MANY OF US seek to find that spark of connection to Allah in Ramadan. But sometimes, even by the end of the holiest month of the year, we don’t feel that different. We wish our hearts were a little softer, our eyes a little more moist with tears out of love and concern for our relationship with Him, our limbs more tender with the physical exertion we wish we could have expressed in worship to Him.
Sometimes with school, work, family and community responsibilities, we become overwhelmed. And in that drowning feeling of the day-to-day reality, our hearts aren’t ready for the transformation our minds know we need.
How can we prepare for Ramadan in a way through which our hearts and souls will experience a transformation, despite our crazy schedules? Here is an answer for you: By approaching Ramadan with a K.I.S.S.
1. [K] Koran (Quran)
This is the month of the Quran and we hear that frequently; our religious teachers encourage us to read the entire book at least once in the month, in Arabic. And that may be an easy feat for those who can fluently read Arabic and who have extra time.
But what about those whose Arabic falters? What about those who have to watch young children the entire day and have little time of their own even to shower? What about those who work demanding jobs and who are collapsing by the end of a long day of fasting and deadlines?
For those of you who are desperately seeking a relationship with Allah in this month despite the craziness of your life, this advice is for you:
- Determine a specific amount of the Quran that you’re going to be able to read every day OR choose a specific amount of time during which you’ll commit to reading the Quran every day.
Yes, aim for 20 pages if you know you can do it, or, 30 minutes if you know you can schedule it. But if you know that even that will be unrealistic for you, then choose a smaller portion or more reasonable amount of time.
The point is to find a specific amount of text or a specific time allotment that you know you will be able to maintain with focus on a daily basis.
- Now, for those of you who don’t understand what the Quran is saying in Arabic, find a translation that you do understand. (Frequently suggested translations include MAS Abdul Haleem, Sahih International and Thomas Cleary.)
In those pages you’ve promised yourself that you’re going to try to read, focus on reading them in English.
You can listen to them in Arabic at the same time and follow along, or you can both recite the Arabic and read the translation if it’s possible for your abilities and schedule.
- Here’s the most important part: While in these moments with the Quran, put yourself in the mode.
Don’t just read the words as if they’re part of a book you’re trying to get through or to catch up on. Read them with the hunger of a person whose soul is starving, with the longing of a person whose heart has been ripped out by their distance from their lover and is being pieced back together as they read the special letters they’ve received from Him.
Approach the words with the heart of a person who is seeking His healing and your Qur’anic experience will transform. Your moments with the Quran in Ramadan are not simply to fulfill your obligation of reading a specific amount. It’s to find renewal, redemption, recognition in your heart and soul.
Because you’ve decided on an amount or time allotment that is possible for your schedule, this time should be your refuge, without distraction. Open yourself to the Quran.
2. [I] Intention
- With the reality of your daily schedules, you may end up feeling defeated by the time it’s dark.
Some of you may have wanted to complete extra prayers throughout the day, but simply didn’t have the time. Some of you may have wanted to read more Quran or visit a sick person or avoid losing your temper with your family members or support a struggling coworker.
But realistically, with the long hours of fasting and an already full life schedule, you may feel overwhelmed and spiritually depleted in the very month in which you’re supposed to experience a spiritual high. So what do you do? Re-frame the way you look at your life.
The Prophet ﷺ taught us: Verily, actions are by intention (Bukhâri). In other words, just about anything you do of the permissible—when it’s done with the right intention—is an act of worship.
So look at it like this: You can’t spend the entire day at the masjid in Ramadan because you have to go to work. You go to work to earn a living for yourself and your loved ones, to have money to spend in charity, to make daʿwah, to use the faculties of health God has given you for His sake and for improving the quality of life for others—and the list continues. Are these not all acts of worship many times over?
Your going to work in Ramadan need not be an impediment to feeling spiritually nurtured; it’s a tool through which you can experience spiritual nourishment when every moment you are there, you’ve made your objective the pleasure of God.
- For those of you who are busy taking care of kids or elderly parents, consider the immense honor God has placed on your shoulders. You probably don’t have much time to yourself; you’re likely finding yourself frustrated sometimes, in tears of desperation at times, overwhelmed.
Caring for another person is a blessing, but even in blessings are incredible tests. You may wish you could stay up throughout the night to stand in Qiyâm instead of rocking your crying infant. You may wish you could memorize Quran instead of cooking a very specific meal for your in-laws and interacting with a sometimes forced smile.
But in those moments of interaction with those for whom you care, remember the promise of the Prophet ﷺ:
Whoever removes a worldly hardship from a believer, Allah will remove one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection from him/her. Whoever grants respite to (a debtor) who is in difficulty, Allah will grant him/her relief in this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever conceals (the fault of) a Muslim in this world, Allah will conceal him/her (their faults) in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah will help a person so long as he/she is helping his/her brother/sister. (Muslim)
Your every moment of supporting your children, your parents, your neighbors and friends—is a moment in which Allah is promising to be on your side and support you through both this life and the next. Is that not enough of a motivation for you to feel confident that He will open your heart to Him this Ramadan and accept you? You may not be able to do the type of worship you long for, but that’s only because you’re busy in the type of worship He has currently destined for you. And in that type of worship is a special type of closeness that He has reserved for you in both worlds.
While the above are only two types of examples, the point is that regardless of your personal life situation, this Ramadan can prove to be the one in which your heart soars to new heights of knowing Him, through which your scrolls are peaking with good deeds and the angels are mentioning your name out of love for your special type of worship—and it’s all simply in the intention that you bring to your daily responsibilities.
