Bismillah Hir Rahman ir Rahim,
Finally! The blessed month of Ramadan has come. The month in which the Holy Quran was revealed by Allah through the Angel Jibrael to our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In this month, Muslims all over the world fast daily from dusk to dawn while being engaged intensely in acts of worship such as reading the Quran, offering Salat and Tahajjud prayers, doing Dhikr (glorifying the names of Allah), offering charity and doing other and as many righteous deeds as possible. Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims to cleanse themselves of the sins they have committe, to repent to their Lord, to recall the magnificent blessings He has granted us and reach out to the people of the community who are not as well off as we are. This helps create a more strong, united and inclusive global community where everyone gives importance to their fellow brother’s wellbeing.
A couple of years ago, I actually didn’t enjoy this holy month because I wasn’t very mature and thought that the purpose of this month was only to starve. It seemed like a way of dieting but Allah would be pleased that we lost weight especially in this month. I was like 8 to 10 years old when I had this mentality so weight gain wasn’t a problem for me. And because in those days, Ramadan would be during school days, my parents would tell me not to fast except on Saturdays and Sundays because of how tiring school would make me. Which was fine because when we were posted to Karachi, I tried fasting on a Friday and even after Iftar, i just lay on a chair and fainted due to lack of food and because Karachi is very hot in the summers. Yeah, weird, so i couldn’t fast the next day. Thus, as you can see, fasting wasn’t that important to me at that time. Even Quran reading wasn’t given much importance. My parents hired a Qari Sahibah- a woman to help me recite Quran in Arabic. My siblings used to learn with her but they got bored and left so only i learned recitation. And because it was Arabic and no one taught me what the Arabic actually meant, it would usually become a burden that I wanted to lift off my shoulders quickly. But because I believed Allah would be happy if I recited the language properly and completed the Quran at a young age. That made it more exciting. So I completed reciting the whole Quran at the age of 12. I tried reading its translation in Urdu and understand what it meant from her but the knowledge of it would fly off my head. So initially Quran reading was an annoying task for me to finish, Astagfirullah.
I hope you guys don’t consider me heartless. I was a kid back then. That was in the past. And i did pray at that age. Mama taught me once and I would offer Salat whenever i felt like it, usually the Zuhr prayer which I would offer early afternoon. However, that was because Mama told me it was farz, and that seemed more important to me than to my siblings. So i continued to pray and I still do. But I still didn’t get the enlightening feel. I just prayed because I had to and I would be confused when others didn’t.
Then I had a friend in Islamabad who showed how important these acts of worship are. Lets keep her name R. So R is a few years younger than me and wears the hijab. She’s a strict practicing Muslim but a very tolerant, funny and cool person to hang out with. So she would encourage me to accompany her to Daur-e-Quran classes that would take place in our local community every day in every Ramadan. At that time I was 14 and I cherished sleep, you know what’s common in teens: the routine of sleeping late and waking up late. Yeah I was like that and the classes would be in the morning so I told her I wasn’t interested. She didn’t force me. But she also invited me to attend Taraweeh prayers, that take place at Isha prayer time, in the local mosque. It sounded interesting so I agreed. I dressed up in Shalwar Kameez and went with her. And my experience there was…….amazing.
It felt so fulfilling praying side by side with so many people. It made me feel part of something big, part of a large community who supported each other. I’m usually the only person in the house praying and many of my friends didn’t pray except perhaps in Ramadan. Sometimes people would make fun of me simply because I prayed, which would hurt. Even now, while I’m praying, my friends joke with me and say, “Please pray to Allah for me that I get good grades.” I mean, if you wish for Allah’s help then fold out your prayer mat and make dua for your Lord. Allah answers everyone’s prayers not just mine. But people do not understand.
But in that mosque while hearing the Imam lead the prayer, while chanting “Ameen” with my fellow brothers and sisters, it gave my life meaning. The jokes people made when I would tell them I have to pray, the jokes they’d make when I refused to use curse words and would switch the TV channels when an inappropriate scene would come, being called ‘shareef’ i.e naive or innocent, as if it were a mockery, they all didn’t matter to me because I have Allah who will reward me for the struggles I face and the patience I show. I will always love R for encouraging me to go to the mosque and showing me a bright side to life. And since then, I have been going to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers.
Then when I was 16, I had a lot of responsibilities, questions, tough decisions, dilemmas in my life. Well they were a few but they were intense. I was stuck in a spot where I needed answers as to what to do and that a wrong decision would lead to sin and both decisions would be difficult to make. My head would ache from the confusion and anxiety, my heart would race. My day would start and end with confusion.
Then the encouragement from my friend R came back to me. I barely even touched the Quran, except for reading a few pages once a month without absorbing anything. I decided to become serious about it and attend Daur-e-Quran, so that i could focus without falling asleep or get bored. I would fall asleep usually because I would sleep late and wake up early but the classes were worth it. I learnt so much about my religion, Allah and the Holy Prophet(SAW) along with other prophets.
People say that being religious reduced your freedom. That is not true. You actually feel liberated. You break off from the chains of expectations and pleasures that life pulls at you which are actually not that important. Take for example “what will people say?” That is the major problem that prevents everyone from doing what they do best: the criticism they will face from society, whereas Islam has not imposed this. In fact, it actually prohibits this and tells people to think before every act, “What will Allah say?” Thinking like that will automatically make you more careful about your deeds and make you a good person. People’s expectations of you can lead you to the wrong path as well and you become so stressed out fulfilling these expectations. But in the end,our only Savior, our only Helper is the One Who created us. So as mentioned in the Quran
“Call out to Me and I will respond.” (I do not know the exact ayat of this)
This simple knowledge made me not worry about what would people think if I prayed, read Quran in public, point out whether people were speaking in the proper tone or not and correct them. As long as I mean no harm, as long as no one is hurt, as long as Allah is pleased with me, I have nothing to worry about. Due to the classes, I was able to go through my problems at that time. It was quite stressful but my faith in Allah ensured me that what I was doing was right and necessary. But I am not perfect so constant repentance is essential. You never know whether a simple wrong deed could have a big impact. And Allah is the Most Gracious and Most Merciful. He loves His creations and He will forgive them, Inshallah, if their intention is pure
I’ll just sum up the blog here. As you can see, a good person is not someone who always does good deeds but one who repents and returns to the right path if he does wrong deeds as well. We are not perfect. Our deeds will count but our struggle to be good has a great importance. I have struggled to stengthened my Emaan and I hope you all have done, are doing or will do the same. So Ramadan is starting tomorrow here and I hope everyone has a blessed and happy Ramadan. May all your sins wash away like the foam in the sea. May we all strive to be our better selves and creat a more understanding, cooperative, united and tolerant world.
And for those who are non-Muslims reading this, may you also strive to be the best person you can be. Humanity has no religion. Your righteous deeds are as important as ours.
May you all have a happy and successful life in this Dunya and Aakhira. Ameen 😊😊