Preparing for Ramadān:
Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed
6th May ’17 – Quwwat ul-Islam Masjid, London
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who believe, the fasts have been enjoined upon you as they were enjoined upon those before you, so that you may be God-fearing…for days, few in number [2.183-184]
For the past almost ten years, we are asked to give a talk regarding preparation for Ramadān – so I begin with the question, why do we need a talk to prepare? Do I have to give you a ‘preparing for ‘umrah’ talk, if you have been 4-5 times already? If we need to have a talk called ‘Preparing for Ramadān, it means that we are unprepared. There is a positive and negative side to this. Negative side is, why are we so unprepared? Maybe we might need to go over the fiqh rulings again, but besides that, we should know exactly what Ramadān is about. The positive side is that it shows us that we know there is a deeper understanding to Ramadān – it is not simply about fasting. We all know how to fast. We are fully prepared for that. The person who knows it is about لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ, then they will find themselves unprepared, because they will look in their heart, and realise I am far from taqwā. Maybe all year they struggled and failed, or failed to struggle, whatever it is, but now they realised in Sha’bān that they are lacking.
There are two major categories of human beings:
There is a huge leap and difference between the two. Another leap we can take is going from ghayr muttaqi (non-righteous) believer to a muttaqi (righteous) believer. It is going from non-righteous to pure, pious, chaste, upright, virtuous, Allāh swt remember, Allāh swt fearing, Allāh swt loving believer!
Whether you are studying at school, or madrasah, or university – or all of the above, you have an exam period. Ramadān is like a 1-month-exam-period for you. You have a paper every day. The goal is you graduate with taqwā. Are you the same person as you were in last year Sha’bān? If yes, then that means something went wrong last Ramadān So we need to figure out what to change this year.
If you look at yourselves this year, maybe you are stuck in some crush, some infatuation, and your mind is always dwelling on some boy. Maybe you will be bringing new additional problems in Ramadān. So some people will find themselves worst than last year Sha’bān, and some people will be at the exact same stage. However, some will also find themselves better this year round. For some of you, it should be the case that you find yourselves better than last year. But this might not happen for e.g. a woman who is taking part-time ‘ālimah course, she should be more prepared. She has one years more worth of knowledge of Qur’ān, of hadīth, of ta’līm, ta’allum, tadrīs! How many women see the difference of a year, and feel they are more prepared for Ramadān this year? If you are in this category, then ask yourself, are you more prepared? Let’s take some more of you – say you are a maktab teacher…one’s year worth of teaching Qur’ān should have a great effect on you. In one year, you can do a lot. It is a long time. A person can take a project so far within one year. You can build a building in one year; you can gain a promotion within a year. Every year, we should be better prepared for Ramadān.
Most of us won’t be on that level, but Allāh swt out of His Mercy sent us Ramadān. He has the hope that we will finally adopt taqwā once and for all. Why is fasting mandatory upon us? Hopefully so that we may adopt taqwā once and for all. It is not one last chance, it is one more chance.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who believe, the fasts have been enjoined upon you as they were enjoined upon those before you, so that you may adopt taqwā!
In this world, we might mess it up one time, then another time. But if somebody comes and has messed up ten times, we lose hope in them. Allāh swt isn’t like that. It means Allāh swt is as hopeful every Ramadān. It is His hope for us which comes in the features and mercies that come in Ramadān. This month of Ramadān has so much power, it can obliterate all of the laziness, sin and neglect, and can allow us to adopt taqwā. This is one way to make du’ā, even from now, and all throughout Ramadān too, especially suhūr and iftār that Allāh, grant me the taqwā You have hope in me attaining!
All of you know intention is in the heart, and it is only vocalised for them people who may be worried they won’t remember it in their heart, hence the ‘ulamā say we should vocalise it with our tongues. Just intention of fasting is sufficient, however you should go one step further. ‘Ya Allāh, I’m fasting and hoping to attain taqwā like You have hope in me.’ When a person sacrifices an animal, and they say Bismillāhi, Allāhu Akbar, and they take a knife at the point to sever its carotid artery – at this specific moment when the rūh of the animal is taken, that sacrifice is offered to Allāh swt. Just like that, that first sip of zam zam, or that first bite in the date is you offering and presenting that fast to Allāh swt. Your niyyah, du’ā, your talab, all of it should be what:
so that you may adopt taqwā
that Allāh, I’m ending this fast, sending this fast, and completing and presenting his fast for only one reason, and that is that You have hope that I will have taqwā so I have hope in Your hope to make me a mu’minah naqiyya taqiyya woman.
You should be willing to change everything and anything in your life for taqwā. That is your preparation for Ramadān. You can’t fool Allāh subhānahu wa ta’ālā. You can fool everyone, except two – Allāh subhānahu wa ta’ālā and yourself. If you have an intention to leave sin for one month, to come back to it later, then as long as you have a drop of faith in your heart deep in your heart, that one drop of faith will know it’s a joke if you think you will temporarily suspend something in ramadan to go back to it.
