My brothers and sisters, we have entered the best month of the year.’
All around us is spiritual hype; we see people rushing to do good and pushing themselves beyond what we could imagine doing.
And where are we?
Maybe we’re feeling spiritually defunct after a recent trial.
Maybe we feel like we can’t do it – there’s no point, we’re too addicted to that specific sin.
Maybe we feel distant from Allah because we haven’t been doing much this past year, and we feel hypocritical to shakily turn to Him now.
My dear brothers and sisters, Allah isn’t just the Rabb of the righteous, neither does He withhold his Rahma (Extreme Mercy) from those of His slaves who struggle and straggle behind the rest.
Imam Omar Suleiman puts this fact across in a beautiful way:
“Just as you don’t enter Jannah by your good deeds but by the Mercy of Allah, you don’t enter the Mercy of Allah in Ramadan by your good deeds but by the Mercy of Allah.”
But we must also remember, my fellow strugglers, that Jannah is not attained through wishful thinking. We were not put here to be perfect, but we are expected to exert effort to aspire towards the Forever Home that Allah سبحانه و تعالى describes as:
“‘I have prepared for My righteous slaves (such excellent things) as no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard, nor a human heart can ever think of.' "
And to aspire to what is even better than that – seeing the Face of the Lord of the Great Throne.
As Al-Hasan Al-Basri رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ said:
“When the people of Jannah look at Allah the Most High, they will forget about the blessings of Jannah.”
[Rawdhatul Al-Muhibbin, 422]
A Ramadan Treasure to Attain
Ramadan is a golden opportunity for both the weakest and strongest of us to transform our lives.
Why do you think we feel stuck in a maze of trials, difficulties, and bad habits?
It’s because we ‘repeat what we fail to repair.’ We run around blindly, wringing our hands and looking to the creation for some way out of our reoccurring problems. Meanwhile, Allah سبحانه و تعالى, Our Creator and the Sustainer of the Heavens and the Earth has promised to respond to us.
But the condition is that we have to call upon Him.
And we have to be those who try our best to respond to Him-to follow the guidelines He so mercifully sent for our peace and progress.
Allah tells us that the whole purpose of fasting in Ramadan is to train us in developing a specific quality that Allah loves, by which His slave can unlock unimaginable blessings, success, ease, and rewards.
What is this game-changing characteristic?
“O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you- as it was for those before you. So perhaps you will be mindful [of Allah].”
The word ‘Taqwa’ comes from the Arabic root letters ي ق و. It can be defined as shielding oneself from the punishment of Allah سبحانه و تعالى. How? By fulfilling His Commands and abstaining from His prohibitions. By remembering that we are returning to Him and preparing for that Day.
A heart with Taqwa is like a bird flying to Allah. It is led by love and balanced by hope and fear. It is kept afloat by seeking beneficial knowledge.
The Prophet ﷺ would say,
“O Allah, I submit my face to You and entrust my affair to You. I commit myself to You out of hope and fear of You.”
My brothers and sisters, this is no small matter.
This trait is our key to salvation; it is the pre-requisite for benefitting from Allah’s Book;
“This is the Book! There is no doubt about it – a guide for those mindful of Allah (Al-Muttaqeen),”
It is our means out of every difficulty and deprivation;
“And whoever is mindful of Allah, He will make a way out for them, and provide for them from sources they could never imagine.”
It is our guarantee of Allah’s Love;
“Indeed, Allah loves those who are mindful [of Him].”
[Ali ‘Imran: 76]
And His Protective Friendship;
“There will certainly be no fear for the close servants of Allah, nor will they grieve. They are those who are faithful and are mindful [of Him].”
[Surah Yunus: 62-63]
And, SubhanAllah, so much more.
Ramadan helps us to attain this enriching gift by showing us that, if we can leave the halal (lawful) for Allah’s sake for an entire month, then we can abandon what’s haram (prohibited) for the rest of the year!
The Thorny Path
Once, Umar Ibn Al Khattab رضي الله عنه asked Ubay Ibn Ka’ab رضي الله عنه about Taqwa.
Ubay رضي الله عنه somewhat surprisingly replied with another question- “Have you ever taken a thorny path?”
When Umar رضي الله عنه said that he had, his companion asked him how he travelled along it.
Umar رضي الله عنه replied, “I rolled up my garment and was cautious as to where I would tread to avoid being pricked by thorns.”
So, Ubay رضي الله عنه responded and said, “This is Taqwa.”
If you think about it, my brothers and sisters, we are all journeying on a path – towards our death. Towards a new, eternal reality that awaits us, where we will see the truth of our lives here.
This path is clear-cut, but it also has thorns, some beautiful and some grotesque, but all deadly- the sins and fitnah of this Dunya.
But we can, with Allah’s Help, shield ourselves from them. What it takes is a sincere intention and plenty of practice.
Despair won’t get us anywhere- which is why I want to end on this practical note of hope.
The thorns will sometimes prick us, but do we then let ourselves immerse ourselves in them, causing ourselves mortal harm?
No. We fear Allah’s Punishment; we run away from Allah’s Wrath – but where?
We run to His Mercy. We seek His forgiveness; we raise our hands to Him and let our hope in Him flood and heal our raw and bleeding hearts.
And know that Allah loves to forgive you, no matter how many times you let the ‘thorns’ get the better of you.
What is the du’a Rasulullah ﷺ told us to make most frequently during the Last Ten Nights?
Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun, tuhibbul-‘afwa, fa’fu ‘anni
“O Allah, You are Forgiving and love forgiveness; so forgive me.” [Al-Bukhari, 2024]
Taqwa is running from Allah back to Allah.
So, my brothers and sisters, let’s use this blessed month to get closer to our Lord, and beg Him to transform our lives in the most beautiful and miraculous ways, enabling us to start adopting the characteristics of the people of Jannah here on Earth.