It is harder to start doing a new thing than to continue doing it. Science students come across this phenomenon everywhere – it takes more energy to make a still object move than to keep a moving object in motion. It takes more energy to start a chemical reaction than to keep it going.
Science students also know that there are ways to facilitate the first step – whether it be a chemical reaction or a steel ball. You can use a catalyst to lower the energy required to start a chemical process.
Think of Ramadan as a catalyst. All Muslims know that they’re supposed to pray five times every day, fast twenty nine or thirty days every year in Ramadan, pay zakah on their extra assets, and go for Hajj at least once in life if they can afford it.
These are four of the five pillars of Islam; the fifth is included in the definition of being a Muslim in the first place.
All Muslims know this. But how many of us implement it? How many Muslims in the world pray five times daily? A small minority.
In Ramadan though, we see something amazing, miraculous. We see our masjids being frequented by people who never went near them before, not even to pray Jumuah. Almost every one of us fasts, and almost as many try to pray regularly, if not five times, then at least some prayers.
How does this miracle happen? Why do we find it easy to pray in Ramadan, but not at other times of the year?
When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained. (Al-Bukhari 1899)
Ramadan is a month of mercy. Allah calls it a ‘mubarak’ month, full of blessings. And the devils can’t disturb you and distract you from doing good deeds.
It’s said that it takes twenty one days to build a new habit. If you’ve been praying every day in Ramadan, congratulations! You’ve just built the prayer habit.
But then, so many of us do just that every Ramadan, and yet give it all up after Eid. How do we hold on to our prayers and other acts of worship after Ramadan?
Here are a few things to remember that might help you make it this year insha’Allah.
1- Don’t Expect Too Much From Yourself
The devils are chained up in Ramadan, making it easier for you to be the best version of yourself. That means, just as soon as the eve of Eid begins, the devils come back to business as usual, and their business is to make your life and afterlife as difficult as they can.
Satan promised to Allah that he will:
…sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You]. (Quran 7:16-17)
When you hear the Adhan of Isha on the night of Eid and the thought of prayer comes to you, be prepared for distracting thoughts to crowd your mind immediately.
“I need to cook for tomorrow. There’s so much to be done. I need to go shopping too. That shoe store is offering a special discount tonight and it’s about to close! Why don’t I just go there now and pray afterwards?”
And after you come back from shopping, the devils will find a hundred more excuses to keep you away from the prayer mat all night. And what more, the more you obey the devils, the more power they will gain over you, and the harder it will seem to become to obey Allah.
In order to drive the devils away, take instant action right at the beginning. Do what they hate the most – pray as soon as it’s time.
If it seems too hard, tell yourself: “I’ll just pray the obligatory prayers. It will hardly take ten minutes. Then I can do as much shopping I want, and with a clear conscience.“
That brings us to our next point.
2- Hold on to the Obligatory Deeds No Matter What
All good deeds have rankings according to the priority Allah wants us to give them. Why do you need to know these priorities?
So that you can know what you can afford to give up and what you can’t.
But those who aren’t clear about this distinction are often found to leave salah altogether when it seems too hard to pray the sunnah.
The five daily prayers are obligatory, which means that there’s no way we can shirk them. Leaving them is a major sin and, according to some scholars, takes our very Islam away.
On the other hand, the sunnah prayers, though highly recommended to observe, aren’t mandatory. You won’t be sinning if you give them up. So if praying ten or twelve rak’ahs of prayer at dhuhr seems too daunting, you can only pray the four obligatory rak’ahs and that will be enough.
3- Don’t Wipe Away All Your Ramadan Efforts
Imagine that you’ve been working hard for a month to build a beautiful home. You’ve laid all the bricks in place with your own hands, cemented the walls and painted the windows. Now only the roof is left undone.
Now imagine yourself getting on a bulldozer and driving it right through your beautiful house! You just destroyed a month’s hard work with your own hands.
Doesn’t it feel terrible when hard work goes to waste? And yet that’s exactly what happens if, after a month’s fasting and prayers, we give it all up; after building a connection with Allah, you start blatantly disobeying His commands.
4- Remember the Destroyer of Pleasures
Do you think you’re going to see the next Ramadan? Are you so sure? What if Allah sent down your death warrant on this Laylatul Qadr?
If you’re getting too distracted by Eid celebrations to pray, think about this:
After a month’s obedience to Allah, what if you die in a state of disobedience to Him? What if your soul is taken while you’re forgetful of your prayers? How would you feel to be raised up like that on Judgment Day?
You’d feel like that miner in a famous meme who’d been digging for days and days only to give up and leave. What will he feel when he realizes, when it’s too late, that he was only a few inches away from the treasure?
And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.
He will say, ‘My Lord, why have you raised me blind while I was [once] seeing?’
[Allah] will say, ‘Thus did Our signs come to you, and you forgot them; and thus will you this Day be forgotten.’ (20:124-126)