Originally published August 2013.
Say, ‘In God’s grace and mercy let them rejoice.’ That is better than all they accumulate. (Qur’an, 10:58)
Today is one of the happiest days for millions of Muslims all over the world. While we’re sad to see the blessed month of Ramadan go, we’re so grateful for having completed a month of intense fasting and detoxification; a month meant to cleanse our hearts, minds and bodies so we can be closer to God with our souls and spirits. We experienced a special sweetness of faith during this past month, and now we celebrate with family and friends, fun festivities, delicious food and sweets of all kinds.
As we rejoice and celebrate, we can also remember that we have another happy camper celebrating too. He was locked up during Ramadan, and he just gained his freedom. For the last month, he’s been watching millions of Muslims fill up the masajid, pray intensely during the night, supplicate fervently to Allah, give abundantly in charity, and feel more motivated to do good than ever before. He saw Muslims who would drink often now stopped drinking; people who didn’t feel like praying before want to pray regularly; believers who never opened the Qur’an throughout the year choose to read it and contemplate its meanings. He saw Muslims who envied and hated one another stand side by side in prayer and become the closest of brethren. Before, they were held back by his whispers and their sins, distractions, temptations. Now that weight is lifted, so they picked up speed and worship became easier and more enjoyable. So, he was chained and they were freed. He was restrained so we could be liberated.
Have you seen people who live for a cause? They eat, sleep, breathe and die for their work. Imagine if these people were prevented from living their passion; and not only that, but imagine that they watched all their life’s efforts being destroyed right before their eyes. They have no control and can’t change what happened. It would probably make them sad, frustrated and angry. If they were given the power and freedom again, they could at least rebuild what was destroyed and fix what was broken.
Of all non-human creation, Satan is probably the most passionately committed to his cause. Yet, his mission in life is not to build, but to destroy. His sole purpose is to mislead and deviate and burn, as is his nature. Speaking to God, he said, “I swear by Your might! I will tempt all of them, except Your sincere servants,” (Qur’an, 38:82-3). So now that he’s liberated, he’s not just walking towards us casually; he’s coming back with a vengeance.
Fasting is designed by God to increase our taqwa. While taqwa is often translated as God-consciousness, its linguistic root connotes protection from harm. Fasting is a shield that protects us from harming ourselves and others, that protects us from the harmful effects of our sins. It’s a shield that protects us from getting burned by Satan’s tricks, and ultimately, from getting burned by the Fire. One of Satan’s tactics is to make us indulge in our physical pleasures, cravings, and desires in the most unbridled way. He wants to ignite the animalistic tendencies within us and make us pursue these pleasures as ends in and of themselves, not as means for livelihood and lawful well-being.
Out of God’s mercy, He restricts our access to these two pleasures during fasting so that they don’t consume us and define our being. Through fasting, our relationship with these desires becomes less obsessive and animalistic, and more tamed and disciplined. So, when the month-long training is over and we’re back on the battlefield with Satan, his avenues to our hearts and minds are tightened and restricted. If we choose to broaden those pathways and re-indulge in our desires again, we invite him back into the very veins that run through our bodies; but if we feed these instinctual appetites in moderation and through the proper channels, we loosen Satan’s grip and become freed to nurture a deeper spiritual relationship with God throughout the year.
God says in the Qur’an, “O Believers, do not follow in Satan’s footsteps—if you do so, he will urge you to indecency and evil; and if it were not for God’s grace and mercy towards you, not one of you would ever have attained purity. God purifies whoever He wills; and God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (24:21)
During the blessed month of Ramadan, we may have gained more spiritual awareness, clarity and focus, and even felt a deep desire to become better Muslims, believers, and worshipers. Let’s not allow those feelings to dissipate and disappear just because Ramadan has passed. While the shade of Ramadan has left, the shade of God’s Mercy is everlasting. If God purifies whomever He wills, let’s also do our part in pursuing and recommitting to the path of purification. As Khurram Murad says, “The initial desire and ensuing effort to do and become good, is part of the continuing process of self development, a process that may begin at any point in life that you choose and continue till your last breath.”1
So, before we get caught up in our busy lives and demands of family, work, or school again, now is the time to inculcate the good practices and habits we gained from Ramadan—no matter how small. Perhaps you didn’t used to pray sunan and voluntary prayers, and now you do. Maybe you would pray late often, and you found yourself praying more on time. Perhaps you would flirt a little much with the ladies, and during Ramadan you had some self-control. Maybe you were used to hearing or seeing shameful things, and you found it improper to do so during Ramadan. Perhaps you tried performing night prayers for the first time, and you absolutely loved it. Or maybe you didn’t feel the need to make du`a’ (supplication) before, but you poured your heart out to Him one night and felt an amazing, healing effect. Or maybe, like many people, you would think about food most of the day and fasting made you focus on more important matters like nourishing your soul.
What else? What other positive changes did you experience? Keep reflecting on your special moments and changes during Ramadan and hold on to those. Keep nurturing these feelings, habits and practices. Continue to fast, pray, read Qur’an, and forgive. Continue to shine with love, patience, and empathy. Give a little more than before, and don’t give up on yourself or on God’s mercy. Remember that Satan wants to take you away from God’s remembrance and bury you under layers of darkness and fleeting pleasures, but God is calling you to purity and peace, and to what gives you life.
So make this Eid a memorable one. Be happy and rejoice in God’s bounties and blessings, and start pursuing the endless opportunities for rising to greater spiritual heights.
- In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self Development, p. 10. [↩]