We praise Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), we seek His Assistance, and we seek His Guidance. And we seek refuge in Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) from the evils of ourselves and the adverse consequences of our deeds.
In a previous article on Islam21c, we discussed Taqwā being a forgotten jewel, as well as the meanings, virtues and significance of this beautiful quality in our daily lives.
With yet another Ramaḍān nearing its end, the topic of Taqwā requires another embrace, even if from a different angle.
Losing sight of the goal
The last 10 nights of Ramaḍān have dawned upon us. Some of us have been ready for them, others may have finally woken up from lagging heedlessness; some from amongst us are balancing work, family, and other commitments while trying our best to worship Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). Despite all this, all of us are in a state of hope, In Shā’ Allāh, and hopefully gearing toward ending our Ramaḍān on a strong note. This is imperative, for Allāh Almighty has showered His mercy upon us by teaching us that Allāh will judge our actions collectively based on the strength of their endings.
Prior to Ramaḍān and during the first few fasts, there is a large emphasis on encouraging each other toward Taqwā, discussing its meaning, virtues, and ways to attain it. Yet, when the last 10 nights dawn on us, we discuss to a great extent what duʿā’s to make, when Laylat al-Qadr is, and many more details, but at times, in our excitement of doing more, more and more acts of worship in the last 10 nights, we forget our initial goal: the achievement of Taqwā.
Why The Night Prayer?
When we try to accomplish something big, it is easy to get pulled in several different directions. There are hundreds of things that can be done.
However, some things are far more impactful than others. This brings to mind the 80/20 rule, which explains that 20% of the activities we engage in produce 80% of what we want. With so much going on in our lives at times, and the fact that we are living an actual season of worship (the last 10 of Ramaḍān) within a season of worship (Ramaḍān itself); the formula related to ‘quality vs quantity’ has perhaps never been more pertinent.
The Qur’ān is full of lessons on how to achieve Taqwā, and for the purposes of this piece; I would like to present to you the following āyāt to ponder over and consider:
كَانُوا قَلِيلاً مِنْ اللَّيْلِ مَا يَهْجَعُونَ* وَبِالأَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ
“They used to sleep but little of the night,
And in the hours before dawn they would seek forgiveness,
And from their wealth was [given] the right of the needy and the deprived.”
A simple analysis of these āyāt present to us three of the best and most effective ways to attain Taqwā.
From this verse, we learn that:
- praying at night,
- seeking forgiveness before dawn,
- and giving to the needy,
are three acts of worship most effective in developing Taqwā in our hearts.
SubhanAllāh, see how Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has brought together these three activities and multiplied their reward in the last 10 nights of Ramaḍān, to encourage us toward Taqwā! Our ultimate goal from this month.
The final lap and the final push!
As we increase our intensity because of our setting of our sights on the finish line, please also consider these practical steps which aid our abilities in the last 10 nights count.
1. Prayer, Fasting, and Qur’ān: The three basics that have been discussed throughout Ramaḍān only become even more important. All of us must have a goal and a plan for every day in terms of prayer, Qur’ān, and what we can improve on in our fasts. The main goal is to establish habits we can continue after Ramaḍān.
2. Seclusion: If you cannot spend the last 10 nights in seclusion doing Iʿtikāf, as was the Prophetic practice, then at least put some time aside every night to be away from family, friends, and distractions, either in prayer, contemplation or supplication. During your seclusion, ensure you sincerely ponder of the favours of your Lord upon you for this brings about much-needed calibration to our hearts, minds and souls.
Another important activity for you to carry out during this period of seclusion is to list every role you currently assume in your life, be it mandatory, in terms of your roles that you can never give up, like being a parent, spouse, and other roles similar; or elective, in terms of roles that you can give up, like your position of employment and other similar placements in your life.
Once you have achieved this, analyse these roles within your life based on answering the following two questions:
- How effective am I in my role and how can I apply myself better in it?
- Am I giving too much emphasis on my elective placements to the extent that my mandatory roles and responsibilities are suffering?
I assure you, this task, if done sincerely and correctly, will be life changing!
3. Duʿā’: It may help to take some time out to pen down your personal aspirations, both related to your dīn and dunya. The Prophet (ṣall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) would also ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) for Taqwā,
اللهم ات نفسي تقواها وزكها انت خير من زكاها انت وليها ومولاها
“O Allāh, grant my soul Taqwā and purify it, for You are the best to purify it. You are its protector and guardian.”
4. Self-assessment: Umar b. al-Khattāb (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) would say, “Take yourselves to account before you are [ultimately] taken to account.” Let your contemplation in these last 10 nights lead you to reflecting upon what aspects of your character may need polishing and improving. Nobody is born perfect.
5. Maintaining others’ rights: Whether you are a parent or an employee, others have rights over you even in Ramaḍān. This time can also be used to re-connect with relatives or reconcile with friends and family.
Lastly: Taqwā Post-Ramaḍān
Before Ramaḍān ends, let us ensure that we do not bid the month farewell before realising and understanding that Ramaḍān is a stepping stone to being great for the rest of our lives. Taqwā is a process, not a place!
We must realise that the Allāh of Ramaḍān is the Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) of all the months of the year. Life is too short to make shorter and the believer is not one who takes a stride forward, only to take several steps backwards thereafter. This is even more manifest when we realise that we cannot guarantee ourselves yet another Ramaḍān after this.
Indeed, even outside of Ramaḍān, the purpose of worship itself is to achieve Taqwā. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says, “O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous [lit. perform Taqwā].” The pious before us would severely criticise those who only worshipped their Lord during Ramaḍān, only to forget their Lord after Ramaḍān. The mandatory fasting may end when Ramaḍān ends, but the pursuit of Taqwā must continue beyond Ramaḍān.
It is upon us to do everything in our capacity, in a calculated and strategic way, to ensure that this Ramaḍān lasts the period of our lives.
May Allāh Almighty bless our month and accept it from us, grant us the night of power, and write us from among the freed from the hell-fire and the muttaqūn with the passing of this month. Āmīn.
Let us keep up the good habits we have acquired this month, remembering the powerful command Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) gives us:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ارْكَعُوا وَاسْجُدُوا وَاعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمْ وَافْعَلُوا الْخَيْرَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ۩
O you who have believed, bow and prostrate and worship your Lord and do good – that you may succeed.
 Al-Qur’ān 51:17-19
 Al-Qur’ān 2:21
 Al-Qur’ān 22:77