We have reached a point in this pandemic where most of us have adjusted to a new way of doing things. For most of our lives, we worked and studied in such specific ways that it commonly became accepted as convention. Today, however, we find that the structure of our work, education, and social life has been redefined. Things no longer mean what they used to. With the help of technology, many of us can still work, study, and keep up with friends without leaving home. The societal conventions we are accustomed to are under scrutiny as we consider what a post-pandemic world might look like. Day by day, we are moving towards what we recognise as normality, and many of us are eager to welcome back a world that is familiar to us. Doors to mosques are creaking open after months of being bolted shut. Slowly, we can venture out to restaurants, shops, and the houses of our dear family and friends.
The situation is steadily improving and things are looking positive overall. Soon enough, we will be returning to the normal way of doing things: praying beside one another, and leaving the house to go to work, university, and social events. The question is, however, what has this break in conventional life actually taught us? To put it differently, what can we reflect on about the spiritual state we were in before the pandemic? Has that state altered in any way as we prepare to greet our old lives back? The reality is that many of us were immersed in busy schedules and tight routines. The blessings in our time felt sparse and our hearts were stretched thin across many planes. As we look ahead to better and brighter times, we have in our immediate periphery an opportunity to break free from our old spiritual conventions. We have a chance to redirect the focus of our hearts before we plunge back into the real world.
Ramadan came at the perfect time this year to increase us in our īmān, piety, and god-consciousness during a time of collective difficulty. Now, a couple of months later, as life is slowly starting to move in a new direction, we prepare to welcome the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah. In our tradition, the first day of Dhul Hijjah marks the beginning of the best ten days of the year. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allāh than these ten days” (Bukhāri).
These ten days offer us a unique opportunity to reset the tone of our relationship with Allāh. As Muslims, we are blessed with seasons of worship throughout the year that help us to reform, rectify, and refine our inner states. No matter how this pandemic has affected us in our īmān and spiritual state, we can put effort into maximising this opportunity as we reach what we hope is the tail-end of this testing period.
Scholars often comment on the virtue of these ten days, explaining that while the last ten nights of Ramadan are the best nights of the year, the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are the best days of the year. Just as we exert ourselves during the final stretch of Ramadan, so too should we approach these blessed days with the same zeal and determination. Any righteous deeds we do in these ten days will be more beloved to Allāh than the good deeds we might do on a regular day. We know that with every effort we put in to draw nearer to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), He draws even nearer to us. The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“Allāh the Almighty says: ‘Whoever comes with a good deed will have the reward of ten like it and even more. Whoever comes with an evil deed will be recompensed for one evil deed like it or he will be forgiven. Whoever draws close to Me by the length of a hand, I will draw close to him by the length of an arm. Whoever draws close to Me by the length of an arm, I will draw close to him by the length of a fathom. Whoever comes to Me walking, I will come to him running. Whoever meets Me with enough sins to fill the Earth, but does not associate any idols with Me, I will meet him with as much forgiveness” (Muslim).
As we each reflect on how we can increase our good deeds during these blessed days, we must remember that good deeds are not limited to a few acts of worship. Too often, we tend to limit our perception of good deeds to prayer, fasting, and charity. While these are fundamental acts of worship, we must diversify the way in which we view ‘ibādah. In these blessed days, we must strive for righteousness and excellence in everything that we do. An easy way to do this is to think in terms of service. We are first and foremost servants of Allāh, and must therefore prioritise our private worship. We must cultivate our personal relationship with our Creator, and there are a number of ways we can do this:
- Praying the five daily prayers consistently, on time and with a present heart
- Extra sunnah and nawāfil prayers throughout the day
- Dhikr to keep our hearts alive with the remembrance of Allāh
- Learn about Allāh through His beautiful names and attributes
- Staying away from sins and things that are displeasing to Allāh
- Repentance for the many sins we accumulate
- Reciting and reflecting on the Qur’ān
- Putting time aside daily to build Islamic knowledge
- Making du’ā
Once we reflect on our servitude to Allāh, we can then question further:
- How can I better serve my parents?
- How can I serve my community?
- How can serve the financial, emotional, and spiritual needs of those around me?
- How can I serve my masjid – the house of Allāh?
- How can I serve those who are suffering around the world?
These are a few questions that can help us to aim for righteousness in the very sphere of our lives. As we enter and leave these blessed days, and the years and decades continue to elapse, we must instil within ourselves the concept of continual growth. There is always something to learn. There is always something to improve. There is always a chance for us to reinvent ourselves. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) blesses us with these special times periodically throughout the year to prompt us to cleanse ourselves, reflect, and regain focus. As we stand before what we hope is a new chapter in history, we pray that this can also be a new chapter in our personal spiritual journeys. Let us take some time to prepare for the next season of our lives by strengthening our hearts and increasing in our devotion to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). As Dhul Hijjah settles in this year, let us work with a greater level of sincerity, commitment, and reflection.