With less than two weeks to Ramadan, its time we did some serious re-thinking about our priorities and goals. It just so often happens that once upon a time, our goals used to be to establish the five times salah(prayer) consistently, or to start dressing up with modesty, and then that's it!! We get stuck there, and even years down the lane, the goal list is still the same!!! We do not really lose purpose, but we just confine ourselves to the false comfort....Do not we remember that once we used to feel unhappy with ourselves in regards to our relationship with Allah Azza Wajal, and we desired change? And now that, that change has come about, you are happy with yourself! Should we be content and happy, and lay back when it comes to our relationship with Our Lord, whose Ni'mah and Mercy is continually over-flowing upon us? SubhanAllah!!!
Below are few tips that will help us inshAllah, to keep striving for raising our level of emaan, and in attaining Ihsan (Al-Iman-al-Kaamil - The Perfection of Emaan; which is a ray- it has a starting point, but no end point; it keep extending to higher horizons):
1. Have a clear-cut purpose in life:
Allah Subhanahu watha'ala says:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالإِنسَ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ - مَآ أُرِيدُ مِنْهُم مِّن رِّزْقٍ وَمَآ أُرِيدُ أَن يُطْعِمُونِ - إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الرَّزَّاقُ ذُو الْقُوَّةِ الْمَتِينُ
And I created not the Jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me. I seek not any provision from them nor do I ask that they should feed Me.Verily, Allah is the All-Provider, Owner of power, the Most Strong. (Surah Adh-Dhaariyaat: 56-58)
Allah SWT reminds us in the above ayahs that we were created solely for the purpose of worshipping Him alone, in return for ALL the provisions and Blessings from Him, AND Eternal Bliss in The Hereafter...And He balances His Mercy, by reminding us that He is The Owner of All Power, He is Able to do everything, inclusive of being The Owner of the Day of Judgement when He will judge and decide man's fate depending upon his deeds and intentions.
Our ultimate goal is Jannathul Firdaws. To reach this goal, we need to find contentment with Our Lord, and the way of life He has commanded us to live. Being content with Allah means to have no complaints with whatever has been decreed for us, and submitting to Allah's will in obedience, with out questioning Him and His Commands. Being content with your Lord is the belief that He wants only good for His creation (mankind). Allah is also content with His servant who is content with his Lord- it is mutual, and we ask Allah Subhanahu watha'ala for a heart and soul that is content and filled with tranquility.
يأَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ - ارْجِعِى إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً - فَادْخُلِى فِى عِبَادِى - وَادْخُلِى جَنَّتِى
"O tranquil soul! Come back to your Lord, -- well-pleased and well-pleasing! Enter then among My servants, And enter My Paradise!'' (Surah Al-Fajr: 27-30)
Just like a host inviting an honourable guest into his home, Allah SWT calls the servant with An-Nafsul-Muthma'innah to The Paradise that He created, and prepared for His righteous servants- where rivers flow beneath the gardens, and where there are huge mansions with all the unimaginable beds and pillows, and expensive cups to drink from, the variety of fruits which are like the fruits of this world, yet so different and delicious in taste, the drinks that will be provided for the people of lower level heaven which will be just a flavouring from the actual drink of the people of higher levels....SubhanAllah....
Isn't this life a travel to undertake, worth striving for?!
2. Keep renewing your goals and evaluating yourself: We have to keep using that goal sheet of ours.
Allah SWT says:
لاَ أُقْسِمُ بِيَوْمِ الْقِيَـمَةِ - وَلاَ أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ- أَيَحْسَبُ الإِنسَـنُ أَلَّن نَّجْمَعَ عِظَامَهُ
Nay! I swear by the Day of Resurrection. And nay! I swear by An-Nafs Al-Lawwamah. Does man think that We shall not assemble his bones. (Surah Al-Qiyamah: 1-3)
An-Nafs Al-Lawwamah is the self-reproaching soul, that keeps questioning itself, and keeps itself on track. And this is the soul that helps us in consistent work-out to higher grounds. It questions us: "Is that enough?" "Did you do it with the right intention?" "Did you do the right thing?" "Shouldn't you ask Allah to forgive you for your sins?" "Do Isthigfar and don't repeat this mistake!" "How can you be satisfied with doing just this much, when the sahabah used to do much more?!" etc...and so on...This soul pulls you back when you feel proud of yourself, and keeps you on track.
