Ramadan Muslims

As people, we make mistakes, going about our day to day live’s doing things that we may know are completely wrong or forbidden, enticed by the ‘sweet’ whispers of the Shaytan. However, when it comes time to Ramadan, the sudden opportunity for change presents itself. Where you didn’t pray or perhaps wear hijab you find that you start to change, praying your five times in Ramadan, putting that hijab on to ‘try it out’. However, what usually happens after the hype of the blessed month wears off, most of us who have grasped this chance may find ourselves slipping and turning back, doing the things we used to or not to do. Perhaps, you are going through this yourself, or know someone who is experiencing this. It was only recently that I discovered that this ‘slipping’ is often referred to as ‘Ramadan Muslims’

In Ramadan the thing we’re trying to accomplish is change as it is the most blessed month and we should show gratitude to Allah, striving to get closer to Him, for He is the All Knowing, the All Seeing.  That being said, the key to change is doing good deeds consistently, keeping it up throughout the year.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” Sunan Ibn Majah, 4240 (authenticated by al-Albani)

Why is it that we act a certain way or do a certain thing during Ramadan and outside Ramadan? It could naturally be due to the fact that we are aware that Ramadan really is a blessed month, a month of striving, so we’re on our best behavior as we try to accomplish as many good deeds as possible. However, even when the motivation is low, we need to wake up and push ourselves to turn the things we’ve accomplished or worked on this Ramadan into habits, realizing that Allah is the All Seeing the All Knowing, the Judge of all things.

If we know He sees and hears all things, then we must fear His punishment, staying away from bad deeds and displeasing Him. It is sad to say, but also true that some of us are good Muslims during Ramadan and then at soon as it ends we find it as a free pass to stop praying, let that hijab slip, be rude to our parents, talk in a bad way, fight with our siblings, listen to music, etc. the list goes on and on.

We have to motivate and help each other, when we fall back and do something wrong don’t give up! Repent and move forward and remind yourself that: “I’m going to try and be the best Muslim I can be!” Repeat this mantra in the mirror everyday when you wake up if you feel it’ll help.

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” Sunan Ibn Majah, 4251 (authenticated by As-Suyuti)

Repentance is beloved to Allah, as He says: “Verily, Allah loves those who repent and those who purify themselves.” [Al-Qur’an 2:222]

Going forward we need to develop an awareness of how we act outside Ramadan vs. the way we act during Ramadan. The way we act during Ramadan is how we should strive to be all year round. This is because we want to change ourselves for the better, pleasing Allah, not to show off or please others. If you do a good deed such as finishing the Quran, or make a delicious iftar for your family, reaffirm your intentions that at the end of the day you’re doing this for the sake of Allah.

“And your Ilâh (God) is One Ilâh (God – Allah), Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (there is none who has the right to be worshipped but He), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” [Al Qur’an 2:163]

We’re human and we all make mistakes and slip up. Now that Ramadan is coming to an end, use this time to evaluate yourself and where you stand. Take responsibility and make attainable goals to continue your progress outside of Ramadan, and hit the ground running rather than lagging behind.  It’s important to note, and remind yourself when the motivation is running low and you feel like lapsing back, that the next Ramadan is never guaranteed. Therefore, take this moment to return in gratitude to Allah for giving you a golden opportunity that you may not experience next year, reaffirming your belief, as you use the Ramadan as stepping stones to getting closer to Allah throughout the rest of the year.

Narrated by Abu Dhar, that Allah’s Messenger said that Allah said: “He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” Reported by Muslim.

Being SMART During The Last 10 Days

Nabiha started Ramadan with a good kick, zealous to complete her goals and take the steps towards the changes she wanted in her life. She was extremely excited, following her strict regime ‘To a T’. Extremely careful not to skip a day, for she had made up her mind to change and make the most of this blessed month. She did good, until the tenth day of Ramadan hit, the first third, she was feeling over-confident, and her motivation started to wane – just a little. She decided to give herself a break – just for one day.

BAM – the last ten days are approaching faster than she imagined; the first ten days surely hadn’t been so fast had they?  She felt guilty, having become lax with her goals and fell further behind than she would’ve dreamed, her to-do list now piling up. Her motivation was pretty much a thing of the past, and she had to struggle and fight to try to catch up. She felt despair…would she be able to make the most out of the last ten days like she’d originally hoped?

Many of us face a similar, if not the same, situation as Nabiha. We start off Ramadan all excited, rearing to go, only to crash and burn before the end has even arrived, feeling unmotivated with the idea of ‘throwing in the towel’ becoming more and more appealing as the days speed by.

