When we talk of Ramadan, it’s common to hear that it’s a period of training for the remaining 11 months. The explanation goes that when we can leave the permissible acts (food, beverage, marital relations) during fasting, it stands to reason that we can leave the haram acts during the other months. But is this the only takeaway from Ramadan? In this article, let’s revisit some of the other learnings that Ramadan has to offer.
1. Ramadan as a month of possibility
With the arrival of Ramadan, a common Muslim not only performs the daily prayers but engages in several different acts of worship such as fasting, night prayer (Taraweeh and Tahajjud), reciting Quran, offering voluntary prayers, charity, dua, attending religious lectures, itikaf and zakath al fitr. Ramadan establishes that it’s possible to do all the different acts of worship while one goes about his daily life thus revealing our spiritual potential.
2. The importance of environment
Ramadan creates an environment that makes it possible to do several acts of worship. Fasting is compulsory, everyone else is fasting so it’s hard to be the odd man out. The night prayer is made congregational so those who couldn’t pray on their own gets an opportunity. The last 10 days, there is a call for itikaf, there are other people for company and so some people sign up for it.
The right environment can take our achievements to the next level. In a conflicting environment, it’s a struggle to survive, to get by.
3. The power of events/boot camp to get more done in less time
Ramadan is the biggest event in the spiritual world. To use the world cup tournament analogy, the month is a tournament and each day is a match. The tournament starts with enthusiasm, plateaus in the middle and ends with an intense performance. At the start of the month the believers are eager, even kids as small as 4 fight with their parents to allow them to fast, then the enthusiasm starts to wane, fatigue sets in and suddenly we’re in the last 10 days, there’s the night of decree to catch — a night better than 1000 months — and the believers comes back with renewed energy and focus to gain their salvation.
Each match follows a similar pattern, starts with enthusiasm, trudges in the middle and intent on hitting every ball out of the stadium towards the end. The day starts with fajr, people who hardly attend fajr do so because they have to wake up for suhoor (the only meal that they’ll have until sunset), gets busy with their livelihood in the middle part of the day and then fervently pray to Allah as they are about to break the fast. As soon as they had enough, they pray magrib. The time of fajr and magrib is when angles exchange shifts and Ramadan makes these two prayers unmissable.
While Ramadan is a month of possibility, it’s not easy to always live up to our potential. Ramadan as an event helps the believers accomplish a lot in a very less time.
4. Altering the baseline of beliefs / upward mobility in the spiritual domain
When people experience the event of Ramadan and are able to retain some other act — like night prayer, or fasting every three days a month — and make it a part of their lifestyle, they change their baseline of iman/belief. This leads to an upward mobility in the spiritual domain.
5. The sacred touch of the Quran
There is a deep connection between Ramadan and the Quran. There is nothing that the Quran touches except that it becomes sacred. The month in which the revelation started is the month of fasting and the month where Allah grants salvation to many of mankind. The city in which it was revealed, one prayer performed is equal to one lakh prayers. The man on whom it was revealed became the leader of all the messengers . The angel who brought the revelation attained special status that Allah made a special mention:
The Day that Ar-Rûh [Jibrael (Gabriel)] and the angels will stand forth in rows, none shall speak except him whom the Most Beneficent (Allâh) allows, and he will speak what is right.
Ramadan is testimonial to how a relationship with the Quran translates to an elevation in rank in the spiritual domain.
6. Ramadan as a reality check
The mind is obsessed with attaining desires and pleasures. It plays strange tricks and make it seem like the thing that you’re chasing is essential for your survival. When you deny yourself food, then the focus changes to the essentials, to the bare minimum needed to survive. Reason why the messenger of Allah instructed young men to fast in order to control their sexual desires.
For affluent people who don’t know what hunger feels like, it’s a time to empathize with the needy who hardly get one square meal a day. Ramadan then becomes an exhortation to feed the hungry for feeding them is one of the best deeds in Islam.
It also helps to appreciate the simple things in life: water feels sweet and tasty when you take the first sip, a simple rice porridge feels like the most delicious thing. To rediscover the simple pleasures in life, refrain from them for some time.
7. Ramadan as a diet program
Do you endlessly think about what next to eat? Have you tried a diet program that you couldn’t follow? Calorie counting? Diet programs are renowned for their high failure rate — upto 80% quit in the first three months. Welcome to Ramadan: wake up before dawn, have a meal, preferably add dates and then don’t have anything until the sun set. That’s a global diet program with unmatchable success rate and a track record of about 1500 years.