It is known that our early Muslim scholars used to spend the six months leading up to Ramadan asking Allah to let them witness it with life and faith, and the six months following it praying for Allah’s acceptance of all the good they tried to do in it. So much depends on this one month of beauty-so much in terms of reaching our full potential with the support of Allah to purify our faith and practice. For with all the focus packed into this “spiritual intensive,” we cannot-cannot possibly-afford to let it go without having tried our very best. Before Ramadan’s thin crescent appears, we need to practically and spiritually prepare ourselves as much as we can so that we do not lose any ounce of benefit when this portal of Heaven does actually open for us. To be in such close proximity to Allah, His Books, His Angels and His Worship, when we can truly be born anew, is of inexplicable worth.
Practical preparation for Ramadan entails different things for different people. Some working full-time may have the option of arranging for a few days off, preferably in Ramadan’s last third. Others will want to create a get-home-early schedule. And the opposite-starting work late after a night of salah-may work best for those resolved to keep the late-night vigil. There are other logistics to arrange in advance. Think through a thorough iftar-suhoor grocery list prior to Ramadan and stock up on as much of it as you can before the month’s intense cycles and rhythms set in. Consider coordinating with others to get to and from taraweeh. And plan out special trips to mosque you don’t normally attend- especially with communities you don’t normally pray with (or exactly like) to get that sense of the wonderful diversity and togetherness of our Ummah. The point is Ramadan has many practical arrangements to be made, so do as much of the background work as you can before we step into Ramadan so we’re not under-utilizing precious worship moments then.
There are psychological preparations that are even more important, like getting yourself and your family into the Ramadan mood. Keep the smalls ones excited about the new routine. Explain to them the joy of Ramadan. Needless to say, when we are joyous and excited about something our kids effortlessly pick up that energy from us. Talk with your spouse about how the two of you will coordinate your individual spiritual striving. This is especially important if the children are smaller and mother is taking care of them all day. In my own case, we all went to the masjid for taraweeh. One of the more obvious practical measures we should take before the first sunrise of Ramadan blazes is fasting in the month preceding it. This was the routine of the Prophet, and it makes perfect sense. Especially with the advent of Ramadan in summer, we need to train ourselves for the fast in the weeks before fasting becomes incumbent.
Think about it, you can spend the first week or more of long fasting days barely able to function from lack of physiological adjustment-in which case you will not be able to do the many things you have planned and hoped for (and a bad start can seriously throw off your whole Ramadan). Or you can fast as much as you can in the preceding month, and in this way get your energy levels and capacity to fast up, all the while consciously psyching yourself and training for all that you wish to achieve spiritually in the blessed days ahead. Another necessary preparation is picking up our recitation of the Qur’an, by which I mean both increasing our reading of it as Ramadan approaches in order to sharpen our ability and striving to memorize as many new surahs and ayahs as we can, so we can use both during this month of mercy and forgiveness.
Once Ramadan arrives, focus as much of your mind as you can on two things: acts of worship and qualities of character. Many a time we home-in on worship, such as how much Qur’an to read and what portion of it we will recite in taraweeh. Yet we pay no mind to the personal qualities we need to change and the habits we need to eliminate or develop. This too is a family project. Engage the young and old in helping each other build your ‘ibadah. The more worship and good manners we acquire in Ramadan the better. But we need also remember the Prophet’s advice that the best actions are those that are constant, even if they are small. So this Ramadan centre yourself on acts whose habits you will continue once the month is over, those we have been too lazy or unmotivated to inculcate in our lives in years past.
The spirit of Eid-ul-Fitre
Eid Al-Fitr is the most important festival in the Islamic calendar. The day does not mark any historical event but it provides the Muslim for an occasion to offer thanks to Allah for having given them the strength and the will to observe fast during the holy month of Ramadan. It is also an occasion for prayers when the Muslims gather in large congregations, standing shoulder to shoulder, to demonstrate the equality and equity which is the inherent feature of Islamic society all over the world. But the greatest significance of this day of rejoicing lies in the fact that on this day every Muslim is enjoined to give the needy food at the rate of the prescribed weight per every member of his household, including servants and guests who were sheltered under his roof the preceding evening.
