One week to go, and time seems to have slowed down tremendously for me. While the first half of Ramadan seemed to flash by, the days and nights that followed have brought great benefit and hope.
Hope that it’s never too late for things to change.
Reminders that, though time marches on and life never ceases to be full of things to fill the time, the One in control of time has the power to make your time beneficial. The “barakah” factor is something which, when combined with anything in life, makes things so much more fulfilling and beautiful.
And as we make our way to the last weekend, then the last days, many of us have felt this act of fasting to become automatic: something which doesn’t require much thought or effort, because it’s been imprinted in us for three weeks and is now almost habitual.
That’s not to say that this ‘habit’ is mundane and devoid of spirituality – for it is far from that.
But the internal mechanism of restraining ourselves from our desires – that’s something which doesn’t require much thought anymore, because you know: “I’m fasting. I can’t have what I want right now.” End of story.
It’s easy to say no, because we know we have to when we’re fasting.
There’s no struggle – no opposing forces of our good side telling us to hold back, against our bad side which wants its lusts fulfilled.
You can’t have that [insert a desire here] in the daytime. You accept that, and move on.
But after this month, when you’re not fasting anymore, the war begins once more. That greatest of battles: the one against yourself.
Year after year, Ramadan shows us our potential:
It shows us how possible it is for us to be restrained, given the right motivation.
It shows us the dedication and effort we’re capable of striving for, given the right incentives.
But when we bid it farewell on Eid day, the intensity of that motivation can drop sharply. And the rewards we hoped to get also declines significantly. And, most dangerous of all, our biggest external enemies – Shaytan and his cronies – make their way back into our lives, whispering to our lower selves and tempting us away from the path of goodness, whether in big diversions or small, subtle traps.
Do we give in? Do we forget what Allah has taught us in the 29 or 30 days that preceded? Do we slump back into the attitude of: “I’m weak. I can’t stop myself from [insert a bad habit/sin here]”?
To do so is self-deception. Because we are not weak.
For a whole month, we’ve been strong. And, although the spiritual benefits of that month – the increased reward, forgiveness, mercy – are reduced in the months that follow, the person that fasted that month (i.e. YOU) is still here – hopefully not yet reduced from the form you were in during the month.
The external conditions have changed, but inside, that soul which conquered the lower self, and strove to gain closeness to its Lord…that soul is still alive, and purer than it used to be.
And although we can never maintain those Ramadan levels for the rest of the year (for we can never remain that pure) – the important thing is to try. To try to take something from the month, forward to the next 11 months.
The end of Ramadan is always the best time to make New Year’s resolutions, because it truly signifies the end of a period – unlike the artificial January 1st, or even the Islamic New Year, which doesn’t really feel that new in the environment and age we live in.
So, as we (hopefully) climb higher and higher spiritually in these last days, let’s also take the time to reflect on lessons learned, and decide on some goals or behaviours we’d like to set for the 11 months to come.
And let’s be realistic about it, looking at what our lives are like outside of Ramadan, and choosing things which we believe we can achieve. We can and should have high aspirations, definitely, but it’s better to start with that which you feel is within your grasp; and if you find success in that, step up to higher planes.
Remember, ‘the most beloved acts to Allah are those which are consistent, even if they be small’.
May your last days of Ramadan be a nourishment for your soul, a purification for your heart, and a revolution for your mind.