It was year 610 A.D. ninth month of the lunar calendar. A pair of feet was softly – but gently – making its way out of the main city, the city famous for its chatter and banter of business activity and cultural mix. Those feet were on their way towards the outskirts, exchanging greetings on his way out and carrying a sack of a few eatables that may last only for few days for a normal living being but he knew that he won’t be back home for many a weeks, surviving only on a meagre amount of food and constantly contemplating.
Now, he was well out of the populated area and the plain ground changed into the foothills of the mountainous region. He kept walking and started ascending a mountain not knowing that it will eventually lead him to join the ranks of the noblest men this world has ever seen. It was not his first visit and he sure was aware of the terrain. Leaving behind a loving wife and children at home and staying at the cave for extended periods of time had sort of become his routine for past few months. And recently he has started experiencing true visions. Whatever he saw in the night as a dream would don the attire of reality the next day as it was.
Finally, he reached the mouth of the cave which had housed him for the past many weeks. He put aside his meagre meals and the contemplations started. Fasting would ensue because the meals were of course not sufficient to fill the tummy but to barely survive. And it had been the methodology of Almighty to make His men fast for long before the Message was handed over to them. And it happened. It finally happened. Weeks and weeks of fasting and contemplation finally resulted in handing out of such a strong message to the one who was finally appointed as the Mercy of all mankind.
[Original text can be found at Ibn-e-Hashaam: 235/1]
Above is a small extract from the life of Prophet Muhammad e and these incidents happened when he e used to go to – and stay in – the Cave of Hira for extended periods of time at the age of forty to contemplate while fasting. Hence, the importance of fast becomes even more important and an essential result can be drawn from here: A person becomes able to absorb the Divine message only when his bodily needs are pushed back by the method of fasting.
It had been the method of Allah for past prophets. Prophet Moses (Musa) u was asked by Allah to stay at the mount of Toor and fast for forty days before Torah was handed over to him. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Prophet Jesus (Eesa) u fast for forty days and then some Divine words were revealed to him and are mentioned in the Gospels by the name “Sermon on the Mount.”
“The most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even though it was little.”
In Islam, fasting has been ordained on the believers for one complete month (the ninth month of Lunar year called Ramadan) for the same purpose – imbibing the Divine message. As the centuries have passed, the spirits of the method of worship have been cast aside leaving behind only rituals apparent to the man. Fasting makes no exception.
Muslims of today fast wholeheartedly in the Holy Month of Ramadan but fail to accomplish the pinnacle in faith and belief primarily because fasting – and in fact the religious practice – has been shrunk to “something” you do every year. On the real facade, the beauty of Islam is that it is the religion giving teachings and code of conduct for every field of life. Thus, we see a person visiting the Masjid regularly in Ramadan but missing out on the compulsory five-prayers-a-day for the rest of the year. The Quran which was so rigorously recited day and night in Ramadan is back on the shelf – untouched and gathering dust.
We must learn that the month of Ramadan is a kind of practice session for us Muslims. By opting to leave even the allowed foods and drinks during a specified time of the day on the commands of the Almighty, we practice to mold our lives in the same fashion. We vow to do the same for the rest of the year and for the rest of our lives.
Performing good deeds in Ramadan is easier because during Ramadan, our needs and desires are shrunk to the bare minimum due to lack of normal meals during the day. Plus the whole environment during the Holy month is sprinkled with spirituality which naturally urges anyone to perform more Ibadat, more recitation from Holy Quran, abstaining from lying and other vices. The real test starts when the devil gets to hit us from every direction, in every form and we are naturally busy in meals and all things akin. Of course, a filled tummy never breeds fine thoughts.
The reasons why we get detracked from the right path after Ramadan can be many. The foremost could be the reliance over the virtues earned during Ramadan and thinking that those will fill up the entire year. But our beloved Prophet Muhammad e said as narrated by his wife Ayesha r in Sahih al Bukhari, Kitab-ur-Riqaaq: “The most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even though it was little.”
Then people also may leave out to do good deeds is because they think that it is their good deeds in Ramadan that will lead them to the Jannat. But as quoted in Muslim, Kitab-ul-Munafiq, the Prophet Muhammad e said: “No one of you will enter Paradise by his deeds alone.” The Sahaba t asked, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Not even me, unless Allah covers me with His Grace and Mercy.” So you see the constancy of good deeds and reliance over Allah’s mercy is the recipe for the permission to enter Jannat.
“And we must shun the habit of going after the shortcuts. Remember! Shortcuts are wrong cuts. And by keeping yourself away from the bad deeds you left during Ramadan because the medicine never works unless the patient leaves the harmful things along.”
And then there are seemingly available shortcuts too. I mean if someone tells me that just by doing Ibadat in the night of 15th Shabaan, (famously called Shab-e-Bara’t) I will be the part of heaven-goers, why would I bother to act according to injunctions of Islam for the rest of the year? If the virtues of reciting Naat at the sumptuously celebrated birthday of our beloved Prophet Muhammad e are stated to be more than anything then whole of the energies will be diverted to practicing the Naat and preparing it for the event.”
Lets see now how we can keep ourselves on track. One way is to keep in touch with the Masjid for regular Namaz and keep your eeman fresh by reciting a portion of Quran on daily basis. No matter how small it may be but it should be recited with meanings and relating it to the previous verses. And we must shun the habit of going after the shortcuts. Remember! Shortcuts are wrong cuts. And by keeping yourself away from the bad deeds you left during Ramadan because the medicine never works unless the patient leaves the harmful things along.
As quoted in Tirmidhi, Kitab-us-Siaam, the Prophet Muhammad e said: “Whoever performs fasting in Ramadan and adds six more days to it in Shawwal is regarded as if he has performed fasting during the whole year.” Besides such a huge reward, there is worldly benefit to it too. As it can safely be inferred that the body in Ramadan is attuned to fasting and these 6 fasts in Shawwal slowly takes our body to the non-fasting mode.