Ramadhan is the teacher who comes around annually to teach us an invaluable lesson and to change us for the better. This year, it taught me the importance of discipline. Of the underestimated strength of our human willpower. Of pushing the limits. Of mind over matter.
See, I thought I needed my cup of coffee, my morning drug to function at work or in class. But Ramadhan has taught me that it’s blind dependence, and that this relationship I have with coffee? A mere addiction.
I thought lunch time was important in order for me to continue with my work. But Ramadhan has taught me that my stomach only requires food when it needs it.
I thought I needed rest after Isyak after a taxing day at work. But Ramadhan has taught me that my capacity to stand and perform rakaah after rakaah of nawaafil despite the wobbly legs and creeping exhaustion, is larger than I gave credit for.
I thought that social media is a daily necessity, almost an impulse I cannot shake. But Ramadhan has taught me to live fully in the real world, and that I can limit my online activity to its minimum.
I thought I had to listen to music while doing my work. But Ramadhan has taught me that I can live life without it.
I thought it was an impossible feat to wake up in the middle of the night for tahajjud. But Ramadhan has taught me that my bones are capable of waking, responding to His call. I couldn’t give up the opportunity of responding to the Lord of all worlds, my Lord, when He is patiently waiting for me at the quietest hour.
Ramadhan teaches me that I could push myself to do more. If I could do it for this month, then I could do it for the rest of the year. For the past 11 months since the previous Ramadhan, I could feel my imaan slish-sloshing, my deeds inconsistent, myself relapsing into past unfavourable habits. So I needed this. I needed to be schooled again. I needed this month to come and teach me something I already know but constantly, humanly fail to practice.
Ramadhan isn’t easy – which test or examination is? It is 30 solid days of schooling, of examination, almost like a spiritual boot camp. I’d be lying if I said it’s a breeze. You’ll get used to the fasting but getting used to something does not equate to it being easy. And the biggest battle is to put Allah above your nafs. Your throat screams for water but your mind and your heart say Allah is greater. Your stomach screams for food but your mind and your heart say Allah is greater. Ramadhan is supposed to be difficult. What is the point if it’s going to be easy? We only learn something valuable through pain and practice. Ramadhan requires us to go through both.
But amidst the difficulty, guess what? Hasn’t he promised, unequivocally, that with every hardship therein lies ease? (94:6) During the hardships we face in Ramadhan, haven’t we felt peace? Haven’t we grown our love for Allah? Haven’t we felt closer to Him this month than we ever did before? Haven’t we felt and tasted the beauty of the every day which we often forget – like how a glass of water or a piece of watermelon tastes unusually exquisite in Ramadhan, or how eating together as a family during iftar is one of the biggest blessings in life that you wish could be replicated in Jannah? This is the ease He provided us with. Despite the challenges, Your awareness of Him increases. Your taqwa develops. Your relationship with Him grows.
This year’s Ramadhan for me has been slightly more challenging because unlike last year, I did not get the privilege to stay home this entire month to focus on my ‘Ramadhan To-do List”. While I had the luxury to be consistent in my Ramadhan deeds and habits I wanted to start on last year, it’s different this time. But you know, a human having holidays during Ramadhan is safe, but that’s not what humans are built for (yes I just did a twist on that “ship in a harbour is safe” quote, please indulge me thanks). I couldn’t keep up with my daily Bayyinah TV Ramadhan special, I couldn’t keep up with my duha prayers consistently, I couldn’t give all my concentration during the taraweeh prayers after a tiring day at work, and I couldn’t anticipate the last few nights of laylatul qadr in qiyam as Allah didn’t allow me to (I’m still really sad about it :<). These things disappointed me because I thought I’d fall short from my previous Ramadhan. But I know my Lord is a merciful Lord. I know that as long as I put in my utmost best and sincerity in the deeds that I am capable of doing, I know I’m on my way. I suppose the key is to keep going and never give up. No matter how little the deed, do it. Keep struggling the good struggle. Keep fighting the good fight.
And essentially, we are all Ramadhan Muslims because our worship increases in this month. We pray more in this month, we give more in this month. Shaykh Abdul Rahman Murphy said that Ramadhan is the closest we can feel to the living condition during the times of our Prophet Muhammad PBUH for this was how he and his companions lived their every day – minimal food and drinks, maximum worship. They lived the epitome of mind over matter on the daily. We have only a month – one special month we continue to look forward to every year because we know how laden with blessings it is. And we strive to bring this Ramadhan version of ourselves into subsequent months. If you fail to carry on living your Ramadhan self outside of this month, then don’t beat yourself up. It’s only human. It’s in our nature to forget. It’s in our nature to have a fluctuating imaan. But as with everything that falls, we can rise again. Try again. Allah expects effort, not perfection.
I hope and pray that we will all come out of this month with our faith recalibrated, and with the lessons we’ve personally learnt etched deeply in our minds, weaved seamlessly in our hearts.
Discipline over distraction.
Practice over perfection.
Mind over matter.
Allah over all matters.