Have you ever taken part in a challenge of self-building for a certain amount of time? These challenges, be it individual or social, need a few elements to keep you move on and get over them. Thirty days of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan seems like both an individual and a social challenge.
In this text, we would like to discover the ways that keep us motivated to finish our challenge of fasting in Ramadan. How can we complete this challenge and take the most benefits out of it?
The challenge is to perform fasting for thirty (sometimes 29) days in the month of Ramadan. Fasting in Islam is to avoid eating and drinking and many other worldly desires and sins from the morning prayer (Salat al-Fajr) time until the dawn prayer (Salat al-Maqrib). It is noteworthy that committing some acts will make fast invalid. 
The main goal of fasting like any other type of worship is to purify the soul and improve human beings spiritually: “Felicitous is he who purifies himself.” (87: 14)
But any type of worship, apart from its ultimate goal, has other benefits and some minor goals in training the human soul. For example, one of the small goals of praying the obligatory prayers (Salat) during the day and at night is to teach Muslims to adhere to certain principles. It is mentioned in the Quran that one of the characteristics of true believers is that they are “those who are humble in their prayers” (23:2) and “are watchful of their prayers” (23:9). These two verses, mentioned in the same Surah, show that one level of being a believer is to reach a feeling of utter humbleness in front of Allah. However, at the same time, being watchful on prayers and trying to perform them on time while observing all of its rulings is another aspect that will lead to higher spiritual levels. The same example applies to any other type of worship, especially fasting in Ramadan.
I have personally tried many different challenges for forty days; for example, forty days of waking up before dawn, forty days of avoiding fast foods, forty days of doing half an hour exercise per day, etc. I’ve been able to make some of those challenges a habit. However, in all those challenges, I needed something or someone to keep me motivated and guide me with the issues that I was facing throughout the challenge.
Regarding the challenge of fasting in Ramadan, I think it is essential to find some ways to help us enjoy fasting, instead of solely experiencing hunger and thirst.
Different things can keep us motivated to have better spiritual experiences of fasting in Ramadan. Having a different routine in the month of Ramadan, avoiding some entertainment and starting some new useful habits such as reading the supplications and contemplating on them, specifying a certain amount of time on reciting the Quran with translation and interpretation, performing the recommended prayers (Nawafil), trying to help others in any possible ways, and any other act of goodness that we can accomplish.
While we try to perform good deeds during fasting, reciting the Quran has a powerful influence on all our acts. Allah (SWT) mentions in the Quran: “So recite as much of the Quran as is feasible. He knows that some of you will be sick, while others will travel in the land seeking Allah’s bounty, and yet others will fight in the way of Allah. So recite as much of it as is feasible, and maintain the prayer and pay the zakat and lend Allah a good loan.” (73:20)
Allah (SWT) tells us to recite the Quran as much as we can. Then He mentions that He is aware of different conditions that people may have; some of them may be sick, some maybe traveling and working outside their houses to gain Allah’s provision, some may be fighting in the way of Allah. But then He mentions again that in whatever situation you are, do not forget to recite the Quran. It does not need to be a lot of recitation. Just recite as much as you can, and it will help you by both its miraculous and extraordinary achievements.
To provide a better definition of the above phrases, it can be said that the miraculous effects of the Quran are those effects that everyone can gain them by reciting it, even if they are not contemplating on its verses. However, exceptional achievements are for those who recite the Quran thoughtfully and intend to understand the words of Allah (SWT) as much as possible.
In sum, when you start the challenge of fasting in Ramadan and hope to gain the best results out of it, you need someone to motivate you, to be your mentor, and to elevate your knowledge and wisdom while you are going through the hard days of your challenge. The Quran could be that mentor who speaks to you the words of Allah (SWT), gives you hope, sympathizes with you in your hard moments, and guides you through the way to reach your ultimate goal. “So recite as much of the Quran as is feasible.” (73: 20)
Islam has spread much more quickly than the other religions all over the world. The question is how this has happened? And it becomes more important when we consider the situation in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) emerged.
