As the month of Ramadan is approaching, we need to think about how we are preparing for this blessed month of fasting in a spiritual way. Many Muslim addicts believe that Ramadan will be the solution to overcoming their addiction. We often think that this is the time we will change and turn our backs on our habits, however many of us fall on Eid day or soon after. However, we need to ask ourselves, what is it about Ramadan that makes us less likely to endulge in our addictive behaviours? And why is it that we still relapse in Ramdan, or soon after? Its important that we purify our intentions for Ramadan. Many of us hope to change, but this needs to be the consequence of our pure intentions and not the catalyst for fasting.
What does Allah say?
All the verses regarding fasting and Ramadan appear in the same place in the Qur’an. From Surah Baqarah, 2:183. These ayats are a reference point for us to return to and try to understand.
2:183: O ye who believe! As-Saum (abstaining) is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may attain Taqwa (God-Consciousness)
Many Muslims fall into the trap of believing the purpose of Ramadan is to attain Taqwa, a consciousness of Allah, where we think of Allah often leading to fear of His Punishments and hope in His rewards, thus helping us to change our behaviours. However, in this verse, Ramadan has not been mentioned. In fact we need to understand what the meaning of as-Saum is. As English speakers we often translate Saum into fasting, however, the literal translation is the verb ‘abstain’. We understand that saum does not always refer to abstaining from the stomach through fasting. For example Allah tells us in al-Quran that Maryam, the mother of Isa, said,
“Surely I have vowed to The Most Merciful, to fast (sawm).” [19:26]
The fast here means to be silent, that is, to abstain from speaking. Islamically, Sawm in Ramadan means to abstain from food, drink and sexual relation between dawn and sunset. It also means that we must abstain from all habits and behaviours that can be displeasing to Allah. This is important for us to think about as we embrace our recovery. Perhaps, why it is much easier for the addict to abstain in Ramadan is, because many Muslims all over the world are holding back from their bad habits and trying hard to become better people. Part of our intention for observing Ramadan is to abstain through fasting in the hope that we will become more conscious of Allah.
The first mention of Ramadan itself appears shortly after this verse;
2:185: The month of Ramdan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and criterion. Whoever of you observes the month he must observe saum (fasting)…and that you may you must magnify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him”.
Lets look closely at the language used here– whoever observes means whoever of you is alive and gifted by Allah to see Ramadan should seize this opportunity. Allah is saying all those who can, should take the chance.
Many addicts begin to questions their ability to get through this month. We need to really think about this verse and realise that Allah is giving us encouragement and He wants us to grab this chance to come closer to Him and subsequently make changes in our life.
What we also see here is that the purpose of Ramadan is to become thankful. That through coming closer to Allah through fasting and abstaining from sins and our addiction we may learn to become more grateful to Him, Who is deserved of all thanks.
What’s the intention for fasting?
Let us take a moment to think about why we want to fast in Ramadan. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said;
“Actions are but by intentions, and everyone shall have but that which he intended…” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1; Muslim, 1907)
As discussed above, the main purpose of fasting is to attain God-consciousness and the main purpose of Ramadan is to gain thankfulness to Allah. However, this is the time to combine our intentions for Ramadan. We need to think about the multidude of benefits we can reap from this beautiful month. As with many aspects of Islam there are conditions and there are two conditions for purifying our intentions for fasting in Ramadan.Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said,
“Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith (eeman in Allah as One) and hoping for a reward from Allah (ihtisab), then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood for the prayers in the night of Qadr out of eman and ihtisab, then all his previous sins will be forgiven .”
Imam Ahmad and An-Nasaii added the following to the above narration,
“And also what will occur later on (meaning future sins, as well).”
Imam Ahmad taught us that fasting with eeman entails fasting while believing with the heart in the obligation of fasting during Ramadan. As for Ihtisab, it means that one anticipates the reward and his fasting is therefore only for the sake of Allah and not to imitate his people and community or for any other worldly gain.
So we must ask ourselves, why are we fasting? To get clean? To stop acting out in our addiction? Tradition? Because everyone else is? To pleasing our parents or spouses?
In the tradition of Rasulullah (SAW), the state of Imaan and Ihtisab has been defined as one in which a person performs good and virtuous deeds in the hope of Divine Recompense and with faith in the promise of Divine good pleasure and forgiveness.
Regarding this, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said:
“Many are there among you who fast and yet gain nothing from it except hunger and thirst, and many are there who pray (throughout the night) and yet gain nothing from it except wakefulness.”
Let us correct our intentions so that we do not fall into this catagory of people who gain nothing from their fasting but hunger and thirst. it is also said that this hadith applies to those who fast yet do not change their bad habits, they continue to sin or behave in ways that Allah dislikes.
Abu Huraira said – “ The heart is the king of the body” when explaining the hadith:
“Verily in the body there is a lump of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart.” [Bukhāri and Muslim]
Any belief in Islam is founded on 3 pillars:
1- Conviction of the heart – brings about an intention
2- Statement of the tongue – he speaks of what resides in the heart, the conviction
3- Action of the limbs/body. – Acting upon that belief.
The intention for fasting in Ramadan is very important. Without a correct intention the actions are not valid
Part of having a good intention is looking forward to receiving the guest of Ramadan just as we would with a family member who lives far away and only comes to visit us once per year. We must be positive as the month draws near and believe in ourselves that we are able to complete and perfect the number of days to the best of our abilities. Allah Himself offers us words of support and encouragement that should give us the courage to embrace this month, knowing that Allah is on our side to get us through;
“…Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you” 2:185
How many times have we read this verse and did we ever notice that Allah says He intends ease, and the follows up by saying He does not want to make things difficult for you? It is like saying I want you make a cake delicious and I don’t want it to taste horrible. Allah is emphasising this point. He is showing the strength of His intention to make things easy for us and not for us to feel as though we are suffering a hardship.
Then Allah says; “…He wants that you must complete the number of days…” This means He wants us to perfect the number of days – to do them fully and to the best of our ability.
Scholars call Ramadan the training ground for the rest of the year. As addicts in recovery, we must utilise this month as best as we can to try and change our behaviours but we must remember that our primary intention is to become better Muslims, becoming more conscious of Him so that we may develop thankfulness. Having an attitude of gratitude is paramount in our recovery as it removes negative thinking and self-pitying behaviours that can lead to relapse.
Let us make duah to Allah that He allows us to live to see Ramadan, to complete and perfect its number of days and for us to love Him more and be thankful to Him. Ameen.
Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)