Remember the One
Who is always with you,
Who loves for you to ask of Him,
Who listens to your pleas,
Who guides your heart to that which is best for you. Continue reading


Staying power

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.

Back to the middle

Once again, we’re blessed to have made it halfway through Ramadan. And while the experience has probably been different for all of us, this particular day should hold the same significance for everyone.

A day like this is a milestone, as well as a stopping point. A time to think about what we’ve learnt so far this month. What we’ve intended to do, then what we’ve followed through on, and what we’ve lagged behind in. What unexpected goodness has come. How grateful we should be for the blessings we’ve felt so far – whether we perceive them to be great or small. How grateful we should be for the things we take for granted: food, homes, families, and most importantly, iman. Whether we consider ourselves strong, middle-ground or weak as Muslims, the fact that we have that kalima is the greatest gift we’ve been given.

That’s what we should be most grateful for. Because that’s the foundation to all goodness, the foundation to all success – both in this life and the life to come.

It’s also a time to step up our intensity, whatever our particular tasks and goals are for this month. They say that when you reach the apex, it’s all downhill from there. But the middle of this month should not be the height of our spirituality, the height of our efforts.

It’s like when you’re doing an intensive physical exercise: at first it’s difficult, but as time passes, your body and mind gets used to it, and you feel that this is not bad at all. You feel like you can keep going, and maybe even go further, run faster, do more. You know that this is the most precious time of your exercise routine – because this is when you’re in the zone. When you started, you didn’t know if you’d be able to push this far – but now that it’s all going so smoothly, you feel it’s easy to keep this up or better it.

Likewise, we’ve had half a month of this ‘training’. We’ve seen what we’re capable of: the self-restraint in the day while fasting; the increased efforts in our acts of worship; the goodness we feel towards wanting to help others in small or big ways – all of this compounded by the fact that we know there’s so much more reward in this month for every good thing that we do.

And we still have  Laylat-ul Qadr to come – a night whose value we all know.

Wherever we are in our road of life, let’s stop right now and consider these things. Consider that we’re halfway through the greatest month of the year. The month in which we’re able to be so much better than the rest of the year. If we use this opportunity wisely, we can build foundations which will, insha-Allah, help us become better for the next 11 months, and the rest of our lives.

May you be inspired, motivated, and dedicated to your goals for the rest of this Ramadan.

Strive hard, spend time alone with your Creator, and ask Him to make these remaining days ones which will give you all that you need to bring you closer to the ultimate goals you have.

To Allah we belong, and unto Allah is our return.

May the rest of this month be of maximum benefit to us all.

Weak one


One week into Ramadaan, I find myself scared. Scared that it’s going so fast. Scared that I’m nowhere near where I want to be. Scared that if I don’t step up now, it’ll be over before I know it.


I entered the month with so much hope, so many plans and so much determination to implement them. I had a schedule, a categorised list of things to work on, and the enthusiasm to get moving on it right from day one.


And then it hit me: illness. Aches that hurt the physical being, and tiredness which clung onto the mental, stripping away any hope I had of getting that good start I hoped for.


But there was hope, because despite the setbacks, I refused to give in. I didn’t want to admit defeat to an illness which – in my view – was more an irritation than a serious medical concern (thought it could well have turned into that). The timing was frustrating, but it all fell within a bigger picture – a wiser plan which I’ve yet to comprehend.


And now, with a week gone, the physical strength is back (alhamdullilah), but so too is laziness. And this is not the time for laziness.


Added to that, a recent medical discovery has meant I’ve got to make some changes in something which is very dear to me, but a terrible habit which has spiralled almost uncontrollably this year. Some might call it silly, but each of us has our struggles. And this has been my biggest one in recent months. And now I’m forced to change. No choice – I have to, because if I don’t, the long term consequences can be serious.


So, it’s fuel to the fire I’m trying to rekindle within me. And I’m grateful, because – I’m ashamed to say – it often takes something external to be imposed in order for me to make a real change. Change used to come easier, but as I’m getting older, it’s much, much harder.


I’m learning the lesson first hand, that it’s better to change while you’re young and have the chance. I’m not that old yet, but it reminds me how far I’ve got to go, and the discipline I need to inculcate in order to live a life of continuous improvement. Or at least one in which I’m progressing, rather than standing still or falling back into old (bad) habits.


But hey, this is a month for discipline. A month in which change is easier to implement. In actual fact, it’s really like a microcosm of the rest of the year when it comes to self-discipline:


  • During the fasting day, we can watch ourselves and behave properly. We can see what we’re capable of when it comes to restraining our lower desires and being at our best. 
  • When night comes, and we’re ‘free’ again to indulge, we hopefully remember that we’ve fasted for all those daylight hours – and it would be a mockery to recklessly stuff ourselves full of everything we lay our eyes on. (Though, ironically, this is the month where there’s more food than any other time of year).


That’s pretty much like the relationship between Ramadaan and the other 11 months: we have one month of restraint, then 11 others in which we should try to remember what we did, and hopefully maintain some level of that discipline.


It’s a hard lesson to learn, self-discipline, but one which is critical to our success in this life and the Hereafter, for “Allah loves not the prodigals”.


Whatever your personal struggles this Ramadaan, I hope it’s getting easier day by day. May the next three weeks bring with it heightened awareness of where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there.


Keep the faith