By Aliya Vaughan
There are so many posts on social media celebrating Ramadan. It is an exciting time, but for some Muslims it is the cause for much anxiety, grief, and sadness. If this resonates with you, what is it that prevents you from welcoming Ramadan with open arms? Are you going through some tests with relationships, health, finances, or your Deen? Are you struggling to accomplish just the day-to-day activities? Please know that you are not alone. Many Muslims have difficulties in their lives which don’t suddenly miraculously disappear or improve when Ramadan arrives. They too have hidden faults and weaknesses and fear that Allah (ﷻ) may not accept their acts of worship because of them.
The good news is Ramadan is the month for attaining taqwa (God consciousness and getting closer to Allah) and seeking His Forgiveness – for everyone! Although Ramadan is a time for increasing acts of worship, they don’t necessarily have to be huge in quantity. Allah loves small, continuous, quality acts and those that are performed sincerely with good intention. So please don’t be hard on yourself. It is possible to attain a spiritual lift during this blessed month even with the smallest, yet impactful of changes. If you want to change, focus on what you can realistically achieve and maintain without over burdening yourself. Do what you can do and not compare yourself to what you see other people doing. Remember they don’t have the same tests and circumstances as you. Aim to get closer to Allah in a way you enjoy and what is within your capacity. Don’t put up mental barriers by thinking your sins or past mistakes prevent you from getting close to Allah. On the contrary, Allah (ﷻ) created us with weaknesses and the inclination to sin for the purpose of turning back to Him in repentance.
“By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if you did not commit sin Allah would do away with you and bring people who would commit sin then pray for forgiveness.”
Reported by Abu Ayyub Ansari. Narrated by Muslim, 2749
We spend a lot of time dwelling on our own thoughts. Worries, fears, anxieties, and guilt swirl around in our minds and create untold stress and sadness. One way we can achieve God consciousness this Ramadan is to include Allah (ﷻ) in all our internal dialogue and hand all our problems over to the One who is in ultimate control. This places us in an empowering and liberating position and doesn’t cost a thing. All it takes is a little re-wiring in our mindset. We are never truly alone in our thoughts. Allah (ﷻ) is just waiting for us to call upon Him. So whenever you feel anxious or stressed, or want to complain, immediately think of Allah (ﷻ), and make dua (respectfully). Ask Allah (ﷻ) to protect you every time you worry. Ask Allah (ﷻ) to fulfil any need you have. Ask Allah (ﷻ) to guide you to making better choices and forgive you for making poor choices. Instead of suffering in silence and chaotically overthinking about your problems in your head, take your heavy burdens and ask Allah for help and support. You may still need to put in the work to overcome your problems, but you will feel so much lighter knowing Allah (azza awa jal, The All Mighty) is carrying you through it all.
Allah says in the Quran:
“Call upon Me and I will respond to you.”
Surah Ghafir 40:60
Feeling remorseful is a good thing; dwelling on the past or drowning in regret is not. Most of us feel guilty about something. Usually it’s when our actions or speech have affected us personally or they’ve affected someone else. Sometimes we find it hard to forgive ourselves and sometimes it’s even harder for other people to forgive us. But Allah (ﷻ) always forgives our sins even if they reach high into the sky or are as large as the earth (Tirmidhi), so never despair of Allah’s Mercy. Ramadan is the month of repentance and there’s no better time for starting over again. The shayateen are chained making it easier for us to give up bad habits and the doors of Allah’s Mercy are opened, ready for us to receive His forgiveness.
I remember a time when I was sitting in a sisters’ tafsir class (explanation/interpretation of the Quran). The Shaykha was discussing the following verse:
‘As for those who repent, believe, and do good deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’
Surah al-Furqaan 25:68-70
It hit me so hard that I began to cry. I could barely catch my breath and had to leave the room. It was in that moment that I truly understood Allah’s Mercy. I felt blessed to have been guided away from my non-Islamic lifestyle which was full of sin and shown a better way of behaving. I was grateful to have all my past sins forgiven and to start my Book of Deeds from scratch. I was also humbled to know that if I sinned, Allah (ﷻ) would forgive me if I sincerely repented, and He (ﷻ) would turn my bad deeds into good ones. I couldn’t believe how Merciful Allah (ﷻ) was. No one had ever shown such immense generosity and love for me, despite all my faults and shortcomings.
So no matter how bad you think things are, or how sinful you think you’ve been or how hurt or in pain you feel, turn to Allah (ﷻ) this Ramadan. Get closer to Him (ﷻ). Call upon Him and start anew. If you want Allah (ﷻ) to forgive you, then the best dua to say at the time of Laylat ul Qadr is that of Aisha:
‘Say: “O Allah, You are Pardoning and you love to pardon, so pardon me.”
(Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuhibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee|)
Learn this short, yet powerful dua. You can also say astaghfirullah (I seek Allah’s forgiveness) often. The Prophet (ﷺ) would seek Allah’s forgiveness 70 – 100 times a day (Bukhari and Muslim).
So, if you only have enough energy to fulfil one or two extra habits this Ramadan, then increase in Istighfar (Seeking Allah’s Forgiveness) and include Allah (ﷻ) in all your private thoughts in your head and make dua. Once you take a step towards Allah you will find the energy to do more than you realise, and you will improve little by little, day by day, bi’idhnillah. May you seek His (ﷻ) Guidance, Protection, removal of difficulties, fulfilment of needs and His Mercy and Forgiveness. Ameen.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.”
Narrated by Ibn Abbas. Abu Dawud
Please note: If you are suffering in silence because of trauma or abuse, please seek professional help. These thoughts should not remain inside your head without someone to help you heal from any deep-rooted emotional pain. Allah guide you towards the best support. Ameen.
About the author:
Aliya Vaughan has been a Muslim for 27 years and lives in the UK. Her award-winning children’s story ‘A Race to Prayer’ and her second book in the series, ‘Turning back to Allah’ are available from Kube Publishing. Her third book in the series ‘Tides of Change’ will be available soon, in sha Allah.
You can follow @aliya_vaughan on Instagram