Ramaḍân is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard ˹to distinguish between right and wrong˺. So whoever is present this month, let them fast. But whoever is ill or on a journey, then ˹let them fast˺ an equal number of days ˹after Ramaḍân˺. Allah intends ease for you, not hardship, so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful. [2:185]
Alhamdulillah, the blessed days of Ramadan are almost upon us and, like any time of great value, we must prepare for it. Just like you prepare for an interview, a sports event or wedding. You understand the importance of the event, prepare the right resources (research, snacks, dress) and then give it your full attention during it.
What’s the importance of this event?
Allah(SWT) sets the scoring massively in our favour. As we know , its only a limited number of days – 29 or 30 so we all have time to benefit from it.
Unlimited rewards: Abu Huraira(RA) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said, “(Allah said), ‘Every good deed of Adam’s son is for him except fasting; it is for Me. and I shall reward (the fasting person) for it.‘ Verily, the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better to Allah than the smell of musk.”
Our fiercest enemies– the devils – are shackled in chains to make this season of worship easier and lighter upon the heart of the believer than any other time.
When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hellfire are closed and the devils are chained. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1800]
In another narration in the sahih of Imam Tirmidhi (682), its related that “Allah sets free a portion of his slaves from the fire of hell every single night.”
Allāh has placed within it a treasured night wherein worshipping Allāh is greater than the worship of 1,000 months, approximately 83 years and 4 months – a whole lifetime.
What do you need to take into Ramadan?
Isn’t that amazing? However, to make the most of it, you need to prepare. Think about the amount of preparation you make for Black Friday or Boxing day sales. You’ve researched the deals are, you plan the trip right down to your parking, queue just to get into the store and then make sure you take your best fill from the aisles and sales areas. There’s no worry about losing sleep or the long wait – just the reward of getting a product cheaper. But there are some who sleep in and miss out.
Ramadan is derived from the word ramada which linguistically means extreme heat/burning sensation. When the arabs would say Ramada saa’im, they were referring to when the throat would burn from thirst as a result of their fasting. Some scholars said the sins are burned through the actions of righteousness.
And what about the word Sawm? This has the meaning of holding yourself back from something. Sawm is holding back your impulses – food, drink and sexual activities – the core impulses (everything else is easy in comparison).
You’re probably thinking this is going to be hard but Allah(SWT) tells us that He wants ease for us, not difficulty. Challenge does not mean hardship. What do you learn in the gym? How to be comfortable with discomfort and endure. Similarly, when we explore the feeling of hunger and why you give in to impulses, you develop your endurance and consciousness of Allah(SWT) for whom you’re fasting.
In fact the purpose of Ramadan isnt to go hungry – its to develop mindulness of Allah(SWT) – taqwa. A good analogy for taqwa is when you’re speeding down the motorway and you come round a bend and see a police car on the hard shoulder or a speed camera. How do you respond? You slam on the brakes for the fear of getting points or a fine. You keep to the limits of the law for fear of punishment in that case, but more importantly because its unsafe and puts our lives and wellbeings at risk. The one who has lost someone in an accident, knows how much better it is for them to have speed limits.
Do we all need to experience punishment or hurt to know something is good for us? No, especially when it comes from the One who knows our programming, our psyche, our desires, our intention – Allah(SWT) – the One who created all of us. The purpose of Allahs law (the Sharia) is to make our lives better. To appreciate this, you need to understand it and live it.
This is the second part of the equation which many forget. What makes Ramadan special? Not the fasting. Rather, in it was revealed the Qur’an. The fasting is what we do to recognise this great blessing. Our bodies are 2 parts – the body and the soul. We all understand and appreciate the food of our body but whats the food of our soul – the Word of Allah(SWT), the Qur’an.
So coming back to the purpose of this month. Every year, we take out one month and go into training mode (similar to CPD). But instead of a month of holding back (the meaning of sawm), it can become a month of more and richer food than any month.
