Starting Ramadan with a clean slate
As Ramadan begins, many Muslims review the best and worst moments of their lives. Ramadan often signifies a clean slate by trying to overcome our shortcomings by molding into the best possible Islamic personality. We repent for our previous sins and missteps in life. Hopeful and optimistic, many people make resolutions to change their lives for the better. As Muslims, we must recount our actions and sentiments every single day as if it were our last day on this Earth.
Starting with a clean slate requires several duties and commitments from us. First through reflection on past actions and disposition (nafsiyah). Were my actions Islamic and did I fulfill my duties properly and to the best of my potential? Was my nafsiyah the best of character? Through accountability, one is able to grasp the depth of this trial and fully contemplate one's behavior to assess whether to be rewarded or punished by Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ((قَالَ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ يَرَى ذُنُوبَهُ كَأَنَّهُ قَاعِدٌ تَحْتَ جَبَلٍ يَخَافُ أَنْ يَقَعَ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّ الْفَاجِرَ يَرَى ذُنُوبَهُ كَذُبَابٍ مَرَّ عَلَى أَنْفِهِ فَقَالَ بِهِ هَكَذَا قَالَ أَبُو شِهَابٍ بِيَدِهِ فَوْقَ أَنْفِهِ ...)) البخاري
"The believer sees his sin as a mountain beneath which he is sitting and which he fears it may fall down upon him. The rebellious person sees his sin as a fly which passes in front of his nose and he swats it away..." (Reported by al-Bukhari)
Secondly, we should repent our sins through tawba with absolute sincerity and truly regretting our misguided actions.
قال رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ((قَالَ اللَّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ إِنَّكَ مَا دَعَوْتَنِي وَرَجَوْتَنِي غَفَرْتُ لَكَ عَلَى مَا كَانَ فِيكَ وَلَا أُبَالِي يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ لَوْ بَلَغَتْ ذُنُوبُكَ عَنَانَ السَّمَاءِ ثُمَّ اسْتَغْفَرْتَنِي غَفَرْتُ لَكَ وَلَا أُبَالِي يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ إِنَّكَ لَوْ أَتَيْتَنِي بِقُرَابِ الْأَرْضِ خَطَايَا ثُمَّ لَقِيتَنِي لَا تُشْرِكُ بِي شَيْئًا لَأَتَيْتُكَ بِقُرَابِهَا مَغْفِرَةً)) الترمذي
"Allah سبحانه وتعالى says: O Son of Adam, as long as you supplicate to Me and have hope in Me I will pardon you in spite of what you have done, and I do not care. O Son of Adam, if your sins were so numerous as to reach the lofty regions of the sky, then you asked My forgiveness, I would forgive you, and I do not care. O Son of Adam, if you were to meet Me with enough sins to fill the earth, then met Me, not associating anything with Me (in worship), I shall greet you with its equivalent in forgiveness." (Reported by at-Tirmithi.)
Thus, despairing of Allah's mercy is Haraam.
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says:
((... وَلَا تَيْأَسُوا مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَا يَيْأَسُ مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ)) يوسف (87)
"...never give up hope of Allah's Mercy (rawh). Certainly no one despairs of Allah's Mercy, except the people who disbelieve." [Yusuf: 87]
And if we fail our Muslim brothers and sisters, we should also repent to Allah سبحانه وتعالى, regret our wrong-doing, and give them their due-right whether it may be inheritance, over-due monies, re-establishing family ties, or honoring any type of trust (amaneh). Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed,
(( لَا خَيْرَ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِنْ نَجْوَاهُمْ إِلَّا مَنْ أَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ أَوْ مَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ إِصْلَاحٍ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ فَسَوْفَ نُؤْتِيهِ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا)) النساء (114)
"There is no good in most of their secret talks save (in) him who orders Sadaqah (charity in Allah's Cause), or Ma'ruf (all the good and righteous deeds which Allah has ordained), or conciliation between mankind." [An-Nisaa: 114]
Thereby we need to rectify our situation for the present day and our future in the After-Life.
