We have just entered the month we all look forward to every year, but this year it comes along with the reality of spending Ramadan in isolation. We’ve seen a few articles about what our approach and mindset heading into Ramadan should be (like this great piece by Omar Usman), but now what? This Ramadan will be like one most of us have never experienced before, and as Omar Usman mentioned, for some it will probably be the most difficult, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it a successful one.
This year, regardless of where we are in the world, the streets will be empty, there will be no iftaar parties, no taraweeh at the masjid, and no visiting one another on Eid. [Some of our brothers and sisters around the world have been experiencing Ramadan in such a fashion for years and we pray that Allah eases their affairs and saves them from oppression. Ameen]. The global pandemic leaves most of us in the same situation as we were before it, and for those of us who are blessed to be able to maintain our freedom, we need to take advantage and make the most of it. As mentioned in different articles and social media posts, this Ramadan will be difficult; we will be stuck at home and unable to attend the masjid. With the masajid closed it is even more important for us to plan how to make this Ramadan a successful one.
First, how does one know if their Ramadan has been a successful one. How do we gauge success coming out of Ramadan? Allah says in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God.” [Al-Baqarah; 183]
وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“ … He wants you to complete the prescribed period (for fasting) and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.” [Al-Baqarah;185]
Allah is telling us that the outcome of fasting in Ramadan should be an increase in taqwa and shukr.
Once the month is over, will we have changed for the better or for worse? Did we pick up good habits and leave our bad ones? Like Hajj, if we have a truly successful Hajj/Ramadan then we come out of it leaving that which displeases Allah and striving harder towards that which is pleasing to Him.
So, how do we level-up and ensure we make this a successful Ramadan?
Here’s a special 7 Successful Habits to Form in Ramadan: Quarantine Edition.
1a. Our Intention
It’s always important to start everything we do by going over the intention with which we embark upon it. We need to make sure we are sincerely doing it for the sake of Allah no matter how mundane that action may seem. Over and over again we hear the famous Hadith, “Actions are based on their intentions.” because it should be that over and over again we are setting our intentions straight and renewing them. So let us start off by intending to make the most out of this Ramadan despite being on lock down.
1b. Quran-time not Quarantine
As has been famously dubbed online, the Quran comes first because Ramadan is the month of the Quran. Remember the Quran was first revealed to Muhammad while he was in isolation. We can use our own isolation this Ramadan to develop or deepen our connection with the Quran. Allah says:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ
“It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong. So any one of you who is present that month should fast…” [Al-Baqarah; 185]
Fasting is to celebrate the Quran being sent down this month, so we must give the Quran its due. Some of us like to set up a daily reading schedule in order to finish the entire Quran in Ramadan. Imam Ash-Shafi’i used to read the entire Quran 60 times during Ramadan! But for most of us simply reading the Quran isn’t enough. Let’s turn our Quarantine into “Quran time” by taking it a step further. How is our tajweed? Are we reciting even Surah Al-Fatihah correctly?
How many surahs have we memorized?
How well do we understand what we are reciting?
These are important questions we must ask ourselves in order to strengthen our bond with the book of Allah. He says:
أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
“Will they not contemplate the Quran? Do they have locks on their hearts?” [Surah Muhammad; 24]
So in order to unlock our hearts to the Quran, we have to ponder over the words of Allah and think deeply about the timeless message he sent to our beloved Prophet . Every day, as we read our daily portion of the Quran, we can build the habit of memorizing an ayah or two, reflecting over its meaning, and reading its explanation along with it. It also helps to have a Quran buddy to keep each other accountable and motivated.
Here’s the obvious one. As mentioned earlier we are fasting to celebrate the Quran being revealed. The Prophet tells us:
The one who fasts during the month of Ramadan with conviction while seeking its reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.”
We need to hone our fasts and execute them properly. Yes, we’ll be stuck at home, but what good will abstaining from food do if we just sleep all day? Will that help increase our taqwa? Probably not. We still must strive to do more good while in a state of fasting to maximize its reward. More prayer, more dhikr, more charity, while we have more time for these. The Prophet would fast regularly outside of Ramadan and would increase the number of days per month the closer it would get to Ramadan. As for those that are unable to fast due to their circumstances. it’s still possible to maximize our worship. Ramadan’s blessings are still there for us to benefit from, it just takes the effort on our part.
Prayer is the line that separates the believer from the disbeliever. It is the river that washes away our sins. There is no submitting to the oneness of Allah without prayer. All of this holds true outside of Ramadan, but once Ramadan comes around it is magnified even more. The masajid are filled and people are spilling out into the street or parking lot to pray Tarawih. This year the masajid will be empty and we have no choice but to pray in our homes. We need to take this opportunity to help ourselves pray all five obligatory prayers on time, and in congregation. It is an opportunity for us to pray our own Tarawih at home where the head of the family is the imam, where even the children can lead and build up their confidence. The Prophet is reported to have said on fasting in Ramadan:
“The one who prays throughout Ramadan, with conviction and in the hope of earning reward will have their past sins forgiven.”
Our conviction towards prayer here is for Tarawih, which is sunnah, and which the Prophet too ended up praying in his home, so what of the obligatory prayers? Normally we’re at work or school, so salaah is squeezed into our schedule, but now there’s either no school or we attend school and work from home. So there’s no excuse not to set aside 5-10 minutes as soon as the time for prayer arrives, except our own laziness. So let’s gather the family, men, women, and children, call the adhan, and pray the five daily prayers together in congregation along with the 8-20 raka’ahs of Tarawih, and cap it off with Witr so that we can build up the habit of praying 5 times a day in congregation.
