Ramadan is a month of discipline, self-control, patience, and good behavior. In Ramadan, Muslims are expected to gain the fruits of fasting, namely, piety and consciousness of Allah. In this context, Allah Most High says in the Glorious Qur’an: “O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Ramadan is the most blessed month in the Islamic calendar. It is primarily a spiritual training course intended to help us cultivate essential virtues and skills in order to lead a meaningful life. Most often we live at a very superficial level of our existence, forgetting our true essence and identity as human beings.
In other words, we become totally preoccupied with the physical and material dimensions, forgetting the spiritual core of our personalities. Ramadan, therefore, comes to remind us of who we truly are and how we can discipline ourselves in such a way that we are fully awake to our full spiritual potential.
In order to benefit from the blessed month of Ramadan and its spiritual regimen, I suggest that we focus on the following:
Welcome Ramadan with great fervor and spirit and expect to come out of it fully transformed in body, mind, and soul.
Perform all of the acts of worship while being fully awake to their inner dimensions and meanings. Most often we allow ourselves to go through these rituals as mere mechanical chores with the result that we gain virtually no benefit from them either spiritually or morally.
Let your fasting be a fasting of body, mind, and soul.
Imam Ghazali once pointed out that a vast majority of people fast only for namesake. For while staying away from food, drink, and sexual gratifications, their minds, eyes, ears, tongue, and other faculties feast on haram (unlawful matters). Therefore, in order to gain any true benefit from our fasts, we need to impose a total self-restraint upon all our faculties and stay away from all sinful and idle thoughts, words, and actions, and nurture the thought and remembrance of Allah.
Ramadan is not merely a month of fasting; it is rather a season to cultivate all sorts of virtues and good habits. It is the perfect opportunity to break free of all negative habits that have been holding us back from achieving the true happiness and perfection that is ours as a birthright.
So seize the opportunity and focus on achieving real goals to make it a true life-changing and life-enhancing experience.
Ramadan is the month of empathy and generosity. In fact, one of the main purposes of fasting is to instill in us empathy for the poor and the less deprived. By exposing us to compulsory hunger, we are given a practical lesson in hunger and thirst and thus we become better motivated to empathize with the poor. Hence we are ordered to practice the optimum level of charity in the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the time to familiarize ourselves with the Qur’an, the true source of guidance, illumination, healing, and mercy-Allah’s perfect gift to humanity. We can only do justice to the Book when we go beyond merely chanting and memorizing it to reflecting and meditating upon the Revealed Word and respond to it in true spirit by acting upon its teachings.
One of the main purposes of all of the acts of worship in Islam is to cultivate in us a true sense of community and spirit of fellow humanity. Therefore, it is imperative that our compassionate words and acts be extended not only towards ourselves but also towards all of Allah’s creation.
Have you noticed that each year, Ramadan goes by faster and faster?
This blessed month can’t be left to become a blur in our memories. It has to be more than that time of the year we squeeze in fasting amongst the other things we do daily.
One way to make the most of Ramadan is to plan beforehand. Here are ten reasons why you should plan for Ramadan:
Reason #1: To be in “Ramadan mode”
By planning for Ramadan before it arrives, you put your mind in “Ramadan mode”. If you plan, you will mentally prepare for it, and it will force you to see it as the special month it is outside of your regular routine the rest of the year.
Reason #2: To adjust your schedule
By planning in advance, you can adjust your work, sleep and meal schedules in such a way as to make time for Suhoor, Iftar, etc. That means, for instance, that if you normally go to bed at midnight, in Ramadan you would sleep earlier in order to get up early for Suhoor. Or if you usually study late, you can instead sleep earlier and start studying after Suhoor in the early morning hours. Planning in advance allows you the luxury to make time for the change in schedule that Ramadan brings.
