Islam

Ramadan – The Fresh Start Effect

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Qasim Choudhary, USA

How often have you caught yourself affirming statements such as, ‘I’m going to start eating healthy’ or ‘I’m going to stop procrastinating.’ We all desire to change and want to lead more productive and healthier lifestyles. But where and when do we start? Our lives are so dynamic and we are entrenched with routines that limit our openness to change. [1] Improvement, however, becomes increasingly achievable when we have a clean slate to work with. For instance, why is it that 40% of Americans make new year’s resolutions? [2] Why do some people promise to forgo a bad habit on a birthday? This is because we consider these days as a new opportunity to overcome past failures.

Studies reveal that people don’t perceive time as a continuum rather we look at our lives as passing chapters or episodes. [3] These new chapters provide us small windows of opportunity to start afresh. For instance, when we pass through our student life we use different labels to describe ourselves. We have the ‘sophomore’ chapter or the ‘college’ chapter and at the onset of each chapter, we are highly determined and motivated to kick start that phase of life in the best possible manner. As Katy Milkman writes in her book How to Change, ‘people might be more open to change when they feel they have a fresh start.’ [4]

This same fresh start principle can be observed in the holy month of Ramadan. Worshippers begin to populate Mosques in droves, we spend more time reciting the Holy Qur’an and increase our charitable efforts. A sudden rejuvenation takes hold of many Muslims who otherwise may have been more occupied in worldly pursuits throughout the year. We utilise the month of Ramadan as a fresh slate towards developing our relationship with God Almighty and bettering ourselves. In fact, the Holy Prophet (sa) expressed, ‘Whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith all his previous sins will be forgiven.’ [5]

Ramadan is a time to reflect on our past failures and deficiencies and vow to become stronger believers. Once we enter the holy month of Ramadan, we are provided multiple opportunities for a clean slate. For instance, the Holy Prophet (sa) stated that the first ten days of Ramadan bring Allah’s mercy, the middle ten days His forgiveness, and the last ten days save one from the fire of Hell. [6] These three phases in the month of Ramadan provide us with a renewed hope and opening to gain God Almighty’s pleasure.

When the month of Ramadan draws to an end, it doesn’t mean we should fall back into our old habits and wait an entire year for Ramadan to come around again. Otherwise, as His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) aptly puts it, ‘Ramadan would be futile for us.’ [7] Rather this blessed month should serve as a jumpstart to further develop our spiritual faculties and increase in goodness. Though this holy month will come to a close in thirty days, its spirit must continue. As Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) succinctly stated,

‘The virtuous habits which we established during Ramadan should continue on past Ramadan and should increase. If we don’t do this, then there will have been no benefit to passing through the month of Ramadan.’ [8]

About the Author: Qasim Choudhary is a graduate of the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology in Canada, and serves as an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States of America.


ENDNOTES

[1] Milkman, Katherine L., How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, [New York], Penguin Random House, [2021], pg.18

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/01/01/the-science-of-keeping-your-new-years-resolution/

[3] Milkman, Katherine L., Hot to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, [New York], Penguin Random House, [2021], pg.19

[4] Milkman, Katherine L., Hot to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, [New York], Penguin Random House, [2021], pg.18

[5] Bukhari, Kitab-Saum

[6] Kanzul UmmalVol. 8, p. 477, Hadith 23714

[7] Friday Sermon, 7th May 2021

[8] Ibid

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