As the month of Ramadan departs and leaves us, it is natural that we experience the post-Ramadan dip, as well as feelings of sadness and perhaps pangs of regret. It is at this time, we truly appreciate when Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah al-Baqarah [2;184]:
That fasting is for just a few limited, prescribed days. It feels as if it was just yesterday when the moon was sighted and this month of honor was bestowed upon and gifted to us.
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The great scholar, al-Hafidh Ibn Rajab, summarized these feelings of grief when he said – “How can a believer not shed tears at the departure of Ramadan, when he doesn’t even know whether he’ll be alive for its return or not?”1Lata’if al Ma’arif, pg. 217
However, these feelings should be channeled into a positive change within our lives. In the preceding ayah in Surah al-Baqarah, we are told:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become of the people of taqwa.” [Suarh Al-Baqarah 2;183]
Ramadan is an opportunity presented to us by Allah ﷻ, at a time when we need it most, to improve our condition and come out as better individuals. To become people who are closer to Him and obedient to Him. A part of this change and training is that it is a sustainable one and leads to a path of growth, rather than it being a short-term shift.
It is said that some of the legends of the past were asked about people who would revert to their state pre-Ramadan as soon as it concluded and they said “How evil is a people who do not know Allah except in Ramadan.”2Important lessons for Ramadan by Shaykh Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr
A similar question was posed to Bishr al-Hafi, one of the righteous predecessors, who said:
بئس القوم قوم لا يعرفون الله حقا إلّا في شهر رمضان ، إن الصالح الذي يتعبد ويجتهد السنة كلها
“What a miserable people who do not know Allah except in the month of Ramadan. The righteous person is he who worships devotedly and strives hard during the entire year.”
Ka’b ibn Malik said, “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and he says to himself that he will return to sinful disobedience when Ramadan is over, his fasting is rejected.”3Lata’if al Ma’arif, pg. 222
It is important for us to recognize that the end of Ramadan is not ‘the end’ of our spiritual growth, rather it is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. In this month we have sought forgiveness from Allah , and insha’Allah we have been granted it, creating a new foundation for us to build from over the next year.
We should continue to strive and continue to exert our effort until our departure from the life of this world. Not just in the month of Ramadan. There is an inspiring narration from when Abdallah, the son of Imam Ahmad, asked his father a very beautiful question.
He said, “Abi, when will we ever relax?”
His father, one of the greatest scholars of all time and a role model for each of us to learn from, gave a very succinct response. He looked his son in the eye and said “With the first step we take into Jannah.”4Tabaqat al-Hanabila, vol.1 pg. 291
My teacher (حفظه الله), on whose advice this article is based, gave an example of a contemporary scholar who would really take this advice on board.
This senior scholar would usually wake up an hour or two before Fajr to partake in qiyaam. Normally, he would prepare by setting an alarm as he was blind. Once, when he was in his late eighties, he came home late following an operation. When he arrived home, he set his usual alarms in preparation for the night, however, his wife changed the alarms.
An hour or two before Fajr, the Shaykh woke up and asked his wife “Isn’t this the time to wake up?” She replied, “Yes” and so he asked “Why didn’t my alarms go off?” and she responded by saying “I switched them off, I wanted you to rest as you have just returned from an operation.”
The Shaykh said “Rest is in Jannah, not here”
Insha’Allah, over the course of this article, we will outline how we can continue this journey and counter the dip that many of us have previously experienced following the conclusion of Ramadan.
Asking for the acceptance of Ramadan
PC: Masjid Pogung Dalangan (unsplash)
As with any good deed we carry out, it is only of benefit to us if it is accepted by Allah ﷻ. We can do this by making sincere dua’ and pleading with Allah to overlook our shortcomings this past month. An example of such a dua’, is the one made by our father Ibrahim :
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
“Our Lord! Accept this from us; You are All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”
A sign of this acceptance is whether we are amongst those who fast these six days of Shawwal. Ibn Rajab mentions that a sign of an accepted good deed is when it is followed by another good deed.
