Ramadan brings an annual tidal wave of optimism that sweeps everyone up with positive momentum and gives a spiritual boost for the year to come. The special quality of this holy month is that most Muslims reach a higher level of iman (faith) and ‘amal (deeds) during these blessed days than the rest of the year.
It takes resolve, sacrifice, commitment, patience, perseverance and oodles of hard work to shun the embedded evil and replace it with good, inside and outside one’s self. Ramadan also gives us an ambience and a productive environment that encourages collective and individual goodness to flourish.
Therefore, it is quite natural for anyone who has advanced in their spiritual journey during Ramadan to feel apprehensive about falling back into their old naïve ways when they realise that after the end of this sacred month they will be left on their own once again to confront the twin enemies, their nafs and Shaitan.
The worst feeling surfaces towards the end of the holy month when one is struck with the regretful realisation that Ramadan is almost over and one has not achieved anything substantial during this time. This sometimes leads to feelings of anguish, grief and abandonment accompanied by the dreaded dilemma of not wanting to be a victim of Shaitan even when he uses our nafs as bait.
I, like most Muslims, have been experiencing this predicament. My apprehensive questions all through Ramadan have been, what can I do to avoid getting back to square one? How can I elude the deliberate undoing of my hard work? What would help continue this journey towards self purification without me having to cope up with the lingering fear of taking a U-Turn?
I started pondering and scrutinizing why Ramadan had such an intense lasting impact on a determined soul. How can some people still retain the benefits of their worship and be carried through the year until the next Ramadan?
I understood that there was more to it than just ritualistic progress as the change had to come from deep within. It had to have a penetrating impression accompanied by a more profound approach to sooth the aching heart and the craving soul. I knew that I wanted the Ramadan feeling to stay.
I realised that the post Ramadan syndrome occurs when we unsuccessfully incorporate the ambitious Ramadan plan into our regular routine. Those who are able to successfully implement it into their schedule get the desired spiritual boost but the ones who are unable to observe a regular ritual routine when the initial Ramadan fizz subsides, are often left disappointed and disillusioned.
I recognized that the way to retain the Ramadan spirit is to keep striving to assimilate spirituality within the daily rituals and to try and practice them with ihsan (utmost good) even after the blessed month is over. Obviously, easier said than done but then that is why each good deed has magnified rewards attached to it, in or outside Ramadan, to encourage us to improve. Personally, I have settled for a realistic goal that I hope will help me stay connected and will scoop me up whenever I slip down the learning curve of life, inshaAllah.
It is reported, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, that a Bedouin came to the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihi wasallam) and said, ‘Messenger of Allah, direct me to a deed by which I may be entitled to enter Paradise.’ Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) remarked, ‘You worship Allah and never associate anything with Him, establish the obligatory prayer, and pay the Zakat which is incumbent upon you, and observe the fast of Ramadan.’ He (the Bedouin) said, ‘By Him in Whose hand is my life, I will never add anything to it, nor will I diminish anything from it.’ When he (the Bedouin) turned his back, the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) said, ‘He who is pleased to see a man from the dwellers of Paradise should catch a glimpse of him.’
One of the radical things that the above hadith teaches us is that we can hope to attain the pleasure of our Ever Appreciative Rabbulizzat when we intend to sincerely focus on the fundamentals of our deen in all the aspects of our life. Just the fundamental structure of Islam is so stable that abiding by the basics will help us revive and retain our spiritual glimmer, if we are steady in observing them.
Having said this, I am neither attempting to discourage transcendental advancement, nor am I belittling the need to improve ritualistically. Instead, I am emphasising the fact that in order for us to grow in faith and deeds, both spiritually and ritualistically we need to work on improving our basics first by steadily and intentionally concentrating on developing them and then gradually building on them.
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has blessed us with a sound intellect and requires us to worship Him using this intellect and obey Him willingly and consciously. How can we hope to cultivate an honest love and sincere ibadah (worship) based on emotional fluctuations and mood swings? In order for a relationship with Allah to be mature, consistent and lasting it requires an established approach towards life, a steady progress towards His obedience, an ardent desire to acquire His ma’arifaa (deep recognition), a constant and positive reinforcement to please Him, patience and perseverance while facing hardship on this path as well as regular reminders about the bliss that awaits a sincere believer while striving to be one. All that and more can only be acquired by establishing a regular bond with the truly divine knowledge; the Glorious Quran and Noble Sunnah.
Despite this realisation and understanding I bid farewell to my friend, the holy month of Ramadan with a heavy heart. I was distressed because I wasn’t sure if I would ever see it again, I had not tried hard enough and my deeds were lacking like always. Ramadan left swiftly, like a heap of dry sand would slip from my hands. As we say, all good things except Jannah must come to an end and so did Ramadan.
However, my Ever Living and Ever Loving Rabb took care of my sore heart like He always does, in a way that none other can. What a blessing His reassuring verses motivate striving lives despite the temporary impediments. His consoling Blessed Words bring solace to burdened hearts and His Mercy and Compassion envelope cringing souls.
A voice within the depths of my heart whispered, ‘You will not be left alone nor will you be forsaken. He will lead you to His Path, He will illuminate His Path for you, He will facilitate you to walk the Path, you will be taken care of through the journey and He will guide you to your desired destination. All you need to do is sincerely intend to strive towards Him with tawakkal (complete trust) in Him alone.’
And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.