Every year, Muslims experience a unique excitement and jubilation as Ramadan approaches. Homes are cleaned, groceries are stocked, children are prepped – but, above all, many resolutions are made.
A time for spiritual nourishment and self-introspection, Ramadan heralds a classic opportunity to draw closer to God, and to bask in the many blessings that accompany the month. Commitments ranging from the recitation and study of Quran to increased charity to nightly attendance of additional prayers are commonly made to reap the rewards of the fasting month.
To this effect, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, once said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a person observing fast is better with God than the smell of musk. (God says about the fasting person), ‘He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.’”
Further, with Satan chained and the gates of heaven thrown open, the race for good deeds begins in all earnest every Ramadan. Yet, as people dive into the anxiously awaited month of spiritual gains, they realize that it comes with its own set of challenges. Indeed, just as the everyday test of Muslims is to practice Islam while living in the world, this annual retreat-of-sorts is all about maximizing spirituality while juggling the demands of daily lives.
So, along with the fasting and all the plans, chores have to be taken care of, work must be attended to, and children’s needs have to be fulfilled. In order to avoid frustration due to neglecting one’s Ramadan goals or hardship caused by abandoning certain tasks and routines, a happy medium must be strived for. Striking this balance will not always be easy since it entails rescheduled days, little sleep, and a shift in priorities.
However, the results far outweigh the struggle, a feeling of contentment that the very best effort was made to capture the true essence of Ramadan: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become pious.” (2:183)
Striving for a Pure Heart
When the month of Ramadan comes near, I pray for a pure heart so that I am able to fill every moment with supplication.
Even though I cannot set any bigger goals at this stage of my life, I do think about what small things I can do to gain more rewards and to reduce my mistakes. I plan ahead about the chores that can be completed or put away before the beginning of Ramadan. I also outline in my mind how to schedule my day to follow the routine, so that I have more time for worship.
If there is any Quran study program going on, I try my best to attend. I keep my small Quran in my purse and read whenever I get time, either waiting outside the school to pickup my kids or during the wait for an appointment.
Right now, I keep it very simple. That’s why I pray for a pure heart and try to remember God and ask for His forgiveness during and between my daily chores, so that they become part of worship.
Sehr Fareed, of the San Francisco Bay Area
Ramadan should be a time for striving for nearness to God’s creatures as well: How about calling an estranged relative or a friend one has lost touch with? Ramadan should also be a time when we make special efforts to reach out to our non-Muslim neighbors through our generosity.
-Musaddique Thange, San Diego, Calif.
Ramadan is a good time to forge stronger ties with your mosque and the Muslim community. It is also a good idea to try to visit at least one other mosque in the area to possibly learn their way of organization and approach to providing services to their community.
-Umar Ilyas, Plainsboro, N.J.
Consumption of caffeine is high in normal work days. Many people are apprehensive in the early days of Ramadan about not being able to have tea or coffee. I have experienced that it is quite dependent upon one’s mind and thoughts. If you prepare yourself ahead of time for it, then it becomes as simple as throwing a switch on the first day.
-Arshad Syed, of Richardson, T.X.
For Abdullah Alvarez, Ramadan is a time of intense focus on Islam. He tries to spend as much time at the mosque as possible, reciting Quran and attending any study circle.
Just as a balance must be maintained between the demands of our daily routines and our Ramadan resolutions, a conscious effort should be made to establish a similar symmetry with reference to our consumption of food and socialization during Ramadan.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan at college can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. Juggling school work and exams along with personal goals and extra worship might be both stressful and frustrating at times. Yet, the ambience created by the presence of fellow Muslims becomes both heartening and spiritually uplifting.