For e.g. texting a ghayr mahram ‘Salamz, dua mai yaad. We will talk after Ramadān’ – that is not taqwā; that is deception. Your heart knows it also. If you leave talking to boy for Ramadān, can’t you leave him for Allāh swt? This happens to all ages – from 12 to 60 years old. If you knew what I knew, some of you would literally faint right now. The way to prepare for Ramadān is that you want to leave all sin, all nifāq! If there is anything that you think you are not going to change, then you are not prepared for Ramadān.
Nabī saw said, “Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst…”
If your intention was to leave sin temporary, then be prepared to only get that. ‘Nothing’ means no taqwā. You will be fasting long fasts here in UK – imagine so much hunger and thirst. The only real way to prepare for Ramadān is to want taqwā. That is how you have to spend Ramadān. Every sin a person does, they do it either for pleasure, or some sort of happiness. When someone sees some benefit or advantage, they take it. If you spend Ramadān to try and change your heart, your mind and outlook, that is called taqwā. ‘For me, from now on, all pleasure, all khayr and happiness comes only from Allāh swt. I want to become such a person’ – that is called taqwā. We get happy with things Allāh swt won’t be happy with. We get happy sleeping through fajr, but Allāh swt doesnt get happy by that. Rivalry, competition and jealousy between sister in laws, between maktab teachers – you think this is nafa’?
Taqwā means all my happiness, joy, delight etc can only be lillāh fillāh. I can only be happy with what Allāh swt is happy with. That is called taqwā.
If I say fear Allāh swt, for most of us, that is too ‘abstract’. You walk away, and you don’t know what you should do differently to fear Allāh swt. I’m showing you a different way to look at taqwā. All your pleasures, happiness and khayr for Allāh swt. They all have to be pleasing to Allāh swt. That is how we change. Look in your life, your lifestyle, your heart – analyse. Are there things Allāh swt wouldn’t be happy with? Then you have to let go and sacrifice that. Giving that up is called taqwā.
‘We can’t fool ourselves’ – sinning doesn’t make us happy. It makes your nafs happy, but makes your rūh unhappy. It makes your qalb unhappy. Anything that you think makes you happy, if it’s something Allāh is happy with, then that happiness will go deep to your qalb. If it is something which you think makes you happy, but Allāh swt isn’t happy with, then the happiness goes to your nafs and ‘aqal, not to your soul and heart.
If Allah isn’t happy, your qalb is sad. This is one of the main reasons to depression. The outward manifestation of your qalb/rūh being sad is depression, apathy etc. Before when people were depressed, they would stare out of the window. Now, instead of looking out of the window, we look at a screen. “I can surf on amazon, and look at all types of clothes and 20 different sites for microwaves” Before people would stare out of the window. We call that vegetative state – you just want to go blank. You want to spend hours and hours doing nothing, and you want to do it everyday. Shaytān inspired or let’s say, he whispered into the minds of some human being to put certain things on the internet which is much bigger a fitna than looking out of the window.
Taqwā means you prefer your rūh and qalb over your nafs and ‘aqal. Start living your life for your rūh and qalb. For that person who prays, fasts, and fulfils all farāidh and wājibāt, Allāh swt will boost her spiritual soul, her rūh, and will boost her spiritual heart, her qalb.
When she fasts, her rūh becomes strong. When she does dhikr, when she prays Qur’ān, when she teaches, when she does da’wah, whenever she does any good deed, all of the nūr and barakah goes to her heart. One month she will get to live the life of a muttaqi woman. One month experience to live a life as a muttaqi woman!
الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ
‘Those who believe in the Unseen…’[2:3]
In Ramadān, Allāh swt makes certain aspects of the unseen, seen in the sense that, me and you should already be willing to sacrifice any and everything unlawful thing for taqwā. After that sacrifice, we will believe Allāh swt will give us a blessed, pure, chaste life which is known as the life of taqwā! Ramadān is a free sample to experience what it means to live a life of taqwā. That person should be so strong after that month, now they should have internalised taqwā, so they no longer need the fasts to remain on taqwā. Ramadān isn’t just a countdown. The end of Ramadān is the beginning of taqwā..
You start Ramadān that I’m too weak for taqwā. After fasting for 29-30 days, you adopted taqwā consciously, and now at the end of Ramadān, you’ve internalised this taqwā, so now you don’t need the fasts anymore to have taqwā. Everything else was meant to be the same after taqwā. However, for us, our taqwā was dependent on fasting, and most will let it go; we will return to life of ‘aqal and nafs after Ramadān.
