Do you know the famous quote by Oprah Winfrey, who once said about the New Year, ‘here’s to another chance to make it right’? I feel that way about Ramadan. Every time we arrive in another Ramadan, it never feels just like another Ramadan. It feels like we are so utterly blessed to be given another chance to make it right with ourselves, our surroundings, and Allah.
While we live in this world, we have an obligation to take care of our soul by doing the mandated acts of worships that Allah has prescribed to us. Intellectually, we are thoroughly familiar with that notion. Nonetheless, none of us are perfect. None of us are angels and we all have our weaknesses. None of us are totally rational beings and sometimes we are ruled by our emotions. We all have that moment when we are just not at the peak of our spirituality. Fortunately, if we realize our mistakes and sincerely asking for forgiveness, Allah will give us so many chances. And one of those ‘other chances’ is during Ramadan, where there are so many awesome things to do to improve yourself and your imaan. I list five of them below. If you have been going down a wrong path, it’s time to turn back. If you have been doing well, it’s time to up your game.
- Going Back to the Qur’an
If the state of our relationship with Qur’an feels like it’s an on and off thing, Ramadan is that time of the year where we can finally have a license to spend the day with Qur’an like we have never been before. The ulama of the past used to let go of teachings during Ramadan in order to prioritize reading the Qur’an.
Going back to the Qur’an does not mean reciting it as quickly as you can so you get to say you finish 30 juz at the day of Eid. Though there is blessings in reciting its every alphabet, the Qur’an was not meant to just be recited. It was meant for you to be deeply engaged in its messages, and to be a transformation tool that changes a person from the inside.
By going back to the Qur’an, it means to learn about its messages again. It means paying attention to its recitation, whether its your recitation or someone else’s recitation through taraweeh prayer. It means letting your heart, mind and soul be pierced with its beauty and its utter light. It means checking whether you are truly aligned with what you claim to believe and recite every day, or not. And if not, it means thinking hard how it got that way and how to be aligned with it again.
Make no mistake, the work of the soul is not for the slackers or the faint-hearted. But it is so worth it.
- The Night Prayers
In this month, we also have a chance to practice every day the prayer most recommended by Rasulullah after the compulsory prayer: the night prayer. I believe most of us are familiar with its virtues. Yet, how many of us regularly do this night prayer like in the Ramadhan? It is a rare modern Muslim who can consistently do this worship amidst their busy schedules.
This month is that chance to remember everyday the hadith about Allah coming down to the world at the last third of the night. For those who beg forgiveness, He will forgive. For those who ask, He will give. And He does that every night. Not just Ramadan. Let us beg Allah for strength and consistency in our night prayer, even after Ramadan ends.
- Staying in the House of Allah
The worship of i’tikaf, staying in the House of Allah to do His Dzikr, is something dearly beloved by our Rasulullah SAW, and it has immense benefits and blessings for the doer. Take this time. Take this chance. Forget the world for a while, the world that you have been paying attention for the other 340-something days. These 10 days are the time you pay full attention to Allah. Rewrite your life trajectory. Beg Him to make your weaknesses your strengths. Beg Him to forgive you. Come up with some fresh, new, utterly unexpected inspiration on how you should forge ahead in life. Pray your heart out at the mosque. You have all night, and you have all 10 days. You will emerge from it a renewed soul.
- Giving Sadaqah
The joy of giving has never been so explicitly expressed like during Ramadan. Everyone wants to be generous. Everyone needs to give a sadaqah. And so if it ever feels like your life is slightly constricted, Ramadan is a wonderful time to inspect your finances and look at it honestly. Could it perhaps mean you have been spending too much on yourself? Not enough on others? Because as the Islamic wisdom goes, as long as you keep giving, you will always have. Giving sadaqah is an ibadah oft-coupled with the act of prayer itself in the Quran. And as you go establishing the habit of praying in your daily life, and building your identity as a practising Muslim who prays, you also have to build the habit of generosity, the mental, physical and emotional capacity to give and contribute. Human beings are created with a big love for wealth, and overcoming this desire, this tendency to keep wealth to yourself, is an act that is mightily rewarded by Allah, and is a big deal for Him. This is a reminder, make it a big deal for you too, starting from this month of Ramadan (if you haven’t already).
- Training God-consciousness
How many Muslims fast and then not pray? How many Muslims out there fast and then still capable of bringing themselves to a variety of obvious sins and is being completely nonchalant about it? Ramadan will teach us that God-consciousness is not something you can buy. You can try to emulate it from others, which is why friendship in Islam is so important. It’s also definitely something you can learn, which is why we are trying to cultivate it for the whole month of Ramadan. But, and it is a big but, nobody will give you God-consciousness other than Allah, but your own self. You can peer-pressure yourself to do the worship that everyone else is doing, but that does not mean in any way that you are in possession of God-consciousness. You have to work hard yourself for this trait, and constantly train yourself, and re-train yourself. Even after Ramadan, which you can also do through learning Islamic knowledge with AlKauthar Institute and again during the next Ramadan if you have enough time.
Like many worldly or mental skills that can bring you plenty of goodness, God-consciousness (which is a skill of the soul that will also bring you plenty of goodness), requires maintenance. Extra maintenance, even. Let this month be that space where you train yourself on God-consciousness. You don’t have to excel right away, but please remember in this month to ask plenty of times for excellence in this skill, in this trait. That is why fasting has been prescribed so that you attain God-consciousness. Fulfil that purpose, and always have that intention to manifest the actual purpose of fasting, InshaaAllah.