As I write this, the most precious moments of our lives are quickly passing by. The blessed days and nights of the holy month of Ramadhan that bring Muslims bounties of Allah, for our lives here on the earth and hereafter, are too short for the faithful. Before we know what, is what a whole ashrah (10 days) of the month is gone and only two ashrahs are left. The last one can be of even nine days.
When asked, the Prophet (PBUH) said a month (in lunar calendar) is of either 30 or 29 days. That means, at this moment we have only two-thirds or less of the holy month left, a month for which we have waited for 11 long months. Many of us in the global Ummah as well as among our acquaintances, colleagues, friends or relatives who were with us during the last Ramadhan are no longer there and have gone to Allah after completing their time on earth.
Lucky are those who have found this Ramadhan and got the opportunity to receive Allah’s Blessings and Bounties. In the two preceding months–Rajab and Shabaan–the Prophet used to pray to Allah: “Send your Barakah (Grace) on me in Rajab and Shabaan… and take me to Ramadhan.” Why did he (PBUH) pray to be brought to Ramadhan? Because he wanted to receive Allah’s Blessings and Bounties reserved for this month only. His Blessings and Bounties are there in every month, but this month is far more richer in them, and is endowed with a lot of rewards specific to this month.
When Allah mandated the Ramadhan fast, he announced it in the Quran that He had made a month of fasting in day time incumbent on the believers of Islam as He had done to the followers of earlier prophets (peace be on them). Why? “…so that you become tuttaqun (pious, fearing Allah).” It also required believers to abstain from loose talk, seeing or hearing fahash (lewd) things, as well as the obvious abstinence from food, drink and sex from dawn to dusk. The days and nights were to be spent mainly in prayers, except a part of the day or night in earning livelihood and eat and sleep.
Muslims, especially those close to Allah and the Prophet (PBUH) because of their piety, have always preferred concentrating their livelihood in months other than Ramadhan and doing less about livelihood in Ramadhan to be able to focus on prayers and supplications throughout the day and keeping vigil at night, spending several extra hours at night in Allah’s remembrance. Why? To become muttaqin (pious) as Allah said in the holy book. Allah loves the muttaqin.
“…so that you become tattaqun” Allah tells Muslims about the purpose of Ramadhan: its fasts, supplications, prayers and spending freely in the way of Allah. We must remember that becoming muttaqiin is a process, a process that the life-changing moments of the holy month accelerate. By the end of Ramadhan we are not the same we were before Ramadhan.
This is why Ramadhan is not like any other month. The daily schedule of a believer changes entirely in the month. He or she keeps awake and is busy in prayer through most of the night. In other months, a Muslim prays Maghrib (at sunset) and Isha (nearly two hours after sunset) and goes to sleep after dinner, only to get up before sunrise to offer Fajr prayers. In Ramadhan prayers continue after Isha (usually for a couple of hours). Followed by dinner, soon come the optional pre-dawn tahajjud prayers, followed by Fajr prayers before sunrise. Even throughout the day Muslims offer optional (nafl) prayers for longer and in more intense communion with Allah compared to the rest of the year. Thus goes the effort at becoming pious.
Along the way one learns compassion, the ability to empathise and identify with the hunger and thirst, needs and deprivations of others, making one a better human being, for we know the hunger and thirst of others when we are hungry and thirsty. We know the need of others when we are needy and the deprivation of others when we are deprived. The Prophet said, Ramadhan is the month of sharing others’ sorrows. Writer of an acclaimed seerah (biography) of the Prophet (PBUH), Karen Armstrong, says compassion is the crux of religion. We learn compassion and sharing all over again in this month.
The month-long intensive re-orientation helps refocus our cognition, rewires our minds, altering our attitudes, our perspectives, our priorities, redefining our life’s goal more clearly, making us muttaqin, people Allah loves. Among our conscious strategies for each moment of the holy month should be to look inward and identity our undesirable habits of thought and action and drop them one by one. Simultaneously, we should look for elements of piety that Allah has mercifully put in us, and strengthen them. We should keenly identify other pious traits and incorporate them in our character one by one. All this consistent effort will ultimately equip us with the traits of taqwa (piety) that would last through the rest of the year till again we find ourselves in Ramadhan to do it better so that our taqwa lasts as long as we live.
To conclude, by the time you get to read it, the first ashrah would have passed. This ashrah was of rahmat (Allah’s Mercy) and the second ashrah is that of maghfirat (Allah’s Pardon of our sins). Let us try hard to get maghfirat and pray to Allah for accepting our efforts. Before we know, the third and final ashrah, that is of redemption from hell, will be here. So, let us tighten our belts and make additional efforts to become muttaqin as Allah intends.