Changing our objectives this Ramadan

Changing our objectives this Ramadan

Changing our objectives this Ramadan

Sheikh Ibrahim Djema

Each Ramadan is a new opportunity to gain rewards from Allah.

How can we maximize our Ramadan this year; or how can we benefit most from this holy month?

Should our objectives for Ramadan mainly be increasing our worship, from prayers to reading Qur’an to voluntary night prayers to giving charity to the remembrance of Allah? That is indeed praiseworthy and we know that the rewards for such good deeds will be multiplied up to 700 times in Ramadan. Alternatively, should our focus this Ramadan be on trying to quit bad habits and discontinue the sins we are committing, whether openly in public or in the privacy of our homes? Or does it mean both increasing our acts of worship and staying away from sins?

The majority of people concentrate on performing more prayers, reading more Qur’an, and donating more in Ramadan. On the other side, they fail to pinpoint the sins they may be committing and they fall short in staying away from these sins and fulfilling the requirements needed to seek repentance and forgiveness from Allah.

It is not easy to avoid falling into sin, and many of us are unaware of the gravity of the matter. The sins we may partake in cannot be lumped into one category. The forms and shapes of sins vary. To free ourselves from sin requires a great deal of self-evaluation and looking inwards, because some sins are hidden from the eyes of the people and they silently creep up on us. The diseases of the heart are considered sins, yet they are unseen by others, such as envy, jealousy, arrogance, hypocrisy, or having rancor in our hearts for our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.

The diseases of the heart are particularly dangerous because they are serious sins, yet they may linger in our hearts unchecked if we do not try our best to rid ourselves of them. We must immediately turn to Allah and make a sincere and honest repentance from these sins. It requires that we search deeply within ourselves, because sometimes we may commit these sins without even being conscious of them. If you are unaware of this underlying disease of the heart, then it is harder to treat. By constantly checking and analyzing our internal mental and emotional state, we can correct these mistakes before they take hold of our hearts.

There is a second category of sins which is manifested in the physical limbs of your body. These sins are more obvious, such as lying, stealing, backbiting, looking at that which is unlawful in Islam, eating impermissible foods.

Among the greatest ways a believer can come closer to Allah is to avoid committing acts which Allah has forbidden us to do. It may be relatively easy for a believer to pray, fast, perform the pilgrimage, give in charity, but it is more difficult to battle the whisperings of evil, for example and hold one’s tongue from lying or backbiting or gossiping.

The devout believer must beware of falling into sins in Ramadan and maintain this all year long. The worshiper avoids looking at inappropriate scenes, dealing with usury and interest, slandering, backbiting, and defaming people in the community.

It is relatively easy to fast from food and drink, but it requires more effort to be able to fast from the sins of the tongue. That is also a type of fasting, as Maryam, may Allah be pleased with her, was ordered to fast from speaking.

Allah prescribed silence for Maryam, as mentioned in the Qur’an in the following verse.

{ So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.} (Chapter 19, verse 26)

Fasting from idle talk, spreading rumors, and attacking people’s honor and dignity is an essential part of fasting which we tend to overlook.

Abu Hurayrah narrated that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent.” (Sahih Bukhari)

It is easy to abstain from food and drink during the fast. However, the objective of fasting in Ramadan is not simply to give up food and drink, it is to purify the soul, cleanse the heart, create a higher level of mental awareness of Allah, and to refine our character. The true challenge when fasting is the struggle to overcome one’s inner desires, whims, and impulses.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him said, “Perhaps a person fasting will receive nothing from his fasting except hunger and thirst.” (Ahmad)

In another Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink.” (Sahih Bukhari)

This is the essence of Ramadan, and this is what we are missing. True fasting differentiates the devout believer who is sincerely seeking the pleasure of Allah from the average person who is hoping to gain the admiration of people and their praise and approval. True fasting distinguishes sincere worship of Allah from merely fasting as a habit or cultural practice.

The great scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah, said that a good person and a bad person can both do good deeds, but it is only a pious person who can stay away from sins. A sinful person may be quick to do good deeds, but still takes interest on money, eats prohibited foods, and looks at what is impermissible. Fear of
Allah is what stops a devout, pious person from sinning.

Staying away from sins should be our primary objective this Ramadan. To accomplish this we need to first identify which sins we have become accustomed to committing. Be honest with yourself. Once we have determined the sins we want to quit, we can make a sincere repentance to Allah.

Repentance is more than simply repeating the phrase, “O Allah, forgive me.” Repentance is feeling a sense of remorse, hating to go back to the sin, being determined not to fall into the sin again, and of course asking Allah for forgiveness. When a believer’s repentance is accepted by Allah, the believer becomes free of sin, like a new born baby.

Abu Hurayrah reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant when he turns penitently towards Him than one of you would be on finding his lost camel.” (Muslim)
Therefore, our objectives this Ramadan, in addition to reading the entire Qur’an, praying until late at night, and giving in charity, is to break away from the sins we have been committing and sincerely turn and repent to Allah.