For me the weeks and days leading to Ramadan are filled with hope, enthusiasm and determination. I look forward to the days and nights of tranquillity and a sense of unity among the ummah, worldwide. I long for the shayateen to be locked up so I can begin my soul searching and be steadfast in my worship. Just the thought of having the chance to improve myself and gain both reward and forgiveness seems to relieve my heart and make me happy.
Amid all this positivity I can forget that Ramadan is not a magic pill. It’s not an overnight (or over 30 nights) cure for all my sins and negative personality traits. Nor does it necessarily mean that I will be able to continue the same level of worship throughout the month or after it.
Being a student, I have been fortunate enough to have holidays during the last few months of Ramadan. This gave me ample time to try to fulfil the purpose of fasting and the purpose of this blessed month – to gain God consciousness (taqwa) and to be grateful. I tried to read the Quran as much as possible and spent lots of time listening to tafseer of the Quran while doing things around the house. I certainly felt reconnected. Feeling content and also powerful enough to face anything because you have Allah swt on your side is just...alhamdulillah! What can be better than recognising the beauty in Islam and getting closer to your Lord?
But increasing my worship and my quest for knowledge so dramatically meant a spiritual burnout was inevitable. I’ve had it during the last ten days of Ramadan which is perhaps the worst thing and I’ve also had it straight after Ramadan has finished.
I think a successful Ramadan is a Ramadan in which I’ve come closer to Allah (swt) and I’ve formed habits which last beyond 30 days. Of course, inshaAllah, we’ll be rewarded for the good we’ve done during the month, but the purpose of the month isn’t just for that extra special worship. It is also to recognise the good and bad in ourselves that we normally, all too easily, decide to blame on shaytan, it’s to recognise how much good we are capable of and how much better we can be. Being a person of taqwa should be a life-long goal for every Muslim, and the Quran opens with a phrase of gratefulness. Neither of these qualities are limited for use in Ramadan only. Ramadan must rekindle our relationship with Islam and increase our imaan.
This makes a spiritual burnout, in which I lose the will to continue worshipping or learning as I was, very dangerous. It means there’s a possibility that the good I did earlier won’t continue after Ramadan and that would mean my experience of Ramadan has not been as beneficial as it possible. For this reason I think it’s incredibly important for everyone have a realistic idea of what we’re capable of reading and doing on a daily basis, and to pick a few good habits/leave a few bad habits throughout the month instead of trying to achieve a full transformation of our character. Having two paracetamols cure the headache quicker than one, but having 4 at once will definitely do more damage than good to your body. In the same way, trying to do an excessive amount spiritually is not wise either.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately. . .Always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course, whereby you will reach your target (of paradise)." - Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Hadith 470
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The good deeds of any person will not make him enter Paradise (i.e., no one enters paradise only through his good deeds)." The Prophet's companions asked: "Not even you?" The Prophet replied: "Not even myself, unless God bestows His favor and mercy on me. So be moderate in your religious deeds and do what is within your ability. None of you should wish for death, for if he is a doer of good, he may increase his good deeds, and if he is an evil doer, he may repent to God." - Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Hadith 577
May Allah make this Ramadan a success for us all. Ameen.