Very special moments have come again for us Muslims to seek God’s mercy and to purify our hearts.
In this month, we abstain from many enjoyable, and most regular, daily activities like eating and drinking. And by doing so, we feel what the needy have to go through on a regular basis.
This experience is supposed to create gratefulness to God for what we have, and lead us to form some new resolutions for the remaining part of our life.
Ramadan is mainly about purifying the hearts and being closer to God. The act of fasting and other rituals related to it are mainly to achieve that purity. For the heart, when it is pure, is drawn to its Master. And when we make submission to God the most valuable element of our existence on earth, life becomes so worthwhile.
Calamities appear easy, sadness becomes a source of strength, confusion sparks enlightenment, difficulties bring relief and the anxious mind finds tranquility.
That is the power of the heart when it is united with its Creator.
Despite the everyday chaos surrounding him, a human with a fulfilled heart enjoys an unending source of happiness.
A human performs best when s/he is in the state of their innate nature – fitrah. Studies have showed that many prisoners in America accept Islam most easily or at least become religious, when in prison. Why? Because at that moment, they are far from worldly distractions and are the closest to their natural selves.
Unfortunately, many Muslims today live their daily lives distant from their fitrah, without their knowing it. Deceived by modernism, they fall into subtle traps of the devils and thus suffer from value crises. It is of no surprise that most of these traps appear innocent in the beginning, but with time, Muslims especially the young will finally have to face the tough choice: whether to join the crowd and be accepted, or be true to their hearts and feel more attached to God.
Some survive with struggling to strike a balance, that is, between being a good Muslim and remaining so-called modern, but some painful sacrifices have to be made.
To cherish Ramadan in the most genuine form is to make sure that all the rituals performed during this month successfully produce the supposed outcome. If we fast and pray Tarawih without fail for all 30 days but remain the same weak and sinful people we have been, the very purpose of Ramadan is frustrated, and there is not much point doing the rituals.
Therefore, let us try to reap the fruits of Ramadan by distancing ourselves from the trappings of excessive love for this world, always self-reflecting, and getting rid of bad habits.
Remember, every success starts with a single step, and every step starts with intention.
Here are some tips, other than Ramadan rituals (fasting and praying), on how to remain close to our fitrah and thus purify our hearts.
1. Get into a serious dialogue with the heart.
There are many times when the heart actually protests against our wrongdoings, but we ignore them. Now is the time for us to be true to ourselves and consult the heart when in doubt. Do not feel scared to admit our ego and crush our deeply-rooted arrogance.
2. Detach ourselves from bad company.
Ramadan is the time to say ‘No’ to meeting up with bad and ignorant friends, or even unnecessary gatherings which might lead to sins; gossiping, backbiting, unlawful socializing.
3. Spend some time alone every day for deep contemplation.
This is a very good way of doing self-reflection. Think of what has gone wrong in our life or why we have not been happy despite all that we have. Come up with some resolutions to improve ourselves and leave the old bad habits and attitudes. Then pray to God for strength. When our intention is sincere, divine help will follow.
4. Mend broken relationships.
The concept of solidarity, brotherhood and kinship is passionately emphasized in Islam. If we have not been in good terms with a brother of faith, or a family member, honor Ramadan with reconciliation and by patching up broken hearts through soothing words of apology, or loving gestures. Remember, apologizing does not mean losing, and the reward of building human relationship is immense.
5. Fight bad habits.
Make this month a ‘bad habit-free’ zone. Short temper, impulsiveness, jealousy, unnecessary suspicion, being judgmental, rudeness, laziness, and addiction to unlawful things are among the negative elements we should say good bye to, forever.
6. Do not waste.
One of the most common habits among Muslims from well-off background is wasting. And despite the habit being rampant, it is often overlooked. A way of being grateful is to spend what God bestows on us with caution. Do not be deceived by the idea that luxurious Iftar is a must.
Millions of dollars are unnecessarily poured every year into food, posh restaurants and expensive hotels in Ramadan just to satisfy our greed and the tendency to show off. What is the point of trying to experience the hunger of the poor during the day when we spoil ourselves and corrupt our souls at night?
7. Be kind and exercise patience.
Patience is crucial for success in anything you do. Whether it is marriage, work, or calamity, patience has to always be there as the most powerful tool. When angered, restrain yourself and think before blurting out any word. And do this only for God. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that whoever swallows his anger, God will fulfill his heart with Iman and content.
8. Simplicity should be the trend!
Often we see young Muslims making their lives unnecessarily complicated. A lot of time and energy are wasted on make-up, clothes, shoes, movies, entertainment magazines, hanging out, etc.
Perhaps this month of Ramadan is the best time for us to start questioning ourselves: what is important and what do we want in life? By remaining simple in terms of physical appearance and lifestyle, we will be able to focus more on productivity and efficiency. Moreover, such superficial inclination is a form of worldly distraction that drives us far away from our true nature, that is, fitrah.
Perhaps this month of Ramadan is the best time for us to start questioning ourselves: what is important and what do we want in life?
9. Attend Islamic gatherings/talks.
When attending a healthy gathering, we are surrounded by enlightened people who will inspire us to do good. Also, such programs give us deeper knowledge of Islam and remind us of God.
10. Spend time with the less fortunate.
One of the regular prayers of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is asking God to grant him love for the have-nots. Spending time and providing for their need is a great act in Islam.
We should find in our local area, places like orphanages, refugee camps, old-folks’ homes and other institutions for the deprived, and contribute in whatever way possible.
Association with the less fortunate will soften the hardest of hearts and open our eyes to things we have not seen before. It also bridges the gap between people and promotes unity. Isn’t that what Ramadan is all about?
As the conclusion, there are many ways of celebrating Ramadan. They may vary according to our geographical areas, cultures and circumstances.
Whatever it is, all of us should strive for purification of hearts, self-improvement and brotherhood.
Remember, every success starts with a single step, and every step starts with intention. May God make us among the successful ones with the blessing of this Ramadan!