Keeping momentum after Ramadan
It’s the end of Ramadan. What have we achieved? And how can we retain what we have learned?
We ask this question every year at the end of this blessed month. In fact when you ponder on the verses of Siyam fasting in Surah Baqarah (183-187), there are three things that we can focus on.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may have taqwa. (2:183)
Allah thus clarifies His revelations to the people, that they may attain Taqwa. (2:187).
The first ayah finishes with taqwa. The aim of fasting is to establish taqwa – improve, maintain and increase it. When you read the last verse, Allah Almighty ends these verses by saying ‘they might achieve taqwa.’ There is no coincidence here at all that the verses begin and end with taqwa. Allah is emphasising this.
Taqwa which emanates from the heart
The simplest definition of taqwa is: doing the obligations and refraining from the prohibitions. During Ramadan we focus on this and we also try to do extra. We push ourselves.
Yet taqwa is more than a tick box exercise. There is a hadith which is not very well known, about a companion who was new to Islam known as Mu’awiyah bin Haydah, who said he had resolved not to visit the Prophet (peace be on him) but eventually he had gone to ask him what Islam was about. We are all familiar with the idea that Islam is built on five pillars. But in reply to this man, the Prophet (peace be on him) gave a different answer, he said that Islam is about submitting your heart to Allah.
Hakim bin Mu’awiyah narrated that his father Mu’awiyah bin Haydah said:
O Messenger of God, by the one who has sent you with the truth, I did not come to you until I swore the number of my fingers on this that I won’t come to you, And what did He sent you with? He said: Islam, and he said: What is Islam? He said (peace be upon him), to hand over your heart to God, and to direct your face to God, and to pray the written prayer and to pay the obligatory Zakat. (Ibn Hibban)
We see from this that Islam is not just about fulfilling the obligations, it isn’t meant to be robotic. It should flow from love. It is about handing over our heart to Allah Almighty.
If we fix the heart, the heart informs the actions of limbs and guides them how to behave.
Ramadan is a clinic for the heart, and the ultimate aim of any form of ibadah is to increase taqwa. For instance when Allah talks about hajj he says,
And take provisions, but the best provision is righteousness Taqwa. And be mindful of Me, O people of understanding. (2:197)
Ramadan is the longest form of continuous ibadah we do. We have a sustained connection with Allah Almighty over 30 days. Even though we pray every day, it is not continuously for 18 hours, and zakat is given over the internet within a few minutes these days, even Hajj can be completed in 4 days. We ask Allah Almighty to accept our ibadah over Ramadan from us. So it’s the longest Ibadah to train us to be better, in character and conduct.
How do we stretch this heightened connection with Allah beyond one month as it is not just Ramadan when we worship Allah. Allah is worthy of worship all year round. We need to keep and maintain our submission to Him and the tranquillity of our heart outside of Ramadan as well. How do we manage this?
Firstly refrain from arguments and fights. Keep controlling your tongue and eyes, which is how we practice taqwa. It is having control over your faculties. So we can after Ramadan maintain this, we can do our best to stretch it. As we were able to control our anger in Ramadan, as anything in life we become better by training,
We need to have fire in the belly to keep taqwa alive after Ramadan. We need to preserve and maintain our salah. There are people who only pray in Ramadan. That’s a start but it is good to keep praying now for the rest of the year. Many of us began to pray in jam’a congregation during the lockdown, so let’s keep that going.
Qiyam you can still do once a week. Before fajr wake up and pray two rakahs.
After Ramadan, we can also keep the momentum by fasting once a week. Its’ good for your health your spirit and heart. The prophet ( peace be upon him) says that siyam removes hatred from the heart.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
‘Shall I not tell you of that which will take away hatred from the heart?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Fasting for three days each month.’ (Nasa’i)
Thus fasting is a psychological remedy for the heart. If you have grudges against someone, fast and it will helps to take away the negativity towards them.
In Ramadan we increase giving in charity, but we can continue this outside of Ramadan, even if it is £5 or £2 or £1, be consistent and keep up this good habit.
And we have to keep reciting the Quran.
How did we get into the spirit of Ramadan in the first place? By attaching ourselves to the Quran. The Quran is not just for Ramadan. It is for all year. Allah Almighty said it is a Mubarak book and we have to ponder over its verses and apply them in our life.
A blessed Book that We sent down to you, that they may ponder its Verses, and for those with intelligence to take heed. (38:29)
We might not be able to recite the same amount as we did in Ramadan, but my advice to myself and everyone is to recite daily – even if it is a couple of pages, reflect on one lesson from one page or one line of what you read. For instance, you might focus on the word ‘rahma’ or kindness one day, and apply to your life, by showing more rahma to others. Or if you read the word ‘hardship’, try not to create hardship for anyone. Take one mission from the Quran a day.
The output of Ramadan – increase in gratitude and guidance
Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed. Guidance for humanity, and clear portents of guidance, and the Criterion. Whoever of you witnesses the month, shall fast it. But whoever is sick, or on a journey, then a number of other days. God desires ease for you, and does not desire hardship for you, that you may complete the number, and celebrate God for having guided you, so that you may be thankful. (2:185)
Taqwa is meant to be the outcome of Ramadan, along with showing gratitude and receiving guidance.
After siyam, we need to show gratitude that we were able to fast and to maintain our ibadah. Let’s keep the station of gratitude after Ramadan, by continuing to thank and praise Allah Almighty after Ramadan. Allah Almighty said:
Complete the days of Ramadan and proclaim takbir.
We proclaim takbir at Eid to show our gratitude. Gratitude is a key word. This is why we start our salah with alahamdulilah rabil alameen. Allah is telling us that we should be grateful.
Allah tells us to be thankful for guidance. We need His guidance when we make our choices and select various options. This is why in Surah Fatiha we ask for His guidance.
Be realistic and be consistent – Carry pebbles
Don’t try and do too many things. Rather the best deeds are the ones you can keep.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) was asked about the act most pleasing to Allah. He replied:
That which is done continuously, even if it is small.
Do not carry boulders, carry pebbles. Keeping a small good deed and repeating it consistently, will have a huge impact on you, on your heart and behaviour inshallah.
When you create a simple habit, you will be more likely to maintain it. When the Prophet (peace be on him) started something, he maintained it. And he recommended this to his companions. He told them to do the deeds they could handle without putting themselves in too much difficulty.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her reported:
The Prophet (ﷺ) came in when a woman was sitting beside me. He asked me, “Who is she?” I said: “She is the one whose performance of Salat (prayer) has become the talk of the town.” Addressing her, he (ﷺ) said, “(What is this!) You are required to take upon yourselves only what you can carry out easily. By Allah, Allah does not withhold His Mercy and forgiveness of you until you neglect and give up (good works). Allah likes the deeds best which a worshipper can carry out constantly.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
If you take too much load on your back, you won’t be able to carry it. It will inevitably fall. You may not be able to do 20 rakahs every night, but you can do 2 rakahs before Fajr every day.
We ask Allah to help us and enable us to worship him all the time in Ramadan and after Ramadan, and to grant us taqwa, gratitude and guidance at all times. Ameen.
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