A SEASON FOR THE SOUL The Month of Ramadhan; A Time to Grow...
By: Batool Haydar
The holy month of Ramadhan is a time for resolution and revolution. Batool Haydar seeks to discover the best way to make this month a new beginning in every way.

'Rajab is the month of God, Sha'ban is my month and Ramadhan is the month of my Ummah.' - Prophet Muhammad(s)

Finally! That time of the year that we await with such eagerness has arrived. The preparations for fasting, the excitement of spotting the new moon that heralds its commencement and the welcoming of an atmosphere that is unique to Ramadhan - these are the things that occupy us as this month begins.

We have made it through Rajab and Sha'ban and are blessed once more to arrive at the doorstep of the month of Ramadhan. Are we ready to journey through it and take what it has to offer? In the previous months, we started the process of change within ourselves, doing away with some negative habits and adopting positive traits. Now is the time to harvest the fruit of our efforts.

To Last a Lifetime
There is an abundance of both verses and traditions that emphasise the greatness of the month of Ramadhan and its status above all other months. 'The month of Ramadhan is one in which the Qur'an was sent down as guidance to mankind, with manifest proofs of guidance and the Criterion'. (2:185)

The most important aspect of the month of Ramadhan is that it includes Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Decree). Considered the climax of the Islamic year, this night is equal to a thousand months - in essence a lifetime. It is in the few hours of this night that believers can literally change their destiny and create an influence over their future in the coming year.

The Four R's of Rebirth
The month of Ramadhan is both a journey and a destination. Our travels through the days of this month determine where we will reach at its end. Eid al-Fitr is ideally supposed to be a celebration of the cleansing of the soul and the rebirth of a new identity that is more dedicated to seeking nearness to God.

The following concepts may help to keep you focused on this as you begin your own personal quest.

1. Repair
The best solution to any problem for a Muslim is to turn to istighfar (repentance). The Prophet(s) has said, 'Nothing is more favourable to God than a repentant believer.'

The act of placing ourselves before God with comprehension of the burden of imperfection we carry that only He - the Most Perfect - can lift off from our shoulders, creates a deep connection with the Divine.

It requires that we acknowledge every flaw, every act of disobedience and every sin committed. When we begin to get a better sense of how vast the gap between what we are and what we were created to be is, we establish the start of a true relationship with Him.

It is only when our hearts are soft enough that seeking forgiveness becomes an act woven with desperation that we begin to realise there is absolutely no other entity that can absolve us except the entity that we have wronged.

And for such sincere repentance there is only acceptance, as God says in the Qur'an, 'Indeed I am All-Forgiving toward him who repents, becomes faithful and acts righteously, and then follows guidance'. (20:82)

2. Revive
A heart that has been humbled is more receptive to change and more determined to grow. The month of Ramadhan is the ideal time to water the heart and embed the positive changes you want into it.

Of the many supplications recommended for recitation in this month, perhaps the most beautiful is that of Iftitah (Opening) that is recited every night in this month. Its themes vary from the serene to the serious and its verses are poetic prose telling the story of a Lover and his Beloved. The verbal imagery used evoke feelings of awe, admiration and love for a Creator who is perfect in His attributes of both Jalaal (Majesty) and Jamaal (Beauty).

'All praise to God, in Whose awe the heavens and its dwellers quiver...'. Following this we then recite: 'All praise to God, Who answers me whenever I call Him, covers up my shortcomings while I disobey Him...'

The contrast between His awe and Love creates a deeper understanding of how much we need God and how He is always there for us.

3. Rediscover
One of the highest recommended acts for the month of Ramadhan is to recite the Qur'an. Sadly, this practice has become more cultural than spiritual. For many, this is the one and only time in the entire year that they will recite any verses of the Qur'an. Few try to read either the translation or exegesis of any of the chapters.

Having put in such effort in the past months of Rajab and Sha'ban, this month of Ramadhan is a prime time to start rediscovering the Qur'an as we recite it.

It is through the Qur'an that He speaks to us of all this Knowledge and Wisdom. An exploration of this treasure trove of infinite depth begun this month would be a spiritual adventure that would outlast our lifetime!

4. Resolve
As the Season of Worship comes to an end, we all usually nurture the hope that we have in some way progressed towards our aim of becoming closer to God. However, we often allow this hope to remain only a passive wish. With the passing of Eid, we become lax and feel that we need to wait for the following year to begin our efforts again.

The best way to truly celebrate Eid is to be determined to continue the path of change and progress for the rest of the year. Every day passed without some effort on our part is an opportunity wasted and lost forever.

Through the nights of Qadr, when the bond between our spirituality and Divine acceptance is at its peak, we should firmly embed the resolve to hold on to the path of progress for the rest of the year and seek the strength to be able to do so.

A New Life
There are many life-changing events which are imposed on us that we have no control over. We may not have the power to change them but we have the power of faith and endurance to overcome them. But that doesn't mean change comes only though them - we can change ourselves as well.

The month of Ramadhan helps us to reclaim the power of faith, and it is a prime time that makes change easier and smoother. For these thirty days, we change habits that are deeply embedded in us and we do so literally overnight.

Yet, by the end of the month, the new system is so much a part of us that we go back to our old ways with a sense of reluctance.

The question to ask is: Do we have to go back to our old ways? If we feel reluctant towards adopting certain habits again, perhaps they were never meant to be part of our lifestyle. This is a good time to decide how much control we want to have over our way of living. These are the essential realisations that the month of Ramadhan brings with it: that we are stronger than we think and we all have the ability to change - drastically - with ease.

Originally published in islam today magazine UK, issue 21 | July 2014. It has been republished here with permission.