Reason #3: You can plan Ramadan family time
Is dinnertime usually an individual affair in your home, as opposed to a time the whole family eats together? Are Friday evenings the time every family member goes off to his/her own social activities? Planning in advance can change this at least in Ramadan. Calling a family meeting about a month in advance, explaining the importance of Ramadan, its implications for the family and the need to eat Iftar together when possible as well as to attend Tarawih prayers, for example, will allow all family members to adjust their work and school schedules accordingly. That will, Insha Allah, make Ramadan a blessing not just to every person in the family, but to the family as a whole.
Reason #4: To make the menu
While Ramadan may mean extra Ibadah to some of the brothers, it usually means extra cooking for most of the sisters. Ramadan’s blessings are for men and women. Making a Ramadan menu for Iftar and meals, and working out when you want to invite relatives, neighbors and friends for Iftar will give sisters the opportunity to catch Tarawih and various other advantageous Ibadat instead of spending Ramadan’s 29 or 30 days stuck in the kitchen. (And by the way, brothers, helping out with cooking or cleaning was a practice of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him-maybe this is a way you can increase your Sawab [rewards] this month).
Reason #5 : You can plan a Iftar at your home
You may have eaten fantastic Iftars at friends’ homes last year. This year, open your doors. There is blessing in feeding a fasting person other than yourself and your family. Planning in advance gives you the luxury of calling friends over the month before and setting a date, so you can “grab” them before others get an opportunity to. Muchos Sawab, Insha Allah!
Reason #6: To make a travel schedule
Do you know a fellow Muslim in your neighborhood who wants to get to the mosque for Tarawih every night but doesn’t have a car? Or do you look at your work schedule and realize you have to work overtime near the end of Ramdan, so your family will miss out on Tarawih at the mosque the last ten nights of Ramadan? Planning in advance helps you work out your daily or weekly travel schedule to attend Tarawih prayers at the mosque, or even a trip for Iftar at a friend’s place who may life farther away. It also helps ease the burden of transportation in winter. Maybe you can start a car pool? Since you have the time before Ramadan begins, you can work this out with neighbors and friends.
Reason #7: To do good at high Sawab times
Being generous is definitely an Islamic merit, but being generous in Ramadan is even more highly rewarded. Match Ibadat with specific times that carry more reward. Prepare to do Itifkaf, increase asking Allah for forgiveness in the last ten nights of Ramadan. Plan to give increased Sadaqa this month. Plan to visit that relative you may have not seen for months, if not years. Thinking about and arranging to do these things and finding other ways of gaining the pleasure of Allah in Ramadan will Insha Allah help you benefit more from it.
Reason #8: You can squeeze in Eid shopping
Planning in advance helps you think about all of those things you wanted to do in time for the end of Ramadan or Eid last year but couldn’t. Maybe you wanted to go Eid shopping for gifts for family and friends in the last week of Ramadan but were too busy with the last ten nights of Ramadan. No problem. This year, you decide to go in the third week of Ramadan instead.
Reason #9: You can plan Dawa activities during Ramadan
Some Muslims have gone to soup kitchens and made meals during Ramadan, while they were fasting. Not only will, Insha Allah, they be rewarded, but this is a great Dawa opportunity to explain what Ramadan and Islam are about. Planning in advance for such an activity gives you the time to call up a soup kitchen in your area, explain what you want to do, and get your act together. You can also plan school Dawa activities in Ramadan by planning in advance, by meeting with the principal or teacher beforehand, preparing a presentation, etc.
Talha Bin Ubaidullah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported about two men who came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and accepted Islam at the same time.
One of them would part take in Jihad more than the other. He was martyred in one of the battles he fought. The other man lived for another year, and then he too passed away.
Talha said, “I saw in my dream that I was at the door of Paradise when behold, I was with both of them (the two men). Someone came out of Paradise and allowed the man who passed away later to enter first.
Then he came out again and allowed the martyred one to enter. Then he returned and said to me, ‘Go back, for your time has not come yet.’ “
Talha woke up and began to inform others about this and they were all surprised. When they informed the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) about it, he said, “What are you surprised about?” They said, “O Messenger of Allah! Out of them both, this one strove harder (in Jihad) then he was martyred, but the other one was entered into Paradise before him.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Did he not remain behind him for one year?” They said, “Yes (he did).”
