The Ramadhan Reminder: Taking Time Out With God

The Ramadhan Reminder: Taking Time Out With God

By Hwaa Irfan

Ramadhan is approaching and we may be fearing it in trepidation, because we know we have not been doing so well since last Ramadhan.

It used to be a lot easier, but somehow the weight of the daily grind has been eroding away our relationship with ourselves. With global crises in every corner, we may have lost sight of trusting in Him. It is funny how we give into the demands of work, of people, or a set way of seeing life, but it does – and it is only when Ramadhan comes around again that we are faintly aware, that we have strayed away from ourselves, what really matters, and our relationship with our Creator. Ramadhan tends to have that effect, al hamdu Lillah because taking time out with Him, our Creator is like taking time out with ourselves.

We do not want to remind ourselves of what we have not done. We do not want to recognize the lies we have told ourselves – besides our relationship with Allah (SWT) was not healthy anyway, because if it was we would not give up or give in. We have turned Islam into a series of “do’s” and “don’ts – we have stripped away the oft repeated saying in the Hadiths (traditions of Prophet Muhammed (SAW), that His Mercy prevails over His anger.

So here we are, approaching Ramadhan again, and probably feeling less like a Muslim than the same time last year. Because we have dehumanized the Islamic experience, we have made it pretty difficult to do what we have come here to do, which is jihad an nafs – raise our lives to a higher vibration of existence. We are supposed to struggle with the self, we are supposed to make mistakes, but equally we are supposed to learn from those mistakes. Yet, the little shayateen inside of us tells us “But if we are not allowed to make them in the first place, what is the big deal!” – “I’ve done it, and I’m still alive”. But are we, and if so in what way?

Anyone can pretend to be good, but the real trick is to rise to the higher self. Hmm! Secularism entrains us to believe that we have no higher self, and becuase it is so subliminal, we really do believe it, and then we go to the other extreme and make it impossible for ourselves and others to be. He gave us the freedom to choose, so that it is by our will that we move towards a higher level of being. With that gift of choice, a gift that no other creation in His kingdom possesses, we also have to choose to understand the right way to live, and the right way to be, and the right way to love, and be loved. In the process of learning, the lessons we learn become a fixed part of our reality, and we are one or more notch up away from the soul that is enslaved to the nafs, ego.

{So when harm afflicts a man he calls upon Us; then, when We give him a favor from Us, he says: I have been given it only by means of knowledge. Nay, it is a trial, but most of them do not know } ( Az Zumar 39: 49).

We were designed to be weak, so that we would learn to be strong in the real sense of the word, and not the dunya , worldly sense of the word, and for this the simple act of prayer was given to us as a duty, and a reminder.

If praying is something that one just tries to fit in with daily activities, then of course no benefit can be gained. Prayer then becomes just an activity that you might be feeling you can do without.

Prayer is the one thing that is done on a daily basis which does not involve everybody else – it is just you and your Creator. If those around you try to draw you into chatter, just focus on your preparation. After a while, they will soon accept that you mind is on getting ready to pray. It is a special time whereby beforehand, when you know it is soon time to pray, you slow down from what you are doing, stop the clock, and begin mental preparations, niyyat (intentions) which helps to prepare the mind as well as the body for taking time out for Allah (SWT). It is the only time whereby you do not feel compelled to prove yourself to the world, besides when you go to sleep. As you mentally prepare yourself, you move towards physically preparing yourself through w’udhu (ablutions). You are made of water (70%), and with water you refresh the parts of your body most exposed to the outside world. As the water touches your skin, as long as you do not dry your skin afterwards, your skin absorbs some of the moisture from which you are made by Him, and so we are reminded that from Him we have come, and to Him we will return. Now you are ready to present yourself in front of Him in a state of Islam, i.e. in submission.

As your body moves in prayer to Him, the movements of prayer in Islam is but a charity to us, because it offers subtle exercise by:

Takbir – the raising of our hands and shoulders increases the flow of blood to the upper part of our body

Sujud – when our heads touch the ground we stretch our spine, our neck, our hips, and our ankles, and by doing so increase the flow of blood to our brain

All in all, we increase the transmission of nutrients to the cartilage between our joints which can only be done through the kind of physical movement that increases movement in our joints. The whole body and mind is put into a state of relaxation, releasing the tensions picked throughout the course of the day. In this way, you bring your mind and body back into balance, and are more able to resume the rest of the day until next prayer time more refreshed than before, and more able to make better choices. Of course, if your mind does not let go of the external demands on your person, you will not feel the benefit, and prayer time will be just another activity which you as a whole person will not benefit from.

Done with the heart, prayer can genuinely be the time out that you need from the monkey chatter. Prayer time allows one to slow down, to breathe, if not remind one’s self how to breathe. To say “Stop” to the way in which the day seems to be gnawing away at you. I have attended congregational prayer in pain and great difficulty in walking (sciatica), and have left the mosque standing upright and free from pain – that is how powerful prayer can be in our lives.

That time out you take, can stop you from making a bad mistake, or from changing your perception of whatever happened to a more balanced one, so do not fear what Ramadhan has to offer spiritually to only end up depriving yourself. Know that your anger, and frustration is yours alone, not of Allah (SWT), so give yourself the chance to learn from your mistakes, and in that way you are more likely to keep your humanity intact! As for those who do not want you to kep your humanity in tact, leave them to learn the lessons they need to learn.

So if you live in an area where the adhan (call to prayer) is a part of daily life, give thanks that you are being helped in your dhikr (remembrance). However, if you live in an area where there is no adhan to remind you to pray, most newspapers record sunrise and sundown. Let this be your guide until you register nature’s clock. After a while, you will be able to tell when it is time to pray, and to adjust your life so that it is compatible with prayer insha-Allah, God-Willing! By learning to feel the rhythm of nature in this way, also helps you to get in touch with your own rhythm,

{And let not the ones endowed with the Grace (of Allah) and affluence swear off bringing (charity) to near of kin (Literally: endowed with kinship) and the indigent and to the ones emigrating in the way of Allah; and let them be clement and let them pardon. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful.} (An Nur 24:22)

Related Topics:
From the Symbolic Ascension to the Ascension of Our Lives
A Season for Forgiveness
Developing the Muslim Self Through Martial Arts

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