Ramadan is at our doorsteps again and very soon we will get actively engaged in Ibadat (acts of worship) that include fasting, prayers, Taraweeh, late night prayers, Quran recitation, and so on. The month of blessing offers us the opportunity to seek Allah’s forgiveness, and ask for His blessings that we need to keep us going for our remaining time in this life and the hereafter.
However, before we get too engaged in our Ibadat, it is important to remind ourselves of our larger goals for this month in order to make the most of the coming days and weeks. As part of our Ibadat and obedience to Allah this month, we should seek to improve our relationship with Allah by asking for His forgiveness and blessings, get a broader perspective about doing good, strive to excel in all acts of doing good, and more importantly, to strive to make lasting changes in our behavior. In the following, let’s focus more on this message.
Perfect your Ibadat in Ramadan to get closer to Allah – As we actively engage in the various ibadat in Ramadan, we must remind ourselves that these Ibadats offer us the opportunity to get closer to Allah and to increase our love for Him in our hearts. As Muslims, our faith requires that love for Allah and his prophet (Sallalahu alaihi wasallam – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) supersedes any other type of love that we may have for any other object or creation. Many scholars agree on the basis of sound ahadith that Allah creates a person (and his heart) in such a way that he has the natural inclination to love Allah. However, as a person’s heart gets corrupted by doubts, desires and temptations, that love has to be rekindled from time to time through both faith and knowledge.
One way we can increase Allah’s love in our hearts is to use the opportunity that Ramadan provides us by perfecting our Ibadat. For example, as salat (prayers) is one of the key ibadat that we will be engaged in during Ramadan, we can focus on increasing the quality and khushu of our prayers. We can do so by focusing on what we recite during prayers and by keeping Allah in our mind during that Ibadah. The Prophet (S) said: “When one of you stands in prayer, he is conversing with his Lord, so let one of you know what he is saying to his Lord and do not raise your voices above one another in reciting when praying.” [Narrated by Ahmad (4928) and classed as saheeh by Shu’ayb al-Arna’oot in Tahqeeq al-Musnad.] The importance of prayers is also evident from this hadith where it was narrated by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (S) said: “Whoever goes to the mosque in the morning and evening, Allah will prepare for him an honorable place in Paradise every time he goes and comes” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 631; Muslim, 669.
We should use the same principle when engaging in other ibadats such as Quran recitation, dhikr (remembrance of Allah), giving charity, and so on. Let’s ensure, therefore, that our intentions when performing those Ibadat are solely to please Allah and to use these Ibadat to increase our love for Him in our hearts.
Broaden your scope of good deeds – In Islam, good deeds go beyond the realm of ibadat such as fasting and praying. Unfortunately, for many devout Muslims, the broader definition of good deeds rarely gets due focus. As a result, we find within our ranks many Muslims who although tend to be quite steadfast in praying and fasting but tend to be light in other moral standards that both Allah and the Prophet (S) have stressed for us. We can thus use Ramadan to broaden our horizons for doing good deeds that we repeatedly have learned from both the Quran and hadith but rarely practice in our lives. These include:
- Visiting the sick
- Repairing fractured bonds and relationships with family members and close relations
- Being kind and respectful to our spouses
- Attending funerals.
- Assisting others in times of need.
Let’s remember that the status of good deeds is similar to giving sadaqah (charity). Mu’aadh bin Jabal (RA) has related from the Prophet (S) that “Sadaqah extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi). The Prophet (S) likened all good deeds to giving charity. He (s) said: “To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. To guide a person in a place where he cannot get astray is charity. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.” (Bukhari).
In another hadith quoted in Sahih Muslim, Abu Huraira narrates that the Prophet (S) said: “Who began this day fasting?” Abu Bakr said: “I did.” The Prophet (S) said: “Who participated in a funeral procession today?” Abu Bakr said: “I did.” The Prophet (S) said: “Who fed a needy person today?” Abu Bakr said: “I did.” The Prophet (S) said: “Who visited a sick person today?” Abu Bakr said: “I did.” Then, the Prophet (S) said: “These things cannot all meet in a single person but that they will enter Paradise.”
Doing these good deeds in Ramadan can potentially earn us even more rewards. However, let’s ensure that whenever we do any acts of good and charity, we don’t boast by reminding people about those acts. These acts of doing good should be solely to please Allah and the matter, therefore, should be between us and Allah. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (S) said, “… one who keeps reminding people of what he has given, will not enter Paradise.” (Tirmidhi)
Raise your standards of doing good: Islam encourages us to push ourselves to increase our levels of doing good. Such an effort helps us to improve ourselves even further, which we wouldn’t do if not for Ramadan. We know that even the Prophet’s (S) behavior became better in Ramadan than during the other months. We know from many ahadith that the prophet (S) was the most generous of people, and he was at his most generous in Ramadan. At that time he used to give more in charity and treat people even more kindly. He would also read more Quran, pray more, recite more dhikr, and spend time in I’tikaaf (retreat). Imam Ahmad remarked that, “And nothing he was asked for but he would give it.” Furthermore, Al-Bayhaqi reported that ‘Aaishah, may Allah be pleased with her, had said, “When Ramadan would start, the Prophet (S) would release all prisoners of war and fulfill the need of every person who would ask him for something.” In the light of that guidance, and motivated by Allah’s promise to reward us more during this month, we should, therefore, push ourselves to increase the extent of doing good.
Commit for a permanent change – Ramadan, with its blessings, puts us in high gear to show our obedience to Allah and to seek His pleasure. Though many of us start the month quite enthusiastically, our habits usually prevent us from achieving a long lasting change. So, as we start this month, let’s dedicate ourselves for a real change related to increasing the love for Allah in our hearts, reflecting that love in our daily actions by leaving what He doesn’t like and embracing the good, and more importantly to carry this change forward beyond Ramadan. The important thing is to get a sincere intention lodged in our hearts and to let that intention guide our behavior for a sustained change. By doing so, we will notice that Allah will make things easier for us and will elevate our status in this life and the hereafter. Remember what the Hadith Quudsi states: “…if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.” (Sahih Al-Bukhâri, Vol.9, Hadîth No.502).
Making that permanent change, however, does require that we exert ourselves to break through the old habits and mental barriers. Let’s ponder on what our pious salaf said about exerting ourselves to do more and to make a permanent change.
- Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir said: “I struggled against my own self for forty years until it became right.”
- Thaabit al-Banaani said: “I struggled for twenty years to make myself pray qiyaam al-layl, and I enjoyed it (qiyaam al-layl) for (the next) twenty years.”
- ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez said: “The best of deeds are those which we force ourselves to do.”
- ‘Abd-Allah ibn al-Mubaarak said: “The souls of righteous people in the past used to push them to do good deeds, but our souls do not do what we want them to do except by force, so we have to force them.”
- Qutaadah said: “O son of Adam, if you do not want to do any good except when you have the energy for it, then your nature is more inclined towards boredom and laziness. The true believer is the one who pushes himself.”
Sometimes doing good may involve a lot of patience but then let’s remember that Allah will reward us according to the efforts that we put in. The Prophet (S) said: “Ahead of you there lie days of patience, during which being patient will be like grasping a hot coal. The one who does good deeds then will have a reward like that of fifty men who do such deeds” [Narrated by Abu Dawood (4341); al-Tirmidhi (3085) and he said: it is a hasan hadeeth. It was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (494)].
In conclusion, as we look forward to spending the next few days of Ramadan hoping and praying for Allah’s mercy, let’s focus on a sustained transformation of our hearts and souls – something that can carry us forward for the days and years that remain for us on this earth as well as in the hereafter.