Ramadan is at our doorsteps and like every year the anticipation of it grows by the day.
However, as we start to engage ourselves with the worship and festivities of Ramadan, let’s pause and ask ourselves whether our last year’s Ramadan was better than the one before it? How did we strive to make it any better? How are we going to make the one this year better than the one last year?
One may ask – why make it better? The answer is that there is no Ibadah (worship) like fasting and Allah’s rewards for this act of worship can be limitless.
The prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “You should fast, for there is nothing like it.” [Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i.]
For the hadith where the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Allah said: ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…’”, Al-Qurtubi said: what this means is that the amount of reward for good deeds may become known to people, and they will be rewarded between ten and seven hundred fold, and as much as Allah wants, except fasting, for Allah will reward it without measure. This is supported by a report narrated by Muslim (115) from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be rewarded between ten and seven hundred fold. Allah said: ‘Except fasting, for it is for Me and I shall reward for it’” – i.e., I shall reward it greatly, without specifying how much. This is like the verse in which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning” [Quran: al-Zumar 39:10]
From the above, it is obvious that the rewards for fasting are multiplied from 10 to 700 to potentially limitless as He wills. So, let’s think again – Ramadan and fasting provide us the potential and opportunity for Unlimited Rewards.
However, we will be rewarded based on our actions and our intentions. The better we make our worship, the more rewards we stand to gain. That’s why we need to strive more every year – yet another opportunity to make it better than the previous.
First, let’s do some “soul searching” in assessing our intentions. What is it that excites us in welcoming this month? What are we are looking forward to? Is it the socializing, the Iftar festivities, and the change of schedules or is it about our yearning for more rewards, the hope to seek forgiveness for our sins, and hence the prospects for a better life here and in the hereafter? Our clarity of intentions as we start this blessed month can make a big difference. Consider this hadith by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):
“Actions are but by intention and each person will have but that which he intended.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1) and Muslim (1907).
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The degree to which a person is helped and aided by Allah depends on the degree of his intention, drive, aim and hopes. Help from Allah comes to people in proportion to their drive, intention, hopes and fears, and failure comes to them in like manner.”
Let’s heed to those reminders. Take some time to ensure that your intention is to seek rewards and forgiveness for your sins and you will observe a miraculous transformation in the nature of your actions as they will automatically get aligned to your intentions. If left uncalibrated through your sincere intentions, your actions will instead focus on the festivities and other distractions more than you getting closer to Allah, which should be your primary objective in this month. And that can’t happen unless you intend for it and take actions to realize those intentions.
Also, once we align our intentions to seek Allah’s pleasure alone (remember where Allah said that fasting is for me and I will reward for it), you will notice that ALL your actions will be for Him. You won’t leave any room for the devil to get in your heart to make you show off your actions. A man asked Tameem ibn Aws al-Daari (may Allah be pleased with him), ‘How do you pray at night?’ He got very angry and said, ‘By Allah, one rak’ah that I pray in secret in the small hours of the night is more beloved to me than praying the whole night long and then telling people about it.’
Consider this hadith of the prophet: “Whoever does the deeds of the Hereafter to gain some worldly benefit, will have no share of the Hereafter.” (Reported by Ahmad. Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2825).”
Another step you can take to make this Ramadan better is to make your worship more “goal directed” as that will help you focus on your acts of worship and will also force yourself to achieve those goals. Let’s ponder on what our pious salaf said about forcing ourselves to do more in our acts of worship. Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir said: “I struggled against my own self for forty years until it became right.” Thaabit al-Banaani said: “I struggled for twenty years to make myself pray qiyaam al-layl, and I enjoyed it (qiyaam al-layl) for (the next) twenty years.” ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez said: “The best of deeds are those which we force ourselves to do.” ‘Abd-Allah ibn al-Mubaarak said: “The souls of righteous people in the past used to push them to do good deeds, but our souls do not do what we want them to do except by force, so we have to force them.” Qutaadah said: “O son of Adam, if you do not want to do any good except when you have the energy for it, then your nature is more inclined towards boredom and laziness. The true believer is the one who pushes himself.”
So, for this Ramadan set some realistic goals for the amount of worship and for the levels of your sincerity and you will not only have something to strive for but you will feel more satisfied after Ramadan is over if you achieved what you set out for. And next year, you can raise the bar higher and set loftier goals – another step towards achieving unlimited rewards.
In summary, let’s pause for a few moments to straighten our intentions and ensure that they are not diluted by the typical “Ramadan distractions” such as socializing, Iftar parties, idle talk during late hours, late night TV, fashion shows, etc. Also, set some goals for this month and get set to achieve them.
Let’s pray that we get the maximum rewards possible this Ramdan.