In the name of Allah, the Lord and Giver of Mercy.
I pray that Allah (SWT) provides me with the hikmah (wisdom) to communicate this, ameen. I think it’s timely that this post came after the previous post discussing ways to effectively spend our Ramadan this year.
Every Ramadan, we want to be better. Every year, we tell ourselves the same thing — “In shaa Allah, I am going to put x hours of my day to reading Qur’an. Every day I am going to watch an hour of Sheikh x’s lecture series on YouTube while taking notes.” And the list goes on, ma shaa Allah.We are going strong for like a day or two — next thing you know, laziness kicks in, and all we do is fast in food and drink then proceed to nap. Why is that?
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Jannah are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained. (Sahih Bukhari & Muslim)”
With the aforementioned hadith in mind, I have come to the realization that the devils being locked up during Ramadan hasn’t really hindered my tendency in shortcomings. What that reveals to me, and problem to us all is — rather than focusing on Shaytan’s absence, realize that the battle is not over — for it is our nafs (our desires) that needs to be locked up and contained.
I was taught by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda that man is composed of two entities — the nafs (our desires) and the ruh (our soul); the nafs is our animal-like side and the ruh is composed of divine light from Allah (SWT) which is similar to the angels. Depending on our habits and routines, these components of our being can overpower the other. Therefore, when you develop good habits and you dedicate yourself to self-improvement — you increase your ruh, which overpowers the nafs, which makes you more wary and in control of your behavior. Keep this in mind, if the nafs is more similar to the animal, who is not in much rational control of what it does — then realize that when we allow the nafs to be at the forefront, gradually, we will weaken our imaan to the point that we are basically submitting wholly to our desires. May Allah (SWT) protect us from this terrible mental condition, and keep us amongst the rightly guided, ameen.
So how does one go about eliminating the nafs this Ramadan? The “Proof of Islam” Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali says in the Introduction of his book, The Beginning of Guidance, which I highly recommend everyone reading — that the beginning of guidance is the outward reality of God-Consciousness (Taqwa), and the ending of guidance is the inward reality of God-Consciousness. He defines taqwa as “carrying out the commands of Allah Most High and turning away from that which He has forbidden.” To summarize and to put it simply, the way to purify your heart and minimize your nafs is to do two things — live a life of obedience and avoid a life of disobedience. How does one simply do that? Keep Allah (SWT) in constant remembrance. We must make time for worship and from morning to evening! However, worship is not simply the obligatory prayers. Worship comes in the form of a healthy diet, the usage of good speech, and dressing properly! When one is making their intention to follow the tradition of the Beloved of Allah (ﷺ) and pleasing Allah (SWT); acting upon that intention is worshiping Allah, the Most Merciful! To wrap this reflection and reminder up, I would like to provide three tips of advice bi idhinillah to us all based on previous personal advice from my mentors.
Before we get into the specifics, we must realize before even ASKING to be guided, before even WORKING towards improving ourselves — we have to ask Allah sincerely for His forgiveness regarding our shortcomings. We have to make the effort to clean our records with Allah (SWT) before we can ask Him for something. We need to humble ourselves and admit our flaws to our Most Merciful Lord. From there, we can continue on the path of self-improvement.
Well, I mean, it is the month where the Qur’an was revealed! Wissam Sharrief puts it beautifully by saying, “The Qur’an is Allah’s Love Letter to you.” Imagine an author writing a book, and this book is a gift of love to His reader? Well, that’s how we should value the Qur’an and its Most Merciful author! Try to learn Arabic and read the Qur’an in its pure, preserved form but also, if you’re not proficient in Arabic — read to understand by reading the Qur’an translation in the language you know best. For English speakers, a recommended text would be The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics)
Allah says in Suratul Hashr, Ayah 21:
“If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah . And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.”
Bone-chilling! Reflect on that.
Develop Noble Character
None of us are perfect, we all have something to work on — some more than others. Nevertheless, Allah (SWT) cares more about effort, because we all have different trials in our lives that make us who we are. But as Muslims, we have to work on attaining characteristics that pleasing to Allah (Azza Wa Jal). Some examples could be forgiving your fellow brother/sister of a debt they owe you; keeping touch with loved ones; being lenient and empathetic with people; giving charity; the list can go on.
To conclude, I sincerely pray that we all accomplish this goal of minimizing our nafs and empowering our ruh by purifying our hearts this upcoming Ramadan. Don’t let this Ramadan be like last Ramadan, blow last Ramadan out of the waters with this Ramadan! Tell yourself, “You thought last Ramadan was life-changing? Man, wait for this one in shaa Allah!”. Be strong, be patient and most importantly — understand that you will feel the struggle. So, be conscious of Allah the Most High, seek His guidance, and stay true to your commitment of being a better Muslim brother or sister. Change the world y’all.
And Allah Knows Best, and solely in Allah do we seek aid. JazakumAllahu Khairan.
(This article is a reflection inspired by Imam Al-Ghazali’s Bidayatul Hidaya, Qur’an Intensive 2014 by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda of Bayyinah Institute and last night’s “Towards A Nabawi Ramadan” lecture by Ustadh Nuh Saunders of the Imam Al-Ghazali Institute. If anything I said was good, indeed all praise is due to Allah, the Most Wise. If anything I said was wrong or offensive, indeed that is my own fault and I pray to Allah that I am amongst the forgiven, ameen.)