‘Ramadani’ Muslims – Maintaining the Spiritual High
By Shaykh Shams ad Duha Muhammed
Ramadan may come and go like a gentle breeze that passes us by, give us comfort while it is with us, but leaves no lasting imprint in our memory, nor an impression in our life. We take it in our strides every year. When it comes, we fast, we perform taraweeh, we fill the masjids during the five prayers, we donate our money generously, we recite the Qur’an and some of us – albeit mainly the elderly – spend the last ten days in I’tikaf.
Despite all of this, we all suffer from an almighty anticlimax the moment Ramadan is over. Eid day seems like a huge sigh of relief that Ramadan is over and we can go back to our old ways. Our Eid day could be seen as ‘good riddance’ celebration when we analyse the manner in which so many of us spend our Eid day and allow our families to spend Eid day.
This may sound very harsh but let’s face it: on Eid day we violate every command of Allah (SWT) with impunity. What we do on Eid day is in stark contrast to what we aspire to all Ramadan.
The Nights of Eid
The night of Eid is a night of forgiveness. Imam al-Nawawi said in his commentary of Sahih Muslim that the scholars are unanimous that it is recommended to spend the nights of the two Eid days in worship. There is also a weak hadith to this effect in Sunan Ibn Majah that the Prophet (SAW) said, ‘whoever stands in worship on the nights of the two Eids expecting reward from Allah, his heart will not die on the day that hearts will die (i.e. the day of judgement).’ The practice of early Muslims is consistent with this as narrated by Imam al-Shafi’i that the best of the men of madina would go to the masjid on the night of Eid to pray to Allah and remember Him (al-Bayhaqi). This is in stark contrast to how we spend the night of Eid. Preparing food, getting our clothes ready for what one can only describe as a mass fashion show. Young people choosing their music to blast around on Eid day, and even blazing around in their hired cars which they have just picked up the day before Eid.
On the morning of Eid, as we leave our homes for the Eid prayer, Allah (SWT) will forgive many. What forgiveness can we expect if we have spent the night before in this way, only hours after completing our last fast of Ramadan?
Then comes the morning after the night before, Eid day. Yes, we are happy and in a celebratory mood. So we start the day tasting the great food, often cooked and prepared over the whole of the previous week. The sweets, samosas, pilau and biryani. We put on our best clothes and go out for prayer. Prayer? Our attitude from the night before and our preparations may well make it seem as though prayer doesn’t quite fit in to the programme of the day. Think about it, if the rest of our day is consistent with its inception with prayer, then we are doing something right. But if prayer seems like an accidental blip because everything else in the day is in complete contrast to the very notion of worship, then we need ask ourselves if we even remember which month we were in yesterday.
What exactly are we celebrating on Eid day? Eid day is a celebration of the end of Ramadan, a month in which we can be hopeful of achieving Allah’s (SWT) forgiveness. Thus we come out on Eid day expressing our gratitude and celebrating our forgiveness. While eating, spending time with our families and all permissible forms of celebration are expected on this day, there is no licence to commit sin and disobey Allah (SWT). Sometimes it appears to me as though, after a month of fasting, worship, and good deeds, it is as though we see Eid day as a break from it all. This is indeed not the case.
What really concerns me is that our actions on Eid may be a reflection of the true nature of our Ramadan. That if immediately after Ramadan we cannot refrain from disobeying Allah (SWT), it must mean that our Ramadan was in vain. The Prophet (SAW) said, ‘there is many a fasting person who gets nothing out of his fast except hunger; and many a night-worshipper who gets nothing out of spending the night up except sleeplessness.’ (al-Nasa’i)
Keeping the spirit alive
When it comes to keeping the Ramadan spirit alive, we have to ask ourselves what we want out of Ramadan. If we do not want piety to come out of it, if we do not want a change in our lives then we will not get that. If a person’s intention from the outset is that he/she will make some changes for Ramadan and perform some worship, stock up on rewards, and then just go back to how they were after, then what hope can such a person have of keeping the Ramadan spirit alive? This person never had the intention in the first place.
So, if you are reading this article on Eid day or just after, ask yourself this question: did I want Ramadan to change me? Do I welcome a positive change that makes me punctual in my salah, that makes me recite the Qur’an regularly, that makes me wear hijab, makes me more reflective, makes me give up certain sins that I otherwise enjoy? If it is welcome, then you will find it easier to keep the spirit alive, if not, then the spirit will die on Eid day like it does for many thousands of us. If that intention is absent, then we have to make the intention now.
Then comes the question of what we should do to keep the spirit alive. That really is not a difficult question at all. Firstly we must remember that Ramadan is a time when we increase our worship in the hope of increased reward from Allah (SWT). It is not the only month when we worship. Thus, Ramadan should not be the only time we pick up the Qur’an to recite, it should not be the only time we go to the masjid for salah, engage in dhikr, nor should it be the only time that we fast. These and all other acts of worship are part of the daily life of every Muslim.
Thus, we should all commit to performing our salah in congregation at the masjid just as we did in Ramadan. If the Ramadan is the only time we pray, then start to pray every day. Recitation of the Qur’an should keep us alive all year round. Even if it means that we recite the Qur’an for 15 minutes every day. Many of us would have enjoyed the beautiful recitation of various Imams in taraweeh, would it not be nice to be able to recite nicely ourselves? This might be a good time to enrol on a course that teaches us to recite the Qur’an well. Indeed many people do not recite the Qur’an because they are not confident that they can recite it well, or they simply do not enjoy their own recitation. If that is the case, then one should learn to recite with Tajweed and also continue to listen to the Qur’an from CDs and mp3 players.
Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) is the nutrition of a believer; it is what gives us spiritual energy and strength. Recitation of the Qur’an is the greatest form of remembrance. But other forms of dhikr mentioned in hadith should be part of our daily routine too. Saying subhanallah, al-hamdulillah, Allahu Akbar, la’ilaha illallah repeatedly will not only earn us immense reward, but also keep our hearts pure and keep us energised.
Most importantly, we would have realised that for most us Ramadan was a month in which we committed less sin. Continuing this is a priority. Many of us would have felt that not swearing, not backbiting, not gossiping, not listening to music, giving up immoralities that we otherwise trivialise was actually quite enjoyable and uplifting. Well this is the time to make the decision to give those things up permanently. Our intention is of paramount importance. If we do not want to give up sins, Allah (SWT) will not give us the tawfeeq. Making the intention to give up is evidence that we love Allah (SWT), that we love our Prophet (SAW) and we love our deen, and that while our weaknesses and the shaytan make us sin, we hate it though we engage in it. This is a positive.
Last but not least, let us continue our duas because nothing happens without Allah’s help which we must continue to seek always.
May Allah grant us Ramadan over and over again. Ameen.