Getting the Most Out of Ramadan
|Sheikh Salman al-Oadah|
The month of Ramadan provides us with a blessed chance to reap blessings and rewards. That is not all. It is also an excellent opportunity for us to strengthen and purify our character. The general spirit of Ramadan encourages us to live more wholesomely and better ourselves.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) tells us: "When the month of Ramadan arrives, the gates of Heaven are opened, the gates of hell are locked, and the devils are chained." [Sahîh Muslim (1079) and Sunan al-Tirmidhî (682)]
The reduced temptation to do wrong afforded to us by fasting and by the general atmosphere of Ramadan gives us a chance to show Allah our best potential. We should do what we can to maximize this potential.
Renew Your Relationship With the Qur'ân
To get ourselves in the proper frame of mind – and earn Allah's blessings as well – we should devote more of our time to the Qur'ân.
We should not only read it every day, but it is really important to reflect on what it is telling us, to ponder the lessons we can learn to improve our lives. The more we dwell upon the Qur'ân and its teachings, the better it will be for us, since Allah is speaking to us directly. The Qur'ân is a balm for our hearts, a restraint on our passions, and a cure for our doubts and misgivings.
Therefore, we need to read the Qur'ân with sincerity and concentration. We need to seriously meditate on its meanings. How sad it is for a person who does not benefit from his or her reading of the Qur'ân.
Allah says: "These are the communications of Allah which We recite to you with truth. In what speech will they possibly, believe if not in Allah and His communications?" [Sûrah al-Jâthiyah: 6]
Allah also says: "Do they see nothing in the dominion of the heavens and the Earth and all that Allah has created? (Do they not see) that it may well be that their terms are nigh drawing to an end? In what message after this will they then believe?" [Sûrah al-A`râf: 185]
The importance of reading the Qur'ân during this month is made all the clearer to us by the fact that the angel Gabriel used to review the Qur'ân in full with the Prophet (peace be upon him) every Ramadan. [Sahîh al-Bukharî (4998)]
Avoid Useless Behavior
During this month, we should be ever-vigilant to avoid behavior that can nullify or reduce the rewards and benefits of fasting. We should, for one thing, shun excess. This includes excess in food and drink. It also includes gossip and unnecessary speech.
We should also seek to minimize other unnecessary distractions, even when it comes to the company that we keep. This is why making a retreat to the mosques is especially recommended in the month of Ramadan. While we are in retreat (i`tikâf) we free ourselves from the worries and preoccupations of our daily lives.
Another way to develop ourselves in Ramadan is to cultivate our generosity in this month and overcome our selfish tendencies. In other words, we should increase our charity.
Ibn `Abbâs tells us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all people, but he was no more generous than he was in Ramadan. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1902) and Sahîh Muslim (2308)]
Be Well-Mannered and Patient
Cultivating good manners should another priority of ours. Good manners are the best companions that fasting person can have. Alas, too many people become estranged of their good manners when they are hungry. They become quick to anger and lash out at others with their otherwise un-preoccupied tongues.
Such behavior compromises the very purpose of the fast. Fasting is supposed to inculcate patience. Indeed, fasting is sometimes referred to as "patience".
Allah says: "Seek Allah's help in patience and prayer." [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 45]
Some commentators on this verse interpret "patience" here to mean "fasting" so the verse is telling us to seek help in fasting and prayer.
Likewise, Ramadan is described as the "Month of Patience" – and we know that the reward for patience is none other than Paradise. Allah says: "O my servants who believe! Fear your Lord. Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is Allah's earth. Only those who are patient will receive their reward without measure." [Sûrah al-Zumar: 10]
With patience, we can cope with our lives throughout the year. Without this noble quality, our lives will be frustrating and bitter. The month of Ramadan is the time to develop this most essential quality.
May Allah grant us success.