The chatter started weeks, even months ago.
What are you doing for Ramadan? What are your goals for Ramadan? Where are you going for Ramadan?
The holy month of fasting has become another part of our lives which we compare with others, and often find ourselves lacking. We know that our news-feeds will be flooded with photos of lavish iftars, posed snapshots at the mosque and boasts of good deeds accomplished.
There is nothing wrong with this in its essence, as we should strive to compete in good deeds and encourage others to follow suit.
But where is your heart? What do you really hope to achieve?
As we go about the fast, at school, college or work we will attract curious questions from non-Muslims. Often, the most pressing question is “Why?”
Why give up food, drink and intimacy during daylight hours? How could this possibly be of benefit?
In order to get the most from Ramadan, this is a question you must ask yourself every single day. Why are you fasting?
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. (Quran 2:183)
We fast out of obedience to our Lord, knowing that pious people before us also did the same. Allah knows that this time of fasting will cause us to reflect and become more mindful of our Islamic duties. This time of deeper reflection allows us to call into question the level of our obedience at other times.
Did we always rush to pray maghrib (or any other prayer) on time? Did we always pray 5 times? Did we always read Quran?
Use Ramadan as a chance to evaluate your level of obedience and make the intention to be better.
Connection with Allah
Ramadan is a wonderful time of unity within the Ummah. We are united in our common purpose, we share a knowing smile when we give salaam on the street. A smile that says, “I know you are tired, I know you are hungry and thirsty but we are in this together!”
Iftar at the mosque is a wonderful highlight of the Ramadan experience; breaking the fast as a community before standing together in prayer. Perhaps you or your family prepare and bring a meal to share. The community connection grows and deepens as we meet together more often for worship and understand the struggles of busy life while fasting.
What about our connection with Allah?
Allah said: ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…’ (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Your Creator knows the difficulty that fasting places upon you and your body. He knows that your body is weak and tired. And He knows that you fast out of obedience to Him and the hope of reward only from Him.
There can be no showing off when it comes to fasting. There are no outward signs, no indication as to who is doing a great job or who is getting by on the bare minimum. No one will congratulate you on the great job you did. Only Allah truly knows.
Make a routine during Ramadan that allows you to spend some time alone in quiet contemplation. Read the Quran, make dhikr, pray an extra two units. You don’t need to make any grand gestures or promises, just a little step closer to Allah is better than standing still.
Little but Consistent
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if it is small. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Many people enter into the month of Ramadan with a ‘Ramadan Checklist’. They make the intention to do some very impressive, but unrealistic, acts of worship, things they will never be able to maintain for any length of time.
I can remember my first Ramadan and in my eagerness to succeed I overwhelmed myself. My plans included: read a juz (portion) of the Quran each night, pray 20 units tarawih each night, learn 5 new chapters, learn the Arabic alphabet. I didn’t complete every single one of these items on my checklist each night and I thought it was a disaster!
The reality of my first Ramadan was that I was exhausted and grumpy. But I had put the pressure on myself!
Now having more years of experience under my belt, my Ramadan goals are much more simple and require quality over quantity.
Rather than read as much Quran as I can, I read what I can with understanding.
Instead of robotically praying 20 units of tarawih when I feel too tired, I pray a few extra at the end of each prayer with sincerity and full attention.
I make lists of people I want to make dua for and I spend time doing dhikr. These two things are certainly the easiest of all and bring the greatest rewards.
In this way, I am connecting with Allah. Calling out to Him and worshiping Him, enjoying the blessing of time with my Creator. And I know that it is enough. No pressure.
A Lasting Impression
We are told that if our deeds during the month of Ramadan are accepted, we will continue to be changed for the better, that we will maintain these efforts when the month has finished.
Imagine Ramadan as a marathon, rather than a sprint. As a personal challenge, rather than a superficial image contest.
Plan to make changes that have potential to improve your life in the long term.
Plant the seeds that you can continue to water all year round, that you can nurture and grow, then see the fruits in the Hereafter.