أنّ المعاودة الصيام بعد الصيام رمضان علامة على قبول صوم رمضان ؛ فإنّ الله تعالى إذا تقبل عمل عبد وفقه لعمل صالح بعده ، كما قال بعضهم : ثواب الحسن الحسن بعده ، فمن عمل حسنة ثم أتبعها بحسنة بعدها ، كان ذلك علامة على قبول الحسمة الأولى . كما أنّ من عمل حسنة ، ثم أتبعها بسيئة ، كان ذلك علامة ردّ الحسنة وعدم قبولها
Another benefit is that resuming fasting after the fast of Ramadan is a sign of the acceptance of the fast of Ramadan. For when Allah ﷻ accepts a slave’s deeds, He enables him to perform another righteous deed after that. As some say, “a reward of a good deed is another good deed afterward.” So whoever performs a good deed and then follows it up with another good deed afterward, then that is a sign of the acceptance of the first good deed. Similarly, whoever performs a good deed and then follows it up with a bad deed, that is a sign of the rejection of the good deed and the lack of its acceptance.5Lata’if al Ma’arif, pg. 393-398
A good way to make a start on this is fasting these six days, as explained to us by our beloved Rasul ﷺ who said:
مَنْ صَامَ رَمَضَانَ , ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَهُ سِتًّا مِنْ شَوَّالٍ كَانَ كَصِيَامِ اَلدَّهْرِ
“Whoever fasts Ramadan and then follows it up with six days of Shawwal, it is as if he fasted the entire year.” [Saheeh Muslim 1164]
Alhamdulillah, it is through the grace of Allah , that these six days hold significant weight and benefit for us all. Firstly, the aforementioned sign of acceptance of our fasts in Ramadan. Ibn Rajab mentions that just like how voluntary prayers will cover up the defects of our obligatory prayers, the voluntary fasts of Shawwal also cover up our shortcomings in our Ramadan fasts.
In the ayah directly following those previously quoted from Surah al-Baqarah, Allah ﷻ gives the believing men and women a command:
وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
[Allah wants for you] to complete the period of fasting and to glorify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you would be grateful.” [Surah Al-Baqarah 2;185]
What is the formula to demonstrate gratitude to Allah ﷻ? This has been taught to us by the greatest of mankind, Muhammad ﷺ who would engage in ‘ibadah until his legs would swell and crack. He was asked why he would exert himself to this level, despite already having his previous and future shortcomings forgiven. Our beloved replied “أَفَلاَ أَكُونُ عَبْدًا شَكُورًا” – should I not be a grateful slave? [Saheeh al-Bukhari 4836]
Therefore, by being amongst those who quickly return to fasting (and having the added benefit of combining these fasts with the voluntary fasts of Monday, Thursday, and Ayyam al-Beed) allows us to demonstrate our gratitude to Allah .
However, beyond the Shawwal fasts, many people do not set a plan for the next year of their lives. Yes, we should be realistic and know that we will not be able to achieve the pinnacle we reach during the month of Ramadan – it comes with its own exclusivity and aura. However, this does not mean we leave our spiritual state alone and allow it to dwindle. Of course, this will not be something that is easy, it will require commitment and consistency but this is all manageable if we all internalize the following six things that make Ramadan special.
