In Ramadan, we learn to gain mastery over our nafs (inner selves), by abstaining from things that are halal for us… food, drink, intimacy, etc. This allows us to turn our focus to what is most important in life – the worship of Allah . However, if one ponders deeply – the goal of the disciplines that we gain in Ramadan is to benefit us in our lives, long after Ramadan is over.
To help us understand the deeper requirements of an accepted fast, we have the following hadith:
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” Saheeh Bukhari
From this hadith, we learn that the deeper meaning in fasting the month of Ramadan is not just to make one’s body accustomed to physical deprivation or even to increase in acts of nawaful (supererogatory) worship. Instead, it is a training ground for mastering your nafs (soul) on a deeper level. And moreover, this training should position the Believer to move throughout life in a much different way – increasing his or her obedience and noticeably improving in character the remaining 11 months of the year and beyond.
In Ramadan, we are shown that if we can focus and submit purely for Allah’s sake — to leave off things that are halal for us – then what about the haram? The same level of self-mastery that we hopefully apply in Ramadan can be a springboard to permanently rid ourselves of vices, actions and mindsets that are not becoming of a Muslim. In essence, Ramadan is literally a training ground for the rest of the year – and the rest of your life, for those who take heed.
As humans, we all have things that we struggle with. However, Allah is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy, and has blessed us with this opportunity for purification and elevation. So this Ramadan, in addition to focusing on Quran, Qiyam-ul-Layl (Night Prayer), feeding the poor, and seeking Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Decree), let’s also use this opportunity to strive to rid ourselves of un-praiseworthy actions and habits. Saheeh Bukhari
Below are just a few potential areas of focus (depending on the person), that can help one to exit Ramadan a better person than when they entered, and gain the love and reward of Allah .
Music, Movies and Other Unproductive Media:
Most people will abstain from watching lewd movies and listening to music out of respect for Ramadan. However, if this is something associated with piety, then would it not be even more beneficial to reevaluate the type of media you allow yourself to absorb, partake in and are entertained by the rest of the year?
In addition to much of it being haram (musical instruments, fornication and immodest dress), much of what is broadcasted is purposely designed to reduce ones morals, increase promiscuity and keep a person distracted from their true purpose in life – the worship of Allah : “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” Ad-Dthaariyaat 51:56
Mixing with the Opposite Sex:
In Ramadan, we frequent the masaajid more and purposely strive to lower our gaze, so as not to cause a break or deficiency in our fast. This is excellent training for life outside of Ramadan as it allows one to gain mastery in remaining chaste, guarding the eyes and not interacting with those who are not halal for us. Also, if you are in a haram relationship prior to Ramadan, honor yourself enough to either demand marriage, or walk away for Allah’s sake.
In addition, with the advent of social media, mixing of men and women has increased dramatically and has even spilled into real life. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has also impacted the Muslims, with many having “friends” or contacts whom they chat with on social media – yet, they would not want to be caught mixing with in the community. Use this Ramadan to purify your interactions and use the tools that Allah has placed at our disposal for benefit, not harm.
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.”
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.)…” An Noor 24:30-31
Backbiting and Slander:
One of the most grievous sins is to backbite or slander someone, or to accuse someone without proof. In today’s hyper-connected world, people have more access than ever to “information” about people, groups and events, and this often leads people to critique, blame and slander individuals – often without knowledge. And when this action is directed toward your fellow Muslim, it is even more detrimental. Use this Ramadan as an opportunity to master your heart and tongue, and maintain speech that is fair and honorable throughout the year.
“O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” Al-Hujuraat 49:12
Usury and Unlawful Money:
One of the most hated sins to Allah is the practice of ribaa (usury/interest). Many Muslims (especially in the West) feel as if they cannot live and acquire things that they need (education, housing, etc.) without accepting or paying riba. However, Allah is sufficient for His slaves and provides without measure for those who truly place their trust in Him.
If you have loans or transactions that involve interest, use this month to pray to Allah for relief from this, and seek out the means to purify your wealth – even if it takes time. Also, if your income involves engaging in any haram or something illegal, know that leaving that off for the sake of Allah will not only cleanse your wealth, but will also open up bigger and better opportunities In sha Allah.
“Those who eat Riba (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitan (Satan) leading him to insanity…” Al Baqarah 2:275
It has become customary that some sisters who may not observe hijab, will do so during Ramadan, especially with the increase of activity in the masjid. Observing the hijab is a command from Allah and is a means to ward off many evils. If you’ve struggled in this area, use Ramadan as a starting point to improve in your practice of hijab. And know that with any positive move, there may be setbacks. However, take this step sincerely for Allah and He will reward you greatly.
O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e.screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Al-Ahzab 33:59
There are many such examples and we can all examine our lives to identify areas that we can work to improve during Ramadan and inshaAllah continue thereafter. So this Ramadan, all of the things that you do for Allah’s pleasure, and things that you abstain from fearing His displeasure – try to keep those up for the remainder of the year. If you do, imagine where you will be next Ramadan, by Allah’s Mercy!
Using this formula, you can embark on a journey of spiritual elevation each Ramadan – each year becoming better, instead of merely settling for yearly repetition. And with Allah is the best of rewards.
Is there any reward for good
other than good?” Ar-Rahman 55:60
“Whoever does not give up
forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food
and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” Bukhari