Ramadan – Jump-starting spiritual fitness

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Daanish Malik, USA

What is your go-to activity for working out? Perhaps it’s running. Maybe it’s playing a sport or doing yoga. Whatever the interest, I’m sure you have a preferred way of exercising to improve physical fitness. 

However, have you stopped to think about your spiritual fitness? Unbeknownst to many, the two are similar. If you have not pondered over your spiritual health, do not despair. Many of us have been neglecting our spiritual fitness and subsequently accumulated love handles of sin. Fortunately, Islam has provided us with an annual 30-day challenge to jumpstart our journey of spiritual health – Ramadan.

In the Holy Quran, Allah the Almighty has provided the outline for this month. He says, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.” 

He continues, “And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.184, 187) 

Although the first thing that comes to mind is fasting, Ramadan is so much more than abstaining from food and drink. The reality is that this month has been created as a means for us to attain taqwa – true fear of God and righteousness – and nearness to God. In fact, taqwa is the gold standard of spiritual fitness. 

The Promised Messiahas, has explained:

“Fasting is not merely staying hungry and thirsty; rather, its reality and its impact can only be gained through experience. It is human nature that the less one eats, the more one’s spirit is purified and thus, one’s capacity for [spiritual] visions increases. The will of God is to decrease one kind of sustenance and to increase the other. A person who is fasting should always be mindful that they are not just required to stay hungry. On the contrary, they should remain engaged in the remembrance of God so that they can cut asunder ties of worldly desires and amusements and become wholly devoted to God. Hence, the significance of fasting is this alone that man gives up one kind of sustenance, which only nourishes the body and attains the other kind of sustenance which is a source of comfort and gratification for the soul” (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, p. 102). 

We empty our bodies of physical food to fill it with spiritual food. This food must be pure and clean. This is no ordinary diet; it is a virtuous diet. 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh writes:

“All Muslims are particularly exhorted to refrain from vain talk, quarrels and fights, or from any such occupation as is below the dignity of a true believer” (An Elementary Study of Islam, p. 44) 

If one wishes to improve their physical condition, would they consume unhealthy foods? Of course not. The diet must be carefully constructed to avoid unhealthy caloric intake. In the same manner, we must regulate our spiritual diet. Vain activities should not be “consumed”. 

If one wishes to see an improvement in physical health, they must accommodate the diet with physical exercise. Similarly, spiritual health requires exercise. What is this exercise? Worship. Indeed, the Holy Prophetsa said:

“Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

What a phenomenal opportunity! Through honest worship and devotion, one can achieve great spiritual progress in this month. If we look at the sunnah of the Holy Prophetsa, he used to increase his worship during Ramadan and we must follow suit. It is vital to remember that there are many forms of worship in addition to Salat, including the recitation of the Quran, fasting, prayers and charity. Just as the Holy Prophetsa increased in all acts of worship, we too must increase in our worship.

Through these avenues, it is critical to take this month of worship and transform it into a lifetime of spirituality. Often, many of us become righteous for a few weeks and then return to vain practises after Eid. Is this what attaining taqwa looks like? That is like dieting and working out for a month and expecting the body to remain in shape even after stopping the regiment. Sure, we may have become pious for a few days, but our efforts will be futile unless we make these changes permanent. 

As we repair our spirituality this month with the daily recitation of the Quran, congregational five daily prayers, increased charity, pondering over the Holy Quran, let us strive to maintain these even after Ramadan ends. 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa highlighted in a Friday sermon that certainly, Ramadan could be a source of revolutionary change, but it was for those who brought about pious changes in themselves; who tried and adapted their word and deed in accordance to God’s pleasure; who tried and established God’s kingdom so that they could avail God’s enhanced mercy and forgiveness during Ramadan; who crushed to smithereens the untruth of their nafs (self); this is when revolutionary change comes to pass. (Friday Sermon, 27 July 2012, www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2012-07-27.html

This month is so much more than just abstaining from food and drink. It is an opportunity to purify our souls, an opportunity to cleanse and strengthen the spiritual body, an opportunity to follow the example of the Holy Prophetsa and struggle towards making our Satans Muslim. 

May Allah the Almighty enable us to benefit from this year’s Ramadan so that we may be among those who become righteous. 

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