والحمدلله لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين
In the name of God, the Most Merciful the Most Compassionate
All praise and thanks be to God, and may peace and blessings be upon the most noble of Prophets and Messengers
Ramadan is here. The best days of the year, when “the devils and the rebellious jinn are chained, the gates of Hell are locked and not one of them is opened; the gates of Paradise are opened and not one of them is locked; and a crier calls, ‘You who desire what is good, come forward, and you who desire evil, refrain.’ Some are freed from Hell by Allah, and that happens every night.” (Tirmidhi) So now is the time to go back to Allah. We have 11 months of the year in which our iman fluctuates; sometimes we have khushoo’ (devotion) in the prayer, sometimes we don’t; we make du’a but maybe our hearts aren’t always present; we sin and sin and forget our need for Allah and repentance; we get caught up in life and forget.
But Allah in His Mercy, gives us a blessed month in order that we stop and remember. If the past couple of months have been hard- no worries!! This is THE month in which we can get back on track, remember our purpose and truly connect to Allah.
Soooo…… what should we do??Intention is key!
Probably the hadith that most people know by heart is “Truly actions are by intentions…” (Bukhari). So let us start this Ramadan with a BIG intention and hopefully reap the rewards! Of course many of us have the intention to read more Qur’an, hopefully complete it, pray taraweeh and qiyaam, and this is all fantastic, but I mean something different. These intentions are beautiful and noble, but usually are restricted to Ramadan in their full sense.
The ‘big’ intention is something that we intend to start Ramadan with, but it won’t stop after Ramadan. We’re all different, so our goals will differ, but it could be that we promise that this Ramadan, we are going to repent from a certain sin that has been plaguing us all year… or that this Ramadan is a new page with Allah, out with the old and in with the new! Or that we intend to build ourselves spiritually in order to work for something greater after Ramadan. This is the month of huge hopes, so let’s enter it with big intentions and make this Ramadan the best one ever!
Action Plan: BIG BIG Intentions
Month of Gratitude and Reflection
The first thing we have to do is literally thank Allah that we have been allowed to reach Ramadan. Do we deserve this Mercy after 11 months of heedlessness? But Allah has given us this gift, which is a blessing because this month is one when you can be written of the people of Paradise; this is the month when Muslims are helping each other to enjoin good; this is the month that rewards are multiplied.
So one exercise is literally to just take a few minutes to sit back, reflect on our blessings, our relationship with Allah and then make a commitment to better this. We have to remind ourselves of what is truly important. Let’s sit and think: what do I hope to achieve this Ramadan?? The previous section was about our big intention, this part now is to think about specifics and ask Allah to help us fulfill our objectives. We are so lucky to be able to reach this month, and one way to show our thanks is to prepare not to waste a second of this precious month.
Action Plan: Thank Allah and write down the objectives for this month. Try to make a daily schedule too.
No one is perfect. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “All the children of Adam constantly err, and the best of those who err are those who repent” (Tirmidhi) Unfortunately we also constantly forget, and sometimes feel so bad that we are embarassed to face Allah. But we shouldn’t let those sins take away from our Ramadan. Out of His Mercy Allah gives us various ways to go back to Him:
“Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” (hadith in Bukhari)
As we said in the beginning, lets intend to make this a new start. Let’s ask for Allah’s forgiveness for those things that we did yet did not even think of, and we have certain sins that we are persisting with, to truly repent from them and ask Allah to help us overcome them. Allah says Himself:
“God loves those who turn to Him [in repentance]…” (Surat Al-Baqara, 2:222)
Imagine.. Allah loves that you go back to Him. We should never feel so bad that we cannot go back to Him, because if we feel we won’t be forgiven or don’t deserve to be then in actuality we are denying His attribute of Mercy and Oft-Forgiving! And if we feel ashamed that we can’t face Him, we should remember that Allah has said “If he [My servant] comes to me walking, I go to him at speed” (Bukhari, Muslim) The best place to go to is to Allah.
Action Plan: Repent from sins and ask Allah that you are of the people who are entered into His mercy and forgiven and freed from the fire.
“If We had sent this Quran down to a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and split apart in its awe of God: We offer people such illustrations so that they may reﬂect.” (Surat Al-Hashr, 59:21)Now is truly the time to go back to it. Allah says:
“The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for mankind, clear proofs for the guidance, the Criterion…” (Surat al-Baqarah 2:185)
According to scholars, the main reason for the high status of Ramadan is that the Qur’an was sent in it; so if we do not pay to heed to it now, then when? SubhanAllah, we actually have the Words of Allah, unchanged and unaltered throughout the years… So let’s read with intention and remember:
“People, a teaching from your Lord has come to you, a healing for what is in [your] hearts, and guidance and mercy for the believers” (Surat Yunus, 10:57)
Action Plan: Set a target of how much Qur’an you will read, and set some time to ponder over the meanings (i.e. read a translation, sit and reflect etc). One added thing of you can: listen to/read tafseer (with partners if you can!).
Month of du’a
Verses 183-185 of Surat Al-Baqarah (second chapter) talk about fasting and Ramadan. Then there is a break, and then verse 187 again returns to telling us about some rules of Ramadan. And in between them is a hidden gem; verse 186:
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me” (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:186)
This is THE month of du’a, and it’s not a coincidence that a verse of dua came in between the verses telling us about Ramadan. Can we imagine that of the people who’s du’as are not rejected is the fasting person when he breaks his fast (hadith related by Ahmad, Tirmidhi)?
The Sahaba (ra) recognized the importance of du’a in this month, so much that some of them would focus on specific du’as, persist and ask for these things sincerely everyday throughout Ramadan, and they said the next Ramadan would not come except that all their du’as have been answered. I truly know that Allah responds, and we should be like the sahaba (ra) in our certainty.
Never underestimate the power of raising your hands to God and asking. When the massacre was occurring in Gaza, I was watching a program and many scholars from the Arab world came on tv and would talk to people in Gaza and call them live from the show.. and it was heartbreaking because one man said: “Please tell the Muslims not to stop praying for us… we feel the effect of their du’as during Ramadan, and we feel when they decrease outside of it” Allahu Akbar. So let’s make one of our big du’as this year the ummah- let’s pray for the ummah as desperately as we pray for our own needs.. that’s the least we can do.
Of course there is also lailat-alqadr, but inshAllah more on that closer to the time 😉
Action Plan: Make a du’a list, and make sure you pray for the ummah atleast once a day.