بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The month of patience
Ramadan is one week away inshaAllah. Are you ready? Will yours be a successful one? Only if you want it to be. We know how hungry we feel, we know how thirsty and tired we feel when we fast. These feelings can be easily suppressed and replaced with yearning because Allah has told us “And that you fast, it is better for you if only you know (2:184).” The following hadith gives us but a delightful peek at the potential rewards of a successful Ramadan:
“The reward of every action undertaken by the human being is for him—and good deeds will be rewarded from ten up to seven hundred times—God says: ‘Except for fasting, that is for Me and I will determine its reward. He [the fasting person] has abandoned his lawful desire for sexual intimacy, food, and drink for my sake. The fasting person has two delights: The delight he experiences at the time he breaks his fast, and the delight he will have when he meets his Lord.’ ” (Bukhari)
I think one of the key phrases in this hadith is “for My sake.” For the sake of Allah we fast. And by obeying Allah, we better ourselves. Thus a successful fast involves proper intention. This can only come with preparation. A recent tarbiya outlined some practical measures we can all take to make Ramadan most beneficial. We cannot expect to enter the blessed month in a perfect state, able to reap all of its benefits just by fasting. Ramadan involves extra prayer, extra Qur’an, extra dhikr. Get into the habit of these in this last week by making sure you know the taraweeh duas. Read Qur’an before and/or after fajr. Walk to work not with your iPod but with your lips moist with the remembrance of Allah.
Along with the possibility of a great reward, there is the risk of a terrible loss. If we let any other month pass by carelessly, we just lost a month. If we do the same during Ramadan, we have lost everything. The person who misses just one day’s fast without a legitimate reason, cannot really make up for it even if he were to fast everyday for the rest of his life. And of the three persons that Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam cursed, one is the unfortunate Muslim who finds Ramadan in good health but does not use the opportunity to seek Allah’s mercy (Ahmad).
One who does not fast is obviously in this category, but so also is the person who fasts and prays but makes no effort to stay away from sins or attain purity of the heart through the numerous opportunities offered by Ramadan. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, warned us: “There are those who get nothing from their fast but hunger and thirst. There are those who get nothing from their nightly prayers but loss of sleep.” (An-Nisai, Ibn Majah)
Two key characteristics we should all strive to attain during Ramadan are patience and self-restraint, not only in the form of food and drink, but in our manners and actions. One of the worst things a person can do while fasting is emit foul words from their mouth. “Whoever does not abandon false utterances and practicing upon it [while fasting], Allah cares not that the person abandon his food and drink.” (Bukhari). Can we imagine that for saying foul things, Allah will not even look at us abstaining from food and drink?
Another hadith says “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should either say something good or keep silent.” (Tirmidhi). We must learn to guard our tongues from complaints, lies, gossip and bad words especially during Ramadan. Sometimes a more difficult thing to do is to walk away when in the presence of such idle talk. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “If one of you is being cursed or annoyed, he should say: “I am fasting, I am fasting.” (Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibbaan and Al-Haakim). Why? In order to remind ourselves of the state we are in. Constant dhikr can help make this easier.
Today I was rushing to my train home from work in midtown Manhattan. I walked by a middle-aged man walking a dog down the block. I realized this was a seeing-eye dog, guiding the blind man through one of the busiest cities in the world. The patience, loyalty and obedience of a guide dog is a beautiful and humbling thing to witness. He did not cross the street until his master felt it was safe. He did not stray from the path and did his duty without despair. May Allah make us as obedient, loyal, and patient during this Ramadan, and may we retain these traits until the next. Ameen.