Based on an interview with Dr. Shabir Aly.
In this episode, we’ll talk about maintaining the spirit of Ramadan.
How do we keep the spirit of Ramadan alive after the month has passed?
And how can we ensure that we continue to draw closer to God as we go about our regular routines?
With me is brother Shabir Ally, President of the Islamic Information Center, Toronto, Canada.
Host: Welcome to “Let The Quran Speak”
Dr. Shabir: My pleasure to be on.
Q: Now, Ramadan is over, we’re bustling going to work, going to school… how do we maintain what we’ve achieved in Ramadan as we go about in our daily lives?
Dr. Shabir: We have to reflect back on the main principals that governed our activities during the month of Ramadan. We were driven by the desire to be close to God and that let us to fast a lot, to pray at night and to read the Quran a lot.
So that very principal should motivate us now in our dealings with other people, in our fairness, in our transactions, our satisfying our commitments to others and so on… All of this should be driven by the same principal of trying to be close to God.
Q: In Ramadan, we intensify our worship and we intensify our desire to become closer to God. What do we do afterwards to keep up that intensity? Is it even possible to keep up that intensity?
Dr. Shabir: Yes it is possible, and at the same time we should recognize that we will obviously not have the same fever of faith as we had during the peak time that is Ramadan.
That fever will drop a little bit to be sure, but it is possible to maintain the lessons that we come out of Ramadan with, and some of the practices that we were accustomed in Ramadan can actually continue with us even after Ramadan.
So we were reading Quran a lot in Ramadan, now perhaps not with the same intensity but certainly we can consistently read let’s say a page a day of the Quran. Some copies of the Quran have something like 600 pages. If one reads two pages a day then with some days to spare, one would have finished the whole Book within a year so by the next Ramadan we have the message of the Quran alive in our minds because we’ve been reading it constantly.
Q: I guess we want to make sure that we’re improving as every day goes by and not just waiting for the month of Ramadan to draw closer to God.
Dr. Shabir: Exactly. We fasted a lot in Ramadan and it is also possible to fast after Ramadan is over but voluntary fasts, and not thirty days in a row but a few days here and there.
Q: What is some of the recommended fasts?
Dr. Shabir: Well, six days in the month immediately following the month of Ramadan, that is called Shawwal in Arabic. It begins in the day of Eid, but the day of Eid (the festival) is a day in which Muslims are forbidden to fast, it’s a day of festival not fasting; but six other days of that month is recommended for fasting and it is even narrated in a Prophetic saying that if a Muslim were to fast in the month of Ramadan and then six days in the following month, then he or she will be rewarded as if he fasted continuously throughout life, and apparently the reason for this is that each deed is rewarded ten times over.
So if one fasts the thirty days of Ramadan plus six days in the month following, times ten, when it is rewarded times ten, the rewards turn to be a great number of days than even the lunar year contains.
Q: What is your advice for somebody who might not be fulfilling all the duties of a Muslim and has started to do that during the month of Ramadan, what should they do after Ramadan?
Dr. Shabir: Definitely to continue with those duties of a Muslim. It so happens your question is well-put because there are some Muslims who perhaps did not pray a lot but it came to the month of Ramadan, they were in the mosques, and they were listening to the Quran… Well, continue that after the month of Ramadan, there are five prayers in Ramadan which are obligatory for Muslims. So we should maintain those five prayers and they’re not difficult to perform.
You pray before you go out to work, you take a break for lunch, you pray during the break, you have an afternoon coffee break, you pray again, you get home from work, that’s a time you come home, you relax before you start cooking dinner or perhaps after you cook dinner depending on the season, you pray again. And lastly before you retire to bed at night, you offer prayers before your Lord, thanking Him for all of the good things you’ve enjoyed during the day and asking Him for His blessings for the new day coming up and God willing, we could actually pass away during the night in which case the last thing we have done is a prayer before God.
So this is easily doable and should continue after the month is over.
Q: Now in Ramadan, we sacrifice many worldly things, we try to draw away from our needs and desires. How do we avoid after Ramadan being overly immersed in the world?
Dr. Shabir: It’s a matter of attitude. In Ramadan, we have learned to recognize that life in hereafter is the most precious part of our existence, so after Ramadan that should not change. It shouldn’t be that now suddenly we’ve re-oriented ourselves and give maximum importance or sole importance to the physical world in which we now live.
We should in fact keep our priorities in order and balance the two: this world and the life hereafter. Work for this world, certainly, but also keep our life hereafter in view knowing that that ultimately is where we’re going to spend eternity and that is what we need to make better rather than the temporary life that we now enjoy.
Q: Now, we’ve talked a lot about worship but in Ramadan we also become aware of the fact that we don’t need to sleep as much, we don’t need to eat as much and fulfill other base desires. What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Shabir: Definitely that attitude should continue after the month of Ramadan because we find often that people are driven by the need for food and just the luxury of over-sleeping, but we need to regulate our time; time is precious so we sleep as needed but we also get active and work and study and make good use of our awaking hours.
Eating is important, nourishment of the body is essential, but at the same time we should not be over-eating. A recent report showed that 34% of the people in the USA are obese and some people are morbidly obese. These are terrible statistics to work with.
By fasting during the month of Ramadan, we learn that our bodies do need nourishment but we can survive on a lot less than we normally do, and we then just realize that we don’t need to eat on instinct, just impulsive type of eating whenever we feel like eating. No, you eat when you are hungry and you can stop eating before you start feeding full.
Q: There are some good habits that we develop during Ramadan, you mentioned keeping time; we regulate when we eat, when we stop eating, when we pray, when we stop praying… and other things like patience and honesty that we develop during Ramadan. I guess these are important to cultivate as well during the rest of the year?
Dr. Shabir: In fact, if we did not cultivate these things during the rest of the year then our whole observation of Ramadan is questionable. What was the benefit of Ramadan then? If we have come out of the school and we were not obviously aware of the lessons that are taught in that school then something is really questionable about our very presence in that school.
Ramadan is like a school. It’s supposed to train us and we are supposed to emerge as graduates with the degrees to show for it, and the degrees will show not written on a piece of paper but in our actions, the way we deal with others, the patience we show in the face of hardship and difficulty… all of this will register that we have come out of the school of Ramadan.
Q: Do you think it’s important to set a plan to come up with a sort of a timetable of things that you want to achieve during the year or something like this?
Dr. Shabir: It’s always good to have a plan and to work that plan and to revise it as needed, but to have a plan. Without a plan, one might have great ideas and good intentions but things do not materialize.
A recent sermon I heard affected me a lot. The sermonizer was saying that if one were thinking “I’m going to read a few pages of the Quran every day.” Well that’s vague “every day” but when in the day?
Unless you anchor it to something, it will just float about and never get done because the time for it will always seem to be sometime later; but you have to anchor it to something and say “ok, when I get up, before I do anything else, I read my few pages” or “immediately after dropping my kids off to school, that’s when I read my few pages” and sometimes we think we can’t when we return home but then when we return home and we get toppled with other things.
If you find that happening you say to yourself “well, when I stop in the school parking lot and there I will read my few pages before leaving the school parking lot so I don’t get toppled with something else”.
So this becomes your plan and you have anchored what you needed to with something which is concrete and you make sure now that it’s not floating about, it’s a vague idea, with the hope that we get that.
Host: Thank you for that brother Shabir.
Dr. Shabir: You’re welcome.