The problem with rituals is that we quite frequently get caught up in the form and forget the substance. We focus on the nuances and details of the rituals and forget the principles that they are supposed to embody. This is the danger any ritual faces especially one that is performed frequently. The details and correctness of the various aspects of the rituals become the priority and the higher purposes become a shadow. We worry a lot about the ‘how’ and forget the ‘why’. When this happens, the benefit of the ritual itself becomes lost and it does not produce its intended result.
That is why in Islam our intentions are so critical. The Prophetic saying: “Actions are but by intentions and every person will have (reward) based on their intention” [Muslim]. The intention is that special moment just before we do any ritual when we ask ourselves the big ‘why’. We reaffirm the higher purpose for the act that we are about to perform and keep this focus throughout the ritual itself. That is when the benefits are manifested.
It is the same with Ramadan. This annual ritual has so much to offer but we do injustice to it when we default to doing the same things Ramadan after Ramadan. Smokers stop lighting up for the month and then go right back to it again after ‘Eid.
Conscious believers fall into the same trap of praying, fasting etc for the month and then return to their routines again. This is what happens when we forget to understand the purpose of why we do things. Thus families will year after year follow an exact blueprint for their Ramadan. They will visit the same masjids, recite the same portions of Qur’an, mix and interact among the same set of people, pray the same number of rakaahs for taraweeh salaah and fast the same number of days etc.
Let’s renew our approach to Ramadan. It is a month in which we should produce greater actions that last throughout the year.
A study of the Prophetic Muhammad (peace be upon him) reveals to us that he wanted us to go beyond the ‘minimum’ standards required. He encouraged us to go beyond the ritual and seek out the higher purposes. He challenges us to test the limits of our capabilities and to discover our true strengths, greatness and capacity to serve Allah swt to our utmost. ‘No two days of a believer are alike’ was one advice given by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to motivate us to embrace this message. The rituals of Ramadan and acts of ibaadah come from the Creator of us all. He (Subahanah Wa Ta’ala) Knows us, our capacities and our nature. Allah designed these rituals to allow us to soar to the highest point of human accomplishment. This is the end goal – To give Ramadan our best.
So we must ask ourselves two simple questions as Ramadan visits us this year. How will this Ramadan be different and how will this Ramadan be special? The answer to these two very necessary questions will allow us to settle into the right mindset for the best ramadan yet. We will be forced to challenge ourselves and figure out how to gain more from Ramadan this year. Do not be shy about setting seemingly impossible goals but plan objective and realistic goals. This is the exact purpose and gift of Ramadan itself. It allows us to discover our inner power by testing our preconceived limitations and stretching them beyond our expectations. When we do this, Ramadan will have really changed us. We will emerge from it a stronger believer who is more self-assured with him/herself.
We will no longer be able to return to our old ways.
We will feel uncomfortable going back.
We will have begun a new journey.
This is what Ramadan is supposed to do for us. This is what Taqwa in motion really is all about. Ramadan provides the structure and framework to allow us to taste of Taqwa. Allah has out of His Mercy chained the devils, closed the doors of Hell and multiplied the reward for actions so shouldn’t we be ready to give it our best?
It is now our challenge to make this Ramadan productive, let’s set ourselves goals and plan how to achieve them:
- Do not let major projects in your life be done in Ramadan.
- This is the month for immersion and connection with Allah.
- This is your time to pray more, recite more of Qur’aan, give more of your money in charity, make new friends, visit new masjids, teach someone, read more, study more.
- In the last ten days of Ramadan, if you cannot make I’tikaaf, then at least try to stay in the masjid (or your homes for women) from Friday to Sunday.
“I’ll do whatever I can this ramadan” should be the motto! We understand that the essence of Ramadan is to do two things: seeking and changing. We seek Allah’s Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation from the fire in the three portions of the month. We change by pushing ourselves pass any limits we thought we had. By making this Ramadan different we would have also make it our best Ramadan yet.
About the Author
Naseeb Khan has been involved in helping both youths and adults for the past 30 years. He has conducted hundreds of motivational seminars and provided mentoring to troubled youths. He is a dynamic public speaker and uses this platform to help give others a new and unique perspective of life, their problems and hope. He is very active in many charities and takes joy in assisting the poor and needy.