Question and answer details
|In Ramadan, how can new Muslims increase their spirituality in this month?|
AnswerSalam Dear Adam,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
Ramadan is a time when all of us, whether we have been Muslim for fifty years or for five minutes, want to get closer to Allah. It is a special month, given to us by Allah (God) the Almighty, to renew our commitments, to be sorry for and forget the mistakes of the past, and to resolve to go forward, with Allah's help, as better Muslims.
Those who are new to Islam have accepted so many new things into their lives. They have learned to pray and maybe even to recite the noble Quran, which Muslims believe is the word of God, in a different language to their own.
Even the routine of Praying five times a day and of doing so according to a particular formula can seem very strange at first. New Muslims, however, very quickly get into the habit of Prayer and very soon become accustomed to the ways of Islam. In what ways, then, can they in particular come closer to Allah during the month of Ramadan?
I am going to suggest one small thing, but there are so many we could look at. Ramadan, for example, is a time for Prayers, so increasing one's efforts and time for Prayers would be a good way of coming closer to Allah.
Aside from the regular Prayers, there is the Prayer of Tarawiah after the Night Prayer. We will probably have recited the whole of the Quran, or most of it, during Ramadan if we attend to the Prayers each evening.
Making a special effort to pray in congregation in the mosque during Ramadan is another good way of becoming more familiar with the Muslim community.
Reciting the Quran on one's own is without doubt a good deed, but we should not be too ambitious or set impossible goals for ourselves. This has been the downfall of so many good intentions in the past, so be realistic and set yourself goals which are achievable.
If our knowledge of Arabic is limited, we might resolve to learn more verses, rather than reciting many which we don't understand. We might even learn a verse in Arabic and then spend some time at night reflecting on the meaning of that verse, and how it addresses our own lives.
There is no doubt that we will come closer to Allah by thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves and doing something to help them. I know one lady, for example, who regularly stops her car to distribute cartons of juice to poor people when she is on her way to visit friends for Iftar (a meal to break the fast).
There are three small suggestions, which might be unusual, yet simple ways of remembering Allah and so coming closer to Him in Ramadan. The good thing about them is that they can be carried forward from Ramadan to the rest of the year.
The first of these is to examine the way we perform "wudu" the ablution before Prayer. So may people tell me that they get distracted in Prayer and ask how they can become more focused. I believe that the way we perform ablution is a key answer to this question. What do I mean?
Well, take the example of someone who will go to meet the President of the United States in the White House. What preparations he will make for the visit! He will get out his best suit, shirt, and tie. He will bathe and put on the best after shave. And he will go over in his mind the kind of things he will say when he meets the President. No one would dream of going to the White House for such a meeting without washing first and dressed in an old pair of jeans.
As Muslims we pray five times a day. Five times a day we place ourselves consciously in the presence of the One who created the world and everything in it. The One we pray to is more powerful than any president or prince, so how much more we should prepare for the encounter. And yet, too often we rush the Prayers so that we can get back to watching our favorite program on the television.
Ablution is a gift that has been given to us to help us prepare for our meeting with Allah. It is a time of transition between our daily business and the time we set aside for Prayer. As we wash the dust from our hands and face during the ablution, we prepare to wash away the dust which clings to our hearts and keeps us from Allah.
In Ramadan, we are fasting during daylight hours, so the time of ablution is a special time when we feel the cool water on our arms and our head. It is a time to thank Allah for the gift of water and for the gift of life itself, remembering all those in the world who have no access at all to water or to clean water.
We remember, for example, our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are forced to tunnel under the ground like rats to provide food and water for their families, while we take for granted the water that runs freely from our taps.
The few brief minutes of ablution, then, give us a chance to calm down. In a few moments we will be touching our foreheads on the ground in praise of the Creator of all life. What a gift we have been given. During these moments of preparation, we can remind ourselves of the very gift of being called to be Muslim, when many in the world have not been given that gift. We might even begin to focus our minds on some of the things we will ask of Allah in Prayer.
So, you see, ablution is not just an empty ritual. It is not just something to be rushed, to be got out of the way, before we get down to the serious business of praying. If we take it seriously, we are more likely to be settled and calm when the Prayer begins.
If we take this small idea to our heart, it will have its effect not only on Ramadan, but will help us to be better Muslims when Ramadan is over, because we will take our prayers more seriously and give thanks more often for the blessings with which we are showered every day and we take for granted.
Ramadan is truly a wonderful time, but Allah Himself is even more wonderful.
I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
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