It’s been a spiritually tumultuous year, with the current state of my heart feeling as if it has been placed in the eye of the storm. Everything is suspiciously quiet, with no tug or pull to a certain desire, spiritual or material. How do you awaken and fortify the qalb to help guide it to its Creator? What do you do when your heart is unmoved by the typical routes of preparing for Ramadan? Feeling as if your heart is hardened, even after listening to all the lectures on softening your heart, even after reading books on finding spirituality, even after talking to an imam or religious role model?
I attended a Ramadan workshop last night, and the leader of the workshop made me discover a small seed somewhere in my deadened heart, that I want to be very careful into tending and growing into a fortified spiritual state. I think I will continue to update this page to share parts of my journey, though keeping the actual personal items to only myself.
Here are things that were recommended along with ideas I think to supplement with them so as to help you prepare for Ramadan when you don’t feel like you can prepare.
1.) Contemplate. Reflect. Think.
An hour of thinking is better than 60 years of worship, said the Prophet peace be upon him. - via THINKING : التفكر الفكرة by Dara Shayda
Think about all that is around you, spend time reflecting on what the world around you means. Even if it is difficult to do. The lecturer from last night said to not think that reflecting on your ideas is a waste of time, for the Prophet (SAW) meditated regularly, going all the way to the Cave of Hira to reflect on his own away from everyone.
The link above also shows ayats from the Qur’an that demonstrate the importance of being a perpetual thinker.
2.) Write honestly about your soul and your approach to Ramadan this year
Don’t write what you think you should write. Don’t write what you think others would write. Write for only your eyes. This is for you. This is about your relationship with God.
Things to think about and write about
Why are you writing about your Ramadan? – What is compelling you to think deeply about Ramadan?
Why do you fast for Ramadan? – Honestly, is it because you like spending time with family/community, because everyone else is doing it, because you’re hoping to find some purpose in not eating/drinking, because it helps you grow spiritually in some way? Write honestly. And do not feel bad if you think what you’re writing is not pleasing to God. You’re being honest truly to only yourself. This is a pre-Ramadan checkup, it does not mean that this is how you’re going to continue your journey throughout Ramadan.
What are you hoping to gain from this Ramadan? Do you have any goals? Do you not have goals and think you should? Do you just not have goals?
3.) Write about your strengths and non-strengths
One of the things I really liked about the workshop leader was he didn’t use the term ‘weakness’. Every non-strength can be cultivated and turned into a strength. All of us have something to work and improve upon. All of us have strengths we already have and can use confidently. Recognize that we have both, and recognize that there is hope to look for the best.
4.) Recognize that what is in your heart is what will be expressed on the outside
Are you in pain? Depressed? Hurt? Upset? Angry? Dejected? Lost? Your interior affects your exterior. You cannot spread joy and love if your interior does not have room for joy and love. That does not mean that you should succumb to any negative energy. It just means that you are going through a process and with active recognition of this process you can churn all internal energy into the energy you aspire to express both internally and externally.
Spend time to think about and recognize this.
5.) Express gratitude, forgive others, and forgive yourself
One of our homework assignments was to write a thank you note to someone we generally would not take the time to thank, or about something that we generally would not thank someone about. I wrote some difficult emails this morning thanking people for things that they may not remember or care about, but I felt was important in expressing gratitude. There are many scientific benefits to expressing gratitude. Do it. It will inshaAllah only benefit you.
I’m sure everyone has heard of the hadith by now about the man who was pointed out as a man of jannat because he spent every night removing any rancor in his heart that he held for anyone. This is much easier said than done, but think about life in the long-term. If someone has wronged you, is it something that you will care too much about in a week, a month, a year, or a decade from now? Recognize that just like you are imperfect, no one else is perfect, and that it is part of being an ummah to think positively of others. To feel hope and love for all that around you, to work hard to making your community better for not just you but everyone else.
Forgive yourself. This is the time of the year where we are given the chance to restart and move forward. This is the time of the year where our engines can be restarted and we can be spiritually productive. Give yourself time and space to grow. Even if it’s slow, recognize your accomplishments.
As implied by several points above, a lot of what was recommended involves writing. Write daily. To yourself only. Do not share these thoughts with anyone. Again, this is about you craving a relationship with your Creator. This is about you recognizing there is room for improvement. This is your journey, and only you were fit to take it on your own. You have the strengths to prop you up, and you have the non-strengths you can sharpen into strengths. Every small improvement counts. Remember, even a smile is considered an act of charity. An atom’s weight of imaan is enough to help you enter jannat. It’s time to help that imaan grow.
I’d like to end this by sharing a quote that the workshop leader shared, along with linking to an article written by the workshop leader
There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us. Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up. Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah’s majesty. Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower. Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone. Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies. Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us. Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions. Let us fast from desiring what we do not have. Let us fast from obsession. Let us fast from despair. Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart. Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior. Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important. Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view. Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah. Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah’s Prophets and friends, and our own true self. Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.
- Fariha Fatima
Imam Khalid Latif’s Ramadan Reflection - A Different Kind of Thirst