1. A strong purpose
PC: Mark Fletcher Brown (unsplash)
In the month of Ramadan, it is clear to the believer their purpose in life. They internalize and reflect upon what it means to be a servant of Allah ﷻ. This shift in purpose aligns at a time where we know there is a huge opportunity for acceptance from Allah; we know that dua’s are readily accepted, that our good deeds are multiplied, that there is a night we are gifted which is worth more than a lifetime’s worth of worship. It is for this very reason that Ibn al Jawzi said “By Allah, if it were said to the inhabitants of the graves, ‘Wish’, they would indeed wish for a day from Ramadan.”6At-Tabsirah (2/75)
- Purpose outside Ramadan
Over the course of Ramadan, you may have also found that there were certain reminders or angles of thinking about the religion that strengthen your imaan. For some people, they connect with Allah would have a ring which was inscribed with the words “كفى بالموت واعظا يا عمر” – “Death is more than just a sufficient reminder, O Umar.“7Tareekh Ibn Asakir pg. 221 This would be enough to keep him steadfast and firm in his journey. Sufyan at-Thawri would carry around a piece of paper that would say “Sufyan! Remember that you shall stand before Allah” and he would gaze at it over various points of the day.8Hilyat al-Awliya 7/4
You may have also found different acts of worship that you particularly connected with and excelled at. Imam Malik was once asked why he would occupy himself in circles of knowledge over other acts of worship and he replied “Certainly, Allah has divided good actions like he has divided His providence (rizq). It may be that prayer has been facilitated for a person, but fasting hasn’t. Another person may have a tendency for charity but not fasting… And I am happy with what Allah has facilitated for me (i.e. the pursuit of knowledge). I don’t think what I am focused on is lower than what you are focused on. Rather, I hope that we are both upon goodness and righteousness.”9Siyaar A’lam an-Nubala by Imam Ad-Dhahabi
Therefore, reflect on Ramadan and the coming months. Identify the times when you make a particularly strong spiritual connection – take a step back to think and understand what is happening and why. Jot down what were the actions that you took that preceded this connection – perhaps it was a good deed that you did, or a sin that you avoided. Likewise, on the flip side, pay attention to when you sin. What were the triggers that lead to the sin? How did you follow up on this sin? How did you feel following the sin? Was your immediate reaction to seek the forgiveness and mercy of Allah ?
Once you have analyzed and understood yourself in this manner, you can set the necessary precautions against sin and gravitate towards the good that you excel at. In this way, you can boost yourself to how you felt in the month of Ramadan. Ibn Abbas would say that good deeds “bring brightness upon the face, a light in the heart”10al-Jawaab al-Kafi 1/54 and sins have the opposite effect and extinguish your spiritual high. This can form the basis of your spiritual purpose, through which you strive to become an obedient servant of Allah ﷻ.
2. Protection from Shaytaan
We all know and can feel that the influence of the Shaytaan is reduced. This provides a platform from which we are comforted – that for most of us, in the month of Ramadan, our good deeds will outweigh our sins as we are less inclined towards evil.
- Protection outside of Ramadan
It is still possible to minimize the impact of Shaytaan in our daily lives outside the month of Ramadan. There are many prescribed protections that have been shared with us by our beloved Messenger ﷺ.
(a) The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said “Whoever says:
لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ، وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ، لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ، وَهْوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“There is none worthy of worship besides Allah alone, Who has no partners. His is the dominion and His is the praise and He is able to do all things.”
one hundred times will get the same reward as the one who freed ten slaves; and one hundred good deeds will be written in his accounts, and one hundred sins will be deducted from his accounts, and it will be a protection for him from Shaytaan on that day till night, and nobody will be able to do a better deed except the one who does more than him.” [Saheeh al-Bukhari 6403]
It is recommended that you complete this together after Fajr to set yourself up for the day.
(b) RasulAllah ﷺ said “Whoever recites the last two verses of Surah Al Baqarah (Verses 285 – 286) at night (i.e. after Maghrib), they will suffice him.” [Saheeh al-Bukhari 5009 and Muslim 2714]
Ibn al Qayyim commented on this narration in al-Waabil as-Sayyib, where he said that doing so “will protect him from any evil that would harm him.”
