“How do we receive Allah’s gaze on the first night of Ramadan? We do this by striving to purify our hearts, being in a state of brokenness in front of Allah and having a sincere desire to receive it. Anyone who sincerely seeks to receive it will not be disappointed.”
Habib Umar bin Hafiz
We are now in the sacred month of Ramadan and for many it is a time of serenity, beauty, stillness and the coming together of the community. But there are also many for whom this month brings about additional challenges and stress. It’s often easy to sit back and assume that because of the sacredness of this time of year, all worries and troubles dissipate.
But we cannot forget that there are so many for whom this time brings with it increased pressure, fear and anxiety. How to feed one’s family come iftar time, how to break fast alone or observe the month for the very first time. Worrying how to pass finals or keep one’s focus on a job while fasting long hours. Having to explain why you’re fasting knowing that the truth will bring with it prejudice or skepticism. Enduring Ramadan at odds with your community or family. Being overwhelmed by the constant need to socialize and the crowds of people at every masjid. Needing to explain to other Muslims why you aren’t fasting and if it is because you need to take medication that is linked to mental rather than physical health – dealing with the judgment.
There is also simply the anguish of feeling dead inside and feeling utterly demotivated to fast and increase in acts of worship this month. The numbness coming from a year spent in distance from Allah. A kind of indifference that makes you feel that this month is nothing more than a change up of sleeping and eating patterns. You know that this is the month of revival and renewal yet you cannot bring yourself to be excited or orient yourself toward discarding bad habits. You know this is the month of the Quran but the only ways to pass the hours will be scrolling through social media and watching Netflix.
Here’s the thing that we don’t hear nearly enough:
It is okay to go into Ramadan in a state of brokenness, despair and anguish.
But don’t let your lack of excitement and reverence for the months of all months stop you from taking advantage of all that this time has to offer us. To fully appreciate Ramadan, we have to go beyond theoretical knowledge and ritual. We have to be real about who we are and where we are at.
Religious pretention is both exhausting and unhelpful. We are allowed to feel stale or uninspired, but we cannot stay there. In recognizing our apathetic state, we must also recognize that taking steps forward is necessary. These steps are not passive, they involve action – first and foremost dua or supplication.
Ask Allah for an opening, ask Allah for healing, ask Allah to mend your state, ask Allah to put tranquility into your heart. Ask Allah to awaken in you a desire to fast this month, to nourish your ruh this month, to depend on Him this month, to increase recitation and reflection on the Noble Quran this month, to swim in oceans of salawaat on His beloved, sallAllahu alayhi wa salam this month.
And the key to all our asking lies in our sincerity.
So we must ask and we must trust and we must be hopeful that whatever our state entering into Ramadan, we leave it breathing love, covered in mercy and refreshed in our intentions.
And most importantly, remember this: it would not be the month of mercy if we were not in need of it.