A common mistake that we make is setting unrealistic goals that are general and broad.  After falling into this same trap time and time again, in countless situations a wise teacher taught me how to make SMART goals. Which means making your goals:

 S – specific, significant

Make sure that your goal is well defined and that it’s clear to anyone has basic knowledge of your goal.

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

Measure whether it’s obtainable and how far away is the completion.

A – attainable, achievable, action orientated

Make sure you can actually achieve your goal within the set measured time that you’ve set above.

R – realistic, reasonable, result-orientated

That you can realistically do it with your given resources available, taking your level of comittment into account.

T – time based

Make sure you have enough time to complete your goal and not too much time as this can affect your project performance.

One valuable lesson my mom taught me was to eat my ‘Elephant’, goal,  bite by bite rather than trying to swallow it whole. As we can undoubtedly vouch from experience, it’s extremly easy to get overwhelmed by looking at the big picture. Even though the last ten days of Ramadan are almost here, it’s not too late to re-evaluate your goals and readjust your plan, using the SMART template above as a guide.

Repentance and Forgiveness

Many times in life, you come across certain individuals who persistently commit sins and do not seek the forgiveness of Allah, they believe with full certainty that they will not receive His mercy and consequently choose to increase in evil deeds. This is a grave mistake and misunderstanding. Allah assures us in the Quran that no matter what sin we commit, He subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive. For example, most of us grew up knowing that shirk (associating partners in worship with Allah) is an unforgivable sin, we don’t actually know that it is only unforgivable if we die having commited shirk without repenting, if we commit even this sin, Allah can forgive us as long as we repent.

“And those who, when they have committed Fahishah (illegal sexual intercourse) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins; – and none can forgive sins but Allah – and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know.” (3:135)

During this month especially, it is paramount that we constantly repent to Allah and seek His forgiveness. There are numerous ways in which we can do that, feom simply uttering words of forgiveness on our tongues, to praying two.

Shaddad bin Aus (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “The best supplication for seeking forgiveness (Syed-ul-Istighfar) is to say: `Allahumma Anta Rabbi, la ilaha illa Anta, khalaqtani wa ana `abduka, wa ana `ala `ahdika wa wa`dika mastata`tu, a`udhu bika min sharri ma sana`tu, abu’u laka bini`matika `alayya, wa abu’u bidhanbi faghfir li, fa innahu la yaghfirudh-dhunuba illa Anta. (O Allah! You are my Rubb. There is no true god except You. You have created me, and I am Your slave, and I hold to Your Covenant as far as I can. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge the favours that You have bestowed upon me, and I confess my sins. Pardon me, for none but You has the power to pardon).’ He who supplicates in these terms during the day with firm belief in it and dies on the same day (before the evening), he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah; and if anyone supplicates in these terms during the night with firm belief in it and dies before the morning, he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah.” [Al-Bukhari].

Throughout the year we all fall short and drown in sins, constantly disobeying our Creator and transgressing the limits of Islam. If He has blessed you to witness another ramadhan, He is giving you the opportunity to repent, seize it! Know with full certainty that Allah swt is full of Mercy and Compassion towards His servants, life is short and we must use our time wisely to grow towards Him. Allah swt knows that we are a people who sin, so do not feel shy to repent to your Creator. Do not allow shaytan to delude you into thinking that Allah swt will not forgive you as this is simply not true, and remember to always keep this hadith in mind:
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “By the One in Whose Hand my soul is! If you do not commit sins, Allah would replace you with a people who would commit sins and seek forgiveness from Allah; and Allah will certainly forgive them.” [Bukhari]
Now, the same way we love that Allah should forgive us, we must also get into the habbit of forgiving others. Humans are imperfect by nature, we all fall into mistakes, to look past somebody’s mistake and to forgive them is something very noble and important to do. It is a gift only a few possess.

Forgiving someone can be very difficult to do when you are fuming with anger. It can be that this person has hurt you in a profound and unimaginable way through words or actions. Perhaps this invidual has been abusive. Nonetheless, life is too short to not forgive. In our lives, surely we’ve made mistakes, and do we not appreciate it when people accept our apologies? It is also important to take into consideration that by forgiving someone, even if they’re not concerned by your act of forgiveness, you are actually helping yourself. To hold grudges and sustain ressentment hurts nobody else but you, we know this from our religion, but it is also something emphasized by psychologist. To forgive is to heal your wound by yourself, not depending on someone to do it for you. So in shaa Allah (by the will of Allah) let us strive to forgive one another and accept that we are all flawed and can commit mistakes. Let us also strive to repent to our Lord and often as possible, especially before the inevitable comes.

