Striving for Excellence in Taqwa & Character

I like the idea of Ramadan being a time of change, a time of transformation to a better us as individuals and communities. Shedding our old skin can’t be easy but is essential to allow us room to grow.

In June 2013, I attended a course called ‘Fasting, your metamorphosis’ taught by Sheikh Abu Nahla and organised by Noesis Institute. They are going to hold the course again in the US and there is an online version. I must have a perfectionist streak because even though I wanted to share my course notes, I felt I can never do the course justice and won’t be able to deliver the full picture. However, if the objective was to give a comprehensive course, you’re probably better off attending the course yourself, yes? So, a better and a far more practical objective is for me to share the gems I gained with the hope that you find some benefit in them and that I revise the knowledge I gained. Deal?

Sheikh Abu Nahla went through 14 concepts in relation to how fasting can help us change from one state to another.

1. Seek the Inner, Train the Outer

The Art of Intention

  • Build the critical skill of intention: Mean Allah and his nearness and mean the winning of the hereafter.
  • Intention is a choice, not a state.
  • Make a firm intention to win this month and not waste it. Make the intention to rebel against your nafs (lower self).
  • Do not treat Ramadan as a month but a collection of days. Make the most of each day as it comes.

2. Be Lover not a Loser

The real choice is not to leave this dunya as a loser. Use this dunya as a farm to harvest in the hereafter.

Be from among the chosen
Who are in constant remembrance of Allah; have deep love of Allah and make lots of dua; enjoy reciting and learning the Quran; practice lots of worship; lessen your speech, food or sleep, do not waste time and reflect much on knowledge.

To taste the sweetness of Imaan (faith):
Allah and his messenger are the most beloved to them; love and hate for the sake of Allah; and love Islam and never forsake it

3. Make the Most of the Zones

The three zones of Ramadan: Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation.

In the first 10 days abandon distracting/less useful routines; make dua for Alah’s mercy and engage in merciful activities e.g. visiting the sick.
In the second 10 days realise how much you were into your worldly attachments; seek forgiveness from Allah; make istigfaar and lots of dhikr (remembrance of Allah).
Begin the last 10 days “full speed ahead” to seek the night of decree, make dua seeking Allah’s Afow (forgiveness that wipes the slate clean) and focus on eliminating the worldly dimension from the heart and keep one desire inside of wanting Allah. Seek inner and outer peace.

The three zones help the Rabbani to move from Islam to Imaan to Ihsaan.

Istighfaar
Imagine your sinful acts as a pile in front of you. Desire the forgiveness in your heart and ask Allah sincerely with regret in your heart and intend not to do it again.
Imagine the forgiveness clearing the pile. Have certainty that Allah will forgive.
Follow the istigfaar with good deeds.

4. You are Not the Only One

Fasting was obliged upon people before us
{O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may attain taqwa} 2:183

Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) fasted 40 days and nights before receiving the revelation. Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) also fasted 40 days and never showed that he was fasting. People from other religions fast for spiritual elevation.

5. Aim High

If you aim low, you’ll barely achieve that aim

All worship in Islam serves one to becoming a Rabbani : a Godly person who seeks nearness to Allah and when speaks and acts is aware of Allah.

{Unquestionably, [for] the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.} 10:62

Becoming Rabbani is mainly achieved through the Quran (learning and teaching) and its application in Iman and taqwa

Fasting boosts your light. Fasting restores the body and boosts the soul through the removal of sins.

{On the Day you see the believing men and believing women, their light proceeding before them and on their right, [it will be said], “Your good tidings today are [of] gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein you will abide eternally.” That is what is the great attainment.} 57:12

6. Achieve Taqwa

Taqwa is a way of becoming Rabbani

{Unquestionably, [for] the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. Those who believed and were of people of taqwa. For them are good tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. No change is there in the words of Allah . That is what the great attainment is.} 10:62-64

What is Taqwa?
– Attaining the benefits and avoiding the harm
– Always be careful to avoid the harm
– Mental awareness in taking appropriate action
– Even if one falls into sin, taqwa is to repent quickly

Taqwa and Ramadan
A protection and protective mentality and action so taqwa in Ramadan protects the Quran from being abandoned.
Ramadan protects the person from sins.

