All praise be to Allāh and may our salāh and salām be upon the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
It is sad to see just how easily we can slip back into our normal lifestyles now that Ramadān has finished. The bad habits that were stamped out during the blessed month slowly creep back into our everyday lives. The regular du’ās, night prayers and Qur’ān reading sessions start to fall by the wayside. It is a problem that we all face, the best of us and the worst. However, reflecting back a few weeks ago over the spiritual highs we experienced in Tarāwīḥ prayers, the Īmān we tasted when battling with hunger (something us Foodies are not used to!) and experiencing the closeness to our Master through heart-felt supplication can lead a person to an empowering conclusion: Ramadān is like a mirror to my real self, that was me tapping in to my real potential; it is the person I can really be.
Putting that into perspective we were achieving the following during Ramadān:
- Fasting the longest and hottest days of the year which brought another unique challenge of reduced sleep time;
- Praying a staggering 40 units of Ṣalāh, which increased to nearly 50 in the last ten. That is the total of all the obligatory, highly recommended and night prayers in a day;
- Consistently reading around 20 pages of Qur’ān a day to finish it within the month;
- Conscientiously holding back on the impulse to sin and misbehave.
This is just some of the achievements we were making just a few weeks ago. We were not given new bodies, new abilities or new lives. That was us then and our memories of it should act as a mirror showing us what we can be outside of Ramadān.
In fact, the month of Ramadān is like a training programme which, if a person undertakes with his mind, body and soul, will earn him skills and strengths that will help him after the training is complete. Like training programmes that big corporations send their employees on, the purpose of the programme is not simply to get the certificate. It has not been designed to churn out people who can sit the test at the end. It has a higher objective that is longer lasting. Allāh spoke about the higher objective of fasting when He said:
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا كُتِبَ عَلَيكُمُ الصِّيامُ كَما كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذينَ مِن قَبلِكُم لَعَلَّكُم تَتَّقونَ
Fasting was simply the physical activity but the goal was something else. It was to acquire a spiritual fruit: taqwa, the ability to hold back on temptation and to say no; thereby protecting yourself from Divine Punishment (which goes back to the root meaning wiqāyah: the idea of protecting).
A second interesting parallel is that just like worldly training programmes are conducted in a safe, protected environment so the trainees are not thrown into the deep end, Ramadān too comes with its own unique protected spiritual environment were the risk of committing sins and ruining the chance of acquiring that higher goal of taqwa is mitigated by having the devils chained up! The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) informed us in an authentic Hadith:
People are willing to pay top draw for a good training programme because they value the impact a few days of specialised coaching can have on the rest of their lives.
We enjoyed the best training programme of all time, designed and formulated in the Heavens, let us not squander the fruits of that training. The gains made came from mainly five acts of worship that together empowered us to achieve what we did during Ramadān:
- Making Dhikr
- Qur’ān Reading
The idea is simple: if I was able to to do these five acts of worship in such great quantity with a high level of consistency then, for sure, I can do the like of it outside of the holy month.
Target Driven Approach
It was said to Bishr al-Hāfi:
إن قومًا يجتهدون في رمضان، فإذا ذهب تركوا
“There are a people who work hard in worship in Ramadān but the moment the month leaves, they stop.”
بئس القوم؛ لا يعرفون الله إلا في رمضان
“How evil are such a people! They only recognise Allāh in Ramadān”
In the world of health and fitness, a person who diets for a period of time and successfully loses weight but then reverts to his old eating habits has, according to our standards, failed.
Therefore beware, dearest reader, of employing a different standard to your Islam.
The month of Ramadān saw so much sin-shedding, brave habit-ridding, relentless Qur’ān reciting, and passionate repenting. But now that the month has passed, are you going in reverse already?
Or, worse still, was short-termism your intention in Ramadān all along?
If the latter applies, then so do the words of Yahya b. Mu’āth, who said
من استغفر بلسانه وقلبه على المعصية معقود , وعزمه أن يرجع إلى المعصية بعد الشهر ويعود , فصومه عليه مردود , وباب القبول في وجهه مسدود
“Whoever asks for forgiveness with his mouth, whilst his heart is still insistent upon sin, and his intention is to return back to it after Ramadān, then his fasting has been rejected and the door of Allāh’s acceptance has been closed in his face.”
Is that not terrifying?
Alhamdulillah however, it has only been a few days since Ramadān’s departure. Thus amendments are still possible. Carry a small portion of what you did in Ramadān and extend it all year round.
A portion of fasting supererogatory fasts.
A portion of congregational prayer in the Masjid.
A portion of night prayer all alone.
A portion of Qur’ān.
A portion of genuine repentance.
If you do that, then this becomes your brightest indication that your hard work in Ramadān has in fact been credited to your account and accepted by Allāh. For it is well known that one of the signs of an accepted act of worship is that it is followed by more worship; it improves you. The opposite however is just as true. The sign of a rejected act of worship—Allāh protect us—is that it leaves no traces and we go back to our old selves.
It is impossible for us to maintain the same quality and quantity of worship as Ramadān all year round. However, if we at least aim for a higher level than we were before Ramadān, we will continually improve throughout the years on our journey to Allāh, the Glorified and Exalted.