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Yasmin Mogahed on Controlling Our Inner Self (P.4)

Ramadan Countdown: Preparing for the Best Month of the Year
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During Ramadan the entire universe is closer to the Mercy of God, exalted is He. This is a gesture from God in order to bring us back to Him

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Now, what does God say about fasting in the Qur’an?

{O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.} (Al-Baqarah 2; 183)

So the purpose of fasting for me is to attain taqwa.

So what is taqwa?

Taqwa drives from the Arabic word ‘waqa’, ‘waqi’, which literally means to protect or to shield. It also comes from the word ‘itaqa’ which means to protect oneself. So, taqwa is a noun derived from this meaning and what it means is to shield or protect oneself.

The question is what are we shielding or protecting ourselves from through fasting?

Through fasting we are protecting ourselves from a lot of things. First and foremost, we are protecting ourselves from the displeasure and the Wrath of God; we are protecting ourselves from the distance of Allah. We also are protecting ourselves from excessively indulging of the nafs (inner self), and we are protecting ourselves from Satan.

A Shield of Mercy

Through fasting I’m building my spiritual and moral strength in order to be able to take on my nafs

So fasting is almost like a shield, an invisible shield surrounding me. When I’m fasting, now I’m focusing on the spiritual. Now the focus is on you; the spiritual and moral energies instead of your physical energies. As a result of that, now I’m building my spiritual and moral strength in order to be able to take on my nafs, in order to be able to oppose and train my nafs. So, to summarize, by fasting and by shielding myself from the displeasure of God and from what the nafs wants, that physical association which includes food, I’m strengthening my spiritual and moral strength.

You can have a heavy weight champion but this person is unable to fight their own nafs. So they have all physical strength but they have no inner strength. What fasting does is using moral and spiritual strength so that you’ll have the ability to fight your nafs. It makes your path to doing good easier for you. You may have experienced this, when you are fasting you feel it’s easier to do more worship, be more strict in your prayer, easier to read more Quran, to go the masjid. When you are fasting you are starving your body, and you are feeding your soul. You disengage your focus from the physical world in order to engage your focus on the inner spiritual one.

The other aspect about Ramadan, which is extremely important, is that Ramadan is about mercy. Allah’s mercy always encompasses everything. He says: {and My mercy embraces all things,} (Al-‘A’raf 7; 156) Yet there are certain times that God is nearer to us than in other times. One of those times is in sajdah (prostration). In sajdah we are closer to Allah. Similarly, when we are near to the Ka`bah, God has made that we get closer to Him in that physical state. God has also done that with Ramadan.

During Ramadan the entire universe is closer to the Mercy of God, exalted is He. This is a gesture from God in order to bring us back to Him, in order for us to take advantage of His mercy and to really change ourselves; to really go through Ramadan and come out changed. We do not need Ramadan to be just about fasting, or to be only about hunger or thirst. Though to realize the purpose of fasting; the very purpose that I have to stop worrying about my physical needs, and worry, instead, about the spiritual needs of my heart, of my soul, this is number one need.

There’s only one thing that feeds the heart and that is God. There’s nothing else that is going to feed your heart. So where I am able to empty out all the other focus, now I can focus on what really is going to feed me. This is what fasting and Ramadan is all about. So we have to make sure that we do not let Ramadan and fasting just be about leaving food and drink, about just being hungry and thirsty, and that we see the inner purpose of Ramadan, and go through Ramadan and come out different.

Ramadan is a purifier of our nafs, because in Ramadan you will encounter your nafs, because in Ramadan the satans are chained; it is just you and your own self. During Ramadan this mercy is optimized, there’s a change in the universe when this mercy is so close to us. Allah (SWT) is the owner of mercy. The Prophet, peace be upon him, tells us: "Ramadan is a month whose beginning is Mercy, whose middle is Forgiveness and whose end is freedom from the fire."

So God gives us this month in order to lift us up and in order to bring us back to His forgiveness and to liberate us from Jahannam (the Hell Fire).

Begin Now

make this Ramadan about inner transformation, about inner purification, about building my connection with God

So as the Prophet said: "The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended." (Al-Bukhari). Our deep intention now should be not to make this Ramadan just about being hungry and thirsty, and, instead, make this Ramadan about inner transformation, about inner purification, about building my connection with God and seeking His mercy, because God’s mercy is so close to us in Ramadan.

The Prophet tells us: "Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven; and whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven."

So you and I have the opportunity to have our sins forgiven. Imagine that?

We have the opportunity, but what we really need to do is to realize why we are fasting, going to Ramadan with the proper focus and the proper intention and ask Allah (SWT) to make it easy on us and to allow us to come out of Ramadan completely purified and changed.

We really need to know the fact that after Ramadan is over you are still changed. See if we are going to Ramadan and if we change things about ourselves and as soon as Ramadan is over we go back to the way we were before, then we really haven’t changed. Ramadan then didn’t fulfill its purpose, which is to purify, change and elevate us. That change has to be lasting. So what we want to do is to take Ramadan as a fuel to bring us back to God. So let’s take the intention to continue our good habits even after Ramadan is over. We hope In-Shaa Allah that Ramadan allows us to rise above ourselves and our nafs. This is the only path to peace.

Another practical tip that is really going to help us be able to fulfill the purpose of Ramadan is qiyam, the Salah that is right before fajr (dawn). When we talked earlier about the nearness to God, one of these times is this time of qiyam. Allah tells us that during this time He descends to the nearest heaven, in the time just before fajr, and He asks us who is calling on Me to answer their call, who is seeking my forgiveness so I can forgive them.

So if we really want to benefit from Ramadan, we should be very careful not to lose this opportunity at this blessed time asking God for His forgiveness, making tawbah (repentence) and making du’a. This is the very time to make du’a and to connect to God, exalted is He.

Listen to Part 4 of sister Yasmin’s talk

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Related Links:
Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action & Change
Illuminated Beginnings
Spiritual Readiness for Ramadan
The Fruits of Real Repentance
Ramadan Countdown: Ready? (Folder)
Yasmin Mogahed is an Egyptian-American journalist based in Wisconsin, USA.

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