Ramadan Kareem to all you. Allah says: “O you who believe! fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious).” (Qur’an, 2:183)
Just like every year, the month of Ramadan is here again. What you gain from this month depends completely on you. Every Ramadan, similar to every act of worship holds the same opportunities every time you come across it. However, you can make it different and better for yourself in how you approach this month and the faith and beliefs that you hold deep within you. To start out, you need to ask yourself – Do you want to make it different? What do you expect to get in return? What would you do to make the most of it?
If you are a practicing Muslim and if you have not already, you will surely come across many occasions during this month when you will be reminded about the blessings of Ramadan. The gist of those sayings and the underlying teachings and wisdom will primarily focus on the tremendous opportunities that you as a Muslim have at your disposal moment after moment during this month to seek forgiveness and expiation of your sins, and add to your rewards.
Yet, despite all these reminders year after year and getting the opportunity to earn so many gains, many of us still do not maximize these opportunities. Instead, if people were told that engaging in certain behaviors could help them in gaining real worldly goods, the situation will reverse and they will surely make the most of it. The potential to earn tangible rewards makes the motivation different and as a result different types of beliefs spring into action. The connection seems more direct between the potential of those tangible earnings and the impact of those earnings to their daily lives.
However, when speaking in the context of religious faith, where rewards may not seem as tangible and where the returns may not be as immediate, the motivation and beliefs take on a different turn and therefore the drive to rush toward earning the rewards and the motivation to have our sins forgiven is not as strong as it should be for a number of us. The rewards and punishments do not seem as real.
A number of factors influence people’s motivations when it comes to following religious teachings. Here, we will focus on two for now. The first has to with our faith and the second has to do with our understanding regarding the effect of our sins on our lives.
Take a quick check of your faith. How seriously do you take the commandments behind the verses of the Quran? What importance do you give to the prophet’s sayings? Is there any hesitation on your part to implement those commandments in your daily lives? Do the rewards promised in the Quran truly excite you and on the same token does the fear of the punishments in the Quran and Hadith prevent you to indulge in more sins? If the answer to all these questions is not a strong “YES”, then it’s time to further renew your faith. The need to strengthen our faith and belief in Allah, belief in is His words in the Quran and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), is extremely essential. The fact is that stronger our belief and faith, the more seriously we will take the words of Quran and the sayings of the Prophet and the more actively we will strive to make them part of our lives.
The good news is that the month of Ramadan provides many opportunities to strengthen our faiths. One of the steps in strengthening our faiths is to consciously recognize the need to do so and to ask Allah to help us in this effort. Allah and prophet recognize the weakness of the human heart in terms of the dwindling faith levels. The prophet said: “Faith wears out in your heart as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts.” (narrated by al-Haakim in his Mustadrak and al-Tabaraani in his Mu’jam with a saheeh isnaad).
Another factor that can help in understanding the blessings of Ramadan and the tremendous opportunities that it holds for us is to understand the nature of “sins” and how our sins – the many that we constantly accumulate by our own actions and deeds – impact us. The better we understand the ghastly nature of our sins, the rate at which we accumulate them, along with their undesirable impact on our daily lives and the hereafter, the more it can propel us away from committing sins in general and the more it will drive us to seek forgiveness for our sins.
Ibn Qayyim provided one of the great descriptions of sins and the impact of sins in this life and after. Here is a very short summary of what he compiled about how our sins impact our lives. [islam-qa.com]
- Sins deprive a person of provision (rizq) in this life. In Musnad Ahmad it is narrated that Thawbaan said: “The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: ‘A man is deprived of provision because of the sins that he commits.’” (Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 4022, classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah).
- A sinful person experiences a sense of alienation (indifference) with his Lord, and between him and other people. One of the salaf had said that he could see the impact of disobedience to Allah (in some aspects of his daily life).
- A person who commits sins sees that things become difficult for him. In any matter that he turns to, he finds the way blocked or he finds it difficult. By the same token, for the one who fears Allah, things are made easy for him.
- ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas said: “Good deeds make the face light, give light to the heart, and bring about ample provision, physical strength and love in people’s hearts. Bad deeds make the face dark, give darkness to the heart, and bring about physical weakness, a lack of provision and hatred in people’s hearts.”
- Sin breeds sin until it dominates a person and he cannot escape from it. Sin weakens a person’s willpower. It gradually strengthens his will to commit sin and weakens his will to repent until there is no will in his heart to repent at all… so he seeks forgiveness and expresses repentance, but it is merely words on the lips, like the repentance of the liars, whose hearts are still determined to commit sin and persist in it. This is one of the most serious diseases that is likely to lead to doom. He becomes desensitized and no longer find sins abhorrent, so it becomes his habit, and he is not bothered if people see him committing the sin or talk about him.
So, we can easily see that by engaging in sins, we are not only making the prospects of our after life (integral part of Islamic faith) bleak but sins can greatly and actively contribute to the difficulties of our daily lives.
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allah, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself…” [al-Nisa’ 4:79]
Whether we encounter challenges in earning a living, in our family affairs, or other matters of life, the burden of sins greatly inhibits us from seeking the ultimate blessings of Allah and to have the potential of leading a good life in this world and the hereafter.
Similarly, once we see the connection of how expiation of sins can potentially help us in this life and next, we can better understand the dire need to seek forgiveness from Allah. Who would want to stay entangled in the web of challenges of this life and the potential to be punished in the hereafter? Even a little faith can help us see this connection and the better we strengthen our faiths, the more we will strive to rid ourselves from the burden of sins.
And once we understand all that and get to that level, we can truly appreciate the goldmine that the month of Ramadan holds. We can then truly understand the immense returns from the hadith that was Narrated by Abu Huraira: “Allah’s Apostle said: “Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not for showing off), all his past sins will be forgiven.”
Based on how sins can have a detrimental effect on our lives, just imagine the impact that your life will have if all your sins were forgiven. What more would you need if Allah specifically chose you and forgave your sins? What more would you need when as a result of a reduced burdens of your sins, you have better chances of more provision (rizq) in this life? What more would you need if because of His blessings, Allah could help you by reducing your worldly complications? What more would you need if in the judgment day you have the potential to stand in front of Allah with fewer loads of sins?
And getting to that stage is not that difficult. All it takes is a sincere intention and actions in seeking forgiveness from Allah. On the authority of Anas, Allah the Almighty has said: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as its.” (al-Tirmidhi, 3540; classed as hasan by Shaykh al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4338)
Similarly, it was narrated in al-Saheehayn that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If a person commits a sin, then says, ‘O Lord, I have committed a sin so forgive me,’ He says, ‘My slave knows that he has a Lord Who may forgive sins or punish for it; I have forgiven My slave…’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6953; Muslim, 4953)
Coming back to Ramadan, you and I again have that opportunity this month. It’s all about how you plan to avail of that opportunity. As is obvious from the hadith that was mentioned earlier, the two things that you require are (1) Sincere faith and (2) Hoping to attain Allah’s rewards. Get a level check of those two factors in your heart and you will see changes in your life for the better.
So, align your focus and activities toward Allah this Ramadan in a way that you can remember it after it passes. Once you truly engage in Ramadan and the worship in Ramadan the way the prophet had wanted all of us to do, you will make your Ramadan truly memorable. Let’s not forget that Sahaba used to specifically pray after Ramadan for 6 months praying to Allah that their prayers and good deeds in Ramadan were accepted. Just imagine – their Ramadan was memorable enough to make a mark in their lives for them to remember and pray for it for 6 full months! One wonders what would have been the levels of their engagement with Allah (driven through the energy of their hearts and soul) that would make the impact so long lasting.
I sincerely pray that Allah provides all of us the ability and the guidance to maximize the benefits of Ramadan. Along the same lines, as we pray for each other, please do not forget to pray for the contributors at IqraSense.com.
Finally, during this blessed month, do not hesitate to share your thoughts and knowledge about this special month with everyone. Scroll to the end of this page and contribute your thoughts.
… The IqraSense.com Blogger
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