Ramadan, Renewal & Resolution

Apr 3, 2022 | Articles, Noor Excerpts

Every year as the month of December winds down people around the world look to the beginning of the new calendar year as the means to a fresh start. Articles and lists are written of all the things that went wrong in the current year and resolutions are made in the hopes of improving the one to come. The stroke of midnight is anticipated as some magic switch that will flip
and everything will change. Very often, by the time people get used to writing the correct year on the date, many have already failed to keep up their resolutions. The celebratory feeling that accompanied all the fireworks fades as the dismal weather drags out with winter’s slow end.

For myself, and for hundreds of millions of practicing Muslim families around the globe, there is another occasion to look forward to. It is not tied to any particular season or Gregorian date, rather it shifts through every one through the decades bestowing its blessings throughout. This is Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and it is anticipated and planned for in every region of the world.

Since it is not just one day but an entire month with specially associated rituals, it has the power to facilitate more enduring changes, both in our mindset and our daily routine. It is simultaneously a high intensity boot-camp, demanding us to push our bodies and souls to the limit in varying forms of worship, and a wellness retreat, offering a tranquil escape from the stresses of daily life. It is our time to spiritually recharge and recommit ourselves to serving our Creator in the best way possible.

For as long as I can remember, Ramadan was the most eagerly awaited time of year in my household both before and after marriage. We put up decorations, prepared special dishes, adjusted our schedules, chose a masjid for Taraweeh prayer, and did a deep cleaning of the house. But most importantly, we made plans. Plans for how to get the most out of Ramadan. We chose books we wanted to read, surahs to study, or sunnah habits to establish. And also plans for how to continue the momentum we gained and carry it through the rest of the year. Inspired by the oft repeated wisdom that it takes thirty days to make or break a habit, we would make goals to take with us into the rest of the year. Whether that was increasing our daily reading of the Qur’an, trying to attend Isha at the masjid, or keeping up the habit of waking up for tahajjud. There were even nonreligious goals, such as trying to exercise regularly. Inevitably, though we did not manage to sustain each and every one throughout the coming year, many stayed with us for months afterwards. And just when the fuel seemed to run out and our drive began to lessen, we found that another Ramadan was around the corner and with it the chance to start all over again.

This is a sentiment that I know is shared by so many friends, family members, and Muslim communities around me. Ramadan is our once in-a-year opportunity to wipe our slate clean and start fresh. It is even described as such by our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW in the following hadith reported by Abu Huraira RA, “Verily the Messenger of Allah SAW said: The five (daily) prayers and from one Friday prayer to the (next) Friday prayer, and from Ramadan to Ramadan are expiations for the (sins) committed in between (their intervals) provided one shuns the major sins,” (Sahih Muslim). Allah SWT knows our natures and knows that despite our best intentions we will veer off track. He has provided us with intermittent opportunities to realign ourselves: small ones in the form of our Salah, weekly on Fridays, and the intensive once-a-year event that is Ramadan.

There is something incredibly holistic about the nature of Ramadan because it offers so many ways to better ourselves. Whichever aspect of life and worship we may have been falling short in during the year, in Ramadan there are chances to improve on them all. If we have become distanced from the Qur’an, we are compelled to pick it up and devote extended time to it. If we have forgotten to give charity, there is a new cause waiting for our support every day. If we have begun to slack off in our sunnah prayers, all the extra rakahs we offer remind us of the value of taking out those few extra minutes of our day. If we have become distracted from seeking knowledge, there is a barrage of amazing content available for our consumption. If we have fallen out of contact with friends, the increased sense of community pushes us to reconnect, even if only to send a mass text to forgotten names in our phone-book. The month of Ramadan, with its exhilarating sense of purpose and spiritual highs, also illustrates in an amplified way the beautiful paradox that is the experience of being Muslim and serving our Creator. When we think of most of the obligations we must fulfill in our daily life; tasks at our jobs, homework for our studies, chores and errands related to running our households, they are very often burdensome and bring a sense of relief upon completion. While we may enjoy some more than others, the majority of our satisfaction comes from finishing them. The obligations we owe to Allah SWT feel entirely different. They are both a responsibility and an escape. When we perform them wholeheartedly, they offer a kind of serenity that many other activities we use as leisurely diversions, such as TV and movies or fictional stories and inane news blurbs, cannot match. The more time we spend in His worship, the more we want to continue. Instead of exhausting us, prayer and dhikr of Allah SWT gives us the strength to persist. There are times when I neglect the Qur’an, not picking it up for days, but whenever I do, I do not feel like putting it down. It is the same with voluntary prayers and other forms of worship.

Similarly, if we think of the times that we wrong another human being, or fail to do some duty, we feel a distinct sense of embarrassment and an instinct to run from our failure. When we struggle in our interpersonal dealings, we often need distance to process, but not so with our Creator. When we sin, it is with Allah SWT that we find refuge; similar to a misbehaving child who seeks solace from his/her mother after being disciplined. He demands from us but He also grants us the strength to meet those demands and when we inevitably fall short, He offers us forgiveness and the chance to try again. And all of it, the entire cycle, is not for His benefit rather for our own betterment.

Ramadan perfectly encapsulates this wondrous relationship that believers share with their Lord. It is a month-long reminder of the unconditional love of our Creator and the ways in which He facilitates our journey through this life of toil. In another Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira RA and recorded in Sahih Bukhari, Allah’s Messenger SAW said, “When the month of Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of the (Hell) Fire are closed, and the devils are chained.” This is our annual reprieve from the ruts we fall into, our chance to begin anew. Let us seize this gift from Allah SWT and use it to chart our path to His pleasure, and in it we will find our own.