Tahajjud: its excellence and benefits

Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “The best month for observing fast after Ramadhan is muharram, and the best salah after the prescribed salah is salah at night”

As servants of Allah, we should be always seeking ways of getting closer our Lord, and Islam teaches us that one of the easiest ways in which we can ignite a connection with Allah and grow closer to Him, is through the night prayer. When is the last time any of us left our beds for the sake of Allah, and stood in the depths of the night to pray? Last Ramadhan? Before an exam? Maybe there hasn’t even been a first time, and yet it is a beautiful act of worship with a huge amount of reward.

Salah, in general, is one of the most important actions a servant must perform in our religion, we know, it is the second pillar of Islam after the shahada (testimony), and this highlights its significance. Tahajjud is one of the supererogatory prayers we are constantly advised to perform, it is one of those actions that, when performed, enables us to become amongst the individuals mentioned in this beautiful qudsi hadith: Narrated on the authority of Abu Dhar: Allah’s Messenger said that Allah said: “He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” [Muslim]

This act is a beautiful deed which Allah swt loves. Just imagine, during the night when the world has settled and people are caught up in their sleep, you arise and begin to pray, you’re one of the very few servants of Allah who do this. Calmness and serenity settles within you because you are alone with Allah, you worship Him, remember Him, make dua to Him. Due to the night’s calm atmosphere and silence, you genuinely feel a sense of comfort. The Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?”. What an incredible hadith subhanAllah! It is sad to think that so many of us miss this amazing opportunity because we choose sleep over prayer, and contrary to what Muslims believe, this act of worship is not tiring or difficult in anyway, in fact once it becomes a habit, it will be something you will find difficult to live without.

Praying tahajud is also one of the most excellent ways of manifesting your gratitude towards Allah swt and the uncountable blessings He has bestowed in your life. One of the best hadith that illustrates this is the one that follows: Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked him: “Why do you do this, while you have been forgiven of your former and latter sins?” He said, “Should I not be a grateful slave of Allah?” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] This hadith teaches us so much, the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, despite not possessing much, acknowledged the blessings of Allah swt upon Him, and stood in prayer until his skin got affected to show his gratitude to His lord, what excuse do we have? Our blessings are so much that it is impossible to count them,  “If you were to count Allah’s favors, you would not be able to number them; most surely humanity is very unjust, very ungrateful.” [Sūrah Ibrāhīm: 34] this verse should soften our hearts, and make us feel ashamed when we compare our ungrateful attitude towards Allah’s generosity towards us. Even though it would realistically impossible to thank Allah for all His blessings, let us implement the action of the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, and pray tahajud as way of showing some gratitude towards Allah.

Preparing for Ramadan

So Ramadan is almost here! It is such a blessed and amazing time of year. I find it is during this month I feel the most connected to my religion and Allah, and I really want to do as many good deeds as I possibly can. Of course we should be doing that all the time, but I find that I tend to get back into things and it really helps me to stay on track for the rest of the year.

Sometimes it is easy to fall into thinking that we are starving ourselves but what we really need to ask ourselves is, why are we fasting? The fast is intended to bring us closer to Allah. Also, fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing the hajj, pilgrimage, in Mecca.

Try to plan your days beforehand and also getting into a routine before Ramadan starts, so if you get into good habits before it starts, inshaAllah you’ll be able to continue doing them.

A great habit to have is to read Quran after every prayer, that way you’re reading the Quran at least 5 times a day! Even if it’s just a few ayas or surahs, every and anything counts.

Doing good deeds for others is something I really love to do, and especially in Ramadan there is so much you can do to help others, whether it is your family, your friends, your neighbors, the poor, everyone!

And really try to stay away from bad behavior and arguments-“If one of you is observing Saum (fast), he should avoid saying words that contain sexual matters, and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am observing Saum (fast).’”(Muttafaqun ‘alaih)

Being grateful is very  important because remember, no matter how hungry or thirsty or tired you get, there’s always going to be someone somewhere who doesn’t even have food to break fast with! Imagine that??

So, to summarize: do as many good deeds as you possibly can, stay away from bad behavior and upsetting others, be grateful for what you have and those around you and read the Quran!!

May we all have a blessed Ramadan. Ameen.