Rather it’s the best time for change – Diet/habits/timing changes. This is the time to refresh our appreciation of Gods understanding of reality by engaging with revelation. Here’s the answers for life.
Can anyone miss out on the rewards available in Ramadan? Sadly, with Ramadan there are losers who the Prophet(SAW) described for us:
There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst. (Ibn Majah, hasan, Book 7, Hadith 53)
Note that these are people who do fast. What a loss. Can you imagine when the 18 or 19 hours of fasting become wasted like carrying water in a leaky bucket?
Stacking up the fridge with good, setting the momentous task of extravagant feasts every evening on our families, our consequential weight gain and horrific wastage of food. We spend more time thinking about food than in the worship of their Lord.
Busying our selves with work, sleep or Netflix bingeing throughout the night till suhoor are the opposite of being mindful of Allah(SWT) which requires time and focus. Rather than searching for the shortest taraweeh prayer or using the limited masjid capacity at the masjid as an excuse, take time to read the personal message Allah(SWT) has sent you in the Qur’an.
Rather we should use this time to:
- Talk to Allah(SWT) in our du’a and salaan. Yahya b. Abī Kathīr would say in his Duʿā’, “O Allāh, hand me over to Ramaḍān & hand Ramaḍān over to me, and receive it from me having accepted.”
- The Prophet(SAW) encouraged us to fast and pray in the night, and promised us that whoever does this believing in Allah(SWT) and having hope in His reward, all of his previous sins will be erased. “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan due to faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven. Whoever stands in prayer on the Night of Decree due to faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1802]
- Build a real connection with the Qur’ān – there are so many summaries of the Qur’an and daily learning programmes. Everyone of us can access a translation or app of the Qur’an – read it with its meaning if you want to satisfy your soul. Ask if you don’t understand.
- Evaluate and reflecting on every sin you struggle with and repent for them before the arrival of Ramaḍā They do this because they have seen countless Muslims who experience Ramaḍān year in year out but on each time, they fall so short in their recitation of Qur’ān, extra Ṣalāh, wise usage of time and, in the end, Ramaḍān has little effect on them. What held them back? None other than sins they did not rid themselves of before Ramaḍān.
In the field of education, they have the mental model of Mirrors, Windows and Doors to support growth. Mirrors help us to identify ourselves, Windows to see new opportunities and Doorways to embark on real change. May Allah(SWT) make this Ramadan a mirror, window and door to a better me and you.
Sins are like injuries that bruise one’s ability to enjoy worship, and since Ramaḍān is a month of worship, the people of Īmān are afraid of missing out on the sweetness of being close to Allāh.
Wuhaib b.Ward was asked: “Can a person who always sins experience the sweetness of worship?” He replied, “No, not even the person who intends to sin.”
In much the same way that the body fails to taste the sweetness of food when it is ill, the heart will fail to taste the sweetness of worship with sins. A person may extend a lustful gaze at the impermissible and, instantly, his ability to enjoy the recitation of the Qur’ān is damaged. Similarly, a person may engage in impermissible communications, inhalations, conversations, financial dealings or their likes and, immediately, the love for Ṣalāh, Da’wah, Duʿ`ā’ or their likes dissipates.
Such a person may wonder at how Allāh’s punishment has not come to him yet despite his insistence upon a sin, whilst not realising that he is, in fact, being punished in the worst of all ways but fails to see it, for the joy of being close to Allāh and working for the Hereafter has been snatched away from him.
Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said, “There is not a punishment in existence that is worse than one’s heart being turned hard and feeling distant from Allāh.”
Therefore, the people of the Hereafter prepare for Ramaḍān by removing these obstacles – those of sins – before the month of Ramaḍān arrives.
They prepare for Ramaḍān by putting together an action plan. They do not settle with targets such as “I will read as much Qur’ān as possible”. Instead, they take control, knowing exactly what they want from the month of Ramaḍān.