To begin, this is an article I’ve been writing, rewriting and reflecting upon since Ramadan (2017) but now we’re in the run up to Ramadan in just a few short months, it’s exactly 6 months away, I thought it would be an excellent time to self-evaluate what we hope to gain and achieve this Ramadan insha’Allah.
To say I had a poor Ramadan would be an understatement. A combination of sleep deprivation, a lack of water, stress, stretched workloads all the while feebly attempting to rekindle some sort of spiritual connection through salah (prayer) and sadaqah (voluntary charity), had made me feel like I didn’t entirely spend the holiest of months in the wisest of ways.
Having said that, it wasn’t until a recent revelation that I not only learnt more about myself but ultimately, the essence of Islamic principles. Whilst Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, recharging one’s imaan (faith) and refocusing our daily desires of materialism on our souls – the core focus of Ramadan centres all these beneficial bi-products around the act of fasting.
Why? Well, for numerous reasons. Whilst many have come to know fasting in Islam as abstaining from consuming food and drink, it is also the act of abstaining from using profanity (a personal struggle), lying, cheating, sexual contact, anger and abuse. All this in a bid to increase one’s taqwa (God consciousness). In removing one’s self from worldly pleasures and problems and channelling that energy in the remembrance of Allah through kind words, helping others, feeding those less fortunate, acts of ibadah (the list is endless), one can begin to shape their lifestyle around true Islamic principles.
Interestingly, a friend recently said to know one’s self, one must know God. This initially sounded kinda shirk-esque to me until I got to thinking…
As human beings we are divinely flawed. We will make mistakes. We will continue to make the same mistakes without truly extracting a lesson from it and truth be told, some of us may continue making the same mistakes out of hope that something might change, fear of the unknown or some other random error unaccounted for.
Regardless, Islam holds 99 different names for Allah each with their own “characteristic” illuminating Allah’s qualities. Whilst Allah is perfect and we, as mere mortals, are not (See above) it is important we understand the struggle for betterment. We may not be able to achieve it, but this reflective state of character auditing will ultimately help us in establishing not only fundamental Islamic principles, thus connecting us spiritually, but bettering our society as a whole.
Some of the 99 names of Allah include:
Ar Rahman (الرحمن) The Beneficent
Ar Raheem (الرحيم) The Most Merciful
Al Ghaffaar (الغفار) The Ever Forgiving
As Sabur (الصبور) The Patient
In attempting to emulate such characteristics, our pursuit in becoming more tolerant, more compassionate and more forgiving is likely to help the state of our souls and bring us closer to Allah.
Once again for the benefit of clarity, I want to reinforce – we are not Allah. We are incapable of being omnipresent, omnipotent and similar however, the pursuit in knowing God will allow us to better our own flaws and thus increase our taq’wah and actions.
The Power of Time:
In my opinion the bread and butter of Islamic actions, the notion of balance and moderation has never resonated so much as it does today. One could argue the shift in dichotomy has allowed for a growing void in Islam today, which only seems to be getting bigger. No matter how much we binge watch our fav Netflix shows, obsess over our gym gains or aimlessly waste our days away; unable to recall what the day’s events entailed exactly – a sense of accomplishment seems like a reach, only for us to then proclaim, “There’s always tomorrow”.
Only; tomorrow is promised to no man. A key hadith that emphasizes this is when the Prophet said:
”Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.”
(Narrated by Ibn Abbas in the Mustadrak of Hakim & Musnad Imam Ahmad. Sahih)
Ramadan is a key point of self-reflection and we should use it to evaluate whether we are investing our time wisely. Try to remember what you did yesterday, how much of that can you say helped you or someone else to develop or grow?
Balance is key:
Whilst admittedly it is difficult to keep up with the pace this dunya deals us, it’s important to recognise moderation is and should be at the core of everything we do as Muslims. Expectation is part of human nature. If I revise hard enough, I expect I’ll pass the exam. If I apply to a million and one jobs, someone is bound to say yes – and there’s nothing wrong with calculated expectation however, what happens when this isn’t the case? What happens when we obsess over something so much, we lose sight and neglect other, equally important aspects of our lives?
“You have a duty to your Lord, you have a duty to your body, and you have a duty to your family so give each one it’s rights.” Sahih Bukhari (1867)
The initial hadith in this section, exemplifies just that. There is a reason the Prophet SAW segmented our duties to our Lord, our bodies and our families – to highlight the importance of balance and indeed, in nurturing our bodies and our families, that too is an act of ibadah.
Similarly, this is supported reinforced:
أَنَّ الْوَسَطَ حَقِيقَةٌ فِي الْبُعْدِ عَنِ الطَّرَفَيْنِ وَلَا شَكَّ أَنَّ طَرَفَيِ الْإِفْرَاطِ وَالتَّفْرِيطِ رَدِيئَانِ فَالْمُتَوَسِّطُ فِي الْأَخْلَاقِ يَكُونُ بَعِيدًا عَنِ الطَّرَفَيْنِ فَكَانَ مُعْتَدِلًا فَاضِلًا
The justly balanced (wasat) is the furthest point between two extremes. There is no doubt that the two poles of excess and extravagance are destructive, so to be moderate in character is to be furthest from them, which is to be just and virtuous.
Source: al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr 2:143
Balance and moderation are a core focus in Islam and what I believe to be a forgotten sunnah. If we were to sit here and contemplate the amount of time we devout to unhealthy habits ranging from our relationship with food to friends to social media), it’s highly likely we’d be able to focus in on our unhealthy and, quite frankly, unislamic obsession with doing everything in extremes. It’s either all or nothing – and living like this not only entices unhealthy habits but poor mental health too, ultimately affecting our pursuit to contentment.
Which leads me to my ultimate lesson:
It is the combination of contentment and self-restraint which is truly a revolutionary act. Set out over 1400 years ago, Islam provides the ability to find contentment in whatever situation we find ourselves in. This, together with the teaching of self-restraint glorified in our holiest of month, is now something we, strive for – and we’re willing to pay thousands in the process for the pursuit of something that’s been a long standing Islamic practice.
Ibn al-Jawzi رحمه الله said:
“Understand that life has occasions. One time it is poverty, and another time it is wealth. Once it is honour, and another it is humiliation. Happy is he is who remains grounded in each situation.” [Sayd al-Khatir (pg.282)]
Contentment, much like imaan, is something that fluctuates and with that we may find ourselves in the perils of a bottomless pit. Sometimes it is difficult to see the bright side when the grass seems greener elsewhere. To that, I suggest a simple task:
Make a list of all the things you’re looking forward to in the coming month and a list of all the things you’re grateful for both at present and in the past. A visual representation of our achievements and the positives in our lives can really harness the power of shukar (thankfulness to Allah) and bring us back to the all-important taqw’ah we need to encircle in our day to day lives.
A constant pursuit of the truth is recognised and encouraged in Islam. It qualifies our rationale behind our actions and with that we must be able to decipher where we allocate our time and energy towards. Balance is a key path towards contentment, imaan and ultimately taq’wah and so this Ramadan I encourage you to take time to think about how you can modify your approach to life through balance.
As the Qur’an states:
“Ramadan is the (month) in which the Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind and a clear guidance and judgment (so that mankind will distinguish from right and wrong)..” (2:183)
Combination of contentment + self-restraint = revolutionary
Knowing God is knowing oneself – embodying those qualities however
a constant pursuit of truth is important – islamically and rationally.
Uneesa currently works in the realm of PR and has gained substantial experience in policy related to minority communities. When she isn't putting out corporate fires and finessing for a living, find her on @alluneesaknow where she discusses colourism, Arsenal and a deep love of Istanbul.