He said, “Did he not reach Ramadan, fast and pray with such and such number of prostrations in the year?” They said, “Yes.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “So the difference between them is greater than what is between the heavens and the earth.” (Ibn Majah, 2/345-346, authenticated by Al-Albani)
Signs of Allah in Birds
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“Do they not see the birds suspended in mid-air up in the sky? Nothing holds them there except Allah. There are certainly Signs in that for people who have faith.” (Surat an-Nahl: 79)
A bird uses great energy when it takes flight because it has to lift all its body with its tiny wings. Yet, once it is up in the air, Allah has made it easy for it to remain aloft without expending too much effort. Birds can fly for a long time by allowing themselves to rely on the wind. This way, they hardly tire since they consume very little energy. When the effect produced by the wind diminishes, they begin to flap their wings again. By means of this feature Allah has given birds, they can cover very long distances and migrate to remote destinations.
It is interesting that birds’ legs, so slender and little in comparison to their bodies, can carry their entire bodies. It is amazing that so many muscles, veins and nerves can exist in such a slender leg! If birds’ legs were thicker and relatively more bulky, it would be more difficult for them to fly.
Almost all birds sleep on one leg. This does not upset their balance since their body weight is concentrated on this one leg. Allah has created birds with the features that enable them to maintain such a delicate balance.
The eyes of water fowl have been created for clear underwater vision. While we can’t keep our eyes open underwater for even 45 seconds, water birds can easily catch insects and molluscs in water as they plunge their heads into it. Since this is the only way for them to feed themselves, they must have clear vision underwater. For this reason, Allah has created a special structure in their eyes, which permits seeing underwater.
Signs of Allah in clouds
Allah knows that we need water. As a result, He created a system in the sky that produces water even as we talk, read, sleep, work and do other activities. This system is visible to us through the clouds.
Clouds are amazing creations of Allah. At least once in our lifetime we look at an airplane and say “Wow, how can that big thing fly in the sky?” But did we ever look at the clouds and wonder how they remain in the sky? Let’s compare the clouds and the airplanes. The airplanes have specific shapes and designs. If one of their wings break down, then the plane crashes. On the other hand, these clouds have no specific shapes or sizes. Yet, they can fly in the sky without a problem. In addition, the planes have to come down to the earth for re-fueling every once in a while. But the clouds can remain in the sky for months without coming down.
The airplanes are very heavy objects, however, the clouds are even heavier. An average cumulonimbus cloud contain enough water to fill 10,000 swimming pools! Now, that’s heavy.
Moreover, clouds provide us with shade during sunny days and let’s us see beautiful scenaries even in the sky. Did you ever thank Allah for these blessings?
Signs of Allah in a fly
The fly flaps it wings approximately 500 times per second while flying. In fact, no man-made machine could operate at such a rate, but would shatter and burn because of friction. However, neither the wings, muscles, nor the joints of the fly are harmed. Taking into account the direction and speed of the wind, it can fly in any direction without being diverted. Even with our current technology, man is very distant from producing a device with these extraordinary features and techniques of flight. Yet such an insignificant living being, which man brushes aside and pays no attention to, achieves something remarkable that man so far has been unable to achieve. Allah has given the fly all its outstanding characteristics and abilities.
Allah’s signature on mountains
Unfortunately, today many of the “smartest” people of this world deny the existence of God. Suppose one of them walks by a mountain and see that there is a tent on top of the mountain. Immediately he will think that someone went up there and made the tent. He won’t think that the tent formed itself. You and I also won’t think that some sticks came and dug themselves on the ground and then a cloth flew to it to form the tent. We will all think that someone went up there and made it. That is the mistake. We think that the small and simple tent on the mountain cannot form itself but we think that the huge mountain underneath the tent was formed by itself! This is how narrow our thinking has become.