Then 10 months pass, and we come to a new Sha’bān, and think how can we prepare differently now. ‘Month of fasting’ is for children. We are mature adults, we should want mature taqwā. When kids cross 12 and 16, they just want to be 18-22. Thee world is a place of deception; they want to be a mature adult in terms of society, and other roles, but they don’t want to be a mature adult when it comes to taqwā, when it comes to qalb, when it comes to rūh. I have met men in their 20s and 30s, but they act like teenagers when it comes to qalb and rūh. We want to be adult in every aspect of life, except when it comes to dīn. We remain children when it comes to taqwā etc.
Some of you have children, and you want your children to be better than you in terms of dīn. The more you change as a mother, and the more the husband changes as a father – one parent can pull it off, but its a better chance with both parents – then you can raise your children into spiritual adults. If a parent is immature spiritually, then how can you raise children who are mature spiritually? Allāh can use you as a sabab and means to bring more taqwā into the lives of your children, or your nephews/nieces or your students in maktab.
Anything that the fuqahā and ‘ulamā discuss from the aspect of dīn is offered to you in Ramadān. So another way to prepare is that one should have niyyah that you want all of dīn. It is not about fasting and tarāwīh only, but actually, they both should be launching pads to get all the rest of dīn! It can happen. If you want it, that will make it happen. If you don’t aspire for it, it won’t happen.
Some of you might think, I’ll be lucky if i even get my husband to pray tarāwīh. I know for some women, in difficult situations, this might be hard to believe, but I’m telling you honestly from the bottom of my heart that, however little your husband does, it will not hold you back in any way. You still have to do as much as you can. You can tell me all sorts of rational things that we are already poles apart, and this will just increase the gap. It doesn’t matter, keep going, keep going. Allāh swt help will descend in this situation, whether it’s even after 20 years.
If there is a family issue due to anger/betrayal/loyalty, the family have to fix. However if there is a problem where one spouse is more on dīn than the other, then the way to fix it is NOT for the one more on dīn to slow down. They should do shukr and value what they have in din, and they should keep going. Allāh swt will fix the gap. Yes, you have to play a role in that. The spouse should not feel they are becoming more distant from you – you still have to be a good daughter, good wife etc, you should not change your huqūq ul-‘ibād. It doesn’t matter – you keep doing what you do.
Many women work in customer services, and they are trained to be nice to someone even if they are rude to you! This is their duty and identity; they have to be nice, courteous, smiling no matter what the customer is like. Similarly, in terms of how we behave, we have to try our best to be the wife that like Hadrat Khadījah and Hadrat ‘Ā;isha radiyaAllahu ta’āla anhumā, whether your husband is the closest thing to Rasūlullāh ﷺ alive, or to Fir’awn alive! You have to be the best daughter to your parents, whether your father is like how Rasūlullah ﷺ was to Hadrat Fātimah or not. You have to still be like Fātimah radiyaAllahu ta’āla ‘anhā. Your istiqāmah on that, of not backing down, that is what attracts Allāhs secret unknown, unseen help, benefaction and mercy. This could take years. You may have to spend 10 years being a wife like Hadrat Khadījah to someone like Fir’awn. Perfect example is none other than the wife of Fir’awn herself – Hadrat Āsiya radiyaAllahu ta’āla ‘anhā! Allāh swt promised her a palace in Jannat ul-Firdaws, next to Nabī ﷺ. Different muhaddithīn have said even more things! This is another thing for you to reflect on. You as an individual – and Ramadān is a lot about developing yourself – you have to be the person Allāh swt wants you to be in every single role, capacity, function and identity of your life, irrespective of what is going on around you.
You have to be true, even if others are untrue.
You have to be loyal, even if others are disloyal.
You have to be chaste, even if others are unchaste.
I know that is hard for some people. The only way to save yourself from depression and emotional collapse, from crippling sadness is by being true to what Allāh swt wants you to be. That is what can save and protect you from your own downfall. If you become untrue, cos they are untrue; if you become unchaste cos they are unchaste, you will be in double loss. This is what is meant by ‘sabr’ istiqāmah, perseverance, endurance, steadfastness. It is a major aspect of taqwā. This is also something to make du’a for in ramadan.
If you want to be true, and make du’a for this, Allāh swt will give you that strength, hope and himmah. He will give you that focus. He will let you live for 29-30 days with that yaqin and tawakkul, with that dependence, then again ramadān will end, but that yaqīn and tawakkul will stay, just like that taqwā is supposed to stay.
Istiqāmah and Qubuliyya: Don’t just make goals of what you want to achieve in Ramadān itself, but make goals for what you want to take from this month, and use to accomplish in your whole life. These are the du’ās you should be making!
May Allāh swt accept this from us. May each and every single member of the ummah get the nūr of Ramadān so that we can become from amongst the muttaqīn.