Don’t underestimate the good you do. You are worthy of Allah’s love, especially when you aren’t focusing on the type of worship for which you desperately wish you had the time, energy and knowledge—but when this is only because you’re seeking to fulfill the responsibilities He’s honored you with at this particular time in your life.
3. [S] Sîrah
Do you know who else had an intensely busy life? Our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
And yet, he had the most intimate relationship with the Quran. And yet, he had such an intentional kindness and impact in his relationships and his responsibilities. And yet, his heart also must have been broken with the loss of his best friend, Khadîjah. And yet, his eyes shed tears at the loss of his beloved son Ibrâhîm. And yet, despite losing every single one of his children with the exception of Fâṭimah, and losing every parent figure before even his legacy was recognized in Arabia, and despite losing so many of his closest relatives and friends in the throngs of battle—yet he still carried on. He still changed the face of the world in coordination with God’s will.
Yes, you too have your own issues: Yes, you deal with issues in your marriage. Yes, your kids sometimes may seem like they hate you. Yes, you may have already lost your parents. Yes, you may know what it’s like to have an aching, pained, heart. So did he. So in this month, renew your relationship with him, ﷺ. He has already gone through so many of the tests you’re going through in your own life. He would understand.
In this month, consider choosing these three ways of becoming closer to him ﷺ.
- Increasing your ṣalawât on him. On your drive to work or school or to drop off the kids, in the waiting room at the doctor’s or in line at the unemployment office, send ṣalawât on our beloved. The Prophet ﷺ taught us:
Whoever supplicates Allah to exalt my mention, Allah will exalt his/her mention ten times and remove from him/her ten sins and raise him/her ten degrees. (Muslim)
Did you know that the archangel, Jibrîl, himself sends salâm on the one who sends ṣalawât on the Prophet ﷺ? How would it be to have the greatest of the Angels sending salâm to you? To your spouse? To your children and your parents and your friends and loved ones? If you want such an honor, send ṣalawât on the Prophet ﷺ for he has said:
Jibrîl came to me and he said: ‘Whoever sends blessings (ṣalawât) upon you, I will send blessings on him, and whoever sends greetings (salâm) upon you, I will send greetings upon him…’ (Ḥâkim)
- The second way in which you can develop a relationship with the Prophet ﷺ in this month is through focusing on learning more about his life. Whether through a podcast while you’re driving or cooking (Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda both have a collection of Sîrah lectures you can download) or through reading only two pages of a Sîrah book daily, make this Ramadan the month in which you truly begin to love Al-Habîb. The Sîrah book which changed my own relationship with the Beloved is Muhammad, Man and Messenger, by Adil Salahi.
- Pray from the depths of your heart for Allah to make the Prophet ﷺ beloved to you.
Many of us don’t understand how to have a close relationship with the Prophet the way we’re supposed to have. How can we love someone more than we love our family, we wonder? How can we love someone more than we love ourselves?
One of the steps in which we can build that love is simply getting to know who we are supposed to love. Understanding who he is, intimately knowing his life, allows us to understand why he is “A Mercy for All the Worlds”—and why he is especially a personal mercy for our very own lives.
Beg Allah to open your heart to loving him ﷺ. In sujûd, ask Allah to make the Prophet ﷺ close to you, to allow your heart to long for him, to honor your soul with craving to be in his presence ﷺ. Plead for Allah to make you amongst those worthy enough to have been mentioned on the lips of the Blessed as, “My brethren.”
4. [S] Support
- Sometimes, we get so excited about wanting to start over our faith life. We’ve made tawba and we’re fresh with zeal from our repentance. We’ve converted and we’re so passionate about what we can accomplish now that we know the truth of Islam. We come back from a conference and we’ve never been so pumped up.
But within days, within weeks, within months, we begin to crash. We stumble. And then we wonder: What happened to my îmân?
In Ramadan, many of us begin with incredible drive. But after the first few days, we find ourselves faltering. And by the time we’re able to pick up our slack, it’s already the last ten and the month is almost over. What we need is support. We cannot do this alone. And that is why community is such a heavily emphasized aspect of our religion. We need to support one another.
- Find someone who can be your Ramadan Buddy. If possible, look outside of your immediate family because it’s sometimes easier to be lax when you’re already so close to one another. For those of you who are the only Muslim in your family, look online for potential buddies you can connect with.
Share your Ramadan goals with your Ramadan Buddy; how many pages/what amount of time are you dedicating daily for the Quran? How often are you going to try and send ṣalawât on the Prophet ﷺ or how much will you try to listen/read about his life? What character goals do you have for yourself this month? Whatever they are, share them in generalities with one person and that person should do the same with you.
The point is to keep yourselves accountable. On a daily basis, send one another a quick message and check in: “Did you meet your goals today?” Holding yourself accountable to someone, knowing that someone else is rooting for your success and that he/she is there to help motivate you, is a way through which you can maintain your Ramadan drive and meet your Ramadan goals throughout the entire month, God willing.
This Ramadan, you may yearn for the tears of a soft heart you’ve known in the past and have forgotten, of the intimacy of a trembling heart that trembles in awe of Allah with every beat. You may desperately seek to come close to Him, but may not completely know how within life realities.
With God’s help, even in the midst of your regularly scheduled life, your heart and soul can be transformed this Ramadan. You have the tools: Approach this Ramadan with K.I.S.S.:
- Keeping company with the Quran/Koran
- Being mindful of your intention to please Allah
- Renewing your knowledge of the Prophet’s Sîrah ﷺ
- Finding mutual support with a Quran Buddy.