Ok, now I’m really writing about Ramadan. One thing that’s come up on the tagboard (many thanks to Choco Bean) is the idea of preparing for Ramadan. What exactly does ‘preparing for Ramadan’ mean, anyway, making a month’s Pakoras in advance? Stockpiling enough RoohAfza to last until the Mehdi comes? (in my Khandaan, yes. He he)
Ramadan is a time of spiritual renewal: Allah does us a favor by locking Shaitan up for an entire month so that it’s easier for us to fast and also to get back into the Islamic habits we may have let slide since last year. True, we’re capable of doing stupid things and neglecting our Islam without the help of Shaitan, but for those of us who are trying not to, the removal of the ‘Shaitani factor’ from our brains is a big help. It’s one less mental battle to fight on the way to the prayer rug, or when passing by the TV, or staring longingly at the CD’s that you know have haraam music on them.
Ramadan is a Shaitan-free Zone: Allah makes it easier for us, He gives us a whole Shaitan-free month to strengthen our resolve and to kick the counter-Islamic habits that Shaitan has worked so hard to trick us into. People often use Ramadan to jump-start their efforts to quit things, smoking is a big one. So is swearing, listening to haram music, lying, etc. The idea though, is to not resume them when Ramadan ends. The idea isn’t to behave ourselves just because it’s Ramadan, but to behave ourselves starting in Ramadan and lasting all the way till next Ramadan.
Ramadan is a Reminder: The fasting itself plays a big part of this spiritual renewal, because being hungry and uncomfortable is a shocking reminder of the blessings and comfort that we take for granted the other 11 months of the year. You stumble around with dry mouth, bloody cracked lips (I do anyway), growling stomach, and you remember that there are people who live like this, or much worse, every day. Going through this discomfort, no matter how temporary it is, still causes you to feel genuine sympathy for those Muslims who are in straightened circumstances. If we didn’t have Ramadan, there’s a very good chance that none of us first-world Muslims would ever go hungry for a single day in our lives. We wouldn’t have a reminder, or a clue for that matter, of how very much others are suffering and how very much our help is needed.
Ramadan is Boot Camp: Additionally, putting your self to the test by fasting and abstaining for all haram possible is like boot-camp for the soul. The purpose of boot camp is to try you, to train you, and to make you do your best by putting you through hardship. That way, if you come across something difficult later, you can be like, “This isn’t so bad, I did harder things back in boot camp.” It’s the same thing with fasting. If you miss breakfast one day and find yourself getting cranky, you can just relax and say, “No breakfast? Big deal. I went without breakfast, lunch, and coffee, and I didn’t get grouchy.” At least that way Shaitan can’t goad you into losing your temper just because your tummy is rumbling.
If you find yourself in a difficult Islamic test you can say, “I can do this. I fasted for thirty days. This is nothing compared to that.” So you do this once a year, to remind you of what you’re capable of, of how strong you should be, how strong you CAN be. You prepare for it by cutting out everything from your life that’s haram. And you don’t just resolve to do this for only as long as Ramadan lasts, because otherwise you’ve wasted the whole opportunity and missed the point.
Ramadan is Spiritual Fitness Month: A lot of Muslims believe the myth that spirituality is something you’re born with, or that some people just have it and some people don’t. The truth though, is that spiritual fitness is rather like physical fitness. There may be a few people to whom it comes naturally, but the rest of us have it because we work on it. If we pray it’s because we’ve trained ourselves to, the same way an athlete can train themselves to jump hurdles or run a 400 meter sprint. If we don’t train, then we shouldn’t blame our spiritual flabbiness on lack of ‘religious tendencies,” we should realize we’ve been lazy and we’re neglecting our spiritual health.
So, Ramadan is:
A time of Spiritual Renewal and a Boot Camp-like Reminder to exercise your Spiritual Fitness during one Shaitan-Free month.