The blessed month of Ramadan gives us tremendous opportunities to seek for forgiveness and ask for Allah’s mercy. Special prayers and excess charity becomes a norm in many households. However, once Ramadan comes to an end, some people go back to their old ways of skipping a few prayers, or delaying them and committing sins without a second thought.
While the blessed month of Ramadan comes to an end, we can continue to engage in the beautiful ‘ibadah (act of worship) of fasting.
“Allah (the Exalted) said: Every act of the son of Adam is for him except fasting. It is done for My sake, and I will give a reward for it…” (Sahih Muslim).
Fasting: A Muslim’s Shield
If you were given a shield to protect yourself from sins in this life, and Hell Fire in the next, you would on to it and not want to let go. This shield is fasting – let us not overlook it, but rather use this blessing, this gift given to us by Ar-Rahman.
The hadith quoted above continues: “…fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose Hands my soul is’ The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” (Sahih Muslim).
Fasting should prevent you from backbiting, slandering, speaking rudely or involving yourself in idle or false talk. This time can be redirected to performing dhikr, Quran, or something more productive to pile up your good deeds.
When to Fast
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Deeds are shown (to Allah) on Mondays and Thursdays, and I like my deeds to be shown when I am fasting.” (al–Tirmidhi).
In another hadith, Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to me: “If you fast any part of the month, then fast the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.” (al–Tirmidhi).
Note: there are some days which it is forbidden and disliked to fast on, so please ask an imam or scholar if you are unsure.
So let us follow the Sunnah of our Prophet and fast on Mondays and Thursdays of every week and/or on the 13, 14 and 15th of every month. By the way, once you do this for a while, performing voluntary fasts will become a beautiful habit and routine in your life.
5 Tips to Make Fasting throughout the Year Easier:
1. Make the intention:
Make the intention now that you want to sincerely fast for the Pleasure of Allah, and seeking His reward. Until you get used to this, set up a weekly/monthly reminder in your phone, day planner, laptop, or just on a sticky note to remind you what days you will be fasting.
2. If you need to, find fasting buddies:
While you want your fast to be private and sincerely for Allah alone ( not for show or praise), you can get extra reward by encouraging others to join you in this sunnah act.
You can encourage and motivate one another, and race for good deeds. Perhaps you won’t feel like fasting one Monday, but if you remember your friend you will be fasting, you won’t want to miss out on the reward and will want to also earn Allah’s Pleasure, Reward, and Forgiveness, insha’Allah.
3. Involve your Family Members:
If you do not find a fasting buddy or if you live in a non-Muslim area, simply involve your family members. Educate them about the countless virtues of fasting, and you can volunteer to buy dates or cook iftar. Insha’Allah by encouraging your family to do this extra good deed, more blessings and mercy will enter your household.
4. Build Family Ties:
Ramadan is a time when all the family members get to sit and eat together, sharing what they learnt or experienced, and feeling like a family. After Ramadan, we slip back into our normal routine – rushing off to complete tasks, attend meetings, so on and so forth – we might neglect the essence of spending quality time with each other. Lack of communication between parents and children or between spouses is also blamed on not finding sufficient time together.
What better way to rekindle the love and affection between family members by fasting at least twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) or thrice a month (13, 14 and 15th days of the Islamic calendar). You will feel love for the sake of Allah, and feel connect by the rope of Islam.
5. Make it fun:
Make this fasting routine interesting. To add a bit of fun to the occasion, organize quizzes and give away prizes to encourage fasting amongst youngsters.
You can give each family member a chance to discuss about a (simple) Islamic topic or Muslim manners, preferably 30 minutes to an hour before iftaar. This would increase awareness about Islamic principles and character that need to be inculcated in each individual and in the family as a whole. This is a great method to identify what knowledge your family is missing and how to gain it, and to build family ties.
Keep in mind that topics should be simple and within your capacity (eg. Most of us are not qualified to interpret and give commentary on hadith); if researching topics would not be an effective option for your family, one can show a lecture by a Shaykh or read a passage from a book/commentary. The key here is to “make time” for yourselves rather than complaining about not having time.
I would like to conclude with quotes by scholars who bring up points we should keep in mind:
Al-Fudayl ibn–Iyaad said: “Know that if you can’t pray at night and you can’t fast during the day, you are prevented and what prevents you is your number of sins, so look into your heart.”
Solution: Avoid sins, seek forgiveness, make du’a, and push against your nafs
Ibn Qayyim Al-Jaqziyyah said: “The Shaytaan has misled most people by beautifying for them the performance of certain voluntary acts of worship such as voluntary prayers and voluntary fasting while neglecting other obligatory acts of worship such as enjoining the good and eradicating the evil, to the extent that they do not even make the intention of performing them whenever they are able to.”
Solution: We should strive to not neglect the obligatory acts of worship.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us push ourselves to pursue the Hereafter by performing nafl fasts. Make an effort to please your Lord and learn about Islam together. It is a great way to train your mind, body, character and nafs all year round. Doing extra voluntary acts of worship is a means of gaining the Pleasure of Allah (The Exalted), if He Wills – so let us take up this noble routine of voluntary fasting.
What are some of your tips that help you stay committed to fasting well beyond Ramadan?