Let this be a reminder to me and anyone else who wishes to read on – there is simply nothing more vital for us in our very short and limited lives than to take absolute maximum benefit from the blessed month of Ramadhân.
The really interesting thing about the statement of Allah, the Most High:
"So remind (them), for indeed the reminder benefits those who have faith," [Al-Qur'ân 51:55]
is that those who have the pure characteristics of faith do indeed benefit, even though human nature by itself would seem to oppose that. Isn't that sadly true? When someone believes they know what to do, they don't necessarily appreciate being told again how to do it. If someone believes that they've heard everything they need to hear, it takes a seriously patient and magnanimous person to sit there and hear it again.
By now we've certainly heard all the Prophetic narrations on the blessings of this very special time; a time in which our righteous ones delight as the gates of Paradise are flung open, and in which our sinful ones breathe a sigh of relief and take time to reflect as the gates of Hell are locked up.
So at this moment of clarity, where the stomachs, hearts, eyes, ears, tongue and mind are all enjoying their greatest moment of purity, let us all try and make sure that we profit from the following points gleaned from the advice of our Pious Predecessors ...
1. Make sure that this blessed month becomes a period of accounting for your actions, a revision of your daily routine, an opportunity for the betterment of your life for all your years to come. To enter Ramadhân not believing it to be so will be a total loss. You've actually made it all the way here now, so let's reap the harvest! Think about all those who were aiming for this month but found a dark grave instead. Reflect on all those who woke in the morning but found that their evenings never materialised.
Consider for just a second as our scholars said: if you can't change your ways and gain at such a blessed time then at what time will you change?!
2. Try to make sure you perform all of the tarâwîh prayers in congregation for the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
"Whoever prays with the Imam until he leaves, it is written for him that he prayed the entire night."
3. Do not be wasteful or extravagant with your wealth, for not only is that impermissible, but you reduce the opportunities of giving more in charity for which you could be rewarded for. They said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that he gave in charity especially during Ramadhân like the one who didn't fear or even recognise poverty.
4. Commit yourself to continue after Ramadhân that which you have prepared yourself to do during Ramadhân. The salaf would say:
"The sign of one's fasting being accepted from him in Ramadhân is the continuation of his good actions and character after Ramadhân."
5. Remember: this is a month of worship and hence action, not lethargy and sleeping. This is even more relevant here in the West considering winter is so close with its short days and long nights. It is well known from the Companions, in emulation of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, that they used to say:
"Reap the benefit of winter by fasting its days and standing (in prayer) during the nights."
6. Make your tongue habitual in the dhikr of Allah so that you don't become from those:
" ... who do not remember Allah except little."
7. When you feel the pangs of hunger, just remember how weak you actually are, how dependent you are upon food and other such necessities from the immense blessings of Allah, may He be glorified.
8. Make a concerted effort to permanently leave that which doesn't benefit you, but rather causes you harm. This is even more so when you are fasting. Maymûn used to say:
"The weakest of fasts is that in which only food and drink is left out."
9. Remember: your actions are a trust from Allah so audit yourself like any successful company does; have you performed and fulfilled your deeds as is deserving of them? This obviously applies to all our actions such as prayer, dhikr, manners but particularly fasting. Ibn Rajab, may Allah have mercy upon him, said:
"Our fasts need istighfâr to make up for their deficiencies, and good deeds to intercede for them."
10. Hasten to seek forgiveness from those whom you have oppressed in any way, before they take from your (very few) good deeds. Don't forget, the greatest oppressive tool is the tongue so tether it as strongly as possible. Sha'bi narrated that 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
"Fasting is not just refraining from food and drink, but refraining from lying, falsehood, backbiting and swearing (by Allah)."
Abu al-'Âliyah, may Allah have mercy upon him, used to say:
"The fasting one is in a continual state of worship until he says about another person that which they would not like to hear."
11. Strive to feed the fasting one so that you can obtain a reward equal to his. Ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, used to always break his fast sharing with the poor; if any of his family tried to prevent him from that, he would refuse to spend the night with them. It was also reported from him that whenever someone would come to him asking for food, he would give them his share and then return home to find his family had eaten what was left of food in his house. He would not let on and would end his fasting day without eating anything.
12. Know that Allah is the Most Generous and that He is the Most Merciful. He accepts the repentance of the penitent, more so than ever at such a special time.
13. If you have committed a sin or done something wrong which Allah, may He be glorified, has concealed for you from the people, know that this is an opportunity for you to seek repentance for those mistakes. Hasten to seek forgiveness and make sure that you do not return back to that sin.
14. Try to increase your knowledge of the explanation of the Qur'ân (tafsîr), the narrations of the Messenger, his biography (sîrah), and the principles of our religion – to seek such sacred knowledge is one of the highest forms of worship.
15. Stay away from such company and people which don't benefit you; try to accompany righteous good folk as much as you can. Good people always spread their blessings to others.
"The Companions would often spend much of their fast in the Mosque so as to purify it (i.e. purify the fast itself from useless talk, gossip, backbiting etc)."
The list could simply go on and on – surely there are enough points here to make even the most heedless one reflect upon their state and consider changing their actions for the better.
O Allah, give us the ability and strength to make this Ramadhân our Ramadhân, a time for change and maturity, a time for quality and success, amîn.
May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon His Beloved Messenger, his family and all those who follow in his footsteps until the Final Day.
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