By : Ajmal Masroor
Part 01 – Straightening Intentions
It is the first day of your fast. How is it going to be? What will you do today? How do you plan to spend the first of the most blessed days of the year? Would today be any different than yesterday? If yes, how will it be different?
The first day usually is like walk in the park; most people do not even feel it. You would have woken up very early in the morning, to start your fast. It would be very normal to want to eat a lot of food to stock up. You would have foraged through the fridge, fussing over what to eat and wished you could eat everything.
It is natural that when you eat a lot of food your stomach expands and when the food has been digested, the empty stomach would want to be fed more. Whereas when you eat less your stomach would have remained its natural size and thus the need to feel it with more food would be less urgent. The desire to eat more than you need is very strong but can you resist? Remember the blessed Prophet called it the worst vessel the children of Adam could fill.
It is barely the beginning of the day and yet I am pretty sure you are already planning for your evening meal. Your mind is racing through your favorite food, the tastiest dishes and the mouthwatering varieties. You want them all for your Iftar (food to break the fast at sunset). You think to yourself that you deserve it; you have been fasting for the entire day.
Stop, pause and think!
Today, as it is the first day of fasting you have to set the tone right. If you get the beginning wrong, it is likely that you would get the ending wrong. Your first day of Ramadan should be setting your intention correct. Ask yourself the following questions:
Who am I fasting for?
What do I wish to achieve?
What is the purpose of fasting?
Fasting is probably the only worship that you cannot perform with pretentiousness, it is either you are truly fasting or you are not. The only person on this earth who knows about it is you and ultimately God is the only other who is fully aware of your true state. You cannot fast for anyone else. You cannot even pretend to be fasting. Fasting can only be for God alone. No wonder God has elevated fasting as only for Him and He shall give its rewards in person on the Day of Judgment.
Eleven months of the year you have been busy running behind food, fulfilling your desires, chasing wealth and desperately searching for happiness. You have hardly given any thoughts to the needs of your soul. It has been one quick fix after another; momentary pleasures have dominating all your waking hours. You have chased the world like no tomorrow. You completely forgot that this life has an end and there is another unending life that is waiting for you.
But today, the first day of Ramadan, you are about to disconnect from the material pursuits and respond to the cries of your soul, which yearns to connect to the metaphysical realm, reconnect the spiritual part of you to the original source of all power. Today your heart, your mind and your soul want to connect with the Divine. Today it longs for you to surrender to God, the Lord of the universe, the source of all love and dispenser of grace and mercy.
Today you do not want to bother with reliance on food or drink, for they turn into foul waste. You want to submit to the true source of energy and strength, in whose presence you really do not need the array of suhur (early morning meal) or lavish Iftar. A small amount is sufficient for your eyes to be satisfied and your stomach to feel full.
The transition from chasing the world to investing in the hereafter begins here and now. Today is your chance to shape the outcome of the entire month. You feel empowered to defeat temptations, for you know the whispers of the devil has be suspended for this month. The only lure to evil is you and you know that you can conquer yourself. You feel grateful to God for taming the external demon and you supplicate to God fervently for strength to put the internal demon in chain and lock, cause its demise and destruction.
It is your first day of the month long journey of fasting. It is your golden opportunity to abandon the corrosive habits, throw by the way side the overbearing spiritual foes and envelop yourself in the protective armour, more lovingly God calls it Taqwa – a state of perpetual mindfulness of God’s omnipresence and refined conscience that can help you distinguish between right and wrong. You know it is not going to be instantly achieved and it would need hard work and sacrifice. You would need diligent discipline and steel like resolve. You are prepared for that, you in it for the long haul. You are going to pace yourself so that you can maximize on the benefits. You would be foolish to miss the amazing opportunity.
God has served it to you on a platter. The blessed Prophet of God advised his companions about the wonders that lie deep at the heart of Ramadan. He enticed his companions to experience the metaphysical mysteries in fasting. You would have to have a heart that does not feel the truth, eyes that cannot see the truth and ears that are deaf to the truth to not connect with the blessings of God in this month. You would have to be worst than the animals if you cannot perceive the truth. God calls such people utterly heedless.
The blessed Prophet addressed his companions on the last day of Sha`ban, saying, “Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast, shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Fire of Hell, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all.” [Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah]
If you get your intention right you will achieve the best of this world and the next. However, if you get your intention wrong you get nothing but hunger, thirst and sleepless nights! The first day of Ramadan is the ideal opportunity to check your intention.
On this day of your first fast, join me in supplicating to God:
O God, You have the power
To weaken or strengthen
Broaden my shoulder
I can bear any burden
Fight evil and temptation
With absolute determination
I only worship you
I only seek your help
You love my devotion.
You certainly answer my supplication
O God, You know my intention
Help me cleanse them
So you may accept them
You are the dispenser of Grace
The source of Mercy
Honour me with your compassion
O God, you made me from soil
I shall return to it after trial and toil
You will cause my resurrection
Raise me from it for the final question
You are my eventual return
I only ask you for one small favour
Please be happy with my life’s labour
Without you I am disoriented
Disgraced and dejected.