So we're finally in the month of Ramadaan--- fasting and inshallah gaining the blessing of this month. However, we might feel that we're not truly taking advantage of the time that is given to us. We really haven't really committed that much time and energy perhaps into ibadah (worship) and/or dhikr (remembrance), perhaps we're not feeling the "Ramadaan spirit."
Personally for me, I try to read more Quran and understand the meaning by complementing it with an English translation after I read. However, sometimes this isn't enough for me. I feel the need to do more dhikr, ibadah, etc. What's sad though is that alot of us aren't doing enough and/or taking advantage of this time for introspection and spiritual improvement. In a hadith it says:
Narrated AbuHurayrah Allah's Messenger said, "Many a one who fasts obtains nothing from his fasting but thirst, and many a one who prays during the night obtains nothing from his night prayers but wakefulness." Hadith - Al-Tirmidhi #1989, [Darimi transmitted it.]
What's scary is sometimes we find ourselves just doing the fasting rites mechanically and without much thought or effort. We go to taraweeh prayers perhaps (complain how long it is ) and pray the five daily prayers without much thought (for some---rushed and incomplete). We find that we become lax and/or mechanical and lose focus during Ramadaan and end up forgetting why we're doing what we're doing.Sometimes we get caught up with the social aspect of Ramadaan and focus on the food preparation and iftaars (go overboard when we break our fasts and forget the reason we've fasted). What we should ponder upon is how during this time it's just us and Allah. We can't blame any shaytaan, jinn or other human being for our thoughts,actions, etc---it's all you, just you and Allah.
This is your time to get closer to Allah. The gates of Jannah are open and the gates of hell are closed. Thus Allah is calling us to Jannah. If you haven't changed for the better during Ramadaan and are continually going down the opposite direction, then in essence you're knocking on the doors of hell. There are two options: you can answer Allah's invitation to Jannah and getting closer to Him or you can continue to disobey and go further down the wrong direction, the choice is yours---it's just you and Allah.
`Arfajah said "We were with `Utbah ibn Farqad while he was discussing Ramadan. A companion of the Prophet entered upon the scene. When `Utbah saw him, he became shy and stopped talking. The man [the companion] spoke about Ramadan, saying "I heard the Messenger of Allah say during Ramadan: "The gates of Hell are closed, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the devils are in chains. An angel calls out : 'O you who intend to do good deeds, have glad tidings. O you who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadan is completed. (Hadith - Ahmad and an-Nasa'i)
And alot of times our fasts feel incomplete. That may be due to our lack of change for the better. In a hadith it's related that:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever does not leave off false speech and false conduct, Allah has no need of his leaving off food and drink."
Thus, some of us do not change during Ramadaan or for some it's a temporary Ramadaan change. There is the phenomenon of "Ramadaan Muslims" i.e. those who treat taraweeh prayer as fard, temporarily stop bad deeds during Ramadaan and only come to the masjid during Ramadaan. If we're to truly benefit from this Ramadaan, we should definitely make sure these deeds we're doing during Ramadaan are sincere, lasting and are deeds we can continue throughout the year. We can tell our spiritual progress if we check our spiritual standing by comparing it to last Ramadaan---are we the same or have we improved spiritually? Have we made progress?
This is a time to come closer to Allah and gain taqwa (God-consciousness):
O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqûn (the pious - see V.2:2). (2:183)
If we don't gain this from Ramadaan the quality of our ibadah should be examined more closely. We are fasting for the sake of Allah only:
On the authority of Abu Harayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (peace be upon him), who said: Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says:
Fasting is Mine and it I who give reward for it. [A man] gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for my sake. Fasting is like a shield, and he who fasts has two joys: a joy whin he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The change in the breath of the mouth of him who fasts is better in Allah's estimation than the smell of musk.
It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim, Malik, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah).If we have started doing good deeds during Ramadaan, we should make intention to continue these acts of worship throughout the year inshallah. The best deeds are those that are small, but done consistently. So we should start of small and eventually with these small deeds improve ourselves spiritually. These small deeds polish the heart and eventually over time heal it of the distractions in our life that keep us away from Allah and His remembrance. We should make dua to Allah as our duas are most likely to be accepted during our fast and during the month of Ramadaan:
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said; Three supplications will not be rejected (by Allah (SWT)), the supplication of the parent for his child, the supplication of the one who is fasting, and the supplication of the traveler.
[al-Bayhaqi, at-Tirmidhi - Sahih]
On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: Allah the Almighty said:
O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.
It was related by at-Tirmidhi (also by Ahmad ibn Hanbal). Its chain of authorities is sound.So answer Allah's invitation to Jannah, because this is some one on one time with Allah you won't find anytime else. Let this be the time you truly change for the better, forgive those who've hurt you in the past, improve yourself spiritually and in every other way. Start making dua to Allah more frequently and know that Allah's listening because during Ramadaan---it's just you and Allah.