(c) The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said regarding Ayaatul Kursi, “Whoever reads this when he lies down to sleep will have a guardian from Allah remain with him and Shaytaan will not be able to come near him until he rises in the morning.” [Saheeh al-Bukhari 3275]
(d) The Prophet ﷺ said: “When a person enters his house and mentions the name of Allah (by saying Bismillah) at the time of entering it and while eating the food, Shaytaan says (addressing himself): You have no place to spend the night and no evening meal; but when he enters without mentioning the name of Allah, Shaytaan says: You have found a place to spend the night, and when he does not mention the name of Allah while eating food, Shaytaan says: You have found a place to spend the night and evening meal.” [Saheeh Muslim 2018]
(e) We are also recommended to regularly recite Surah al-Baqarah. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said “Do not make your houses as graveyards. Shaytaan runs away from the house in which Surah Baqarah is recited.” [Saheeh Muslim 780]
(f) Before we leave our home, we are recommended to recite the following:
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللَّهِ لاَ حَوْلَ وَلاَ قُوَّةَ إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ
In the name of Allah, I have placed my trust in Allah; there is no power or might except by Allah.
Our Habeeb ﷺ said that whoever does so, it will be said to him: “You are guided, defended, and protected.” The devils will go far from him and another devil will say: How can you deal with a man who has been guided, defended, and protected?” [Sunan Abi Dawud 5095]
(g) When you arrive at your destination, you should say:
أَعُوذُ بِكَلِمَاتِ اللَّهِ التَّامَّاتِ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ
I seek refuge in the Perfect Word of Allah from the evil of what He has created.
Muhammad ﷺ said that if you do so, nothing will harm you until you leave that place.11https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:3547
Alhamdulillah it is clear that there are various dua’s within our tradition that we can utilize to reduce the impact the Shaytaan has on our lives, and therefore match the special conditions we witness during the month of Ramadan.
3. The ideal conditions for good and the abandonment of sins
The many articles and reminders you read in the build-up to Ramadan most likely lit a fire within. They were motivational. You knew that Ramadan provides plenty of opportunities to wipe your slate clean and earn your admission into Jannah. You knew the virtues of these holy days and that there were periods of major dua acceptance.
Whilst the opportunity presented to us in Ramadan are unique (i.e. there is no night like Laylat-ul Qadr in the rest of the year) – have you considered that perhaps your motivation and the commitment to worship was as a result of knowing these virtues and not the virtues of other points of the year? For example, the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah or even on a weekly basis with Friday, which is a day of Eid for Muslims.12Sunan Ibn Majah 1098 There is a huge window of opportunity each Friday, Sa’at al Istijabah, where Allah will grant His servants anything they ask from Him. It is found in the last hour of Asr, just before Maghrib.13Sunan Abi Dawud 1048
Ibn al Qayyim mentions that “Friday is the day of worship, its comparison to other days is like the comparison of the month of Ramadan to other months, and the hour in it is like the Night of Decree in Ramadan.”14Zaad al-Ma’ad 1/398
Ask yourself, is this an opportunity that I seek to take advantage of to the same degree as Laylat-ul Qadr in the last ten nights?
As well as this, there are great opportunities that are presented to us on a daily basis. There are many that we can learn about, alongside their virtues. To briefly outline a few: Whoever prays Fajr in congregation, not only do they get immense reward but they are also in the protection of Allah 15Saheeh Muslim 657; whoever recites the dua’ after doing a perfect wudhu, all 8 gates of Jannah are flung open for them16Sunan al-Tirmidhi 55; after performing the perfect wudhu, whoever performs 2 raka’ahs of salah with concentration, their previous sins will be forgiven17Sunan Abi Dawud 905; whoever prays 2 raka’ahs of Dhuha salah, which can be carried out from sunrise until just before Dhuhr, it is as if all their limbs have given in charity18Saheeh Muslim 720; Whoever says ‘SubhanAlli wa bihamdihi’ 100 times morning and evening, his sins will be erased even if they were like the foam of the sea.19Saheeh al-Bukhari 6405
4) The environment and collective communal effort
During the month of Ramadan, there is a concerted effort from the people around you and this both motivates you and gives you the comfort of knowing that you are not alone on this path. You get up for suhoor together, attend taraweeh together, spend more time at the masjid, break your fast together around the dinner table. The ability to draw on the strength of fellow believers goes a long way, but how can we persevere with this outside the month of Ramadan?
