By Imam Syed Anisul Haque | 1 Mar 2024

As Sha‘ban passes its midway point, believers seek to equip themselves spiritually before Ramadan knocks at the door. The sacred month signifies more than carrying out habitual rituals of fasting and prayer. Its inner purpose calls us to reconnect with Allah at a level of higher consciousness – turning inward to deepen our faith, seek forgiveness for shortcomings, and rededicate ourselves to spiritual growth. In this week’s Friday sermon, I gave Naseehah on the practical steps we can take to reach the spiritual height we all seek. 

Reaping the Full Blessings of Ramadan

The countdown towards Ramadan fills me with profound joy.  The Quran itself was revealed in this very month. However, as the years pass, I realize many of us observe Ramadan more out of habit, not fully appreciating the deeper wisdom behind each act of worship or taking stock of how we can spiritually grow during the Blessed Month. 

I remind the congregation that beyond abstaining from food and lining up for evening prayers, self-reflection and individual reformation lie at the heart of Ramadan. Allah says fasting has been prescribed to develop consciousness of Him: 

O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful of Allah.

 [Al-Quran, 2:183]

Through this heightened state of taqwa, achieved by refocusing on our faith over a month of physical challenges, we must aim to reconnect with our Creator and walk the path of spiritual growth and self-improvement.

The ahadeeth clearly illustrate that Ramadan is a fountain of divine mercy. As narrated by Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) assured:

Whoever fasts Ramadan with faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.

This is represented in the literal meaning of Ramadan. The name of the Holy Month stems from the word ramad – to burn. This perfectly captures the image of good deeds burning away bad deeds. 

If salah carries prerequisites like wudu‘, we cannot passively drift into Ramadan without some soul-searching and goal-setting. If we are sincere about seeking its transformative potential, we must avoid passively entering into the Holy Month. Reflecting on my own resolutions for growth, I realise worship must spring from a place of deep conviction and consistency – as embodied by pious predecessors who always maintained the spiritual peak of Ramadan.

Striving Towards Spiritual Progress 

There are certain acts of worship we can focus on during this blessed month of Sha‘ban – things which will help us in fully taking advantage of the month of Ramadan. I shared the following advice with the congregation:

  • Renewing our intentions (Ikhlas un-Niyah): The basis of reward starts with purifying our motives before carrying out good deeds.
  • Educating ourselves: Seeking knowledge is an obligation. While relying on scholars, we should learn essential rulings on worship like fasting as the month approaches.
  • Setting a productive timetable: Our religion teaches us to respect fixed times in acts of worship; without structure, our ambitions and desire for spiritual growth will lack the solid foundation that is necessary for goal-setting in every area of life.
  • Setting realistic targets: Initial zeal fading away stems from impractical goals. I have seen many that are left overwhelmed. The Prophetic example was to gently build step-by-step.
  • Consistency in deeds: Small but regular actions is better than intense bursts, which we cannot sustain. 

With the arrival of Ramadan nearing, I advise believers to intensify three acts of worship during Sha‘ban – fasting, increase the night prayer (qiyaam al-layl), and reciting the Qur’an.

On fasting, Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Prophet ﷺ would sometimes fast until it seemed he would not stop, and sometimes would not fast until it seemed he would never fast again. “But I never saw him fast in any month more than he fasted in Sha‘ban.” (Bukhari) 

Qiyaam al-Layl was the practice of the pious predecessors. The 8th century Islamic scholar, Imam al-Awza’i, stated:

He who stands (in prayer) for a long period during the night, will ease the suffering of standing on the Day of Resurrection.

As for Qur’an recitation, one of the Tabi‘een described Sha‘ban as ‘The month of the Qur’an reciters’. Let us set higher targets for our yearly Qur’an goals using Ramadan’s impending arrival as motivation.

I ended the sermon with some advice to fellow Imams who have been blessed in leading the night Taraweeh prayers. Remain sincere, always seeking Allah’s acceptance. The community must support the Huffaz leading Taraweeh because of their immense service. May Allah elevate this Ummah through maximising such blessed occasions.

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