In the first ayah, Allah swears by the Yaum-al-Qiyaamah (Day of Resurrection) and then he SWT goes on, to swear by the Reproaching soul that we must have, which in turn reminds us of the Yaum-al-Qiyaamah. The reproaching soul reminds us each time we do something that we will gathered on the Day of Resurrection and our bones will be resurrected and assembled after our death. SubhanAllah, notice the relationship between the first three ayahs?!!
We ask Allah to be the owners of Nafs-al-Muthma'innah and Nafs-al-lawwamah. We have to develop this reproaching soul within us by constantly renewing our intentions, reminding ourselves by listening to good lectures as often as we can, indulging in only beneficial talk and good deeds and being around people who care about their Hereafter and ours. These are the food and nutrition for the reproaching soul. Feed it! The main food is installation of deep-borne fear and taqwa of Allah and the Hereafter.
We have to set practical goals by carefully prioritising them. For example, if we are habituated to reciting 1 page from the Mushaf daily, lets raise the bar to 2 pages; if we are regular with our salah, then consider starting the habit of Salathul Dhuha and/or Witr. If we feel our weakness is in judging or making assumptions about others, rectify it by listening to the reproaching soul within each one of us- "Isn't Allah the judge over His creation, why don't you judge yourself before you are judged?" If one has a problem in over-spending his money, once again, listen to what the reproaching soul has to say- remember the poor, remember what the Quran has to say about over-spending!
The worst type of soul is the Nafs-al-Ammarah- the wretched soul. Allah says in the Quran:
إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ
Verily, the self is inclined/urged to evil. (Surah Yusuf: 53)
This is the soul that in unattended, neglected or not fed properly. This soul has Shaytan as an ally- sometimes it realises that, sometimes not. Sometimes, the owner of this soul (A'oodhubillah) is so happy about it, and he is the one for whom Allah appoints Shaytan as his Qareen (friend/ partner). Allah says:
وَمَن يَعْشُ عَن ذِكْرِ الرَّحْمَـنِ نُقَيِّضْ لَهُ شَيْطَاناً فَهُوَ لَهُ قَرِينٌ
And whosoever Ya`shu (turns away blindly) from the remembrance of the Most Gracious, We appoint for him Shaytan to be a Qarin (a companion) to him. (Surah Al-Zukhruf: 36)
And this is the soul that, even in Ramadan when the Shayatin are chained and when the gates of Hell-fire are closed, tempts one to fall into disobedience of Allah SWT and sin. The reproaching soul pulls us up when we fall into mud. But the wretched soul pulls us in, like falling into quick sand. It beautifies our sins, makes us feel that it is okay to bend rules and encourages us to the traps of shaytan till we lose sense of what is right and wrong. It magnifies some little good that we may do, and overlooks the voluminous sins we commit. This soul follows its hawa(desires). This soul does not remember Allah often. May Allah SWT show Mercy upon us, protect us from all evil, and guide us always.
3. Reflecting upon Allah's names and attributes:
We should always ponder deeply upon Allah's most perfect names and attributes, His names are perfect in every sense. Very often, we find in the Tafseers of the Quran, that are not really explained as much as it should be. When we say Allah is الْعَلِيمِ, The All-Knower- it should be with such firm belief that it will lead us to be conscious of Him while doing anything, since whatever we do, He Subhanahu watha'ala is aware! He is aware of all our thoughts, so we should purify our intentions. He is aware of what we do in our homes privately, and what we do in public; so we do not be good just to impress the public. If we lie, He is aware; if we backbite, He is aware.
When we say Allah is الْغَفُورُ, The Oft-Forgiving- we have to realise that Allah loves those who seek forgiveness, and so, we should constantly remember Allah, and seek repentence from Him The Almighty.
When we say Allah is الْحَكِيمُ, The Wise- we have to really believe it and knowing that whatever happens is for the best, as it is decreed by Allah, The Most Wise. And that He decrees whatever is most fit to whomever He pleases.
Similarly, we should know Our Lord by All His perfect names, and ponder upon them, call Him by them, and supplicate to Him by calling Him by His names.
May Allah SWT make us among the righteous, Bless us with a Ramadan that we will take the most benefit from, and inshAllah rise our levels of emaan to the next higher level. May Allah accept our humble deeds from us- and verily, a sign of acceptance of our forthcoming Ramadan inshAllah is that even after Ramadan, we keep striving to please Our Lord Almighty....
And Allah knows best.