When Fasting Becomes a Chore

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A call to overcome the Ramadan relapse that most of us tend to experience.

I click lazily at yet another Ramadan article in my inbox. It would have been a good read – except that I’ve already come across quite a few articles in the same vein. An all-consuming yawn almost knocks the computer backward, and I look wearily at the clock. Sigh. Still some eight hours to go before Maghrib.

I resist the urge to google Harry Potter or Twilight or something equally inane and wasteful of these precious Ramadan hours and I know I should be reading the Qur’an (or at least listening to it) but I’m famished and cranky and just plain tired. I know I should be kind and forbearing, and Ramadan should jolt me out of heedlessness, especially since the devil is chained up. That’s when I realize I don’t really need Shaytan to whisper stuff – I can be quite the sinner all of my own accord.

I take my pre-dawn meal pretending I am a camel, and stock up on water, only to find that my effort to sleep post-suhoor is punctuated by frequent visits to the bathroom. Furthermore, all endeavours of self-restraint go to the dogs as soon as I come face-to-face with golden brown deep fried Samosas at iftar. A chiding that goes along the lines of “avoid fried, fatty, and sugary foods” echoes in my mind but I dismiss it with a big swig of sweetened cranberry juice as I praise God for His bounty (bounty of course includes the Samosas and Co.)

Needless to say, somewhere along the line, I seem to have missed the spirit of this blessed month. I complain, and behave like a grumpy goat as I go through my chores for the day, as though the fact that I am fasting is a favour upon the world. If you’re already having a great Ramadan, the following will probably only be a reminder if you read further, but if you’re having a Ramadan that is less than perfect, I would suggest you read on.

To begin with, the hunger pangs we experience are not so we become resentful but rather Allah makes food unlawful for us so we know how people who go through extreme hunger on a regular basis feel. As we speak, the famine in Somalia is affecting millions of people, and I would never been able to understand those people but for this abstinence.

What’s more, it’s also a great chance for the body to detoxify and cleanse itself, as we overburden it with food all the year round. But to be very honest, this month is not so much about food anyway. It’s about being in that special spiritual state, finding peace with Allah, keeping your mind busy with His Remember and and realizing that even for someone as sinful as yourself, there is hope. A simple thing as a sincere intention while fasting can clear us of ALL our sins regardless of how ghastly they may be.

Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. Whoever prays during the nights in Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. And he who passes Laylat al-Qadr in prayer with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven [Bukhari, Muslim].

The promise of a night that is better than a thousand months – and telling me it will definitely occur in the odd nights of the last ten days, if only I seek it? Is Ramadan really so difficult?

Allah says in the Qur’an:

“…And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew” [2:184].

“Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him” [2: 185].

I don’t know about you, but the verses above give me goosebumps. It sounds like Allah is talking to me directly – which of the favours of my Lord will I deny? He guides me, makes things easy for me, gives me knowledge and provision, and I crib when I have to fast for Him? Is that how brittle my Eman is, that it crumbles with one pang of hunger? Remember how our beloved Prophet Muhammed (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) tied stones to his stomach to subdue his extreme hunger because they had little to eat? Why can’t I fast out of love, submission, and thanks?

Remember this:

Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet said: Allah the Majestic and Exalted said: “Every deed of man will receive ten to 700 times reward, except Siyam (fasting), for it is for Me and I shall reward it (as I like). There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts: one when he breaks the fast and the other when he will meet his Lord” [Muslim].

Let’s remember the number of times we called out to our Lord scared, worried, and frustrated in the web of life. Remember the times when we knew we didn’t stand a chance and Allah hid our ‘uyoob (faults) from the eyes of the world. Recall in how many things and in how many ways Allah has blessed you and I!

It’s only a few more days and poof! Ramadan will be over. It’s now or never. Let’s not be one of those people mentioned in the following Hadith, and let us inshaA’llah enter Paradise from Ar-Rayyan!

The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “When I was climbing up the pulpit, Jibreel (‘alayhis salam) came to me and told me: O Muhammad (sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)! Anyone in your nation who manages to be alive when Ramadan comes and  yet cannot get his sins forgiven, then may he perish in the fire of Hell. Say Ameen.” So the Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said Ameen. [Ibn Hibban]

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