The feeling of guilt and sadness may have started to kick in during the final fleeting days of this holy month, the time when you realise that you haven’t connected with your faith as much as you thought you would. This, combined with comparing ourselves to others makes for a guilt trap.
Think of it this way, these emotions are a huge blessing from Allah and you might not even realise it. The fact that you can even feel a sense of guilt just shows that you are not an open and shut case and you have a mark of faith that no one else can see but Him.
“Guilt is a gift from Allah warning you that what you are doing is violating your soul.” [Nouman Ali Khan]
It is important to note that your strength in faith can fluctuate.
It can feel the strongest, for example, when we’re going for our Friday prayers, sitting with other Muslims or when we’re watching a moving Islamic video, and be the weakest when we’re not in the company of things keeping our imaan alive. It can be demotivating when that passion subsides and our attention is placed elsewhere which affects the connection we once had with Allah and the holy month.
Umayr ibn Habib al-Khatmi (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say: “Iman increases and decreases.”
Someone asked: “What increases it and what decreases it?”
He replied: “If we remember Allah, praise Him, and declare His perfection; that is what increases it. If we are heedless, squander and forget; that is what decreases it.”
Just know that we have the time to renew our faith with the last 10 nights. We can always transform our relationship with Allah and find that connection, regardless of whether it’s Ramadan or not.
Here are a few pieces of advice!
Firstly, learn who Allah actually is!
One reason I believe that we often feel like we’ve not accomplished anything in Ramadan is because we put immense pressure on ourselves at the beginning with broad goals like ‘Finish the Qur’an in 30 days’, and it’s common for some fail to complete, start or carry it over from Ramadan because we aren’t using it to actually build a relationship with Allah.
We have almost become monotonous in our actions and heedless in what we say. And we forget the spiritual essence of what we are doing and to Who we are doing it for.
“Do they not ponder over the Qur’ān or do their hearts have locks?” [Quran 47:24]
Dr. Haifaa Younus once said that in her class, even before opening the Qur’an to read, they would point to it and say ‘هذا كلام الله’ which means ‘These are the words of my Lord.’
A simple action yet so profound when you really think about it. To me, it shifted my perception of the Qur’an. It didn’t just become a matter of finishing the Qur’an by the end of Ramadan like a race but something to ponder on. Even if that meant just sitting down with one verse and understanding it fully.
I’ve realised that reading is not just the goal itself as Allah says:
“[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.” [Quran 38:29]
It was only when I started listening to the tafsir [explanations/intereptations] of the Qur’an, and beginning to learn about the history behind the revelations, that my love grew for the One who has always loved me.
When you finally understand even just a verse of what was written in the heavens, something that a mere translation can never replace, it’s a feeling that can only be described as relief and awe.
The Qur’an finally became something that I didn’t just mindlessly read in Arabic for ‘rewards’ but something I wanted to understand to get to know our Creator.
Stop comparing yourself negatively to others.
As mentioned before, faith fluctuates. We can’t truly know what’s in the hearts of others nor will they know what’s in ours. As hard as it is to accept sometimes, no one is the ‘perfect’ Muslim. It can be disheartening when we see others accomplish what we thought we would also achieve in this month, especially when scrolling on social media and seeing this person has done X, Y, and Z.
This is something I’ve felt before and I’ve only just realised that it’s so damaging to our faith. But that’s exactly why there is such a big emphasis on loving others for the sake of Allah, which I didn’t understand until Ammar Al-Shukry explained it in such a beautiful way:
“Loving others for the sake of Allah means that you love this person for no other reason other than their worship of Allah, we naturally love our own selves [and others, e.g.], ‘I love my parents or I love my teachers because of everything they have facilitated for me’. But when I love for the sake of Allah, I am not putting myself at the end of that equation…I am not loving them because they are orbiting around me I am loving them because they orbit around Allah.”
So when we do see others do acts of worship that we wish to be doing ourselves, find within yourself to be happy that they are worshipping our Creator and make dua for them.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “A Muslim’s supplication for his brother in secret is answered. At his head, an angel is appointed, and whenever he supplicates for his brother with something good, the angel appointed to him says, ‘Ameen, and likewise for you’” [Muslim].
Don’t belittle your own good deeds.
Even if you’re just sticking to your obligatory prayers, don’t think it is going unnoticed!
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “The most beloved of deeds to Allah are: the salat in its proper time, goodness to the parents, and striving in the way of Allah”. [Bukhari]
Start small and stay consistent with your good deeds. It could be giving to charity, speaking kind words, sharing food, or learning even one name of Allah in depth. Anything can become meaningful and beloved if it is done with the right intention.
The Prophet (PBUH) also said: “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.’ [Ibn Majah]
Strive in any capacity you can and do it to your very best. Cut out distractions even for just the night or half the night and push yourself to the worship of Allah.
Speak to Allah as much as you can!
Allah is always there. A lot of us know this already and you may not feel moved by this statement anymore. It is only when we begin to understand who Allah is through the Qur’an and his names, that we can begin to appreciate His presence.
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me.” [Quran 2:186]
Whether you’re standing in prayer, raising your hands, or speaking from your heart, Allah hears it all. He knows what’s in your heart and on your tongue before you even utter the words and He still wants to listen to you speak.
There is a hadith that has stuck with me ever since I read it.
The Prophet (PBUH) once said: “Verily, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than a person who has his camel in a waterless desert carrying his provision of food and drink and it is lost. He, having lost all hopes [to get that back], lies down in shade and is disappointed about his camel; when all of a sudden he finds that camel standing before him. He takes hold of its reins and then out of boundless joy blurts out: ‘O Allah, You are my slave and I am Your Rabb’. He commits this mistake out of extreme joy” [Riyaad as-Saliheen 15]
So constantly seek out the forgiveness of Allah and you will find his pleasure. Renew your intentions and start again. Don’t feel hopeless. We are not dealing with a harsh lord. But in the presence of a protecting friend, Al-Wali.
“Whoever draws close to Me by the length of a hand, I will draw close to him by the length of an arm. Whoever draws close to Me by the length of an arm, I will draw close to him by the length of a fathom. Whoever comes to Me walking, I will come to him running.” [Muslim]
May Allah accept all of our efforts, our prayers, and our fasts.