(This article is also posted at www.ramadan.co.za)
Ramadan is a month in which many of strive in our worship; and we hope that these high standards will be carried over to the 11 months that follow. And, like a re-run that just won’t go away, each year, it’s very likely that we fail to live up to those standards – and end up falling back into bad habits and laziness.
As mentioned in part 1 of this series, if we want to stop this trend, we need to make a conscious, planned effort to beat the post-Ramadan slump we often fall into. And that planning starts right now (or, if you read part 1, hopefully it will have already started).
Recap: essential principles
Once again, always bear in mind the hadith that tells us:
‘The deeds most loved by Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
The key concepts are:
- Being realistic: Don’t set such high standards – such intense expectations – which you know you won’t realistically be able to achieve. Take baby steps: set small, achievable goals; things that are realistic for you – given your spiritual level, physical condition, psychological state of being, and time constraints.
- Consistency: Don’t have one day of major, intense spiritual activity; and then follow that with a long period of nothing / very little. Do what you do consistently. Do not procrastinate, and do not be lazy. If you’ve set small, realistic goals – which you know you can achieve (albeit with at least some struggle), then you should be able to work consistently at it – every single day / period you’ve set for the activity’s frequency.
Challenge number 2: Salah
Hopefully, you’ve already planned how you’ll take part 1’s challenge – fasting – through to the rest of the year. The next challenge is one absolutely critical to your life as a Muslim: salah / namaaz / prayer (whatever you want to call it).
Salah is the pillar of the religion. If you uphold it, you’re well on your way to upholding your religion. But if you’re negligent or destroy it, then you have a lot to worry about. Especially since salah is the first thing you’ll be asked about on the Day of Judgement.
So ask yourself: am I striving to make my salah better this Ramadan? And if so, am I going to take that commitment forward after Ramadan?
Whatever your answers, if you want to improve your salah now, and carry that through after Ramadan, you’ll need to work at it.
Resources to help:
I recently came across a good, short e-book which covers this exact subject. The free, 45-page book is entitled “TASTE IT! How to Taste the True Beauty of Salah”, is compiled from a series of lectures in Kuwait in Ramadan 2008. It consists of short, easy to read chapters that aim to help you taste the sweetness of salah, and experience the true beauty and tranquility of our daily meetings with our Lord.
You can download the e-book here: “TASTE IT! How to Taste the True Beauty of Salah” (502Kb) (Right click and choose “Save as…” to download).
To set you up for this book, there are two short audio (MP3) lectures which can also be beneficial, insha-Allah. Both are by Chicago based scholar Hussein Abdul Sattar,
- “Focusing on our salah” (12 minutes) (Right click and choose “Save as…” to download).
This talk basically talks about how important salah is, and encourages its listeners to really pay due attention to it. It’s a good reminder to us all, and is short enough to put across the message without being boring.
- “Putting Khushu’ Into Our Salah” (17 minutes) (Right click and choose “Save as…” to download).
This talk is also very short and to the point. It deals with issues around khushoo (concentration in salah), and will hopefully help its listeners to understand the concept of khushoo better – so that they can try to improve this aspect of so important an act of worship.
Note that all these resources are free downloads– so don’t worry about violating copyright issues by downloading them. (And you can share them – but obviously don’t go and try to make a financial profit from them).
The way forward:
After reading and listening to these resources, start working on how you’ll improve the quality of your salah. Each person’s task list will be different, but some possible questions you might ask yourself are:
- Is my salah acceptable in the eyes of Allah? Am I really devoting my entire heart, mind, and body to Him whenever I make salah?
- If not, why is this the case? What distracts me? What do I think of during salah – and how often do these distractions get to me? What is the root cause of my problem?
- How to I minimize and eventually eradicate these issues – so that I can eventually come to the level I want to be at in salah?
- How can I break this goal into small, manageable pieces? (Remedies that I can slowly but surely introduce over time so that I can build towards being better in my salah.)
- How can I consistently, systematically implement these pieces over the coming months, so that I’m improving in my salah each day / week – and not slipping back into bad habits?
This month, we spend more time on personal reflection. We give more attention to our acts of worship. We strive to be better, and we find that it is much easier to be better in this month – compared to the rest of the year.
So now, in these precious days and nights, let’s take the time to analyse our salah and look at where we can improve, how we can improve, and then put our plans into action. And remember to make dua for success in this endeavour; and to regularly renew your intention in this – so that Shaytaan doesn’t destroy it for you later on.