By Shabina S. Khatri
To me, Ramadan is one of Allah (SWT)’s biggest mercies upon us. It’s the perfect built-in maintenance switch, a surefire way to repair the wear and tear that our bodies and souls endure during the rest of the year. Unfortunately, many of us tend to abuse this opportunity by using fasting as a free pass to sign off the planet and forego worldly responsibilities.
And why not? It’s so much easier to be a believer when life’s temptations aren’t staring you in the face. It’s like that feeling we get when we take long vacations – the sensation of escape, that relief of not having to deal with the pressures of day-to-day life. Many of are so counting on Ramadan to bring us that vacation sensation that we end up missing the boat and using this month as an excuse to hole up and hide away from life’s countless challenges. I suppose this wouldn’t be so bad, if we filled the extra hours with imaan-building activities like additional ’ibadat and time with family.
But more often than not, we end up wasting our fasting moments by goofing off or napping excessively. Not that this is unusual – we all know how tough Ramadan can be, and I’m the first to express anxiety about fasting during pre-daylight savings time October. Ramadan has been known to cause hunger, lethargy and crankiness even in those with the best of dispositions. But does this really give fasting people the right to go into hibernation and shirk their responsibilities?
The early Muslims certainly didn’t think so. In fact, one of the most watershed moments in our history – the Battle of Badr – was fought and won during Ramadan. And it was no easy war; in it, 300-odd Muslims squared off against more than 1,000 Quraysh. That’s not all. In a remarkable bloodless coup, the Prophet (SAW) and his companions also took Mecca during Ramadan. Given these examples (and there are many more), it seems that back in the day, this month was the perfect reason to increase activity and worship, not to go on autopilot. Which makes sense, since we receive multiplied hasanat for any good deeds performed in this blessed month.
Lest this may all seem easier said than done, allow me to offer a few practical tips on making the most of this month without falling into the trap of Ramadan lethargy. First off, it helps to plan ahead. In my experiences as a student, for example, Ramadan always seemed to coincide with my exams. Whether it was high school or college, I would inevitably be fasting during finals. Because it was so difficult to concentrate on my books during the day, I’d end up studying at night, and would sometimes miss the tarawih prayers. However, by my senior year, I had finally devised a system that didn’t involve dozens of wasted hours – I would study in the morning, before I became too tired/thirsty/hungry, and then spend the hours closer to iftaar time helping prepare meals or participating in extra worship. Experimenting with your own schedule and figuring out your best hours can work wonders for your productivity.
Another way to keep yourself on track is to determine your goals ahead of time. During this month, it’s sunnah, for example, to finish reading the entire Qur’an. This may be not only because the book was first revealed in this month, but also because hunger has a peculiar way of sharpening certain sensations, and I’ve found that reflecting on Qur’an while in a weakened condition makes Allah (SWT)’s words all the more poignant and relevant. If finding the time to sit and recite one juz a day is too difficult, consider utilizing other options, like listening to Qur’an in the car and praying tarawih and/or tahajjud at the masjid.
Thirdly, do your homework. Think of Ramadan like a spectacular bonanza giveaway – Allah (SWT) is literally handing out the blessings to anyone who has the sense to take them. Know that any penny you give is worth 70 times more during this month. Even feeding a fasting person proffers a ridiculous amount of benefits: The Prophet (SAW) said such a person “shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Hell-Fire, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all.” And, of course, Ramadan has Layl-atal-Qadr, the Night of Power, which falls on one of the odd nights in the last third of the month. Worshipping during this night is worth more than worshipping for a thousand months worth of ordinary nights.
Finally, remember to take it slow. The Prophet (SAW) said, “The deeds most loved by Allah (SWT) are those done regularly, even if they are small.” Any extra step we take toward our Creator is an improvement from our original state. May we all inshAllah remember that if we simply walk toward Allah (SWT), especially in this holiest of months, He will run toward us. Have a blessed Ramadan, all. Ameen.