Ramadan: An annual appraisal period to enhance self-improvement
By Shaik Kadir
The blessed month of Ramadan begins at end of this month (on 29 June), and Singapore Muslims as well as their brothers and sisters around the world are excitedly waiting for it.
In Ramadan, families partake the pre-dawn meal, sahur, and in the next 14 hours (in Singapore), they refrain from eating even a morsel of bread or a sip of water. Smokers too refrain from smoking.
Many mosques prepare bubur, the traditional spiced rice porridge, and distribute it after asar to those in the neighbourhood who come to collect it for breaking of fast.
Then, comes the time for iftar when again family members gather for breaking the fast at home. Many also break their fast in the mosques with dates, bubur and other foodstuff contributed by Muslims.
Many Muslim organisations like the Muslim Converts’ Association, Singapore (Darul Arqam) hold iftar at weekends for converts and others as a get-together function in their premises followed by the maghrib and isyak prayers and then the special Ramadan prayers, terawih, which are also conducted in all mosques.
The ideals of Ramadan are much more than fasting and praying. Ramadan acts as an annual month-long self-assessment period for continuous self-renewal and self-improvement.
Thus, we will have to make a proactive plan for Ramadan for effective attainment of worldly, physical and spiritual benefits. If a Muslim has not made a Ramadan plan yet, begin planning one right away.
The Ramadan plan can include:
(1) Plan to increase spirituality
- Avoid spending much time at the shopping centres or bazaar during Ramadan. Spend more time in Ramadan activities, like itikaaf (spending some time in the mosque) and reading the Qur’an, to gain spiritual rewards.
- Break fast at home with family members. This would bond family relationship.
- The idea of fasting is not feasting, so do not prepare many varieties of food for each iftar. When there are many varieties, much of the food would not be eaten, and would be disposed of. Always remember that there are so many people all over the world who have no proper food to eat even outside Ramadan. So, do not waste food; it is sinful to do so.
- Perform terawih prayers every Ramadan night. It would be good to go to the mosque and perform the terawih prayers in congregation to establish unity and community bonding, and make new friends. It is good to go to the mosque for the terawih prayers together with the family members, if possible.
- Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was first revealed so it is praiseworthy to recite the Qur’an this month. Read the whole Qur’an and complete reading it a couple of days before Syawal. For those who do not know Arabic, read the translation of the Qur’an to understand its beautiful narration and instructions. There are editions that provide both the Qur’an and its translation (English or Malay or any other language) side by side for easy reference.
- Forgive and repent for anything bad done in the past. Allah is most Merciful and most Forgiving and He loves to forgive. So seek His forgiveness during this month. “Truly Allah loves those who turn (to Him) in repentance, and He loves those who keep themselves in purity.” (Qur’an, 2:222)
(2) Plan to get rid of bad habits
Cut down on excesses not only in eating and wasting, but also in getting rid of bad habits. In this matter, we need to have firm commitment as bad habits acquired over the years are not easy to stop. For example, a couple of the common bad habits are:
- Smoking: Unlike the consumption of food and drink, inhaling cigarette smoke is not necessary for health promotion and physical growth and development. Therefore, if you are a smoker, make this Ramadan the month that made you quit smoking. Draw out a “smoke” reducing schedule and follow it by reducing the number of cigarette sticks smoked on a weekly basis, until smoking is totally stopped by the end of Ramadan. Remember, no commitment, no victory: The victorious person would have great cause for double celebration this Eid ul-Fitri – one for the successful completion of his fast and the other in becoming a revert non-smoker. “Revert” because nobody was born with the smoking habit; it was acquired. Do a dakwah favour by advising your friends or family members who smoke to stop the habit by getting professional advice if they are unable to do it on their own. Smokers ought to be aware that if they smoke, they are harming others too – those nearby, such as your family members in your home or others at public places. This is secondhand smoke or passive smoke which is also harmful to health. Smoking is an ugly, unproductive and injurious habit: Quit it.
- Time-wasting: If you or your children have been wasting time, like sleeping late every night to be with friends, watching television or playing on-line games or involving in Facebook activities, cut down on the time spent in these activities drastically from this Ramadan onwards. In Islam, time is important. Islam makes us conscious of the importance of time by having many of our religious activities time-based or time-bound, like for prayers and fasting. Even the Qur’an has a chapter called “Al-Asr” (Time), which says: “By (the token of) time (through the ages), verily, man is in loss. Except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth and recommend one another to patience.” (Qur’an, 103:1-3) In Islam, time is a valuable resource. Muslims are encouraged to be conscious of the importance and value of time and organise and use it wisely because once it is gone, it cannot be retracted. Have a time-management schedule so that time is not wasted unnecessarily. Be aware that time is a blessing from Allah and so wasting it is against Islam. Instead, use it productively to gain success both for this world and the Hereafter. Time is indeed precious: Do not waste it.
(3) Plan to help converts
When a non-Muslim embraces Islam, Muslims are excited. There say the takbir (Allah is Great”) with thrill and give congratulatory hugs to the convert.
Often, as some converts (or reverts) themselves admit, after the excitement of the conversion ceremony everything stops and the convert is left alone to wonder how to move forward from there. Muslims need to be there with the converts to guide them. Let the converts be embraced into the Muslim fold as many of them are ostracised from their own family members. By bringing them into your circle of friends and relatives, you would be able to know what their problems and needs are so that appropriate help can be extended to them. Take them to your gatherings, even wedding functions. Befriend them. Our Darul Arqam has a Befrienders’ initiative. Join it to help the converts as and when there is need for your simple service. Approach the association on this matter.
For a start this Ramadan, perhaps you may want to go to Darul Arqam and get to know the recent converts and invite one or two of them to your home for iftar and then perform the maghrib, isyak and terawih prayers together, if possible.
Don’t also make the Eid celebration a lonely affair for the converts. Include them in your celebration in whatever way is convenient to them and you.
Doing dakwah and taking care of converts are Muslims’ responsibility. The reward from Allah is great.
(4) Plan to increase generosity and charity
Ramadan is a time to increase our generosity and charity to the needy and less fortunate. It is an honourable and blessed month, and the rewards for being generous and charitable in this month are multiplied.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “The best charity is that given in Ramadan.” (At-Tirmithi). He also said: “He who feeds a fasting person will gain the same reward as he will, without decreasing from the fasting person’s rewards.” (Ahmad).
Make the act of generosity and charity a habit; it’s indeed a good habit. Give whatever that you can afford as Allah looks at intentions.
These plans are merely selective and not exhaustive. Take these as a guide and as a dakwah effort. Make your Ramadan plan according to your individual preference and needs but make it effective.
May the blessings of Allah be upon all of us this Ramadan. InsyaAllah, and Ameen.
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Published in Vizier (Issue: No. 16; June 2014)
(Reposted in this blog on 25 Jun 2014)