We need to think about how we can move forward and stay strong after Ramadan and retain that taqwa and retain this beautiful spirituality that we have achieved during Ramadan.
What Ramadan was actually about?
Ramadan was about building something special: your taqwa, your Iman, your good deeds, your soul is getting closer to Allah.
Many of you, during part, if not the whole of Ramadan were under the COVID-19 lockdown, but Ramadan this year was really amazing. But actually post-Ramadan it feels like there has been an even bigger war.
Post Ramadan Dip
What happens in Ramadan is that our hearts are strengthened; the heart is like a castle, it’s guarded with new soldiers i.e. your good deeds, your iman, your closeness to Allah… Then on the last day of Ramadan, three things happen:
The shayateen who have been chained for the whole month are released, the gates of Jannah are closed, and the gates of Jahannam are but open again.
This is why the shayateen will attack again and again, and your nafs and your heart are battling.
I sometimes call this “the post-Ramadan dip” because our strong Iman starts to go lower bit by bit.
This is a natural and normal.
How to fight this and how to retain your iman, and your taqwa?
A lot of people have said to me, ‘in Ramadan, I was getting up for Fajr on time every day, I was praying tahajjud every night, but the first day after Ramadan, I didn’t even manage to get up for Fajr.”
Why? Because Satan tries to prevent us from doing our worship.
How do we maintain what we built?
Following up the practice and actions that you built during Ramadan is part of something very important that’s called sabr (patience). Allah mentions patience many times in the Quran:
Allah loves the ones who are patient.
Now, there is one particular thing that you can do this month in Shawwal. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days of Shawwal, it would be as if he or she fasted for a full lifetime.
So, why we fast six days after Ramadan?
Allah knows us and we know nothing.
It’s tough to maintain what you’ve built when there are new challenges hitting what you’ve built. It is like kind of building a house and then a big destroyer comes and tries to destroy the house. This is why shayateen attack your heart.
After Ramadan, we are spiritually stronger, but we are also physically really tired from doing the fasting, and so it’s kind of two opposites. The reward that Allah offers us for fasting those six days after Ramadan matches the difficulty that we faced in that month after Ramadan.
Human beings need encouragement and work to goals. When you’re working for an employer, your employer will maybe give you an incentive to reach your sales goal or to reach your targets. Allah does this for us to reach Jannah.
Imagine if you had an employer who said to you: “I want you to work for six days and in return, I’m going to give you a lifetime salary.”
What scholars say about patience?
Ibn Uthman says:
“The person who has trained themselves to handle difficulties are of the sabireen.”
Ali ibn abi Talib said:
“Patience is to seek the help of Allah.”
Kinds of Patience
So, patience actually is divided into different categories and we have to understand what those categories are in order to kind of assess our own selves because sometimes you can be strong in one category but you need development in another category.
But in order to be of the patient, we have to be working on all these categories.
But here, we’re just going to speak maybe about some categories.
Ibn al Qayyim talks about:
1- When we have patience at times of hardship.
When you are at a time when you are being very tested by Allah, especially if it’s something that is being taken away from you by Allah and you have no choice in the matter.
For example, you get a sickness, somebody passes away, or you lose your job… we really have only two choices at this time: either we choose to be of the patient and to try and cope as best as we can, or we can choose to try and resist against our test and then we get so anxious, so stressed, and angry…
2- When you are pushing yourself to achieve something; it could be something small or huge. In this case we’re talking about pushing yourself to achieve something of good deeds and worshiping Allah.
3- When we withhold ourselves from doing something Haram. So, if you are able to withhold your gaze from looking at somebody whom you find attractive, this is a type of sabr because you’re withholding yourself from sinning.
This is actually the hidden sabr because as human beings actually we judge one another based on the sabr that we can see.
Ways to Achieve Patience
Ibn Al Qayyim suggests several things that we can do to have sabr. Here we’re talking about the sabr of fasting these six days of the Shawwal; we’re talking about the sabr of trying to maintain the things that we have achieved, and also fighting to withhold from the things that we’ve managed to stop doing during Ramadan.
Ibn Al Qayyim says that we should:
1- Try to overcome our laziness when we are trying to achieve sabr in our worship.
So, if you’re praying salat regularly five times a day, now what you need to do is to add on some sunnah prayers whatever you can manage, and to try to focus during our prayer.
2- Retain and work on softening your heart. The heart really is the center and the key of us. Some people even if they’re practicing Islam and they are praying five times a day, their hearts can become really harsh.
Some people’s hearts can harden through various things, for example, if you’ve got a sin that you are constantly doing all the time and you didn’t repent, then a barrier will build up between you and Allah.
We must acknowledge and act on the emotional needs of ourselves and of other people around us so everyone has emotional. If we are truly to call ourselves practicing Muslims, then we have got to respond to the needs, emotional and physical, of the people around us.
3- How to remove yourself from the distraction of the dunya? Sometimes, we become very attached to worldly things, especially if we live in the West, we have a lot of access to money, we have access to house, we have access to a car… So, we cling to what we’ve got like it’s everything to us.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that wealth is not in having vast riches; it is in contentment. If you have Sakinah in your heart, you will be happy if you have nothing, and you will be happy if you have everything.
But some people live in a way that they are constantly seeking the dunya and forgetting about the afterlife, and this is another thing that hardens the heart.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned to us to live as a stranger in this dunya. That does not mean sleeping on the floor, and not living according to your means. Live according to your means but don’t be ostentatious. Don’t be tight and not too open either. Everything in Islam is a middle-way.
What is the reward of patience?
What is the reward of you fasting these six days and also trying to really maintain what you’ve built in Ramadan?
You gain Allah’s love. Something else beautiful: a place underneath the throne of Allah.
Why? Because it’s tough and difficult.
Prophet Muhammad said:
There are seven types of people who will be shaded under the throne of Allah
There was an incident when the Prophet Muhammad was doing a speech and his grandsons Al Hassan and Al Hussein were small children; and they’re running around. So he stops the speech and goes to pick his beloved grandsons saying:
Indeed Allah has spoken the truth when He says: amongst your wives and your children are enemies to you.
This doesn’t mean that his grandsons were enemies to him. He loved his grandsons more than anything. He said:
I saw the boys falling and I did not have patience to continue my speech, so I stopped and I picked them up.
This is a lesson for us: the mercy that we should have on the young children whether it’s our family or not.
Allah says in chapter 64:15:
Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward.
Trials and tests are when we are in a situation to choose or we have to choose between maybe compromising our Deen or our family. We are under the obligation as Muslims to treat our families beautifully because we love them and we are close to them and we have to show them the beauty of Allah through our actions.
Sabr is harder and the highest rewarded is when we have a choice. Let’s go back to fasting the six days of Shawwal.
The difference between the days of Ramadan and the huge reward of these six days is that in Ramadan the fast is an obligation, we don’t have the choice, but in Shawwal we have the choice to fast.
That’s why Allah has offered a massive reward for fasting these six days.