Ramadan for many is a turning point in their lives, as it was in the life of the early Muslims. Due to their dedication towards this month, they spiritually prepared themselves for the rest of the year. How Merciful is Allah! He gives you the chance to change your habits, and sets the scene for a better and more dedicated you, and He helps you through it – but the effort begins with YOU!
I remember my turning point, it began in Ramadan. As a Muslim teenager, I had an attachment towards Islam, but I struggled to practice my faith. However, many years ago, Ramadan was different. I made a commitment to the prayer – I made a commitment to Allah , and it changed my life. The next few years were symbolic for me as they were full of tests, trials, and the struggle to survive peer pressure, the pulls of this life, whilst holding onto my faith. I truly believe it was due to the sacrifices I made during the month of Ramadan, only by the permission of Allah, that I am blessed today. It is our sacrifices which define us, not our circumstances.
I want to remind you, Maryam was a single mom whereas Asiya lived with a domestic abusive husband, and they did not depend on their husbands spiritually – they focused on themselves. Many times, women, and our youth think, my parents are praying, they’ll save me, or that my husband is praying tarawih, he is fasting, or seeking knowledge – this is enough for my family. They will stand for themselves, you will stand for yourself, with your deeds. Ramadan must be about your own spiritual sustenance. I was discussing marriage with a sister, and she told me, her husband is her best friend, but marriage is full of struggles, and through these struggles when her husband may not have understood her perspective, she turned to Allah . Truly, Allah is the Ultimate aid.
Hence, it is not your circumstances which lead you to success, rather your willingness to change. Many people wait for the situation to become perfect, so they can come forward. I’ll do more when I am married, or when my children grow up. I’ll commit myself when I’m old. You may never get the chance.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) will throw tests after test at you. In this arena, in this life, you need to take the first, second and third step, and even when you fall, you need to keep going.
Ramadan is about you. Don’t get left behind.
In this short article I want to share several suggestions on how to maximize Ramadan, and I pray they help you, as much as they’ve helped me. Firstly, change your mindset.
- Change Your Mindset:
Ramadan revolves around change. One of the major themes is redefining you. This is illustrated by one of the many meanings of Ramadan. Ramadan comes from ‘ramada’ which translates as ‘intense heat.’ Many of you may think, I have sinned too much, how can I ever change? Or you may not believe that you can change some of your habits which are tearing you down, but science tells us another story. In intense heat, the most strongest metals are bent, and shaped. Similarly, Ramadan can and will shape the strongest of sinners, and those who are habitually scarred by their desires.
“…And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us…” 1
He says, ‘Affuw ‘annaa. Linguistically ‘Affuw means to erase something completely; to obliterate something; to completely destroy something and leave no traces of it whatsoever. The person who makes this du’a is asking Allah to make ‘affuw of their sins, to remove them completely, and give him a fresh start.
Then Allah (glorified and exalted be He) says, Waghfir lanaa. Linguistically ghafara means to protect, and this is why a helmet is called a mighfaar. It protects a person from severe trauma, and death. You are asking Allah (glorified and exalted be He), and if you do not ‘affuw our sins, if you do not erase them, then please, forgive us, and protect us from the consequences of them.
Then, in His mercy, He says: Warham naa. Rahmah is mercy, and Allah has two names related to this quality–Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem. Finally, the person is begging Allah (glorified and exalted be He), he begs Him, if you do not even forgive our sins, then have mercy on us! Save us, as we are in dire need of Your mercy.
Many times our minds, and hearts are occupied by limiting beliefs. Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to begin a mission to force these limiting beliefs out of your heart. This short verse shows us that Allah can completely erase our sins, and when He does; it is a fresh start. Ramadan gives you this chance.
When the Prophet experienced revelation for the first time, he was terrified. He ran to his wife, Khadijah and she reassured him. She reminded the Prophet of Allah he had the capability to take on the task of Allah – to call the people to the truth. Similarly, with Ramadan approaching, I know many of you are excited, and looking forward to Ramadan, but there may be a few – just a few of you, who are worried. You are wary, will I change?
If you fall in this category, then let me reassure you. You can do it. As a busy person, as an individual who may be perfect, you have the ability to make the most out of Ramadan. Perfection belongs to Allah, the rest of us – are imperfect.
Islam is for everyone, and as it is diverse – for people of all colour, all occupations, all roles, so is Ramadan, it is full of opportunities, for all types of people. You can be a busy mother, with one, or two children, and still reap all the rewards of Ramadan. You can be a student, who is at the brink of exam period, and still make the most out of Ramadan. You can be working, nine to five, and still have all your sins forgiven. It begins with the belief, that you have been given all the resources to live Ramadan to the fullest.
Even if you have little, whether it is time, give with sincerity and Allah (glorified and exalted be He) will transform your time, your money, and ultimately your sincerity into a mountain. There is no comparison. Give little, with the best of intentions and Allah is Most Appreciative.
ACTION POINT: Make a list of all the things you would like to improve on this Ramadan, and let this list be a guide for eradicating these bad habits and sins from your life.
Secondly, recharge your purpose.
- Recharge Your Purpose:
Allah (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” 2
My Dear Brothers and Sisters, Ramadan is the time to recharge your purpose, and this leads to the question, what is your purpose in life? It is to put Allah first. It is to prioritize Him, and seek righteousness, because it will lead you to Jannah. This life is hard. This life is temporary. It is full of painful tests, and Ramadan is a reminder, you will not attain anything without hard work. You have to put in the work. Many of you will understand this concept, a woman carried her child in her womb for nine months, she experiences nausea, sickness, tiredness, but in the end, she cries out of joy, as she holds her child in her hands for the first time. A student stresses through exam period, but at graduation he sighs, relieved that he passed the test. This life is the greatest test, and Ramadan gives you the chance to revive your purpose. I have been through both, and recharging my purpose reminded me, it was worth the struggle.
Recently I read the tragic story of three young men who were killed in a car crash, and it was the wedding day of the sister of one of these youth. We think we will live forever, we won’t, we never know when death will hit us. You need to prepare, and live this Ramadan as if it was your last, because I tell you brothers and sisters, it may just be.
ACTION POINT: In every Salah, make it one of your main intentions to remember death. Use this painful reminder as a steering wheel to do more good deeds. But, don’t let the fear of death control you, as this is a trap of Shaytan. Use it to guide you, as this is the way of those connected to Allah .
In the next part, we will look at how we can set powerful goals and focus on our opportunities at hand to make this our best Ramadan ever! Please share your suggestions in the comments section below. 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sister Alima Ashfaq is the founder and director of “I am Alima”, and “Women Of Ilm”. Her aim in life is to assist Muslim women in coming closer to Allah through Islamic knowledge. She has studied under various scholars and students of knowledge in order to gain an extra insight into her religion and to better herself in her role as an “I am Alima” instructor. Sr. Alima has been a part of various organisations and has also held a number of leadership positions. Besides this, she has also lectured in all the main Universities in the UK, including the University of Birmingham and the Sheffield University. She also has a flair for writing and has authored Du’as of Superstars, Love Unveiled and Falling in Love. Furthermore, she has compiled and edited the Threads of Hope in conjunction with Sh. Muhammad Alshareef and I am Alima.