinence and heightened spirituality for Muslims. However, once this blessed month is over, most of us revert to our pre-Ramadan ways, becoming casual about sins, unmindful of our behaviour, and neglectful of the remembrance of Allah (swt). This is unfortunate since Ramadan gives us the opportunity to discipline and reform our lives for good. Here’s an eight-point action plan to help you carry the religious momentum created during Ramadan into Shawwal and beyond.
- Do one good deed each day
Try to perform at least one worthy deed (Amal e Sualeh) each day, no matter how small. This can be anything, even lending a helping hand to a family member, friend or even a stranger. A minor selfless act that requires you to devote your time, effort, or resources can be significant in the sight of Allah (swt). As the Prophet ﷺ reminded us: “The deeds most beloved to Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small.” (Bukhari) In fact, our Prophet ﷺ has taught us never to belittle any good deed, even if it’s merely removing a hindrance from the path or greeting someone with a smile.
- Spend regularly on others
Giving in charity should not be restricted to Ramadan; rather, it’s a principle that should govern the lives of Muslims. Allah’s creations follow the principle of giving all their lives whether it is the sun, trees, honey bees or birds. Therefore, make it a habit to give charity regularly – perhaps on a weekly basis – even if the amount donated is very small. Also, spend money on those around you. For instance, you can give gifts to your relatives or invite friends over for a meal, without being extravagant. Spending on others is an effective way to curtail your desire for worldly riches and express gratitude to Allah (swt). He considers any amount spent in His cause as a loan to Him which He shall return and “multiply many times over” (Al-Baqarah 2:245).
- Observe voluntary fasting
Voluntary fasting is a highly meritorious act which we often overlook, which is most effective if performed on a routine basis. You can make it a habit to fast three days each month, such as the 13th, 14th and 15th days of the month, or follow the more rigorous routine of fasting twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Both these practices were followed by the Prophet ﷺ. Fasting not only helps you to keep your whims and desires in check, but also enables you to experience the plight of the poor, endure deprivation, and attain a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.
- Connect with the Quran
No matter how busy your days become, try to read and reflect upon a small portion of the Quran each day. Reading a few Ayat of the Quran with understanding and explanation may be more beneficial than reciting a large portion without knowing its meaning. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Anyone who reads [i.e. completes] the Quran in less than three days has understood nothing.” (Tirmidhi) This Hadith conveys two important points: first, quality is preferred over quantity in matters of worship, so the Quran should be recited slowly and articulately; second, the primary purpose of reading the Quran is to understand its meaning and implement its beautiful message in our lives.
- Guard your speech
We take special care during Ramadan to refrain from the “evils of the tongue” such as lying, cursing, and backbiting for fear of invalidating our fasts. However, it’s important to avoid such sinful habits even beyond Ramadan. The Quran condemns these vices and equates backbiting to eating the flesh of one’s dead brother or sister. Moreover, spreading rumours which harms someone’s reputation can amount to slander – a major sin for which legal punishment has been prescribed in Islam. Hence, being wise and prudent requires that we become mindful of what we utter at all times. As the Prophet ﷺ advised us: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak what is good or keep silent.” (Bukhari)
- Make Dua at least once a day
Dua is the core of worship in Islam – something that we constantly engage in during Salah. However, we tend to fall in the habit of merely going through the motions, especially when we recite supplications in Arabic that we don’t understand well. Therefore, it’s important to call upon Allah (swt) in our first language at least once a day. Choose a time of the day when you’re least occupied and most at peace, such as the early morning or late at night. Call upon Allah (swt) with full concentration and devotion at this time – even if your supplication is brief, it can help you establish a more personal and deeper connection with Allah (swt).
- Share beneficial knowledge
Whatever authentic knowledge of the Deen we possess – even if it isn’t much – is worthy of being disseminated. Remember, the Prophet ﷺ has encouraged us to convey to others even a single Ayah or Hadith, which can become a form of Sadaqa Jariyyah (perpetual charity), entitling us to reward even after we die. It’s also an excellent practice to jointly contemplate the signs of Allah (swt). Instead of gossiping or mindless entertainment, share beneficial knowledge and engage in discussions aligned with the goals of self-improvement, increased productivity, a healthier lifestyle, and remembrance of the hereafter.
- Motivate others to do good
The Quran lays much emphasis on our interactions with those around us. It requires us to enjoin what is right – which implies that we should not only strive to become righteous ourselves, but also motivate others to do the same. Hence, encourage your family members, friends, co-workers, and others around you to be charitable, truthful, courageous, cheerful, and patient. Urge them out of sincere concern and care for them, without being judgemental or provocative. If someone becomes even a slightly better person due to your effort or influence, it may count as a significant deed in the sight of Allah (swt).