Tis’ the season for gratitude and tranquility. Ramadan is undeniably a period of pure repose and joy for the heart of every believer. The whole month and all that it encompasses is a light in itself. Yet growing up in New York City, I can not help but feel a slight dispiritedness.
Growing up here, despite the fact that I do not celebrate Christmas, I never felt a lack of spirit. The holiday preparations commence weeks beforehand. From makeup ads to grocery store displays, everything emanates with Christmas. Almost every other house is adorned with a scintillating array of lights and decorations. The holiday oriented songs are intertwined in commercials alongside the traditional colors of green and red. The sweets jar at your doctor’s office is replaced with familiar red and white striped candy canes. With all this, a refreshed vitality is injected into the crisp New York air. It is remarkable how something as seemingly futile as colors can inspire one’s demeanor. The effect is irrespective of the individual.
Although Ramadan has an inherent resplendence, Muslims are a minority in New York. I did experience a taste of the Christmas vivacity. However, I still dealt with feelings of dejection and not belonging. When Ramadan arrives, such feelings became enhanced. Unfortunately, we do not experience the same enthusiasm during Ramadan. There is a lack of unity during this blessed season in the west. While decorative lights may sound frivolous, they contain crucial mental benefits.
The anticipation for Christmas is initiated as early as one month in order to bring everyone into the proper mindset. From altering your physical environment and home to a spiritual and mental cleansing, the same preparations should be an essential prerequisite to Ramadan.
PREPARING THE HOME
Creating the Ramadan Atmosphere in Your Home:
According to psychoanalyst, Steve McKeown, “Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement.”
Ornaments, incandescent lights, and splatters of colors incite a jubilant promise to an astonishingly pure time. It will provide you with a fresh energy for Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of forgiveness, a celebration of Allah’s mercy and the Holy Quran, and it should be executed accordingly.
Decorating the homes and adorning the streets is not an alien concept in the Muslim world. From Beirut to Istanbul all the way to Egypt, Ramadan isn’t just announced it is felt. In old Cairo, there is a captivating tradition of lighting the ‘fanous’ or lantern. It is believed that this tradition stems as far back as the year 969 AD when it was used to light the path for Caliph Moezz Eddin Allah in Cairo. People illuminated the path along his journey across the city, to the Mokattam mountain for Ramadan’s moon sighting.
Although we can’t light up New York streets with festive Egyptian lanterns, we can surely do so within our own homes. From entertaining DIYs that the whole family can partake in, to purchasing ready-made decorations, there is a myriad of resources to choose from. Below are a few links to guide you in literally bringing the light of Ramadan inside your homes:
- Ramadan Suncatchers – http://www.sweetfajr.com/?p=1927
- Ramadan Garlands– http://www.sweetfajr.com/?p=1859
PREPARING THE HEART
The Prophet (PBUH) said about your heart: Truly in the body, there is a morsel of flesh which, if it is sound, all the body is sound and which, if it is diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart. [al-Bukhaaree, Muslim]
The preparations for Ramadan don’t come to a standstill with luminous embellishments. It is the groundwork that establishes the tone and essence for Ramadan. Once you have entered the proper state of mind, your next concern is yourself. Evaluating the state of your heart, where you are in terms of faith, what needs to be changed, and what doesn’t, and being honest with yourself is paramount
Humans are dynamic beings. We are invariably pouring into our hearts, and our faith is constantly fluctuating. Throughout the year we will get tangled in the affairs of the Dunya. We will find ourselves succumbing to habits that aren’t necessarily nourishing for our faith. Consequently, we must engage in fervent self-reflection and inspect our hearts for worldly stains.
The fact of the matter is, everything we say, do and watch is all connected. What you watch affects your heart and mind. What affects your heart and mind will affect your actions. To protect your eyes is to protect your heart. Yet we aren’t always conscious of the things or people that are influencing our hearts, as it can get blurred in the veil of living. Once a wise man made this dua:
‘ O Allah purify my heart from anything but You.’
If there is a time that’s especially pertinent to clear the heart, then it is, undoubtedly, before Ramadan.
Allah (SWT) tells us, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.”(2:183).
We fast in order to attain taqwa and attach ourselves to Allah. For the heart to embrace Allah, it must be emptied of all else.
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Taqwa is here,” and he pointed to his chest. [Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, Ahmad].
Ask yourself these salient questions: Are the habits that I am adhering to, and the people that I associate with, urging my heart closer to Allah or filling it with distractions? What changes can I implement to ensure my vessel is ready to be comprised of only that which pleases Allah?
PREPARING THE SOUL
Connecting With Allah:
The heart is purified so that you may weave tenacious and unobstructed vessels connected to Allah. To please our Creator and to have a relationship is the very core of our being, everything we do is in fact, striving towards Him. During Ramadan, we are to reinforce and grow that bond. In the days leading up to Ramadan, we must revive our souls and reaffirm our most critical relationship. Allah (SWT) already tells us,
“And We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.” (50:16).
He is always there, and all we must do is seek him. As with any relationship, regardless of our innate longing for Allah, a connection is not derived from dust. It needs to be rejuvenated and established by exerting all our efforts. You have already bought the radiance of Ramadan within your homes. You have already cleared your heart of anything that has rendered it arid, and it is now a place to cultivate your faith and love for Allah.
The following are some seeds you can now plant to nurture your connection with Allah:
- You cannot love someone without knowing them – The most substantial way to know your Creator is through His words. Read, study, and internalize the Holy Quran.
- Practice Gratitude – “And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor].” (14:7)
- Communicate with Allah – Talk to Allah. The only way to build a connection with anyone is through effective communication. Open your hands and make dua.
Allah says, “ And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (40:60)
The Prophet (SAW) said, “Dua is the essence of worship.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, Hadith: 3371).
Preparing for Ramadan is a task of immense magnitude because it is essentially preparing for the rest of your life. Welcoming Ramadan into your homes, dusting your hearts to allow Allah to encompass it and submitting wholly to Him, are responsibilities that are lifelong. They are not meant to be sequestered into the crevices of your heart and unveiled only with the sighting of the crescent moon. While spiritual sentiments are heightened during this blessed time, Ramadan offers us a glimpse of perpetual peace and our potentials as Muslims. The taqwa that you attain through fasting will be the light that will resonate with you until you enter your grave.
“ May Allah bless us all to find His infinite Mercy in Ramadan and find the fruits of those days in a cool Shade on the Day of Judgment, in the ability to fly over the Sirat radiating beautiful light, and a celebration of pure joy and bliss with those we love in gardens in Jannah, with rivers, fields of green, towering trees, and other unimaginable beauty that Allah has created for those who seek Him. “