There is a certain magic during the month of Ramadhan, wouldn’t you agree? The nights seem peaceful, the days seem better-spent, the food we consume tastes better, and the people around us seem more well-mannered. And that’s just to name a few.
But why do we only experience this once a year? Wouldn’t we want this feeling of bliss to last all year round?
And we could. For the serenity we feel during Ramadhan is not simply one of God’s miracles, it is also a testament to the change we automatically make when the holy month arrives.
The positivity we experience can, in fact, be emulated anywhere at anytime – not only during Ramadhan – as long as we consistently internalize the positive changes for the rest of the days.
The first thing we associate with Ramadhan is fasting. Fasting, as we know, helps in a myriad of ways – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Fasting helps to cleanse the body, and the mindset we are in while fasting helps to cleanse us spiritually as well. But why stop fasting the rest of the 11 months, only to begin in on the first day of Ramadhan? There are many benefits to fasting, so why not harness them a little more?
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “Whoever fasts one day for Allah’s sake, Allah will keep his face seventy years’ distance away from the Fire because of it.” (Reported by Muslim)
Of course, it is not recommended to fast every single day for an entire year. That would be somewhat of a shock to your body as well; especially if you’re only used to fasting for a month. Instead, we can take baby steps to achieving the goal of the voluntary fast.
“The White Days do exist in every lunar month (namely, the 13th, 14th, and 15th of each Hijri month). Muslims are highly recommended to fast on these three days each month. Ibn `Abbas said, “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would habitually fast on the White Days, whether he was resident or on a journey.”
None of you should fast on Friday, unless he [or she] fasts on either one day before it or one day after it” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).”
One could start slowly, by fasting perhaps a day a week, or if you feel up to it, on the recommended days as stated above – three times a month. This would take practice and even more discipline than fasting in Ramadhan as those around you may not be sharing your activity, but baby steps is the way to go.
Should you miss the obligatory fast during Ramadhan, you can also make up for it in the month right after it – Shawwal.
“Ayyub (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days from Shawwal it is as if they fasted the entire year.” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah; Ahmad transmitted it from Jabir, Muntaqa]
Thawban (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “Whoever fasts Ramadan, and then six days after Eid, it is [like fasting] an entire year. Whoever does a good deed shall have ten times its reward.” [Ibn Majah, Muntaqa]”
‘Like fasting an entire year’ – all for fasting an extra six days during Shawwal. Masyaallah.
Fasting isn’t the only way to get into God’s good graces, and to re-invoke within you the spirit of Ramadhan – there are many other things that we regrettably only do once a year as well.
In a nutshell:
Caring for Orphans
And I’m sure I’m only scraping the top here.
What is the point of turning into angels only during Ramadhan? If the points stated above are a worthy cause that you feel you should participate in more regularly, then you should make the conscious effort to bring it out of Ramadhan as well.
Many of us are guilty of doing something good of a great magnitude only once a year – granted, it is better than not having done any good at all, but it is best to keep doing it more than once, definitely.
In fact, consistency is one of the traits of a good Muslim.
“The most beloved of deeds to Allah are the most consistent of them, even if they are few”
(Al-Bukhari no. 6464 and Muslim no. 2818).
But consistency cannot be achieved overnight. It starts with creating a habit, then sticking with it. Do what you think works best for you – a timetable, a notebook – some sort of schedule. Make it a point to do something once a month – or if it’s too much, once every two months, etc. Work your way up slowly, but at your own pace.
If you feel that you are unable to discipline yourself, join a group that serves to help others, as most of them require a certain number of hours for you to clock in every month. This way, you will be forced to commit and eventually reach the personal goal of doing good outside Ramadhan.
And let’s not only concentrate on the good we do during Ramadhan; if you feel that you are unable to consistently carry on the habits that surface during this month, then concentrate on the ones that we already have. Specifically, the bad habits.
Ask yourself: What are my bad habits? Create a list, or ask around (the best place to start would probably be your family, or someone you live with) and make note of it. Most of us would probably already know our bad habits, as we consciously or subconsciously suppress them during Ramadhan, to make way for the good.
Then work on annihilating them. Slowly, of course. Destruction of a habit can take as much time (or longer) than the creation of one. For example, if you feel that you tend to gossip, find ways to restrain yourself.
Most of the times, the easiest way to get rid of a habit is to replace it with another. The moment you feel tempted to gossip; do something else. Anything (as long as its’ healthy). Plug in your earphones, read a book. Eventually you’ll find the need to gossip dissipating as time goes on, and in years to come you’ll forget it entirely.
Habits are a strange thing, born out of rituals that we diligently stick to. Our minds automatically switch to “Ramadhan mode” in this month because we’re so used to behaving ourselves extra well this time every year. We have come to associate the act of fasting with the best image of ourselves possible – but why can’t we try to bring it out even when we are not?
Habits can make or break a man – and it is evident in every aspect of life – whether we pray our 5 prayers daily, whether we come on time for appointments, whether we eat supper every night, etc. This month is not only to remind us that we should be and do good, it serves as a push for us to continue being that for the rest of our lives.
This then begs the question: Ramadhan 2013 is ending.