Four Lessons from Ramadan and COVID-19

This year Ramadan came at a most critical time in our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 gave us a sudden jolt. It exposed the frailty of the human condition. This pandemic shook our over-confidence and dependence on our own devices.
It taught us that after all, we are not all that powerful and that we can never dispense with our Creator.
As we have bid farewell to this unique Ramadan under lockdown, let us reflect on some lessons we can learn from it.

  1. Time Is Flying
    It is evident that Ramadan came and went too fast. That reminds us about the transient nature of this worldly life.
    Allah tells us in the Quran about what will happen on the Day of Judgment:
    {He will say, How many years did you remained on earth?
    They will say, We remained a day or part of a day. But ask those who keep count.             
    He will say, You remianed but a little, if you but knew.} (Al-Muminun 23:112-114)
    We must never forget the lessons of the flight of time:  
     {By the flight of time, truly mankind is in loss, save those who believe, perform righteous deeds, encourage one another to the truth, and encourage one another to patience.} (Al-`Asr 103: 1-3)
  2. Save Environment
    COVID-19 teaches us that we cannot continue our relentless assault on the environment without paying a hefty price. Countless species of living beings have been reduced to extinction by us.
    It does not stop there. The threat facing humanity because of our greed and wasteful habits is endangering the future of humanity. The environment, the land, and the sea and the ecosystem are all at the point of no return.
    {Corruption has become rampant on land and sea as a result of peoples actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back.} (Ar-Rum 30:41)
     Degradation of the environment has now reached a tipping point. Scientists say unless we take immediate steps to reverse the process, we are all doomed.
    In the words of Alex Steffen, the co-author of the Planetary Boundaries report,
    Its clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughters generation will find it increasingly hard to survive.
    He further states, History has shown that civilizations have risen, stuck to their core values, and then collapsed because they didnt change. Thats where we are today.
    It is in this context we must invoke the lessons of Ramadan and Prophetic .
    The Prophet taught us that each one of us ought to make a difference starting with the little things: consuming less, returning to the basics, curbing our greed, and using resources wisely.
    Moderation is key. When the Prophet said that we should not waste water even while performing ablution, he was not simply speaking about wasting water; he was teaching us not to waste any resources. If we continue to waste, we will leave nothing for future generations.
    COVID-19 has taught us how to manage without the extras. Let us stick to this habit, and go with less. Our mantra should be to: simplify, simplify and then simplify some more.
  3. Practice Self-Restraint and Empathy
    Ramadan is all about practicing self-restraint and developing empathy. Even as we hurt ourselves by treating the environment as an enemy to be conquered and defeated, we hurt ourselves when we treat our fellow humans as those to defeat and oppress.
    Such a mindset is against Gods laws.  Just as we are one with nature; we are one with humanity. We are not independent of each other.
    Let us practice empathy. The challenges facing humanity must be tackled collectively as a single human family. That is what Islam teaches us in the Quran.
    We are lucky to live in a country where our leaders have demonstrated empathy. I refer especially to our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has come out day after day to provide support for the vulnerable during this pandemic. Watching him, I remember the pious Caliph Umar who himself became gaunt and pale by taking upon himself the suffering of his subjects as they were facing a major famine.
    That is the kind of leadership the world needs to save us from ourselves. Care for others as you would care for yourself.
    Let the words of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) inspire us:
    Show mercy to those on earth: You will receive the mercy of the One in heaven. (At-Tirmidhi)
    At this time, let us remember the thousands, if not millions, who are forced out of their homes and often left to die in refugee camps, at sea or to rot on the ground. Muslims who fasted ought to do better than others in dealing with such crises.
    By saying this I am not denying that there are individuals and organizations doing their best. They are the ones living Islam at its best. May Allah them and give us the honor of supporting them.
  4. Be Hopeful
    There is no reason to despair; faith in God is also about faith in ourselves; we always can improve our condition.
    Faith teaches hope; it teaches us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, to see the light, we need to train ourselves to look at the events with the eyes of the heart.
    {Truly it is not the (physical) eyes that go blind, but it is hearts within breasts that go blind.} (Al-Hajj 22:46)
    Let us open the eyes of the heart and learn from our mistakes. Let us focus on the things that matter and leave behind the frivolous.
    Even as Ramadan came and went, this world will pass away. Then we will arrive at our final destination: To stand for judgment before the Lord of Reckoning (Maaliki yawmi al-ddeen). It is He who will dispense justice to all.  So, let us get ready to meet our Lord.
    And let us mend our ways and work together for a better world and a better tomorrow.