Firstly, you can make sure that you continue your attendance at the Masjid. The Masjid plays a huge role in strengthening and fortifying your imaan. Don’t make the visits random or based upon just a sole desire to “go more”, rather embed the act of visiting the House of Allah as part of your regular routine – for example, starting with and prioritizing Isha and Fajr as the reward is equivalent to spending the entire night in prayer20Jami at-Tirmidhi 221.
The honor given to someone who frequents the Masjid is so high that those attendees were described by the Prophet ﷺ as carrying out ribat – which is the act of safeguarding a place (a title often reserved for the “murabitun”, who would guard and protect the Muslim lands at frontiers on the edges of the territory). He ﷺ said “Shall I not tell you of that by means of which Allah erases sins and raises people in status? Performing wudhu properly even when it is inconvenient, taking a lot of steps to the mosque, and waiting for one prayer after another. That is the ribat for you, that is the ribat for you, that is the ribat for you.” [Saheeh Muslim 251] Just imagine the status of a person who is labeled as the protector and guardian of the House of Allah in the next life!
A person whose heart is attached to the Masjid is also amongst the seven groups of people who are granted Allah’s shade on a day where there shall be no shade but His21Saheeh al-Bukhari 660, Saheeh Muslim 1031. Being a regular musalli of your local Masjid will also allow you to re-kindle and strengthen those relationships you have made over the past month.
5) Caution against sin
In Ramadan, we each have a hyperfocus on acts of evil. This is of course due to not wanting to spoil our fasts or lessen the reward we receive. At the start of Ramadan, I wrote an article about breaking the cycle of sin. It is important to continue on the path you forged during the past month. If we are worried about sins affecting our fasts, what about their effect on our eternal life? Our akhirah.
What practical steps can we introduce into our lives to make this easier post-Ramadan?
- Think of the consequences of your sins – i.e. being deprived of blessings & provision, darkness growing in your heart, weakening your willpower to repent and turn back to Allah
- Building barriers between yourself and sins that you frequently fall into. If there are certain people and places which make you more likely to sin, avoid those triggers. If there are times of the day, or when you are feeling certain emotions that lead to lapses – again, work to change these. I.e. if you are more likely to sin when there is no one around, try to fill this time with ibadah or in the company of those who are a positive influence on you.
- Don’t think that the battle is over and become complacent. If you have given up a sin, don’t think that it is something you will never return to or that you are better than others still stuck in that sin. Remember that it is only through the mercy of Allah that you have gotten this far and that He has guided you, show gratitude to Him.
6) A Personal Development Plan (PDP)
PC: Estee Janssens (unsplash)
As we’ve outlined above, your spiritual state is not going to look after itself. Ensure that there are goals you set over the coming year, as well as an accountability mechanism to prevent stagnation. This should be ideally under the guidance of a Shaykh(a) or Murrabi.
Write out where you currently are in different facets of your life. For example, the salah. If this is sorted, other aspects of your life will be sorted. The importance of this aspect of our religion is such that amongst the last pieces of advice the Prophet ﷺ gave were “As-Salah, As-Salah.”22Sunan Abi Dawud 5156 He ﷺ said “الصلاة نور” – prayer is a light23Riyad as-Salihin 25. It’s a light in the heart when we connect with it. It brings contentment. It’s also a light in the grave when we need it the most. A light on yawmul qiyamah when we really need it.
How can you track your relationship with the prayer and set goals to improve it? The first step could be to ensure that you are praying the five daily salawat, after that in the Masjid, after that pray the 12 raka’ahs of Sunan al-Rawatib over the course of the day. If you then want to tackle the night prayer (tahajjud) – you could firstly strive to just wake up in the last third of the night and say astaghfirullah or make a short dua’ before going back to sleep; then just make wudhu, then praying just 2 raka’ah once a week, etc. Likewise, with your connection in the prayer, the first step could be understanding what you are saying in the prayer. For example, what are you saying in Surah Fatihah? Do you know that Allah ﷻ is responding to every verse you recite? What is the meaning and significance of saying “Allahu Akbar” in the prayer? Thereafter, you can work on your khushu and eliminate distractions in your prayer. Perhaps the step after that is to understand the short surahs that many of us regularly recite in prayer. You can find a playlist that I would recommend here.
