Continuing the struggle beyond Ramadan

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Kaleem Ullah a young student is eating Sahoor (the dawn meal) in the mosque on the Lailat-ul-Qadar (the night of Power) like hundreds of other devotees who have been up all night. He is cheerful and I ask him what he has been doing during the day. He replies, “I went to my lectures then did my part-time job from 4pm till 8pm. I attended Tarawih (night prayer) and since then I have been in the mosque”. Subhan Allah! This is not a unique story, as almost all the devotees had been working during the daytime.

This is real commitment and submission that is valued by Allah. “Allah does not waste the reward of the righteous”. Kaleem Ullah’s fasting, prayer, zikr, reciting and listening to the glorious Qur’an, together with earning a halal livelihood is a Mujahadah. Mujahadah is exerting oneself, making full effort and struggling to achieve ones goal.

My dear brothers and sisters for the last thirty days and nights you have been exerting your utmost effort to gain Divine pleasure by fasting, praying and giving generously in charity. Rest assured that our Generous and the Most Gracious Lord will fully reward us. What was the objective of these spiritual exercises of fasting, praying and charity?

The Qur’an simply says, “so that you may become God conscious”. Developing the consciousness of God or taqwa is the primary goal of Islam, and consists of three components:

1. Ilm: Knowledge and understanding

2. Amal: Performing good deeds

3. Ikhlas: Sincerity

Let us examine these three in more depth, as this is the very essence of the Islamic Shari‘ah and the basis of a Muslim’s life.

Knowledge and Understanding

We are urged to seek knowledge “seeking knowledge is a duty of every believing man and woman” said the Blessed Messenger (upon him be peace and blessings of God).

The question is what knowledge is compulsory? Every Muslim must know and understand the articles of belief, the Islamic Creed:

  • Tawhid: the belief in the oneness of Allah, the all Powerful, all Knowing, the Loving and the Merciful Lord.
  • Risalah: the belief in the messengers and divine revelation. How Allah has been guiding mankind and how the final Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (upon him be peace and blessings of God) is the perfect role model for us.
  • Akhirah: the belief in the life Hereafter, that this ephemeral and fleeting life is not the be all and end all but a means to the success in the Hereafter.

Every Muslim must learn about cleanliness and how to purify oneself physically as well as spiritually, and we are expected to be familiar with ideas like:

  • Man is khalifatullah – representative of Allah on earth therefore he is responsible for his action and accountable for them. This is the basis of living as a responsible citizen dedicated to the common good of the whole society.
  • Self-purification or tazkiyyah – as Allah says, “successful is he who purifies himself”. This is getting rid of false gods that we might be carrying in our heads; false believes, evil thoughts, moral vices etc.
  • This world is Darul Amal the place of work and the Hereafter is Darul Jaza the place of reward.

Performing Good Deeds

Doing good work or Mujahadah. Allah says “And those who struggle and work in our way we will surely guide them” (29:69). What a marvelous promise from Allah. Once we dedicate ourselves to him, once we do good, once we make the effort, the majestic Lord is always there to receive us. He says, “when a person comes a hand span near me I will come full arms length towards him and when he comes arms length towards me I will come twice as much nearer to him and if he comes walking towards me I will come running to him” (al-Bukhari).

This pouring of love and kindness of the Lord is for those who make the effort, those who struggle in doing well. “Good works” is the purpose of Muslims life “Wealth and children are the ornaments and decorations of life only good works will remain with your Lord for which you can be hopeful” (18:46).

We make every effort to make our worldly lives successful, we invest lot of time learning skills to be able to earn money, and we then take every precaution to maximize out profits. To pursue the life Hereafter with similar zeal is Mujahidah- a guaranteed way of success. We must not waste a moment. Our beloved Master, the mercy for the worlds advised Muslims “be aware of two gifts of God about which people are often negligent: health and free time” (al-Bukhari).

Using our time wisely so that we can keep a balance between worldly and spiritual activities. Often we are engaged in worldly activities exclusively so much so that we forget the hereafter. This is what we must not do. The Messenger tells us why he said, “three things follow the dead to the grave: family, wealth and good works, two of them return whilst his good works go with him in the grave” (Agreed upon).

So the message is to be actively engaged in good works, good works bear fruit, good works attract Divine blessings, and good works make us healthy and happy here and in the Hereafter. Once he (upon him be peace and blessings of God) said, “Paradise is nearer to each one of you than the laces of your shoes and likewise Hell”. Clearly emphasising how we must be active and constantly engaged in good deeds.

Sincerity – Ikhlas

Doing everything genuinely for God, seeking only His pleasure and grace is called Ikhlas or sincerity. The Qur’an teaches: “They were commanded to worship Allah alone, being sincere to Him in the religion turning astray from all else, establishing regular prayer giving Zakat and that in the glorious religion” (98:5). The messenger described sincerity when he said, “The worth of deeds depends entirely on the intentions”. Our charity, our voluntary work, devotions etc. will only be worthy if we do them purely for Allah. This is sincerity.

Conclusion

The goal of our lives is to grow in Taqwa – to become increasingly God-Conscious. In Ramadan we energetically followed this path of Taqwa. Now this must continue beyond Ramadan and we have identified three ways of achieving this:

1. Seeking knowledge and the correct understanding of beliefs, worship, rituals, meanings of the Qur’an, and striving to develop the love of the blessed Messenger (upon him be peace and blessings of God).

2. Working hard and doing good things, with the best of character and noblest of intentions.

3. Focusing solely on seeking Divine pleasure, emptying our hearts of all else. “God does not look at your bodies or faces but He looks at your hearts”.

Let us pledge that we will seek knowledge, work hard and please our Lord – Ameen