Looking forward: Part 3 and wrap-up

Part 1
Part 2

It’s not over till the moon is sighted
With the month almost over, many of us may have started to feel a decline in the Ramadan spirit. The 27th night is over, many of the masajid have completed their recitations – so taraweeh is shorter. We’re looking forward to Eid – with the kitchens a buzz of activity, and Eid shopping on the cards (if it hasn’t already been done).

But it’s erroneous to think that now is the time to let up; to now relax and take it easy. After all, it’s not over until the moon is sighted. In fact, the 29th night may still be Laylatul Qadr – yet are we going to strive for it like we did for the 27th night (or those before that)? And while food and clothing may be important for Eid – are we going to be so consumed by these things that we miss out on these precious last moments of the month?

I hope not. And I hope we’ll push even harder in these last few days and nights – because the ‘bonus time’ is almost over. When Ramadan goes, it becomes much harder to maintain the good deeds and taqwa which we had during the month. And if we let that decline start early – before Ramadan even ends, then we’re setting ourselves up for failure in the 11 months that follow.

So, now is the time to consolidate what we’ve achieved so far; and then squeeze that little bit extra out – so that we can end the month on a high.

And to take the goodness of Ramadan forward, we should try to plan ahead: look at what we’ve achieved, by Allah’s mercy; and what we can take forward. Putting in the effort now will, insha-Allah, help us to prevent – or minimise – the tendency of falling back into bad habits and laziness once Ramadan ends.

Recap of the series so far

In part 1 of this series, we looked at fasting after Ramadan – and how implementing this sunnah can, insha-Allah, gain us the love and forgiveness of Allah. Part 2 then focused on salaah – the most important pillar of Islam (after the testification of faith). We looked at how to improve our concentration during salaah – including a handy e-book and some audio lectures on the topic.

It’s also important to remember the essential principles of the series: 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 3: Charity
For many of us, we pay our annual zakah during Ramadan. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be as charitable – or even more charitable, after the month is over. There are various categories of charity, and we can give charity of any kind (even zakah) at any time of year.

One way to maintain charitable contributions is to set yourself a daily or weekly target. For example, you can start small: aim to give just R1 or R2 to a charitable cause each day. You can give it to a person in need, an organization that caters for the poor, or even just the sadaqah box at your masjid (which is, many times, the most convenient of all options).

Or, keep a charity box at home – so that  you can drop these daily contributions in the comfort of your home. Then, when the box is full enough, take that money to the organisation or cause you want to give it to.

If you’re of the means and can afford more – by all means – give more. But don’t give so much that you won’t be able to maintain is consistently. It’s better to give a little regularly than give a big amount and then feel like ‘I’ve done enough – I don’t need to give more.’

And when you do feel inclined to give bigger amounts, do so – within your limits. The people of Pakistan are suffering with the aftermath of the floods there. And the people of Palestine are always in need of our help. And what about the orphans, locally and worldwide? Can we afford to sponsor an orphan each month? Or if we alone can’t do it – can we band together a few people to contribute R50 or R100 each month to give to an organization that runs orphan sponsorships?

Reputable organizations like Gift of the Givers and Muslim Hands (among others) do an excellent job of getting our financial support to those in need – so make use of them, so that you can help those in need, gain Allah’s pleasure and reward, and also help the dedicated staff of these organizations to also gain reward.

Charity is a means of purification – so just like we make wudu so regularly, we should also view charity as a means of purifying ourselves regularly.

And charity doesn’t need to be financial only. You can give of your time; volunteering where needed – whether it be feeding schemes, tutoring students in need, or contributing your professional expertise to a project or organisation that would benefit from it.

Or you can also give physical sadaqah – as suggested in this article.

Planning ahead

With all of these opportunities available – it really isn’t difficult for each and every one of us to give charity regularly; whether we’re rich or poor.

So, plan how you’ll make charity a regular, ongoing part of your life.

And, importantly, give charity without aiming to gain fame or recognition in the eyes of others (which is the ‘hidden shirk’). Keep your intention pure – or your acts of charity may not be accepted by Allah. In fact, to protect yourself from any of this ‘hidden shirk’ coming into the equation, try to give without anyone seeing you.

After all, one of the seven types of people under Allah’s shade on the Day of Judgment is the one who “gives in charity and  hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in  charity.” (Bukhari & Muslim).

In conclusion

As we make our way to the last few moments of Ramadan, many of the good actions we’ve inculcated may have become automatic: they don’t require much thought or effort, because they’ve been imprinted in us for three weeks – so they’re now almost habitual.

And, while the goodness is automated (as mentioned in the “Fasting and the Furious”) – we should look to the months ahead and plan how to take everything (or as much as we can) forward.

After this month, when we’re not fasting anymore, the internal war begins once more. That greatest of battles: the one against yourself.

But Ramadan shows us our true strength – 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.

So on Friday / Saturday, when we bid Ramadan farewell on Eid day – for many of us, the intensity of that motivation will drop sharply.

And, most dangerous of all, our biggest external enemies – Shaytan and his cronies – will 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 the 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.

That’s what this series has aimed for. And I hope that both you and I can really take benefit from the reminders in this series.

Once again, we should be realistic about all of these plans for improvement post-Ramadan: look at what our lives are like outside of Ramadan, and choose things which we believe we can achieve. Have high aspirations, yes – but start with that which you feel is within your grasp; and if you find success in that, step up to higher planes.

If you remember nothing else from this entire series, just remember the golden hadith we’ve quoted all along:

‘The deeds most loved by Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small.’

May these last days and nights of Ramadan be a nourishment for our souls, a purification for our hearts, and a revolution for our minds.

This post also appears on Ramadan.co.za


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