Ramadan, a Gift from God

11 Jul

(Originally written for and published in The Muslim News newspaper, Aug 2009)

Ramadan. That blessed time of the year that holds so many memories for so many people. Have a think back to the past years and see if you recognise any of these comments from others as you either prepare to welcome this blessed month or during it: “You must be dreading it,” “’What?! No eating or drinking? I feel sorry for you,” and “Only 6 days to go until you can eat again, I bet you can’t wait!” Some people get annoyed when they receive comments like this. Some laugh. There is a beautiful wise saying: “If you have never tasted, you will never know.” Such a simple saying, but so sweet. We cannot be angry at people who make these comments because they have never tasted the sweetness that is the blessed month of Ramadan.

This is a month that has been gifted to us by our Lord, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, and what a beautiful gift it is. Within these 30 days, sins are forgiven, mountains of rewards are granted, people have their palaces built in Heaven, relationships and connections between man and Creator are built and strengthened, kings and paupers stand side by side as equals, and our ummah unites as one. Ramadan is not just a month. How unjust are we to describe it as a period of time, or an annual event. Ramadan truly is a unique experience that has been given to those who wish to receive it.

It is because of this, people have varying experiences of this month as they pass through their lives. The first part of my life was spent ‘going through the motions’ in terms of my religion. In this stage Ramadan was a time of hunger. All I knew was that I wasn’t meant to eat or drink, and it was very difficult for me to firstly maintain my fasting, and secondly feel as though I was benefiting. However, at an older age my ideas changed. I learned what Ramadan was really about, I began going to Tarawih prayers (the night prayers), I began reading the Qur’an. And all of a sudden, fasting became easy, and enjoyable! For the first time in my life, I had felt a connection with God, and felt proud to be following His perfect religion that is Islam.

Allah tells us, “I am as my servant expects of Me.” In other words, if you deny Him, He will make Himself absent from your presence. If you remember Him, He will never leave you. This is also true about the gifts of Allah. Fasting has been given to us by Allah, and it is what you expect of it. Being one of the gates to Paradise, fasting is a superior deed. Our beloved Prophet, (p) said: “There is not a servant who fasts a day in the way of Allah, except that Allah removes his face from the Fire by the distance of seventy years because of that.” What is beautiful is the fact that fasting encompasses so many things. It means to abstain. Abstain from not just food and drink, but from the small sins we commit in our daily lives; from backbiting; from gossiping; from arrogance; from anything that will stop us from achieving our ultimate goal – the pleasure of Allah, an accepted fast, and a place in Heaven along with the righteous people who came before us and who will come after us. This is why the one who fasts with humility and sincerity will do so with a coolness in his heart, knowing that they have truly benefited.

During this month, the Qur’an is taken down from millions of shelves and dusted off, as people make maximum effort to form or strengthen this bond with their Lord. It is amazing that people use this month to read the Qur’an more than other months. Ramadan was actually the month the Qur’an was revealed to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (p). The Words of Allah, sent to earth. When reading the Qur’an, you are reading the Word of Allah. What a beautiful act of worship; reciting the words of your Lord, seeking His pleasure.

The last ten nights are known as Nights of Power. Such a deserving name for such virtuous nights. It is among these nights that the Night of Decree will fall, so it is important to reap the benefits of good deeds during this time. Standing in the night prayer, asking Allah for forgiveness and guidance, and making sincere and heartfelt du’a (supplication), will release anxiety and improve one’s trust in Allah, after all, what better conversation to have than with the Creator himself? The Nights of Power hold a sublime peacefulness, in which one can really feel a deep connection with the Creator.

These last ten nights are vital in establishing relationship with Allah, especially because Laylat al Qadr, or the Night of Decree, falls during this time. Allah describes this night in the Qur’an as “being better than a thousand months”, so imagine the virtues of catching that special night. During these 10 nights, more so than any other time, the mosques around the world are at maximum capacity. With no space to move, every inch of the building is taken up by people crying out to their Lord with absolute certainty that He will answer. Then, as emotion and excitement reaches its peak, the Imam stands in prayer and in between reciting the sweet sound of the Qur’an, he makes a long du’a for himself, all those present, those before us, and those after us.

Whether you are someone rich in knowledge, or just a beginner in the quest for Truth, whether you live in the Middle East, or the West, Ramadan comes as a relief. A time that should be used to re-fuel one’s faith. Don’t let this time pass you by, because we do not know if we will ever get the opportunity to see another Ramadan. Maximise the virtues of this month, use it to better yourself, use it as a starting point for which you will continue your life. After all, this is the blessed month of mercy, in which every single Muslim, practising or not, is given the opportunity to establish a connection with their Lord.

Ramadan thoughts and memories from our brothers and sisters around the world

Jibraeel Ali, 24, Trinidad and Tobago Ever tried fasting outside the blessed month of Ramadan? It is harder. During Ramadan you eat less and have more energy, you work the entire day and still have enough energy to perform the Tarawih prayers. There is a coolness in this month, a peaceful reside.

Hannah Mohamed, 21, Germany My special Ramadan memory is the thankful and thoughtful feeling I get when it is time for iftār (breaking of fast). It makes me remember how merciful Allah is and how little I cherish that during the rest of the year.

Sanah Hussain, 24, UK Spending nights at the mosque in prayer and the remembrance of Allah with friends and praying the night prayer makes me feel like my imān (belief) has increased so much. Also thinking about the struggles of the Prophet (p) and the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet) and how they kept fasts made me feel humble and thankful to Allah for everything He has given us.

Tayyar Ismail Sitting down to eat a date and drinking a glass of water together at the call of the adhan (call to prayer)

Salma S Khan, 21, Trinidad and Tobago One thing I love about Ramadan is the excitement of putting out the food, and awaiting the call of the adhan, which I can hear from my home. Especially since everyone in the family breaks fast with delicious food each day in Ramadan. May Allah reward my mama.

Ali Omar, UK During my more youthful days, I am ashamed to admit that I wasn’t always looking forward to Ramadan. I remember feeling this way on one such occasion. I was reluctant to shed my less than virtuous habits. But when the time came and I was in the thick of it, I remembered the feeling of tranquillity and peace. For the first time, I had an inner feeling of calm. When in other months I felt fragmented and as though I was being torn from all sides due to desire, greed, faults and ultimately the Shaytan, during Ramadan I simply didn’t feel this way.

~ Zaraesque

Read more about Zara here

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