One of the things that we all love about Ramadan is that it allows us to make a fresh start.
There’s just one little problem though: who said that we need to wait until Ramadan to make a fresh start?
Our ummah today has so many problems. Many Muslims are immersed in shirk (the worst of the sins), fornication (and its sisters: pornography and masturbation), anger management issues, family problems, riba (interest), backbiting and tale bearing, etc.
I could go on and on.
We all have issues that we need to straighten out. What are we doing about them though? And what are we supposed to do about them?
We all know that we need to make a fresh start (yes, ALL of us) but how?
Well, there’s a great story that tells us the way to go about doing that:
Abu Said al-Khudri (radiallahu anhu) reported Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alaihi wasallam) as saying: There was a person before you who had killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the learned persons of the world (who could show him the way to salvation). He was directed to a monk.
He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him whether there was any scope for his repentance to be accepted. He said: No. He killed him also and thus completed one hundred.
He then asked about the learned persons of the earth and he was directed to a scholar, and he told him that he had killed one hundred persons and asked him whether there was any scope for his repentance to be accepted. He said: Yes; what stands between you and the repentance? You better go to such and such land; there are people devoted to prayer and worship and you also worship along with them and do not come to the land of yours since it was an evil land (for you).
So he went away and he had hardly covered half the distance when death came to him and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment.
The angels of mercy said: This man has come as a penitent and remorseful to Allah and the angels of punishment said: He has done no good at all. Then there came another angel in the form of a human being in order to decide between them. He said: You measure the land to which he has drawn near.
[Allah commanded the earth (from where) he wanted to come out to move itself away and to the other earth (where he wanted to go) to draw nearer.]
They measured it and found him nearer to the land where he intended to go (the land of piety), and so the angels of mercy took possession of it.
Qatada said that Hasan told him that it was said to them that as death approached him, he crawled upon his chest (and managed) to slip in the land of mercy.
[Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 6662. The addition in brackets is from Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth no. 6664]
Here are the lessons that I* learnt from this story:
[*Just so you don’t think that this is some sort of scholarly analysis.]
1) We need to realise that what we are doing is wrong and we have to WANT to change for the better.
From what I’ve personally seen from many people, this seems to be the number one factor as to why some people are unable to change: they simply don’t want to.
Yes, they might claim they want to change but when they are brought face to face with their issues, they simply ignore it.
This man (i.e. the murderer) wanted to change and make a fresh start and due to this, it was made easy for him.
So, admitting our faults and wanting to improve is the first (and most difficult) step towards starting a new life.
2) It does not matter what the sin is.
The sin of the man was murder. The only sin worse than that is shirk.
Some people think that their sins are too great to be forgiven or that they have done too many bad things.
That’s absolutely false.
Allah forgives all sins if a person sincerely repents from them.
So, don’t worry about what you have done in the past, rather focus on repenting from your sins.
So, what is the goal of fasting? Is it just hunger? Or is there a bigger goal?
The following article tells us the major goal of fasting as well mentioning other goals that can be achieved. I’d advise everyone to read it carefully and write it down in your Ramadan journal*.
[*You don’t have one yet?? What’s that saying….”Those who fail to plan, plan to fail”……..?]
The Goals of Fasting
The Muslim Creed (Vol. 9, Issue 10), Sha`ban 1422
Published by The Daar of Islamic Heritage
The acts of worship that the Muslims practice seek to achieve certain goals and benefits that Allah wants His slaves to acquire knowledge in them and to comprehend and achieve them. Among these acts of worship is fasting during the lunar month of Ramadhan, which has several goals that the Muslims must strive to achieve with his heart and by his actions. These goals are as follows:
1. Achieving At-Taqwa, that is, the fear from Allah. Allah said, what translated means, “O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” [2:183]. Hence, fasting is a means to achieve At-Taqwa. In fact, all acts of worship and Tawhid are methods and means to achieve At-Taqwa, as Allah has said, what translated means, “O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah), Who created you and those who were before you so that you may become Al-Muttaqun.” [2:21]
2. Acquiring the rewards of Allah. Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated that Abu Hurayrah related to the Prophet, that he said, what translated means, “Allah the Exalted said, ‘All the deeds of the son of Adam are his, except for As-Siyam, for it is Mine and I will reward for it.'”
