MUFTI SAYED HAROON AL AZHARI advises that Ramadaan is the best opportunity to make a conscious change for success.
WITH the kickoff of Ramadaan, everyone is motivated and striving for new heights but within a few days many begin to dwindle. Why is this so?
In many instances it is due to our mindset of success. We think success is an event while, in reality, it is a process.
Most importantly, we need to think differently about success by setting obtainable goals and sustainable practices. Once Rasoolullah (SAW) was asked, ‘What deeds are loved most by Allah?’
He replied: ‘Consistent deeds, even though they may be few.’ He added, ‘Don’t commit yourselves to actions except to that which are within your ability.’ (Bukhari)
In retrospect, our lives are the accrual of choices we have made. Some choices are conscious while most are subconscious. We need to consciously create good habits so that they may serve us correctly, subconsciously.
A brilliant message of Canadian philosopher, Herbert Marshall McLuhan is, ‘We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.’
Ramadaan is the best opportunity to shape our tools by making a conscious change for success. We must first take control of our thinking because it is the control centre of our life. If you can control the way you think, you will be able to control the way you choose and, as a result, you will be in control of your choices and their consequences.
Here is an example of how to take control of your life through Ramadaan. Rasoolullah (SAW) said: ‘When the first night of Ramadaan approaches, the doors of paradise are opened, the doors of hell are closed and the devils are chained.’ (Muslim)
We understand the first part of this hadith but many cannot understand how are the devils chained while there are so many Muslims out there who are still stealing, cheating, exploiting, lying and backbiting.
By elaborating on the higher objectives of fasting, firstly, we might gain a deeper insight into what’s required of us and, secondly, understand how the devils are chained.
One of the main objectives of fasting as per the Quranic thought (Quran 2:183) is to develop a higher awareness of Allah. I will mention four statements of the Prophet (SAW) confirming that a higher consciousness needs to be actively cultivated and developed.
One: ‘Some might fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst. Some might pray at night and get nothing from prayer except fatigue.’ (Ibn Majah, Ahmad)
Two: ‘Whoever does not give up illegitimate speech and action, Allah does not require him to give up his food and drink.’ (Bukhari)
Three: ‘Fasting is a shield so long as it is not broken.’ It was asked: ‘What causes it to break?’ He answered: ‘Lying and backbiting.’ (Ahmad)
Four: ‘Fasting is a shield. So the fasting person should avoid obscene speech and should not behave foolishly and ignorantly, and if somebody fights with him or insults him, he should tell him twice, “I am fasting”’ (Bukhari)
Rasoolullah (SAW) emphasises that fasting is not just about abstinence from food and drink nor is it to merely stand up for the nightly vigil but, rather, it also entails actively abandoning improper behaviour and creating self control for the pleasure of Allah.
It is clear that a greater consciousness is required from us in order to take control of our choices. Yes, we might not have control over our circumstances but we surely do have control on how we respond to them.
Secondly: understanding how the devils are chained. In this Prophetic statement, the passive tense is used [which grammatically implies that the subject (doer) is not mentioned], which states: ‘The devils are chained.’
The question now is, who are they chained by? Based on the above objectives, we can safely say that the devils are chained by the person who is fasting, because they are actively restraining themselves from improper behaviour, seeking Allah’s pleasure.
Rasoolullah (SAW) said: ‘The Shaitaan flows through a human like blood.’(Bukhari) Expounding on this, Al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyah mention: ‘The Shaitaan flows through the human as blood flows through their veins, so tighten his flow through fasting.’ (Ihyaa and Fatawa)
Shaitaan becomes weak when one fasts as per the Prophetic teachings because fasting creates a higher awareness and consciousness of Allah (taqwa).
Remember, you are in control of your choices and you need to take responsibility of your life. Stop blaming it on Shaitaan as he will declare: ‘I had no control over you, except that I invited you and you accepted. So, do not blame me but blame yourselves.’ (Quran 14:22)
- Mufti Sayed Haroon Al Azhari is head of the Cape Town Ulama Board.
This article was first published in the March 2022 print edition of Muslim Views.