Ramadan provides us with a reason to work harder at improving ourselves and placing different aspects of our lives in perspective. Through obligatoris and nawafil, we are able to strengthen our nafisyah in order to become better Muslims. Asking Allah سبحانه وتعالى for forgiveness and mercy in our prayers and supplications (dua'a) enables us to cement the bond between His servant and His Creator. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says,
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ((إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَالَ مَنْ عَادَى لِي وَلِيًّا فَقَدْ آذَنْتُهُ بِالْحَرْبِ وَمَا تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي بِشَيْءٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا افْتَرَضْتُ عَلَيْهِ وَمَا يَزَالُ عَبْدِي يَتَقَرَّبُ إِلَيَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ حَتَّى أُحِبَّهُ فَإِذَا أَحْبَبْتُهُ كُنْتُ سَمْعَهُ الَّذِي يَسْمَعُ بِهِ وَبَصَرَهُ الَّذِي يُبْصِرُ بِهِ وَيَدَهُ الَّتِي يَبْطِشُ بِهَا وَرِجْلَهُ الَّتِي يَمْشِي بِهَا وَإِنْ سَأَلَنِي لَأُعْطِيَنَّهُ وَلَئِنْ اسْتَعَاذَنِي لَأُعِيذَنَّهُ وَمَا تَرَدَّدْتُ عَنْ شَيْءٍ أَنَا فَاعِلُهُ تَرَدُّدِي عَنْ نَفْسِ الْمُؤْمِنِ يَكْرَهُ الْمَوْتَ وَأَنَا أَكْرَهُ مَسَاءَتَهُ)) البخاري
"My servant will continue to draw closer to me through the nawafil until I love him. I will then be the heart with which he thinks, the tongue with which he speaks, the sight by which he sees, when he calls me I will answer him, when he asks me for something I shall give it to him, when he asks for my help I shall help him, and the most beloved of my servant's worship is the sincere advice (naseeha)." In addition, al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Anas (ra) narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم related that his Lord said: "...And if My servant comes to Me walking, I would go to him speeding."
Through complete sincerity and earnestness, this bond fully blossoms and solidifies. Reading and memorizing Quran, while applying the ahkam will fill our hearts with light and tranquility. Increasing nawafil prayers and reading Quran during the darkest hours of night elevates the spirit towards our Creator. Asking for Allah's forgiveness and guidance to be bestowed upon His humble servant. Making dua'a and tasbeeh before the fajr prayer realizing Allah سبحانه وتعالى descends to the nearest sky to answer His believer's prayer. Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrated that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ(( سَبْعَةٌ يُظِلُّهُمْ اللَّهُ فِي ظِلِّهِ يَوْمَ لَا ظِلَّ إِلَّا ظِلُّهُ إِمَامٌ عَادِلٌ وَشَابٌّ نَشَأَ فِي عِبَادَةِ اللَّهِ وَرَجُلٌ قَلْبُهُ مُعَلَّقٌ بِالْمَسْجِدِ إِذَا خَرَجَ مِنْهُ حَتَّى يَعُودَ إِلَيْهِ وَرَجُلَانِ تَحَابَّا فِي اللَّهِ اجْتَمَعَا عَلَى ذَلِكَ وَتَفَرَّقَا وَرَجُلٌ ذَكَرَ اللَّهَ خَالِيًا فَفَاضَتْ عَيْنَاهُ وَرَجُلٌ دَعَتْهُ ذَاتُ حَسَبٍ وَجَمَالٍ فَقَالَ إِنِّي أَخَافُ اللَّهَ وَرَجُلٌ تَصَدَّقَ بِصَدَقَةٍ فَأَخْفَاهَا حَتَّى لَا تَعْلَمَ شِمَالُهُ مَا تُنْفِقُ يَمِينُهُ)) موطأ مالك
"Allah will give shade to seven, on the Day when there will be no shade but His... and a person who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes become flooded with tears."
