The driver was playing Qur’an. My husband, brother and I got into the microbus heading back from Palestine to Cairo, and rode almost silently with the five other male passengers, passing through the desert and listening to the Qur’an only hours before it would be time to break our fast.
As iftar approached, one of the young men pulled out apples, dates and water bottles and began passing them around the small vehicle. Subhan’Allah, if Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala had not blessed us with food through this man, many of us may have had nothing to break our fasts with.
We broke our fast; it was the first of the last ten nights in Ramadan. These are the nights of Allah’s forgiveness! And look at how the passengers were seeking Allah’s mercy – through the Qur’an, through sharing their food, through acts of righteous deeds.
Soon after breaking our fast to the adhan on the radio and recitation of the Qur’an, one of the brothers busted out a cigarette pack. Allahu Al-Musta`an, may Allah help us, I thought. Smoking? In Ramadan? In the microbus?
Out of his generosity, he shared the pack. One by one, young and old, almost all of the riders started smoking. Within a few minutes, the Qur’an was replaced with massively beating Egyptian music that BLASTED throughout the bus. We continued on for some time, as my husband, brother and I almost choked on the second hand smoke, attempting to sleep, exhausted from our long trip, while the other passengers partied.
Suddenly, amongst miles of desert, a café appeared on the side of the road. “I see people praying!” said a young rider. “Let’s stop here to pray maghrib!”
So the bus pulled over and we got out and prayed. After the travelers took another cigarette and sheesha break at the café, we piled back in and continued our music-blasting-cigarette-smoking trip.
My first impression of these individuals was good: look at how much they are seeking Allah in Ramadan, I thought, with the Qur’an, with adhkar, and with generosity to their brothers. But once music replaced the Qur’an, and the smoke filled the air – on such a holy night of the year no less – I realized how they really were seeking Allah.
Clearly these people were addicted to cigarettes, yet they fought to refrain from it during the day so that they could fast for Allah’s sake. And even though they thoroughly seemed to enjoy listening to crazy loud love songs, subhan’Allah, they perhaps fought this desire for hours to instead listen to the Qur’an while they maintained their fast. And even in the middle of the arduous journey, even while traveling, they refused to postpone their salah, they searched for a place to pray, and stopped their journey home so that they could maintain this connection with Allah `azza wa jal.
How many of us first read the two perceptions of the microbus riders and felt they were hypocrites for doing “righteous deeds” while fasting in the day and then engaging in seemingly “unrighteous” deeds in the night? Yet how many of us fast during Ramadan yet refuse to build our relationships with our parents causing them pain every time we withhold a smile or a pleasant conversation? How many of us prayed taraweeh in Ramadan and wept, yet swear never to marry a person who is a different color? How many of us are giving charity yet fill our hearts with anger and jealousy over what others have and what we wish was only ours? How many of us wear hijab and feel like we’re superior to sisters who look like Abercrombie and Fitch models, although perhaps it’s only because they’re dealing with a reality we’d never be able to handle? How many of our brothers think they are so much more on the truth because they are hafidh of the Qur’an, have accomplished many pilgrimages and sport long beards, yet “out of piety”, openly defame and slander scholars simply because they hold a different viewpoint?
We all have issues, yet when the Lord of the Worlds (swt) turns to us out of His mercy, we also struggle to maintain a connection with Him. And perhaps, this is not hypocrisy, this is a sign of our belief in Allah (swt). Perhaps we too look at ourselves and call all good actions mixed with bad actions “two-faced.” But perhaps Allah (swt) is calling His angels to witness and mention our struggles to please Him, despite peer pressure and our own intense desires.
Those good deeds that are mixed with our failings actually help wipe out our sins:
“…Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds…” (Qur’an, 11:114)
Allah `azza wa jal tells us in a Hadith Qudsi: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.” [ Tirmithi and Ahmad]
It’s time to go back to Allah and work towards gaining His Pleasure! Ramadan has nearly ended, yet Allah’s forgiveness and vast mercy is never ending. Let us go back to Allah (swt) in the days after the blessed month. Let us turn to Him, make tawbah and ask Him to give us steadfastness in doing good deeds.
The best supplication to ask for Allah’s forgiveness is the following:
Allahumma anta rabbee la ilaha illa ant, khalaqtanee wa-ana AAabduk, wa-ana `AAala AAahdika wawaAAdika mas-tataAAt, aAAoothu bika min sharri ma sanaAAt, aboo-o laka biniAAmatika AAalay, wa-aboo-o bithanbee, faghfir lee fa-innahu la yaghfiruth-thunooba illa ant.
‘O Allah, You are my Lord, none has the right to be worshipped except You, You created me and I am Your servant and I abide to Your covenant and promise as best I can, I take refuge in You from the evil of which I committed. I acknowledge Your favor upon me and I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me, for verily none can forgive sin except You.’
The Prophet ﷺ has taught us that, “If somebody recites it during the day with firm faith in it and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it and dies before the morning he will be from the people of Paradise.”
Here’s our action plan to continue turning back to Allah (swt):
1) Begin establishing a connection with the Qur’an to help you stay firm.
- Block some time every day to read a specified amount of Qur’an (from as little as one verse to as many pages as you can) in a language that you understand. Remain consistent with this Qur’anic connection; this will remind you that seeking Allah’s Pleasure is ongoing and brings about magnificent success .
2) Increase in good deeds to wipe out bad deeds.
- Increase in smiling at and helping people
- Make istighfar daily
- Give $1 in charity.
- Text or email your mom and dad and tell them you love and appreciate them…or even better – tell them face to face!
- Park correctly, travel responsibly and remember Allah on your journeys.
- Tell us in the comments section how you connect to Allah in sha’ Allah!
We all have flaws in our character, yet Allah (swt) is the Remover of our weaknesses. Despite our shortcomings, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala loves our struggle to come back to Him and is always ready to accept our repentance. So towards the end of Ramadan, let us keep great hope in Allah’s words and know that Allah WILL forgive us – when we turn back to Him first:
“Say: O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 39:53)