With just over a week remaining till the first day of the Ramadan, the entire worldwide Islamic community is preparing itself for the best month of the year.
First Ramadan as a Muslim
Even though the month of Ramadan is not the beginning or end of the Islamic lunar calendar, for many of us it is the best time to have an annual moment of reflection: Where am I today compared to the end of last Ramadan?
For some of us, we look back at changes in our personal life; we’ve switched jobs, got married, had the joy of the birth of a newborn or the mourning of the loss of our loved ones.
For most of us, we look back at our development in regards to practicing Islam; did we read the Qur’an regularly, did we memorize more, did we intensify our prayers or did we spend more time in the masjid?
But some of us don’t compare this year’s Ramadan with that of the previous year. They look back at the day on which they accepted Islam by declaring the Islamic testimony of faith. They are looking forward to their very first Ramadan as a Muslim!
It is our duty as a faithful community not only to welcome new Muslims but also to support them to perform their acts of worship, including fasting during the month Ramadan. However, we do not always live up to our responsibilities in a correct way, either because we fully neglect them or because we do not do the right thing albeit holding good intentions.
Don’t Overemphasize on ‘How’ We Fast!!
One of the easiest and most common mistakes made when preparing for the first Ramadan, for a new Muslim, is to spend a lot of time on the detailed rulings of fasting.
Don’t be shocked; I’m not saying that understanding the rulings of practicing Ramadan is not relevant! They are, without a doubt. But with some of the books, leaflets, instruction video’s and Islamic websites, any new Muslim is most likely able to get at least 95% of that correct way of fasting. If there are any questions left, it can be easily answered through communicating with such Islamic websites or scholars who are easily reachable.
Inner Change: the Objective of Ramadan
Actually, every time I see or hear a Muslim saying that we fast during the month of Ramadan because this makes us feel compassion for those who have less fortune in their lives, my heart breaks a little.
When I hear a new Muslim giving this explanation, it breaks a little more. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with feeling compassion for those who live in hardship, but this is not the main objective of Ramadan.
The reason why Allah makes us fast the entire month is not only to motivate us to improve the lives of others, but to help us improve ourselves. It is the inner process of purification, focus and growth that is addressed by combining the physical fasting with the spiritual acts of worship, such as the Tarawih Prayer, supplication, reciting the Qur’an and staying in the masjid for some a few days in the last third of the month.
The inner process of purification of the soul is of an important goal of fasting. Allah, glory be to Him, explains in the Qur’an that the aim of fasting in Ramadan is lead to more Allah consciousness and increasing gratitude to Him. Have an open dialogue on self-assessment of character and personal obstacles and how to address these challenges.
Never forget that `Umar ibn Al-Khattab did not change all at once, from being a terrible suppressive person to one of the greatest leaders of the Islamic community. He already changed because he started to strictly follow the rules of Islam. It was the supplication of Prophet (peace be upon him) asking God to soften his heart, that made him the best person he could be. It is the inner change, not the checklist. The rulings are the preconditions of fasting, not the objective.
Eat Together During Ramadan
One of the most useful social activities for a new Muslim in Ramadan is to invite or be invited to iftar meal with another Muslim friend. I believe that inviting new Muslim converts to iftar meals is good and these initiatives should continue and expand.
I wish each and every one who intends to perform the fasting of Ramadan this year a blessed month.
May your worship be sincere, accepted and rewarded.
By Nourdeen Wildeman