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Ramadan: Reclaiming Yourself

EsinIslam Ramadan Explorer

By Selma Cook

Was there a time in your life when you seemed to be more productive? When you were able to do a lot in just a short amount of time? When you had more energy and motivation? More blessing in your sleep? In your money?

If you were not able to maintain the momentum, what happened? Why do you feel less blessing in your life now?

What mistakes and sins might you have committed that, perhaps slowly, removed the blessing from your life? In such a state, you might feel that you have lost sight of who you are and where your life is heading. In such a condition, you may need to salvage yourself; your life.

Islam teaches us that every child is born pure; with the natural disposition created within us by God Almighty. However, despite having once been pure, each one of us has experienced, learned and made choices which in turn either turn us away from our natural disposition or bring us closer to it.

If we find ourselves in a state of error, riddled with mistakes, and in a weakened state, we have taken the first step toward change; we have acknowledged who we are and what we have become. Living in a state of denial only leads us around in circles, doomed to keep repeating the same old mistakes. After recognizing our state of being, and realizing where we went wrong, comes the next point of call - turning to our Lord and repenting with sincerity and humility, asking for strength and guidance and being determined to forge forward and not regress.

Freshness of a New Beginning

Everyone likes to have a clean slate; a fresh start. As life goes on, we gain experience and we make mistakes, but with the mercy of God Almighty, we are given many opportunities throughout life to find that 'purity' again; that 'freshness' of a new beginning and one such time is the month of Ramadan. It is a time when we have the chance to be truly honest with ourselves and take a good close look within our hearts and put right what is wrong and get our lives back on track. It is a chance to reclaim our true selves; our true nature upon which we were created. Through controlling our physical selves and reining in our desires we can stop, look back on our lives and see what led us to where we are now.

It takes courage to look back on life and see the decisions we made and be honest about them. Only a brave soul can take ownership of its reality and the place it is now in. Truly, the honest at heart have a chance to learn from mistakes and allow the tangled web of life's complexities to turn into wisdom. If we can be candid we will recall many times when we spoke or acted without thinking things through properly first. Perhaps a family tie or friendship ended or was broken; perhaps we had to bear the consequences of a hasty decision or a hasty word for many years to come; perhaps regret, guilt and grief now define the state of our hearts as we carry many burdens throughout each passing day. Perhaps we often think 'I wish I'd had more self-restraint.' If any of the above applies to you, read on, because Ramadan is your chance to find redemption.

Ramadan is a chance for us to bring life back to basics. Many of us weaken ourselves by overeating, oversleeping, procrastinating and living a life of heedlessness. But in Ramadan we face a tight regime and our self-discipline is put to the test. With fasting from day break to sun set, maintaining the five daily prayers as well as the extra prayers that are recommended in Ramadan, along with reading the Quran, giving charity and keeping ourselves positive, calm and thoughtful, we could safely call this blessed time a 'spiritual boot camp'.

In Ramadan we learn just how determined and patient we can be if put to the test; we can go without food, without sleep and without distractions, and still survive!

In short, we get to have a peak at our potential; what we can really do if we put our mind to it!

If we translate the sincerity to God that permeates everything we do in Ramadan (we make a conscious effort to be sincere in all what we do to receive the extra blessings), into our everyday life outside Ramadan and retain the spiritual momentum, we could truly be capable, with God's blessing, of achieving many great things. The challenge is to enter Ramadan with the correct intention, determination and sincerity, be consistent throughout this blessed month and hold onto the blessing we receive throughout the rest of the year. Indeed, learning to restrain ourselves gives us the opportunity to use our energy and talents in fruitful ways that will enhance both this life and the next.

When we control ourselves and obey the rules of Ramadan with the sole aim of seeking the pleasure of God, we attune ourselves to the real meaning and core of life; to worship God, to know Him and be grateful.

How to Approach Ramadan to Gain the Full Benefit

Many people complain about feeling lethargic during the month of fasting. If we do not make fasting our habit during the rest of the year, it will obviously be a shock to the system if we start our fasting just on the first day of Ramadan. To get your body, and mind, in gear before the blessed month arrives there are some simple but important things to do.

The first thing to do is to observe the voluntary fasts on Mondays and Thursdays and the three days in the middle of the lunar month. This includes getting up before the beginning of fajr Prayer to eat the pre-dawn meal (Suhoor). After a while your body gets used to fasting and your mind and heart learns patience, so when you begin the fast of Ramadan you have the energy and stamina to get on with your extra prayers, Quran reading and helping others.

Another important aspect of preparing for Ramadan is to eat light, healthy meals; do not overeat and over indulge. If we can focus on attaining spiritual satisfaction rather than being satisfied with having a full stomach once Maghrib down time comes around, we will not lose sight of the goal, which is gaining more self restraint and thereby more taqwa (God-consciousness).

Apart from the dietary concerns, it is also important to make it a habit to utilize our time wisely. If this becomes an all-year-round habit, when Ramadan comes it will not be such a big difference, because we will already be consistent in our prayer, Quran reading, and have our spiritual life up to standard.

For some of us, time in Ramadan tends to drag, especially toward the latter end of the day before Maghrib time. Sometimes we might be tempted to laze around and watch television or spend mindless hours surfing the net. If this is how we spend the daytime in Ramadan we might actually be on shaky ground because, after all, we do not want to be those Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) spoke of, who fast Ramadan but all they get from it is hunger and thirst. If we truly perceive the greatness of Ramadan we will be motivated to put every minute to good use.

So to prepare ourselves to utilize this blessed month to the fullest, it is advisable to cut down on the amount of time we spend in front of various 'screens' (TV, computer and so on), and get busy with Quran, gaining knowledge and doing good.

Mankind is weak and prone to forgetfulness and we all need support and motivation so before Ramadan, it is a great idea to talk to family and friends and make a plan for Ramadan and the goals we want to achieve. Make a pact to remind and support each other; pray together from now and ask God to make this Ramadan the best!

God says in the Quran: {Oh ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may learn self-restraint} (Al Baqarah 2: 183)

So now we are in the month of Shaban, the month that precedes Ramadan. Other than Ramadan, there was no other month in which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) fasted more than in Shaban.

Fasting in Shaban is a way of preparing for and welcoming the blessed month of Ramadan. Start now to read Quran every day, even a small portion. Get up for optional prayers at night and keep in mind that Ramadan is like a light approaching and you want that light to shine brightly on you, so prepare yourself to receive it. So much self restraint is needed to control our desire for food and drink and maintain our acts of worship, but there is more! We should not become angry or harm anyone! This, at a time when we might feel tired and under pressure.

Truly, this month teaches us self restraint! The following verses from the Quran help us to understand how we should behave:

{Take what is given freely, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant} (Al-A'raf 7: 199)

{And when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace.} (Al-Furqan 25: 63)

{If [instead] you show [some] good or conceal it or pardon an offense - indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Competent.} (An-Nisa' 4: 149)

We will know that we have had a successful Ramadan if we continue in the good deeds, good behavior and self restraint that we were consistent in during this blessed month, after it has passed. At this point, we will feel the blessings of God come flooding into our lives. Our sleep will be blessed, our wealth and time will be blessed and we will have awoken and developed the strength and insight within us and with the help of God we will approach the coming year after Ramadan with the same sincerity, determination and endeavor that made this month so special.


Selma Cook is a contributing writer to OnIslam.net. She has written a number of books including: Buried Treasure (An Islamic novel for teenagers), The Light of Submission (Islamic Poetry). She has also edited and revised many Islamic books.
 

EsinIslam Ramadan Team

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