The blessed month of Ramadan disciplines and reforms the lives of many Muslims every year. However, the change usually lasts only a month; once Ramadan is over, most of us revert to our pre-Ramadan ways, becoming casual about sins, hasty in our actions, unmindful of our behaviour, and neglectful of the remembrance of Allah. This is unfortunate since Ramadan prepares us to abide by the guidelines set by Allah all year long. Let us consider how the spirit of Ramadan may be revived in other months, and what beneficial deeds can be carried forward to Shawwal and beyond.
Remembrance of Allah
We engage in worship more than usual during Ramadan, offering the Tarawih prayer and remembering Allah much, especially during the last ten nights. Ramadan can hence be taken as a starting point to develop meaningful communication with Allah, remembering Him frequently and with full sincerity and concentration, rather than just “going through the motions” of worship. Dua is an effective means to seek closeness to Allah, and if one makes it a habit to beseech and call on Him regularly, then the connection with the Creator cannot be lost for long.
“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” (Qur’an 2:152)
The Book of Allah
Many of us try to finish the Qur’an at least once during Ramadan in search of reward and blessings. We must make it a habit to read the Qur’an daily even after Ramadan, no matter how busy the days become. Reading a few ayaat of the Qur’an every day is far better than reading a large portion once in a while. Moreover, the Qur’an should be read with understanding – with translation by those who do not know Arabic, and, if possible, with a good tafsir (explanation). The Prophet ﷺ said, “Anyone who reads [i.e. completes] the Qur’an in less than three days has understood nothing.” (Tirmidhi) This hadith conveys two important points: firstly, quality is preferred over quantity in matters of worship, so the Qur’an should be recited slowly and articulately, rather than engaging in a race to finish it the quickest; secondly, the whole point of reading the Qur’an is to understand it and then implement it in our lives.
“Allah makes clear to you the signs that you might give thought.” (2:219)
The spirit of sharing is heightened during Ramadan. We are more charitable and many people distribute their Zakat among the poor in this month. Charity must not be specific to Ramadan, however, because it is more than something that is desirable only; charity is a principle that governs the life of a Muslim. Giving in charity is one of the most emphasized obligations in the Qur’an, and Allah curses those who count up their wealth while denying the poor their share. Giving to the needy is equivalent to giving a loan to Allah which He has promised to return many times over either in the hereafter or in both the worlds.
“Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” (3:92)
Guarding one’s Speech
We take special care during Ramadan to try to avoid falsehood, uttering lies, abusing and cursing, and backbiting, among other moral evils, for fear that our fasts may be invalidated if we indulge in any of these. It is important to make a conscious effort to avoid such habits even beyond Ramadan. We are aware that Allah has likened backbiting to eating the flesh of one’s dead brother or sister, while the Prophet ﷺ has clearly stated that lying takes a person towards Hell. We must be on our guard with regard to our speech at all times because one can casually utter something that greatly displeases Allah or which is a cause of regret for oneself. The Prophet ﷺ said, “The best among you are the best in character.” (Bukhari) And, “I was sent to perfect good character.” (Muwatta)
Voluntary fasting is a highly meritorious act of worship, and one which we often overlook. It is a desirable habit to fast voluntarily to seek closeness to Allah. The Prophet ﷺ has recommended fasting three days each month, such as the 13th, 14th, and 15th days of the month. The Prophet ﷺ often used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. Fasting enables one to control one’s desires, experience the plight of the needy, and endure difficulties and deprivation. It thus makes one want to help the less fortunate and to reach out to those in difficulty. Fasting is particularly effective in preserving one’s modesty as the Prophet ﷺ said, “O young men, whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, and whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for that will be a shield for him [against obscenities].” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Seeking and disseminating knowledge is the responsibility of every Muslim, and Ramadan can be a convenient starting point for this noble purpose. One can take some time out, on a daily or weekly basis, to share Qur’anic ayaat and the Prophet’s ﷺ sayings with one’s family, friends, and co-workers, and then extend this practice beyond Ramadan. It is highly desirable to jointly ponder over Allah’s Word, and exhort one another to the path ordained by Him. The same can be achieved by going to an Islamic center or a mosque that serves this purpose. The Prophet ﷺ endorsed the merit of sharing one’s knowledge as follows, “Allah and His angels and the creatures of heavens and earth – even the ant in its dwelling and the fish in the sea – send blessings to the one who teaches people beneficial knowledge.” (Tirmidhi)