Ramadhan ushers in a suite of blessings, restoring balance and harmony in our lives. Days and nights revolve around the rhythm of prayers. Hearts and hands are extended in giving. And families, neighbours, and communities gather in the spirit of love, care, and concern.
As we ‘race in competing to do good deeds’, how can we ensure that this blessed month sets the standard and becomes the pattern on which we live the rest of our lives? In this article I will focus on three principles which, if lived by, will have an indelible impact, not only upon our own lives, but that that of our world: generosity, simple living, and being sociable.
Lighten your pocket and give sadaqah
Sadaqah (voluntary charity) is often increased in the month of Ramadhan. It is reported that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was “…naturally the most generous of people and he used to be more generous than ever in the month of Ramadan” (Sahih Bukhari). Every man and woman who is able to must give Sadaqatul-Fitr, a special charity, preferably given in food, to the poor at the end of Ramadhan. It plays a pivotal role in purifying the month of fasting, and endeavours to ensure that everyone has enough to eat on the day of ‘Eid ul-Fitr.
Apart from this special instruction, many Muslims, imbued with the heightened spiritual awareness of this month, increase their voluntary charity. International relief organisations, community food networks, and social welfare initiatives, such as orphanages and retirement homes are flooded by the outpour of generosity in the month of Ramadhan, alhamdulillah. However, many organisations raise the concern that their battles – to feed and clothe the needy; to maintain mosques, schools and clinics; and to build and strengthen livelihoods – continue after Ramadhan and that support is required throughout the year.
How then can we uphold this spirit of generosity? In Ramadhan, we often become more aware of those in need, both in our local area as well as in the wider community. While it is not always easy to maintain this awareness, select a project this month – an institution or a needy family – and make the intention to support this initiative throughout the year. Also take note of the wisdom in the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) words: “The most beloved actions to Allah are those performed consistently, even if they are few” (Sahih Bukhari) and “Wealth is not diminished by Sadaqah” (Tirmidhi). Be sincere and consistent in giving and remember, you may be lightening your pocket, but you’re adding to your bank balance in the akhirah.
Tread lightly on the earth
Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) life exemplifies the Qur’anic verse which speaks about the servants of Allah (SWT) as “the the ones who walk upon the earth softly…” (Al Furqan:63). While towards the latter years of his life the Prophet (SAW) had attained a position where “he had the treasures of the world at his feet,” he chose simplicity: in his food, dress and living.
Ramadhan provides an opportunity for us to assess our lifestyles, and to look at the ways in which we are discharging the trust which we have undertaken. Are we, as khalifatullaah fil ardh (trustees of Allah (SWT) on earth), living lightly? We can use this month of reflection to look at our ecological footprint, the demand which we are placing on the earth’s natural resources, and endeavour to lighten our impact on the earth.
LiveGreen columnist, Arwa Aburawa, explored food wastage in our Ramadhan issue, suggesting ways to cut down on this waste in this blessed month. There are several guidelines available to help us assess and reduce our impact on the earth’s resources and get us going on the path to more sustainable living, including the Muslim Green Guide to Reducing Climate Change (Lifemakers UK and Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences); Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet (Ibrahim Abdul-Matin); and 199 Ways to Please God: How to (Re-)Align your Daily Life with your Duty of Care for Creation (Rianne ten Veen). These resources provide practical suggestions of ways to put the environmental message of Islam into action in our lives, in Ramadhan and beyond.
Straighten your heart
In standing shoulder to shoulder when we perform our prayers, in the meals we have shared for iftar and in the joyous celebrations of ‘Eid, we have blossomed in the warmth of humanity. These occasions for social interaction throughout the month of Ramadhan build and strengthen love and cooperation in the home, community and society.
One mother commented that family meal times, usually a rarity, are a gift in her home during Ramadhan. With her heart full of love and gratitude for these precious moments, her family shares the pre-dawn suhoor and the evening meal at sunset, and for an entire month the family eats together. Another sister spoke of the opportunity of sharing a meal or dish with a neighbour and thereby coming to know the families in one’s neighbourhood. And one young student remembers the sweet moments of taking her iftar with the poor and needy.
The importance of kindness and consideration towards families, neighbours, the poor and the destitute, fellow Muslims, and indeed all of creation is heightened in this month. Ramadhan gives us the chance to love and care for humanity and remove the prejudice and intolerance which is dividing our world. It straightens our hearts and reminds us that verily, in the sight of Allah (SWT), the best of us are the muttaqoon, those who are conscious of Allah (SWT), who strive to live by His commands and to avoid what He prohibits.
Give, live simply, and love all Creation
The restorative properties of Ramadhan, like an oasis, revive the spirit and awaken the senses. Our hearts, bodies, and pockets, weighed down by an attachment and desire for the life of this world, is now lighter. Before we continue our journey, take hold of these blessings of Ramadhan to light the way ahead.
As we exerted ourselves to attain the sweetness of Allah’s (SWT) mercy, forgiveness and freedom from the fire in this month, what will we do to sustain this effort? As we held on to every second in this sacred month to cleanse our souls, improve our characters and purify our hearts and bodies, how will we ensure that we do not return to a state of neglect? As Ramadhan departs, let us strive to live all our days on the beautiful pattern which we tried to establish in this blessed month.
TaqabbalAllahu Minnaa wa Minkum (May Allah accept from us and you).
Dr. Najma Mohamed is an environmental researcher and writer with an interest in Islam and ecology, environmental education and sustainable living.