7. Rabbani State Obstacles

Health and wealth are two main elements of success in dunya
Time is limited in this dunya; health is limited by time and wealth is limited by health and time. Therefore, the health and wealth of the heart should be the main focus in this limited one month time.

It is not the outer that decides kufer or Islam. It is the inner.

Humans are honoured by Allah because of their heart and mind

A corrupt mind leads to a corrupt heart resulting in corrupt actions. When the mind is healed, the heart will heal and result in sound actions.

In Ramadan, read the Quran for the verses to collect in the mind then filter into the heart and result in sound actions.

Fasting frees your will power from the nafs and puts it in service of your heart where intention is formed

How to get healed?
• Keep the mind safe from false knowledge
• Connect the mind to the divine
• Free will power from the chains of the nafs and connect will power to the mind

The stronger the nafs, the stronger the animalistic nature becomes:
{And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.} 7:179

Fasting helps us distinguish the call of the nafs from the call of the mind

Fasting is the fastest way to Jannah

8. Tazkiya (Purification)

Tazkiya is the word that addresses the hard work of a Muslim trying to achieve purification of the nafs, elevating the nafs to mature and unite with the spiritual dimension of the soul.

Tazkiya is one of the honourable missions of the Prophets (peace be upon them) in addition to delivering the Quran and teaching the wisdom of the prophetic tradition.

In the struggle to purify the nafs one needs knowledge and to strive. Knowledge removes misconceptions, doubts and confusion. Striving is needed against the desires of the nafs and the temptations of Satan and people.

The aim is not to uproot the nafs but to educate and elevate it
{But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.} 79:40-41

9. Satan’s Plan

Beware of distractions before Ramadan because you have No Plan
Beware of distractions after Ramadan because you Go back to old ways

Do not let Satan fool you into thinking that when Ramadan ends, there is no longer a God

Solutions
– Make good friends
– Be among a group of good people
– Remind yourself of your enemy, Satan, and do not fall for his traps

10. Muraqaba

Muraqaba is self watching and supervising
The skill of self analyzing and separating the mind from the nafs
Self watch leads to mental maturity

Levels
1. You see you
2. Awareness of how Allah is watching you with you you and witnessing what you do or intend

11. Self-Talk & Muhasaba

Learn how to talk to you without negativity
Most of reflection is self-talk
Self-talk, a form of muhasaba: hold yourself accountable

Ways to self-talk: analyse, reflect, motivate, remind, repeat, write, partner

Positivity is from Islam – use of good meaning names and having positive outlook and expectations

12. I’tikaaf

I’tikaaf is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the remembrance and worship of Allah. There are 60 verses in the Quran commanding various forms of dhikr.

13. Connect to Nature

Reality is made to tell you about the love and care of Allah. We lost the connection because we are so consumed with working, living in cities etc.
Fasting gives us the opportunity to watch and be aware of nature: moon sighting, times to start fasting and time to break the fast.

14. The Quran and Ramadan

Quran and fasting are intercessors
Heal the mind with the guidance of the Quran – read and understand

Those were my sound bites. Gems that sparkled brightest for me.

At the end of the day, there was a question that I really valued: “I do really well in Ramadan but afterwards I almost go back to my old ways. It feels like for every three steps I take forward I go back two. Is that a sign that Allah did not accept my worship in that month”. The teacher urged the student to realise that the net effect is moving forward even if it is only one step. One should not be despondent because maintaining that one step until the following Ramadan is an achievement.

I believe that giving up is one sure way of falling behind.

I conclude with a dua

يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِى عَلَى دِينِكَ

Yaa Muqallibal Quloob Thabbit Qalbee ‘alaa Deenik.

O turner of the hearts (Allah, the Most High), keep our hearts firm on your religion

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Comments on: "Fasting: Your Metamorphosis" (2)

  1. khadijahsamad said:

    Can’t wait for next Ramadhan.

    • Subahanallah, the companions of the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) would spend the 6 months following Ramadan asking Allah to accept their worship and the 6 months before the next Ramadan asking Allah to give them the life to attain the blessed month.
      May Allah bless us all with his bounties

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