Maintaining the Momentum
Brothers and Sisters,
Ramadan has bid us farewell yet again. May Allah swt accept our fasting, prayers, and charitable acts. This sacred month has offered us the space to practice mindfulness and spiritual nourishment as we untangled the many thoughts, emotions, and habits that we have been distracted from attending to over the year. This 30-day journey results in developing taqwa, which is an elevated bond a human possesses with their Creator swt. As Allah swt states, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become God-conscious.” [2:183]
This state of mind colors our thoughts, emotions, and actions following the completion of Ramadan. Every thought that enters our mind becomes subject to a process of filtering based on the love of pleasing Allah swt and the fear of displeasing Him. Each feeling that enters our hearts is also evaluated on this basis, as are our actions.
How do we carry these schemas that have been established over the course of a month for the remainder of the year? Here I discuss some ways to maintain the benefits of Ramadan throughout the year.
- Pray 5 Times a Day, Every Day: There is no doubt that the obligatory prayers are the most essential form of worship a Muslim engages in daily. As the Messenger of Allah (S) was reported to have said, “The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” [Sahih al-Jami] Each prayer serves as a mechanism of purification expiating the sins which occurred before it as Allah swt states, “Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” [29:45] It is important to focus your efforts and energy on safeguarding this pillar of Islam throughout the year above all other matters. Everything else will follow bi’thinillah.
- Make Fasting a Habit: Much research is now pointing to the health benefits of fasting two days a week as was the customary practice of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) each Monday and Thursday over 1400 years ago. In addition to physical health, fasting nafila promotes spiritual health. Think of each time you stopped from stating something, looking at something, or doing something displeasing to Allah swt during the month of Ramadan because you were fasting. By a similar token, think of all the instances you felt encouraged to remember and be thankful to Allah, to gaze upon His Holy Book, and to do charitable acts because you were fasting. A great way to maintain this mindfulness is to make fasting a habit since it combines patience in obeying Allah and patience in refraining from what He has prohibited. In addition, fasting is a means of gaining immense reward. The Messenger of Allah (S) was reported to have said, “Every deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied between ten and seven hundred times. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, said: Except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it. He gives up his desires and his food for My sake.” [Muslim]
- Give…from Everything: If we fasted the month of Ramadan sincerely we should have been able to develop a sense of gratitude, which serves as a great motivator to give. Giving zakat is an obligatory pillar of Islam and mentioned in the Quran almost each time obligatory prayers are mentioned. The practice of giving sadaqa is also encouraged and rewarded immensely. In addition to giving from our wealth, Ramadan should have taught us to give from our time and our attention to that which matters most by learning to refrain from immersing ourselves in conversations or on social media applications focused solely on what so and so ate today or wore today. Instead, Ramadan teaches us to connect with those whom Allah swt will hold us accountable for on the Day of Judgment such as our families. Allah swt states, “And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendor of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring. And enjoin prayer upon your family [and people] and be steadfast therein. We ask you not for provision; We provide for you, and the [best] outcome is for [those of] righteousness.” [20:131-132] In addition, volunteering at a local Masjid or a humanitarian organization is a great way to maintain our sense of gratitude.
- Befriend the Quran: The relationship between Ramadan and the Quran is exemplified repeatedly within the Quran itself and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (S). As Allah swt states, “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion.” [2:185] The amount of in-person and online classes offered to a diverse range of learners specialized in Quran recitation, memorization, and tafseer do not allow any one to have an excuse to not have the Quran be a part of their daily living. There are truly no excuses for a person not to become a life-long student of the Quran in this age of accessibility. Make listening to the Quran a habit every morning on your way to school or work as you would make it a habit to listen to other things. Enroll in a Quran class to learn how to recite or advance in your recitation. Attend a weekly halaqa to gain new understanding and wisdoms of this miracle Allah swt has bestowed upon the Ummah of Muhammad (S).
- Make Dua’a: During Ramadan we also become accustomed to making du’a’ and speaking to Allah swt especially during nightly prayers. This is a highly recommended form of worship to maintain throughout the year and serves as an act of humility and submission to our Creator swt. Allah swt states, “And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible.” [40:60] What greater promise can we receive from Allah swt than the one illustrated in the verse? Learning and reciting the different supplications detailed in the Quran and Sunnah daily is a great habit to maintain such as the supplications upon waking, before sleeping, before eating, etc.
I pray that we can use these tools that Allah swt has equipped us with during the month of Ramadan to maintain our spiritual momentum and productivity throughout the year.
By Sh. Jamal Said