Author: Kareem Elsayed
[Aiming for an Awesome Ramadan Series - Part 1]
Ramadan can be one of the most dramatic, life-shifting 29 to 30 days of a Muslim’s life, if we know what to do with it. Throughout this five-part series, In sha Allah I will share with you many tips and techniques to make this your most awesome Ramadan ever! In today’s post, I hope to demonstrate to you that Ramadan is worth preparing for, as early as possible!
Ramadan can be the most rewarding time of the year, if we know how to maximize it. Let’s do a little math to put the amount of blessings that are up for grabs in perspective. The Prophet said: “Whosoever tries drawing nearer to Allah by performing any virtuous deed in this month, for him shall be such reward as if he had performed a fard (obligatory observance) in any other time of the year. And whoever performs a fard for him shall be the reward of seventy fard in any other time of the year ” [Ibn Khuzaymah & Bayhaqi].
Imagine getting a multiple of 70 times the good deeds for doing something you normally do, for example a simple prayer like Maghrib. Now, combine that amazing fact with the following hadith:
Every good action is rewarded by ten times its kind, up to seven hundred times...” [Muwatta Malik!]
Depending on the level of your sincerity and khushu’, you can get a reward of up to 700 times for doing the same act [Sahih al-Bukhari]. This, of course, has to do with the sincerity of the act. In Ramadan, this is much easier to achieve, since the devils (shayateen) are chained, as the Prophet said: “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Combine those two multipliers with the following for maximum impact: The Prophet said: “The prayer in congregation is twenty-five times more virtuous than the prayer of anyone of you on his own” [Sunan IbnMajahI]
So if you pray those 3 raka’ahs for Maghrib in jama’ah (which is very likely during Ramadan), they are worth 70 x 700 x 25 = 1,225,000! Over a million times more! Look at the Mercy of Allah o-TU Let’s work hard to get ready to reap the amazing rewards of this month!
The Hidden Blessings of Allah Almighty, the Sublime, Cannot Be Quantified
There is another dynamic at play besides mathematics. It is a hidden gift from Allah and gives preference to certain days, nights or months. Knowing that Ramadan, for example, has such amazing rewards associated with it encourages us to strive harder than ever during this month. Suddenly on the first day of Ramadan, we are able to do so much more than we have done all year.
This characteristic of our deen helps us realize during this month that we have so much more potential than we may have thought. Allow me to explain. Allah o-iv hangs the massive reward in front of us and we put in more work than ever before to achieve those blessings. This demonstrates to you and I (because Allah already knows) how much each one of us can truly accomplish! My dear readers, Allah o-iv believes in us more than we do. The gift of Ramadan allows us to see it for ourselves. He O'iv shows us that we can change. Our behavior can be different in this month than it is all year. It does not hurt that He has chained the devils to give you that added boost either.
Ramadan Is Synonymous With Change
The first step to change, is to believe that we can change, and Allah o-iv makes that clear during this month. In fact, the word Ramadan comes from the root “Ramada”, which means intense heat. As a former engineer, I can tell you that intense heat can be used to bend and shape the strongest of metals. How is this related to Ramadan in our deen? It is a time for us every year to reshape our lives into whatever shape we like 4. No matters how set you are in your bad habits, the heat of Ramadan can change you for the better, In sha Allah.
This is why Allah says in the Qur’an that the purpose of fasting is to achieve taqwa: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”
[Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 183].
If Allah gave us Ramadan so we can have taqwa, then what is the real definition of taqwa? Unfortunately, I’ve been to too many lectures or khutbahs (Friday sermons) where it has been mistranslated as God-consciousness. That is an effect of taqwa, but it is not the fundamental definition. The word comes from the root “waqa”, which means to shield or protect. The proper definition of taqwa is to protect yourself from displeasing Allah, by doing what He has commanded and avoiding what He has prohibited.
Fasting in Ramadan helps you reform your behavior to be in line with what Allah wants for you. It is no coincidence that Allah made Ramadan a month long. Psychologists, neuroscientists and personal development experts agree that the minimum time required to make (or break) a habit is between 21-28 days: About one lunar month. Allah has given us an annual free pass to create change in our lives. When you take a long-term perspective, you are able to build from one Ramadan to the next, striving each year to become better and better (more on this in a later article, In sha Allah).
Thus, we can understand when we hear that the companions of the Messenger of Allah would prepare for Ramadan six months in advance and enjoy its effects six months thereafter. Their entire year revolved around Ramadan: First preparing to reap the maximum rewards and later enjoying the benefits of their hard work. In this series, I hope to help you shift your calendar to do the same, In sha Allah.
How Exactly Can We Do This?
Every successful initiative, Ramadan or otherwise, has three important’s:
• Planning - Written instructions and procedures to achieve the intended outcome. We will spend a lot of time describing how to do this properly.
• Preparing - Collecting all the materials and systems necessary to execute the plan. Later posts will have plenty of action steps and resources to help you prepare.
• Practice - Begin executing the plan during a period prior to the real thing. It seems unlikely this applies to Ramadan, but “The Messenger of Allah did not fast in any month of the year more than he did in Shaban. He used to fast all of Shaban” [Sunan an-Nisa’i]. It’s like weightlifting: When you practice during Sha’ban and the other months, it is like lifting much heavier weight. But when Ramadan comes, the devils are chained and the burden is lightened, making it much easier to lift the same weight, and even increase your maximum capacity!
Starting this process as early as possible will give you ample time to plan, prepare and practice, so you can have the most awesome Ramadan ever!
Ideas for Goals This Ramadan
This Ramadan, make a commitment to your goals and targets for the month. Be careful, while Ramadan is about getting closer to Allah o-iv and reforming yourself, it is not time to be a monk (that is only in the last 10 nights!). Instead, try to diversify your goal portfolio and create a launching pad for new habits that you can carry forward throughout the year. Here are some ideas for areas to set goals for this Ramadan.
At the masjid: This Ramadan, see if you can attend prayers at the masjid regularly, especially the fard prayers.
Ramadan is an undeniably social experience. From group iftars to group prayers in the masjid, every night you are seeing people. Use this as a time to connect with your family over iftar so they feel the blessings of Ramadan. Try to reach out to old friends as well.
I got the help of my wife, a nutrition and fitness expert, to write this section:
Believe it or not, you can have goals even for the type of fasting you are doing. Imam al- Ghazali said there are three levels of fasting. Which one are you targeting this year? Don’t worry; you can always build on that for next year, In sha Allah!
Level 1: Fasting from food, drink, and sex during the daylight hours.
Level 2: Fasting from performing evil actions and deeds.
Level 3: Fasting from having evil thoughts.
Akhlaq (Character) last but not least, Ramadan is a great time to review your character and see which areas could use improvement. You could set goals for certain character traits like truthfulness, humility, kindness, patience, modesty, trustworthiness, mercy, or something else I did not list. You could also set goals for controlling your anger or even visiting the sick.
1. Write out your intention statement to put in the work necessary to have your most awesome Rama1dan ever!
2. Schedule 30 minutes with yourself to think about these goal areas and create your list of at least 15 goals. The next article will show you what to do with it.
3. Share this article with friends and family and begin a discussion with them about your goals for this Ramadan.
The article has been borrowed from Productive Muslim.com