Ramaḍān is a month in which we seek to train the nafs (inner self) to resist obeying its desires, and instead obey Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā). Therefore, it is essential, that along with planning what we are going to do in Ramaḍān, we should also plan what we are not going to do. Ramaḍān is a time to detox our bodies, and more importantly our hearts from the toxins of ‘sins’ and the ‘diseases’ of the heart.
If we fast – by not eating, drinking and abstaining from intimacy – but do not protect our eyes, ears and tongues from sinning, we will miss out on the essence and spirit of fasting.
The following are some of the key aspects we should focus on:
Food is the fuel of desires. The more we fill our stomachs, the lazier we feel to perform ʿibādah. If we eat a lot, we drink a lot. And this makes us sleep a lot, which leads to us losing out on precious time. The Prophet ﷺ ordered the unmarried companions to fast, because fasting is meant to curtail and restrain sexual desire.
Likewise, we have to internalise that Ramaḍān is about fasting, not feasting. We shouldn’t spend too much time preparing our meals. Naturally the long hours leave us hungry, making us want to cook more than usual. Similarly, we should not pressurise our family members to cook elaborate meals for us.
Imām al-Ghazalī (raḥimahullāḥ) explained that one will only reap the full benefit of a fast if one does not over eat at ifṭār. We should only eat what one would usually eat on a normal night. Otherwise, the purpose of fasting will not be fulfilled and it will be easier for Shayṭān to make inroads into our hearts.
Ramaḍān is the best time to rectify our speech. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent” (Bukhārī). This includes how we talk to others through our phones and on social media.
Ramaḍān is the best time to reduce sleep, and spend a greater portion of the night in worshipping Allah.
4) Gazing at ḥarām
Gazing at ḥarām destroys the firmness and determination of the heart. It is a poison which leads to the darkness of the heart, just as its opposite (lowering the gaze) leads to the heart being illuminated. It is a poison which stops us from tasting the sweetness of imān and worshipping Allah. Along with lowering our gazes from anything which incites lust, we should also avoid looking at the glitz and glamour of the world, as this makes us heedless and forgetful of Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā).
5) Severing ties of kinship
Ramaḍān is the time to cleanse our hearts, battle the pride and jealousy of our hearts, and reach out to those we have cut off ties with. It is the perfect opportunity to forgive those who have wronged us, to ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged, and to ask Allah to unite our hearts. If we seek to connect with Allah, we have to connect with our relatives. But if we cut them off, Allah will cut us off.
The most deserving of our good relations are our parents. We should serve and be kind to our parents to the best of our abilities.
Too much socialising hardens the heart, and often leads to sinning. Ramaḍān, especially iʿtikāf of the last 10 days is the perfect retreat: away from people, and fully focused on Allah.
Social media is the biggest thief of our time. In Ramaḍān, every moment is precious, therefore try to detox from social media completely. Otherwise, reduce it to a minimum. At the most, have a set ‘window’ in which you allow yourself to catch up on it, rather than just saying ‘I’m going to reduce it.’ For example, ‘I will use social media for twenty minutes after ifṭār.’
Think of Ramaḍān as a battlefield. The enemy you are trying to defeat is your nafs. It is an enemy which has conquered you many times over in the past. This Ramaḍān, however, you are determined that by the help of Allah, you are going to conquer it. You are going to be the winner, and not the loser. This will require planning, effort, tonnes of duʿā’ and perhaps even a change in strategy.
One such strategy is to manoeuvre around your nafs, and subtly trick it. When you are struggling to keep momentum, say to yourself: just a little while longer. After Ramaḍān, you can go back to enjoying the ḥalāl pleasures. For now, just keep going for a little while longer. Once, Bishr al-Ḥāfī (raḥimahullāh) was walking with one of his companions towards a city. His companion wanted to drink water from a well. Bishr said to him, “We will drink from the next well that appears on the way.” Every time they would approach a well, Bishr would say, “From the next well.” When they finally reached their destination, Bishr said, “This is how we journey through the world.”
May Allah, al-Ṭayyib (The Pure) make this Ramaḍān the means to purify our hearts, intentions and actions.