Sahar Deshmukh encourages you to go beyond the basics to increase your spiritual state of being.
As Ramadan approaches, the one thought that comes to my mind is, ‘How can I make this sacred month count more than the year before?’ The answer may appear obvious. Reading more of the Qur’an, praying with sincerity despite the grumbling coming from your stomach, and doing more acts of worship to wash away sins and reap the rewards of this beautiful month.
But have you ever wondered about the obligations we have as Muslims beyond these basic rituals?
Attaining good character
The simplest and yet most vital part of our faith is developing and maintaining good character. How we speak to others, how we treat them and our attitude determine how people perceive us. Kind gestures, politeness, honesty and truthfulness are characteristics that elevate our status in society as well as in the eyes of Allah.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said ‘There is nothing heavier than good character put in the scale of a believer on the Day of Resurrection.’[i]
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was soft-spoken, never raised his voice and treated everyone with kindness. Rarely do we realise the importance of treating our family members – whether young or old – with our utmost care and attention rather than simply thinking ‘Oh, they’re just family’.
The Qur’an has given the highest status to parents, forbidding us to even answer back to them (17:23-24). Yet we are all guilty of arguing with our parents at some point in our life – whether because they are advising us or restricting us for our own good. However, being kind to our parents must be our priority.
Beyond our family, we must also remember to care for all people around us. How many of us would help an elderly person cross the street? Do we ever check up on our neighbours to see if they’re well? It is our duty as Muslims to care for others whether they are strangers or not.
Caring for all living creatures
Being gentle and kind to others extends beyond humans, because all living creatures should be cared for. Whether it’s animals, plants or our own planet, we must not abuse anything.
For example, when we make the decision to have a pet at home, we should first consider if we have the time to care for its needs. I once bought a pet fish but the bowl that I kept it in was too small. I regret to say this, but although I intended to buy a bigger bowl, I was too caught up with my studies and it died in the same week. To this day, I regret that I didn’t care for its needs and I haven’t had a pet since.
I may have my reservations of keeping a pet, but there are benefits. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf links kindness to animals with kindness to humans, that ‘in our societies children that are abusive to animals and torture animals when they are young often end up becoming very abusive when they are old.’[ii] He further explains that every Prophet was a shepherd and that is how they learned to show compassion toward animals which could then be transferred to humans.
We now live in a consumption-driven society, which differs vastly from the times of our Prophet (pbuh). He was simple and so were his needs, which were reflected in his lifestyle. Today, we often give in to our desire to possess material goods. Instead, we need to be more concerned of how we will face Allah on the Day of Judgement.
I am currently content with how much less I spend on clothes now, but I feel that I’m failing when it comes to my eating habits. I find myself buying more food and snacking in between meals without actually feeling hungry. But Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not live to eat, he ate to live. Our lives are unnecessarily consumed by excessive amounts of food which in turn have given rise to a long list of health problems. The Qur‘an says, ‘O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.’ (7:31)
Small deeds are a source of enormous pleasure to Allah. These in turn make us better human beings and better Muslims. Let’s rethink how we lead our lives within our homes, as each small improvement will bring us closer to Allah.