3. The Prophet also said, “The Saim has two happy moments: when he breaks his fast he is happy, and when he meets his Lord he is happy because of his fast.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. About his saying, “When he breaks his fast he is happy,” and Imam Muslim’s addition, “Because of his breaking his fast,” Imam Al-Qurtubi commented, “It means he is happy because his hunger and thirst have ended, since he is allowed to break his fast. This happiness is natural and this is apparently the desired meaning. It was also said that his being happy is because of his breaking the fast, means that he has fulfilled his fast, and as a culmination for his practicing the acts of worship. His saying, ‘And when he meets his Lord he is happy because of his fast,’ means he is happy because of the rewards for fasting and its complete awards.'”
4. As-Sawm purifies the soul and helps it acquire the habit of obeying Allah and His Messenger by defeating the desires of the heart. Fasting teaches refraining from following the desires because the soul of the Sa-im becomes obedient to Allah’s commands. Also, Satan has a stronger hold over the souls that often obey the desires. When the soul abandons its desires, it will become more difficult for Satan to have a hold on the heart.
5. Being saved from the Fire, for the Prophet said, what translated means, “And Allah has those whom he frees from the Fire, and this occurs every night (meaning in Ramadhan).” [At-Tirmithi & ibn Majah]
6. Ash-Shafa`ah (the right of intercession). The Prophet said, “As-Siyam and the Quran will intercede on behalf of the slave. As-Siyam says, ‘O Lord! I prevented him from food and obeying his desires in the morning. Therefore, accept my Shafa`ah on his behalf.’ And the Quran says, ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Therefore, accept my Shafa`ah on his behalf,’ and they will be accepted as intercessors.'” [Ahmad, Al-Hakim & Al-Bayhaqi].
7. Having the sins forgiven. There is no doubt that fasting directs to having one’s sins forgiven and erased. The Prophet said, “The five prayers, and from Friday to the next Friday, and Ramadhan to the next Ramadhan, are erasers for what occurs between them, as long as major sins are avoided.” [Muslim]. Also, the Messenger of Allah said, what translated means, “Whoever fasts Ramadhan with Iman and Ihtisab, will have his previous sins forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]. Imam Ahmad and An-Nasaii added the following to the above narration, “And also what will occur later on (meaning future sins, as well).” “With Iman” entails fasting while believing with the heart in the obligation of fasting during Ramadhan. As for Ihtisab, it means that one anticipates the reward and his fasting is therefore only for the sake of Allah and not to imitate his people and community or for any other worldly gain.
Yes, another book.
It’s amazing just how much (free) information we have available, isn’t it? And are we trying to benefit from it?
This book is online: Ramadan and Fasting by Abdel Kader Kamel Tayeb.
There’s a nice intro where he explains why we fast. He also has a nice long section where he mentions the virtues of fasting and Ramadan.
Attention all parents [Yes Brothers, educating your child is your responsibility too, not just your wife’s.]: He also has a section called “Educating your children in Ramadan“.
I just discovered this book today so I haven’t read it. Overall, it seems quite decent though.
What do I mean by that?
Well, let me explain. We have 11 more days to go before Shaban. Rather than dreaming about how you’re going to be worshipping Allah in Ramadan, start worshipping Allah in the remaining days of Shaban. You don’t know if you’ll reach Ramadan.
Also, instead of dreaming about the last 10 days of Ramadan, first focus on the first 20 days.
Also, instead of dreaming about how you will make a change in your life one day, start making a change today even if it’s a small step.
All I’m saying is this: Do things steps by step and don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
I think the following animation summarises things perfectly:
[Click on the animation to view it.]
Yup. You think you’ve made it and then…
Which of us wouldn’t want a second chance? A chance to start afresh?
Well, we get a whole month just for this purpose: to rebuild our relationship with Allah.
Unfortunately, many Muslims don’t think of Ramadan as a second chance. They think of it as a “special” month, where you stop eating in the mornings, stuff yourself in the nights, read the Quran (without understanding a word) and pray all night (without understanding a word). And after the month ends? Well, life goes back to normal.
Now, some people might be offended at this description but sadly it is the truth. I know because up until 2003, I was one of those people who treated Ramadan in the above manner. Ramadan 2003 was the first Ramadan where I actually saw this month as a opportunity to increase in ibaadah and do something different.
Here’s a nice lecture on this topic:
Ramadan: A New Start by Mutasim Al-Hameedee (Download)
Insha-Allah, this Ramadan will be a new start for all of us.