Alhamdulillah, it is a blessing from Allah that you are reflecting and taking stock of yourself. Ameerul Mu’mineen, Umar ibn al Khattab spoke about this process of muhasabah saying “Hold yourselves accountable before you are held accountable and evaluate yourselves before you are evaluated, for the Reckoning will be easier upon you tomorrow if you hold yourselves accountable today.” 24Muhasabat al-Nafs 2
However, we all know that we perhaps had a similar desire for change following previous Ramadans but it did not take long before we fell back into old ways and that motivation waned.
If you break down the goals you have into these manageable, realistic steps – you will find that you are more likely to make progress and sustainable change. As well as this, just how you are reflecting right now – make sure you review your progress and goals regularly. It may be that the timeframe to achieve the goal changes, but that’s okay. Ideally, the best way to review is on a daily basis through some sort of journalling or tracking mechanism, but alternatively, you can use each Jumu’ah as a checkpoint in the week – just like how Ramadan is a checkpoint for the year. As mentioned previously, the accountability for these goals should come under the guidance of trusted individuals such as as a Shaykh – get feedback from them on how you are doing, what has worked for them in their own journey, and share your worries and concerns.
It is also important to remember that just like you have areas to improve – so do the Shaykh, the Aalim, the motivational speaker. The journey you take on this path to self-development is your own and not comparable to others, therefore make sincere dua’ to Allah to aid you in it. The success and joy we will experience from this change is dependent on whether it is accepted by Allah and by the effort we put in, rather than the results in this dunya.
Despite previous setbacks you’ve had over the years, remain positive as hiccups are part of the process. It is from the tricks of the Shaytaan to be hopeless, and think that you should give up. Your efforts are still a step in the right direction, you are still running the race, and Allah sees your every effort. Remember that Allah ﷻ promised, “Whoever comes to Me walking, I will come to them running.” [Saheeh Muslim 2687]
A word of advice
The biggest thing is to continue on the journey you started this past Ramadan and the change in the mindset that came with it. No change will be possible without the permission of Allah , so make constant dua’ for Him to aid you on this path, to make it easy for you, and keep your heart connected to your religion. There will be bumps on the road but these will smoothen out with consistency and time. What we all want is that if Allah ﷻ grants us the opportunity to reach the next Ramadan, and that we enter it better than the last time we were granted it.
I pray that Allah ﷻ grants us thabaat and keeps us steadfast on this journey to Him, that He accepts our efforts over this past month, and that it is evidence in our favor in the next life. I pray that we are all granted many more Ramadans and that we return to Him when He is most pleased with us. Ameen.
- – Keeping That Emaan Game Strong Post Ramadan – MuslimMatters.org
- – Will You be a Better Person After Ramadan? | Yasir Qadhi – MuslimMatters.org
- – Quran Before, During and after Ramadan – MuslimMatters.org
If the fasting in Ramadan has ended, then there remains voluntary fasting, such as fasting six days in Shawwal, on Mondays and Thursdays, the three days in the middle of the month, the days of Ashura' and Arafat, and others.How is Ramadan split? ›
Ramadan is said to be split into three thirds: the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said, “It (Ramadan) is the month whose beginning is mercy, middle, forgiveness and its end emancipation from the fire” (Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol 93).Why is Ramadan important? ›
What is the significance of Ramadan? Ramadan is a period of fasting and spiritual growth and is one of the five “pillars of Islam” – the others being the declaration of faith, daily prayer, alms-giving and the pilgrimage to Mecca.