Verily Allah is the creator of all things. Allah says in Surah Qaf Al Quran (50:7) “And the earth! We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and have produced therein every kind of lovely growth (plants).”
Sajda(Prostration) is a unique position or stance in the regular prayers, which a Muslim is supposed to offer at least five times a day. Although the basic purpose of obligatory prayers is not to provide an exercise for people yet it is being increasingly recognized that it has plenty of medical advantages for the human body.
Here it is worth mentioning that Holy Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) has mentioned in a hadith in Ibn Maja: ‘That prayer is a cure for many diseases’. The position of Sajda in which the forehead touches the ground is exclusively associated with the Muslim form of prayer. It is the climax of a Muslim’s prayer and as mentioned in a Hadith a Muslim is nearest to Allah in this position.
The messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “The nearest a servant comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating himself, so make supplication’ (in this state)” In a Hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik (R.A.) Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) advised Muslims to perform Rukuu (bowing) and Sajda (prostration) properly.
In another Hadith he (peace be upon him) advised to perform Sajda(Prostration) and Bowing calmly and to get up only when the body has come to ease. Hence the first positive effect upon a person who prostrates or does Sajda(Prostration) is that he comes nearest to Allah and hence in that condition he can supplicate.
This is a great psychological advantage and it gives relief to the person concerned as life is full of worries and in this position he gets at least a transient refuge from the agonizing problems.
When a person goes to the position of Sajda (Prostration), his whole body is in active motion. This position can be considered as a mini dive as the musalli (one who offers prayer) goes to rest his forehead on the ground while his hands are placed at the sides. This brings most of the body muscles if not all in active motion and serves to give them some exercise. The hands are then specifically stretched out and thence the forearm as well as arm muscles are supposed to bear the weight in the Sajda (Prostration) position. It gives good exercise to the muscles of the upper limb. The Prophet (peace be upon him) in a hadith advised not to put the forearms flatly on the ground but to keep them elevated above ground and this is better for the forearm and arm muscles.
Sajda (Prostration) is a unique position as this is the only position in which brain (or head) becomes lower than the heart and hence for the first time the blood gushes towards the brain with full force whereas in all other positions (even when lying) brain is above the heart when it has to work against gravity to send blood to the brain. In the position of Sajda (Prostration) due to the increased blood supply the brain receive more nourishment and it has good effect upon memory, vision, hearing, concentration, psyche and all other cognitive abilities.
People who offer their prayers regularly have more will power and can cope with the difficulties of life in a much better manner.
They have less incidence of headaches, psychological problems and other defects of cognitive function. In the unique position of Sajda (Prostration) the neck muscles get best exercise. They have to bear the load when the forehead lies at the ground hence the neck muscles become stronger. One can note the tense pressure at the neck muscles in the position of Sajda (Prostration) specially the active motion of the neck and the facial muscles when the head is being lifted. (e.g. one inch above the ground) and it will be noticed that they are in a very active motion.
More strong cervical muscles mean the cervical vertebra will be better protected. Strength of cervical muscles is important as the head rests upon cervical vertebra supported by cervical musculature. In fact head performs rotator movements over the cervical vertebra. In any accident cervical neck examination is especially important to the physicians because of its extraordinary importance. It is uncommon that a person who offers his prayers regularly will get the usual neck myalgias or cervical spondylosis as the neck muscles particularly become very strong due to the 34 sajdas (Prostrations) offered daily in five prayers.
The unique position of Sajda (Prostration) also has positive effects upon the back muscles as while going into Sajda and getting up from it the back muscle contract actively and they become stronger. Probably it is because of this reason that a person who is regular in prayers will (rarely) get backache.
Finally it must be reminded that (even though) prayer is not meant to be an exercise, there are a lot of medical advantages associated with it. Still the best blessing is the peace of mind, which a person derives by the accomplishment of his duty to Allah by fulfilling an obligation.