We’ve completed the last lap of Ramadan. What are you feeling right now?
Perhaps sadness when you think the special blessings and rewards will be gone for a year. Or joy when you think you have utilized the right opportunities for good deeds, making duas for your needs and purifying your heart.
Take a pause.
Your goal of taqwa should not change after Ramadan. Allah says:
“And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah, so will you not reason?” (Al-‘An’am, 6:32)
Great fasting isn’t about going through the motions of abstinence and being ‘Islamic’ for a period, then returning to ‘normal’ life afterwards. It’s about building firm pillars and safeguarding them – to move your fasts from “Just Routine” to “Great”.
The seven pillars will help you grow, improve and excel in every aspect of your life, insha Allah.
Seven Pillars of Great Fasting
Fast as the Prophet did. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. He fasted outside Ramadan – like on Mondays and Thursdays – so do the same. Break your fast with dates or water. Make dua at the time of breaking your fast. Learn and follow his fasting habits.
“Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Ali’ ‘Imran, 3:31)
2. Self Control
Great fasting requires a great deal of self control. For children learning to fast, this may be a point of weakness which improves with practice and age. As an adult, you may not ask for food or water, but you may mourn internally about the stress involved.
For great fasting, you need to exercise self control not just with regards to your food, drink and relations with spouse but with your speech, actions and manners as well. You need to lower your gaze, drop your bad habits and strive to replace them with better ones.
“Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is fasting he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise his voice in anger. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: “I am fasting!” 1
Develop a schedule for the days you are fasting. Stick closely to it so it becomes a habit and regular part of your activities. On such days, you may reduce your appointments and rigorous activities; and plan your time ahead so you can focus much on the remembrance of Allah . Plan the schedule around suhoor, ifaar, tahajjud and prayer times. The Prophet said:
“Do those deeds which you can do easily, as Allah will not get tired [of giving rewards] till you get bored and tired [of performing good deeds]. And the most beloved deed to Allah is the one which is done regularly even if it is little.” 2
Make things simple for yourself while fasting. Engage in rewarding and productive acts so that you don’t lose the spiritual essence of your fast. From simple but healthy meals to sustainable but simple acts of worship – like engaging in dhikr (remembrance of Allah), keep things real and simple.
You may call it space for soul searching, deep thinking or mindful reflection. What you need is ‘mental’ space [for sieving through life’s clutter]. You can reflect over:
– Ranks of those who fast before Allah ;
– What you want to get out of fasting – [as a believer nothing is done without a purpose];
– How to self-improve and model a true Islamic identity;
– Your goal of taqwa.
The best tool to help you achieve this is the Qur’an.
“[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.” (Sad, 38:29)
Fasting is an individual act, but you can increase your motivation when you team up with your siblings or spouse and friends to fast regularly throughout the year. Whether you fast every Monday and Thursday, have iftaar together or plan to read a portion of the Quran on days you fast, it becomes a healthy means of competition and motivation.
I saved the best for the last. Everything a Muslim does should be based upon sincerity. Allah knows what you make secret or apparent and you will be rewarded accordingly. When you fast, do it purely for His sake – not for your spouse, parents or because your friends/ colleagues are fasting. Overlook the inconveniences, hardships and struggles – seek His Pleasure alone.
Do Yourself a Favor
Fortify your Ramadan.
Its better late than never. Imagine what the pillars of a great building do. Can you afford to have pillars that are weak or absent from your fasting? Will you easily give up on your goal of taqwa? I don’t believe you will – keep learning, striving and racing towards ‘great fasting’. Ramadan will come to an end but your goal should remain. Build, reinforce or repair your taqwa goal with the seven pillars of great fasting. Then keep working on them.
Please share in the comments below which of these pillars you have erected already and which you plan to work on beyond Ramadan. We would love to hear from you. 🙂