Reminder 1: Leaky bucket
One of my teachers would ask me every Ramadan “How many ramadan have you seen in your life? Are you that number of times better as a person?” Often times we focus on increasing our efforts in Ramadan on a real high only to fall into a trough almost immediately after Ramadan.
Perhaps we can use this month to review the holes in our bucket and plug those so they remain beyond this month and our good deeds and efforts don’t leak out.
We all need to make an effort and the beautiful story narrated by both Imams Bukhari and Muslim highlight the importance of taking action now to address our challenges.
There was a man who had heartlessly murdered ninety-nine people and committed almost sin known to man. Then he felt remorse.
He went to a pious man and told him about his past, explaining that he wished to repent, reform, and become a better person. “I wonder if Allah will pardon me?” he asked.
Despite his piety, the worshipper was a person who had not been able to digest what he had practised replying “You will not be pardoned;’ he said. The listener was enraged and upset and in his anger killed this worshipper too.
After some time his heart pulled him towards repentance again and he asked all the people he knew if they knew anyone who could help him. He was directed to a learned person and he told him that he had killed a hundred people. “I wonder,” he said, “whether Allah will pardon me if I repent?” Being a truly wise man, he replied, “Of course you will be pardoned and who can stop you from repentance? I have just one piece of advice for you: avoid the company of wicked people and mix with good people, for bad company leads one into sin:”
The man expressed repentance and regret, weeping as he sincerely implored his Lord to pardon him. He immediately set off to find a city where righteous people lived.
On the way, his appointed hour arrived, and he died. The angels of punishment and of mercy both came to take away his soul. The angels of punishment said that as a sinful person he rightfully belonged to them, but the angels of mercy also claimed him, saying, “He repented and had resolved to become a good man. He was on his way to a place where righteous people live, but his appointed hour had come.” A great debate ensued, and Gabriel was sent as an arbitrator to settle this affair.
After hearing both sides he gave this verdict: “Measure the ground. If the spot where he died is closer to the good people, then he belongs to the angels of mercy, but if it is nearer to the wicked people, he will be given to the angels of punishment.”
They measured the ground. Because the man had just set out, he was still closer to the wicked. But because he was sincere in his repentance, Allah(SWT) stretched the earth moving the spot where he lay and brought it to just outside the city of the good people.
That penitent servant was handed over to the angels of mercy.
The great scholar Ibn `Allan in his commentary on Riyad al-Salihin says that the man departed in a state of repentance. The directive to go to the other city was in order to strengthen his tawba (repentance from sin) and his turning to Allah.
There are many lessons from this story:
- Knowledge and wisdom combined with piety are the highest state we should aspire to and the company we should seek
- Nothing can prevent Allahs Mercy so repent while you have the opportunity
- Remember, its your ending that counts so always be worried about your final state
Like a leaky bucket which can only ever be useful once you plug the hole, we will only really get the benefit out of Ramadan when we address our weakenesses. What is your personal largest hole? Identify it and use it every day in Ramadan to make dua and effort to plug this.