Eid Al-Fitr then serves a three-fold purpose: It places upon every Muslim the obligation to remember Allah (SWT) and offer Him thanks; it affords him an opportunity of spiritual stock-taking in that he can now ponder over the strength of his will or the weakness of his character, as the case may be, which manifested itself during the preceding month (Ramadan); it also is the day for the haves to share a portion of what they have with the have-nots. And, for those persons who disobeyed this command of Allah (SWT) this is the day of an end to the month-long pangs of conscience, inner struggle and continuous realization of the feebleness of their character. No more will they have to argue, without much conviction, against fasting. No more will they have to think up an excuse every morning for not fasting. Almost everyone realizes the spiritual, social, scientific and medical benefits which are derived from fasting. But so far as a Muslim, a true believer, is concerned, it should be sufficient that fasting is prescribed in the Holy Book of Allah (Glorious Qur’an), and as such is the command of Allah (SWT). Should one seek to justify Allah’s commands? The measure of a man’s love for his Creator is his unquestioned obedience to the commands of the Creator. When for whole month a Muslim has obeyed Allah (SWT), unquestioningly, without complaint, without regret, and when he has spent his time in prayers, in humility and in charity, should one wonder, if at the end of this period, the Creator may Himself turn to such creature of His and say: “It is now for thee to ask for Me to give.” Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, is the period when man is subjected to a supreme test. Without compulsion, without coercion, the Muslims throughout the world obey Allah; and every day from dawn to sunset abstains not only from sensual pleasures but even from the necessities of life like food and drink. Some do this in shivering cold, some in burning heat, some do it where days are short and others where days are interminably long. They all fast, regardless of the colour or their social position. Having done this, for one whole month, today on this auspicious day of Eid Al-Fitr, every Muslim should be ready to face the year that lies ahead with renewed strength, greater understanding and universal goodwill. He has fasted to acquire piety, discipline and self-control. Now the habit of unquestioning obedience to Allah is cultivated in his heart and mind. He is now trained to accept the commands of Allah, in the remaining eleven months of the year, with the same unwavering loyalty. He has emerged from the month of Ramadan with a new personality and a stronger character, confident of his ability to subordinate his desire to his will, his emotion to his intellect.
Essence of Eid
The celebration of Eid ul-Fitr culminates a month of fasting wherein the faithful have spent their time praying and beseeching God for forgiveness and mercy. For many, Ramadan was not just an abstention from food and drink. Rather, it was an exercise in patience and discipline. Eid is the celebration for those who fasted and obeyed God’s rules and teachings. It is for those who spent the month of Ramadan in complete devotion to Allah. Eid is a time when the entire Muslim community comes together to share in each others joy and blessings and also to lessen the burden of those who may be suffering.
It is preceded by people shopping and looking around for gifts for their near and dear ones. It is a time when the bright lights from homes and shops illuminates our life. We use see this day and the following days to spread happiness and social harmony by visiting our friends and relatives.
Gifts are exchanged during Eid by young and old alike. We also visit the elderly and the sick. Eid is a time where all kinds or festivities prevail. Many of us gormandize to make up for “lost food” during the month of Ramadan.
However, with all the going around we some time forget our lesser privileged brethren. We forget that there are many out there who have nothing to celebrate. There are those among our brothers and sisters for whom Eid day is just another ordinary day. There are those who open their cupboards on Eid day and find them bare. There are those who in hospitals who will go through a bleak and lonely day with no one visiting them. Friendless, deprived of company, they will have no one to offer solace or comfort. Let us therefore see to it that our deprived brethren welcome the day of Eid with warmth and hope.
As we buy gifts and clothes for our children, let us earmark a special sum for those who cannot afford to buy. Also we should instill in our children a sense of compassion so that when they buy something they will also think of their unfortunate brethren. Let us teach them the art of giving.
We cannot divest ourselves from the misery of others. We cannot shrug it off saying that it does not concern us. To do this would be an injustice to humanity. The Quran (5:8) tells us … Be just: that is next to piety.
Many of us donate money to charity and fulfill our religious duty. However, if we actually meet the recipients of our charity the perception of charity changes. There is a feeling of belonging when the recipient and giver meet.
Islamic ideology teaches us to be kind and compassionate. Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that “I and the provider of the orphan will be together.” And what greater prize is there for anyone of us than to be around our beloved prophet. All we need for that is compassion, sincerity and a feeling of brotherhood and understanding. And that will decide the quality of our life on earth and the hereafter.
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