The word salaah in Arabic means dua’. Aside the salaah itself we need to immerse ourselves in dhikr and dua’. Some of our best dua’ and most vulnerable moments come when we are isolated and it’s just us and Allah . In this time of isolation not only will this help us draw closer to Allah , but it will also provide a sense of peace and tranquility in this global environment of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
Allah says in a beautiful verse:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“And if My servants ask you (Muhammad SAS) about Me, I am near. I respond to those who call Me, so let them respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be guided.” [Al-Baqarah;186]
Allah is always near to us so we must take the first step towards him and keep moving forward.
When times get tough — especially during this lock down — just remember Allah . Our Creator Guides us in the Quran in this verse from Surah Ar-Raad:
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
“Those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of God- truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace-” [Ar-Ra’ad;28]
So get those dua’ and dhikr books ready and make it a habit to do the morning and evening adhkaar and recite the dua’s for our everyday activities. Thi shabit cultivated during Ramadan will train us to be able to turn to Allah in dua’ for any situation. That is a sign of guidance.
One of the main issues the pandemic has highlighted is the continuous need for charity. Everyone needing to stay at home means that a lot of people have lost their jobs. Also, someone in the community may have lost a loved one -perhaps even their main breadwinner- and are leaving families at a loss for financial support. For those of us that can afford to, let’s try our best to give and help as much as we can. Whether it’s giving money to the needy or donating medical supplies to front line workers, we need to form the habit of giving in charity without thinking twice about it. Every bit helps, and this is also a great way to instill this habit in our children as well. It’s important to remind ourselves not to fear for our wealth in our current situation because our beloved Messenger tells us:
“Wealth is not diminished by giving in charity.” [Muslim]
There are numerous ahadith on the virtues of giving in charity and its innumerable reward. As the world needs more help, let’s give more for the sake of Allah and for the sake of helping one another. If we find ourselves unable to give monetary donations, then with good health we can always donate our time and energy wherever needed.
6. Maintaining Relationships
Honoring our parents, maintaining ties of kinship, respecting elders, having mercy on the young and the orphan; these are all aspects of maintaining the fabric of a loving society. Now that individuals making up our society are cut off from face-to-face interactions with one another, we need to work even harder now to make sure we uphold these ties and human connections. Alhamdulillah with our current technology there are so many options for us to keep in touch. Check in on your family, your friends, your coworkers, your parents’ friends, and especially someone you know to not have anyone else there for them. Man was created a social being, so having to be cut off from one another does not bode well for our mental and physical well-being. Even in paradise Adam needed a companion. So, let’s really make it a habit to reach out to each other every now and then, and let our friends and loved ones know that we’re here for one another.
7. T&T: Taqwa and Tawakkul
Imaan fluctuates. For all its ups and downs it seems to go way up during Ramadan and rightfully so. With all the fasting and praying and dua’s every day, Ramadan should be a month-long imaan rush that gets us through the rest of the year. So let’s ask ourselves: “What is my current relationship with Allah and how can I make it better?” In order to get closer to Allah we have to know Him better, and in order to know Allah we have to learn about His names and attributes revealed to us in the Quran and Sunnah. Allah says:
وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ ۚ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ –
“The Most Excellent Names belong to God: use them to call on Him” [Al-A’raf;180]
Allah has not forsaken us. He didn’t leave us lost with no direction. He wants us to know that He created us, that He is our Rabb, and that we should worship Him alone. Since we were given instruction from Allah , it is up to us to learn and find out who He is and what He means to us, by truly comprehending his names and attributes. Learning the 99 names of Allah , the meaning of each name, and how it applies to our lives, can even be an activity the family does together. We can start off with one name per day -for instance Ar-Rahman- learn what it really means, how it applies to Allah , how it reflects in our daily lives, and even ask dua’ centered around that name. Not only will it help us get closer to Allah and help us with our reliance upon Him, but it will also really up our dua’ game as well.
In conclusion, this is in no way an absolute one-size-fits-all list, and one can add or subtract as they see fit. Everyone has their own personal goals for Ramadan. The important thing is that, while that majority of us are sitting at home in isolation, we can make the most of this time by doing some serious introspection and figuring out where we stand with Allah . Only then can we start to better ourselves and our families so that we can live lives more pleasing to Allah .
We cannot let isolation overtake us. Instead we need to take it by the horns and use it to help tame our own nafs. The Prophet himself sought isolation in order to separate himself from the evils of society. So now we have the opportunity — albeit in somewhat forced isolation. If we head into Ramadan with clear objectives and laser-sharp focus we can look back afterwards and see habits formed that will carry over the rest of the year.
Oh Allah allow us to be able to look back at this unique Ramadan with 20/20 hindsight and see it as one of the silver linings from this pandemic. Allow us to reach Ramadan in good health and strong Iman. Allow us to come out of this Ramadan better than we were before it. Allow us to carry over all the good we developed during Ramadan to the next Ramadan. Accept from us our fasts, our prayers, our dua, our charity, and the rest of our good deeds. Give ease to those who are suffering and a cure and good health to those who are sick. Send your peace and blessings and salutations upon our beloved prophet and messenger Muhammad , his family, and his companions. By your mercy, oh Merciful one, Ameen.
I urge everyone reading this to please take this seriously and adhere to social distancing as I have many friends and family members in the medical field and have had multiple family members and friends test positive for the virus. Let us all do our part to flatten the curve. May Allah keep us all safe. Ameen.
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