Making this part of our clean slate, we need to purify our heart of any ill feelings towards our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said,
عن أبي هريرة قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ((من فرج عن مسلم كربة من كرب الدنيا فرج الله عنه كربة من كرب الآخرة ومن ستر أخاه المؤمن في الدنيا ستره الله في الآخرة والله في عون العبد ما كان العبد في عون أخيه)) النسائي
"A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor deserts him. Whoever helps to remove the hardship of his brother, will have his difficulties removed by Allah in this world and in the Hereafter. One who covers the shortcomings of another Muslim, will have his faults covered up in this world and the next by Allah."
We need to free ourselves from hatred, envy, and jealousy towards one another, giving the benefit of the doubt when one errs. Forgive our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters so we can receive Allah's rewards in the Hereafter. 'Abd Allah b. 'Amr b. al-'Aas (ra) that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ ((اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْتَ وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ وَإِذَا عَمِلْتَ سَيِّئَةً فَاعْمَلْ حَسَنَةً تَمْحُهَا)) مسند احمد
"Show compassion to people and you shall be shown compassion, forgive others and you shall be forgiven."
As resentment and hatred fills the heart, this slowly diseases the Ummah instead loving and caring for one another as one entity. As Ibn al-Qayyim said, "If the heart is sick, the forbidden becomes attractive and obedience of Allah becomes something you look at with contempt." We would become pre-occupied with these ill feelings instead of focusing on the greater goal of the Ummah—removing the greatest munkar in our lives.
Thirdly, we need to be fully knowledgeable in areas concerning our lives. By answering the following questions with sincerity and honesty, we are able to gauge ourselves. What are our duties and roles in this life? Are we living according to Islamic values to our fullest potential? Are we fully aware of the Islamic fiqh regarding our actions carried out in our daily lives? Realizing that we need to rid our precious Ummah of the greatest munkar—living under highly oppressive man-made regimes resulting in misery and despair, our courageous Ummah has boldly risen up against their tyrants. Inshallah through the blessed month of Ramadan our efforts are not wasted. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says,
قَالَ اهْبِطَا مِنْهَا جَمِيعًا ۖ بَعْضُكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ ۖ فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُمْ مِنِّي هُدًى فَمَنِ اتَّبَعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا يَضِلُّ وَلَا يَشْقَ
وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْ ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنْكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَ
قَالَ رَبِّ لِمَ حَشَرْتَنِي أَعْمَىٰ وَقَدْ كُنْتُ بَصِيرًا
قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ أَتَتْكَ آيَاتُنَا فَنَسِيتَهَا ۖ وَكَذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمَ تُنْسَ
"Then if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My Guidance shall neither go astray, nor fall into distress and misery. But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur'an nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection. He will say:"O my Lord! Why have you raised me up blind, while I had sight (before)." (Allah) will say: "Like this, our signs came unto you, but you disregarded them (i.e. you left them, did not think deeply in them, and you turned away from them), and so this Day, you will be neglected (in the Hell-fire, away from Allah's Mercy)" [Taha: 123-126]
Indeed, it is a bleak outlook if we continue to struggle through this life without the complete blessing and radiance of Islam guiding us out of this harsh darkness. By living under man-made systems to run our affairs with complete tyranny, we must recognize and work for a better way to live. We must struggle in uniting the Muslim lands under the Islamic State. This is our most important duty: eradicating the greatest munkar in our lives. Whoever dies without a baayah dies the death of a jahiliyah. We must work wholeheartedly to resume an Islamic society without any fear or hesitance for our lives or livelihood. Indeed Allah سبحانه وتعالى is the greatest Protector over His servants.
Inshallah this year will be a prosperous and glorious year for the Ummah worldwide in which we follow the blessed Prophet Mohammad's example. Inshallah, we educate ourselves with the valuable knowledge necessary to remove the harsh darkness that encapsulates us. We ask Allah سبحانه وتعالى to fill our hearts with taqwa and sincerity to lead us to the highest of heavens. May Allah سبحانه وتعالى ease our burdens and allow us to persevere through any obstacles. Ameen.