Just mention the word ‘Ramadan’ and Muslims around the world light up. There’s a feeling of excitement and anticipation. People just can’t wait until it arrives. For some, there’s actually a countdown to the first day. Try explaining this eagerness to an average non-Muslim and they feel totally bewildered. They stare in disbelief when a Muslim describes the incredible peace and strength they derive from not eating or drinking for an entire day. They cringe at the thought of waking up before the crack of dawn to eat a meal and standing in prayer for an hour every night for a month. It’s just beyond their comprehension.
The euphoria of Ramadan can only be understood or appreciated by those who have lived and experienced it firsthand. Regardless of how eloquently the wonders and wisdom of Ramadan are explained, enough can never be said to truly capture the phenomenal experience.
What exactly is it about this month of Ramadan that provokes such genuine enthusiasm and eagerness in Muslims around the world? Primarily, it is the obedience to Allah’s commandment to fast. Adhering to Allah’s commands gives an individual a strong sense of unity with the rest of the universe. Every creature, every living thing, every planet and galaxy is in complete submission to Allah except for human beings and jinn which have been given free will.
The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet you do not understand how they declare His glory! (17:44) Therefore, when we submit to the Will of Allah and are obedient, we become in sync with everything that exists. This synchronism is the peak of harmony and peace which envelops our hearts and creates a sublime tranquility that is unparalleled with anything else.
In addition to the satisfaction we receive from obeying Allah, there is a real urge to redeem ourselves. To correct the past, to make amends and to purify ourselves from any sins we have committed either knowingly or unknowingly. The ardent devotedness to repent from all of our shortcomings and to embrace all the acts of worship which will cleanse our hearts is truly awe-inspiring.
When we critically reflect on the past year without the usual justifications and excuses about our laziness in worship, the injustices we have committed to our loved ones, the ungratefulness of all our extraordinary blessings and the careless ways we have spent our time, money and effort, then and only then can we wash away the sins with the tears of regret begging Allah for His Mercy and His Forgiveness with fervent supplication.
Say: “O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins), Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: verily, Allah forgives all sins. Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (39:53)
As we attempt to mend the mistakes of the past, we gain new insight and motivation to improve ourselves and to strive to earn as many good deeds as possible with the remainder of our lives. We earnestly pray with more concentration, read pages and pages of the Quran effortlessly and we mindfully avoid even the smallest sins in fear of invalidating our fast.
This revived zeal is fueled by the knowledge that Allah Most Merciful multiplies our good deeds exponentially during the blessed month of Ramadan. The night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months. (98:3) It is in similitude to having our wages increased significantly for a period of time. With an increase in wages we would work long hours yearning to work overtime in order to reap the financial rewards. The marathon of earning the most spiritual rewards becomes an unstoppable passion which begins to fortify our personal growth. Compete in good deeds (5:48)
But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires and lusts. Verily, Paradise will be his abode. (79:40,41) Respect is a result of congruency between our knowledge of the truth and our actions. When we act in accordance to our beliefs, we gain psychological, emotional and spiritual harmony.
With an improved relationship with Allah through worship and a new awareness of our inner strength, we are naturally drawn to our family and friends to share the joy and enlightenment we have experienced. The frequent dinner invitations help nurture the love and benevolence amongst us. This pure, unadulterated love for the sake of Allah will help us attain a higher status on the Day of Judgment.
“Allah the Exalted will declare on the Day of Resurrection: ‘Where are those who loved each other for the sake of My Grace? This Day, I shall shade them under My Shade, when there is only My Shade.’” (Muslim) Attending the congregational prayers at the mosque regularly increases the sense of unity and Muslim pride. As we see our friends and acquaintances fill every inch of the mosque, shedding tears of remorse and hope, our iman (faith) gets recharged and we view our life in a whole new paradigm. We celebrate this new perspective and our successful journey in self-purification and introspection by gathering for the Eid prayer, which is the culmination of the rituals of Ramadan.
It is the synergy of worship, commitment, improvement and unity that leads to such a phenomenal experience during Ramadan. It is no wonder why so many Muslims around the world beam with excitement when approaching this blessed month. If up until now the only focus has been to refrain from eating and drinking, let us embrace it this year wholeheartedly to acquire its riches, for this may be our very last Ramadan.