These 4 Virtues Will Motivate You to Fast 6 Days of Shawwal

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) says:
Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he had fasted the year through. (Muslim)
The month of Shawwal is singled out for the observance of extra fasts, since this month follows immediately after Ramadan. The six days of voluntary fasting are to the obligatory fast of Ramadan what the Sunnah prayers are to the obligatory prayers.
It is related from Thawban that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
The fast of Ramadan is like observing ten months of fasting. Fasting six days of Shawwal is like observing two months of fasting. This together is like fasting throughout the year. (Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah (2115) and Sunan al-Nasai al-Kubra (2860))
Al-Nawawi observes (Sharh Sahih Muslim (8/56)):
Scholars have explained that it is like observing a year of fasting because the of a good deed is multiplied tenfold. Therefore fasting the month of Ramadan is like fasting for ten months and fasting six days in the month of Shawwal is like fasting for two months.
Virtues of Fasting Six Days in Shawwal

  1. The Reward
    Fasting six days in Shawwal after observing the Ramadan fast gives the person the reward of fasting throughout the year.
  2. Covers up Deficiencies
    The fasts of Shaban and Shawwal are like the Sunnah prayers that accompany the five obligatory prayers. Like the Sunnah prayers, these extra fasts cover up for the deficiencies in our performance of our obligatory worship.
    On the Day of Judgment, our voluntary acts of worship will compensate for the shortcomings in how we carried out our duties. Most of us have deficiencies in our observance of our Ramadan fasts. We need something to cover up for those deficiencies.
    [Note: The deficiencies being discussed here are not missing days of fasting. Rather, they are the deficiencies in our conduct that detract from the value of our worship.]
  3. A Sign  of Accepted Ramadan
    Our return to the habit of fasting right after Ramadan, in Shawwal, is a sign of acceptance of our Ramadan fasts. When Allah accepts our worship, He blesses us to engage in further acts of piety.
    The saying goes: The reward of virtue is further virtue.
    Therefore, following one good deed with others like it is a sign that the first deed had been accepted by Allah.

  4. Those who observe the fast of Ramadan get their recompense of the day of Eid al-Fitr. Getting into the habit of fasting again soon thereafter is a means of giving thanks to Allah for the blessings that we have received. There is no blessing greater than forgiveness of sins.
    Indeed, Allah has commanded us to give thanks for the blessings of the Ramadan fast and to do so by making mention of Him and through other means of giving thanks. Allah says:
    (He wants you) to complete the number of days, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance you may give thanks. (2: 185)
    Fasting these days in Shawwal is one way for us to express our thanks for Allah blessing us in our observance of the Ramadan fast.
    It is known that some of the Pious Predecessors would try to get up at night to pray the Tahajjud prayer. When Allah blessed them to wake up and do so, they would fast the next day in thanks to Allah for blessing them to observe that prayer.
    Once Wuhayb ibn al-Ward was asked about the blessings of various acts of devotion and he replied:
    Do not ask about the blessings that can be earned by performing these acts of worship. Rather, ask how you can show your thanks to Allah if He blesses you to perform them, for he is the one who assists us in doing so.
    Every blessing that Allah gives us is something that we have to be thankful about. Moreover, when Allah blesses us to show thanks, this is a further blessing from Allah that deserves further thanks from us. If we show further thanks, this in turn is another blessing deserving our .
    There is no end to this. When we recognize that our thanks are never enough, this is the highest expression of gratitude we can give.
    How We Should Fast the Six Days in Shawwal
    There are various opinions about this question:
  5. Some scholars hold the view to fast the six days in consecutive order, starting from the second day of Shawwal. This is the view of al-Shafi`i and Ibn al-Mubarak.
  6. Others are of the opinion that it is preferable to fast the six days intermittently, spreading them out throughout the month of Shawwal. This is the position of Ahmad b. Hanbal and Waki`.
  7. Then there are those who hold the view that the days should all be postponed until later in the month and not close to the day of Eid, which is a time of celebration and feasting. They prefer fasting the three days in the middle of the month (ayyam al-bid) along with the three days right before or after. This is the opinion of Mamar and `Abd al-Razzaq.
    There is considerable flexibility in all of this. We can choose to follow any of these approaches that we wish.
    And Allah knows best.

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