Guest contribution by Mariam E.
A couple of years ago towards the end of this blessed month, a dear friend described the month with words which still run through my head to this day. She said, 'Ramadan is a madrasa.' That's all she said; Ramadan is a school. I thought about her words a lot. Among the conclusions to which my thoughts led me was that if Ramadan was a school, then fasting must be one of the best teachers of this school. Indeed, fasting is a teacher who raises and educates the student on the principle of developing a strong will (iradah); a will which should lead to the right goal (hadaf). But this will is in need of brave figures to carry it.
Many of us have a strong will to do good, but not all of us use it. This is evident in the amount of good which comes out of people in Ramadan. The rows of the masājid are filled and it is easier for people to part with their beloved wealth. Hence they have a will, but there may exist a lack of bravery to put this strong will into practice at all times.
Turn to yourself, if you find that you have a strong will at all times, then be grateful to Allāh and let Ramadan be a chance to strengthen it. If not, then let Ramadan be a chance for you to develop a strong will. To be brave in this month, is to take advantage of it and not be among those who regret it's passing afterward. To be brave is to make the right decisions at the right time. To be brave is to seek Allāh's pleasure regardless of what the people say or think.
Let us divert our attention to an example of one of those who were required to make a strong decision at a crucial time, but could not. The uncle of our Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam), Abu Talib, is on his deathbed. The Best of the Creation is next to him; pleading with him to accept the Truth. He (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) says,
My uncle, you just make a profession that there is no true god but Allâh, and I will bear testimony before Allāh (of your being a believer).
It is a tense moment. Two enemies sit nearby; Abu Jahl and Abdullah ibn Abi Ummayyah. They keep repeating those poisoned words, “Abu Talib, would you abandon the religion of 'Abdul-Muttalib?” Rasulullah (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) keeps repeating his request; one that saves from eternal punishment by Allāh's will.
It is time for the final decision. He refuses. He refused to accept that La Illaha illa Allāh. As bitter as it is, he was not among the brave ones. He could not make that heroic decision. He feared his people.
Now open your eyes to your own life, which is between your hands. The Best of Months is also paying you a visit. It has opened its doors of mercy and forgiveness, pleading with you to enter. It is a tense time. The shayateen are locked up, but there remain around you the shayateen of mankind (al-Ins) who pull you from every direction; 'It's ok, just skip taraweeh tonight, we're gonna have some fun….'
The decision is in your hands to let the traces of the Siyaam and the light of Qiyaam have an effect on your entire life. Do not be among those who refuse. Be among the brave ones who fight every desire to reach lofty goals.
Do not let Ramadan pass while your prayer is the same before it and after it. Do not let it pass without positive change in your words and actions.
The poet said,
إذا هجع النوام ……….. أسبلت عبراتي
و أنشدت بيتا …….. و هو من ألطف الشعر
أليس من الخسران………أنَ ليالياً تمُر بلا أجر
وتحسب من عمري
When slumber overtakes the sleeping ones ……….I drop my tears
And recite a line……that is of appeasing poetry (saying)
Is it not a great loss……..that nights pass without (gaining) reward
And be counted from my life.
We conclude with two primary steps on the path of achieving bravery.
First, strengthen your relationship with Allāh (subhanahu wata'ala), Al-Khaaliq. If you strengthen your relationship with He Who is in the Heaven, then nothing will matter to you from this dunya. Humble yourself before him, seek forgiveness for your past sins. Know you're but a mere slave and He is the Lord, the Master. Know that you are in need of His aid and help to achieve success. Without His help, you would not even be able to fast or pray in this blessed month at all. So strive to please Him and turn to Him for your every need.
Second, strengthen your relationship with the Creation, al-Khalq. Start with your heart. Let your heart fast too. Let it fast from hatred, envy and evil thoughts towards the Believers. When Shaytaan whispers evil about the brother passing you, bravely put him down with a big smile in your brothers face. Have a strong will to go to bed every night with a pure heart. If your heart is pure towards the Believers, then your limbs will be pure in their actions with them.
Finally, always remember the hadeeth of our Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam): “May his nose be rubbed in the dust, a man for whom Ramadan comes and then goes before he is forgiven.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 3545; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)
To be forgiven in this Month is to let your bravery come with you outside of this 'school'. To have a fasting heart, tongue and limbs even after you have broken your literal fast. This is bravery.
May Allāh place barakah for us in what remains of this blessed month and make us among the righteous and the successful.