Start Small - Build Your IntentionsOne of the most important aspects of our faith is the role our intentions play in the choices we make each and every single day. Many of us are unfortunately stuck on auto-pilot. Our lives have become habitual wake-sleep cycles that are void of any conscious, mindful, and sincere intentions. We wake up, we go to work, we prepare our food, we eat, we sleep. In between, prayer is often an afterthought and nuisance. We live in a time when worship is no longer synonymous with productivity. In fact, the two go hand in hand. One thing to help you increase your Ramadan trajectory this year is to spend a little time focusing on your intentions. What does that mean? It means that instead of allowing yourself to move through your day on auto-pilot, take responsibility and make an effort to be aware of exactly what you're doing and why. Develop and cultivate the habit of introspection with all your tasks. Constantly ask yourself why you're doing what you're doing and for who or what purpose. Taking control of your mind and not letting it disintegrate out of a lack of awareness will help you in the long run, even beyond Ramadan.
Develop A Powerful Habit - Dhikr (Remembrance of God)Something we all take for granted is the power of dhikr. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The similitude of someone who remembers his Lord and someone who does not is like that of the living and the dead.” (Al-Bukhari). Remembering our Creator is not only an act of active worship, it is a means of purifying our hearts, minds, and bodies, of all other stimuli, thoughts, worries, concerns. If we make an effort to remember Allah, He will grant us nearness towards Him in ways we never imagined. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is noted to have also said: “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” (Sahih Al-Bukhari) Nearness to our Creator is exactly what we need in these last ten days. So what do you have to lose by making an effort to remember Him more throughout your day? Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: He who says, ‘Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdih‘ (Glory and praise be to Allah) one hundred times a day, his sins will be obliterated even if they are equal to the extent of the foam of the sea. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Abu Hurairah also narrated that the Prophet said: “There are two statements that are light on the tongue, heavy on the scales, and beloved to the Most Merciful: Subahana Allahi wa bihamdih Subhana Allahi Al-`Azeem (Glory and praise be to Allah, Glorified is Allah, the Most Great.)” (Al-Bukhari)
Seek Forgiveness - It's Never Enough
On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah say:
"Allah the Almighty said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it." (It was related by at-Tirmidhi and also by Ahmad ibn Hanbal).
We all sin. Mankind was made to be forgetful and the word Insaan itself means 'to forget'. This month is a month of Mercy. The last ten nights are especially great and monumentally important. Seeking forgiveness and engaging in repentance is an act that is loved by Allah. Many times, we find ourselves at an impasse in life. Life is stagnant, our faith is stagnant and not moving. We've reached a place where nothing in our hearts is shifting or moving.
The change we often need in these moments is that of seeking our Lord's Mercy and asking for forgiveness. Be sincere, be real, be honest. Understand that we all slip and make mistakes, big or small. It's God's Mercy alone that will change our hearts and our situations in life. The act of seeking forgiveness has the power to cure hearts and minds, it has the power to heal our souls and improve our lives.
Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) 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.” (Abu Dawud).