He (PBUH&HP) invited people to Islam while he did not have any wealth or position and even when his family opposed him; except his wife, Lady Khadija (AS), and his cousin, Imam Ali (AS). Several factors were involved which we will discuss in a series of articles. Here, the focus is on how pleasant characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) helped Islam to become well known throughout the world.
In the Quran it is emphasized that the morals and attitude of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was one of the factors which attracted people to Islam: “had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they (people) would have surely scattered from around you” (3:159). This pleasant behavior of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) which made people inclined to him and Islam is known to be due to the God’s mercy over him (PBUH&HP) (3:159).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was forgiving towards those who had bothered him or even insulted him. It is narrated that once, a Jew accused Prophet (PBUHHP) of owing him some money and insisted on paying him back immediately. Prophet (PBUH&HP) told him gently that he had made a mistake, but the man repeated his claim and suddenly assaulted the Prophet (PBUH&HP). The companions of Prophet (PBUH&HP) came to interfere, but he (PBUH&HP) said: “I know how to deal with my friend.” He (PBUH&HP) behaved very nicely such that the man acknowledged that this behavior is only expected from a prophet and he declared his belief and embraced Islam right there.
However, he (PBUH&HP) was very serious about applying Islamic regulations or others’ rights. It is narrated that a woman from Quraysh [i] had stolen something; she confessed and had to be punished. Many people, including her family, interfered to change the Prophet’s mind and to stop her punishment. Prophet (PBUH) told people that they had meddled because she was from a famous family, but there is no exception to Islamic rules.
To provide an exemplary leader for others, to train people to act alike, to valorize his companions and to convince people to follow his instructions, Prophet (PBUH) used to take advice. Of course, in the end, he (PBUH&HP) was the one who decided and made firm decisions: “consult them on the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah” (3:159).
“Invite (mankind) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better” (16:125). Unlike what is advertised against Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP) never forced people or threatened them to accept Islam.
On the contrary, following the advice of the Quran, he promoted Islam with kindness, fairness, and wisdom. Instead of humiliating and discriminating non-Muslims, or being harsh and fierce, he used rational argument and discussion which also improved their rationality and thinking power . This followed the fact that embracing Islam should be according to the personal perception and understanding and it cannot be based on the imitation .
[i]A mercantile tribe that historically inhabited and controlled Mecca and Ka'aba.
“O ALLAH, bless Muhammad (PBUH) and his Progeny! Bless us in this day of our festival and our fast-breaking, make it one of the best of days that have passed over us.” Imam Sajjad (AS) - Sahifa Al-Sajjadiyya
Eid al-Fitr is the most important festival in the Islamic calendar. It provides us with an opportunity to offer thanks to Allah for having given us the will and strength to observe fast during the holy month of Ramadan. This Eid falls on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal and marks the end of Ramadan.
On the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family gets up very early to perform the following tasks:
It is recommended to recite the following Takbirs after performing the Dawn prayer (Salat al-Fajr):
"اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُاللَّهُ أَكْبَرُلاإِلَهَ إِلااللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ أَكْبَرُاللَّهُ أَكْبَرُوَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْدُالْحَمْدُلِلَّهِ عَلَى مَاهَدَانَاوَلَهُ الشُّكْرُعَلَى مَا أَوْلانَا"
‘AllaahuakbarAllaahuakbar la ilaahaillallaahuwwllaahuakbarallaahuakbarwalillaahilh’amd al ha’mdulillaaha’laamaahadaanaawalahushukrua’laamaaawlaanaa’
It means: “Allah is Great. Allah is Great. There is no god but Allah. And Allah is Great. Allah is Great. (All) praise be to Allah. (We) sing the praises of Allah because He has shown us the Right Path. (We) gratefully thank Him because He takes care of us and looks after our interests.”
Zakat al-Fitr is a mandatory religious tax paid by those who can afford it as a kind of charity at the sunset of Eid alFitr night (i.e. the night preceding Eid day), which is about three kilos of the item commonly eaten per person in the house (e.g. wheat, barley, dates, raisins, rice or millet, etc.).
You can also pay the price of one of these items in cash. Fitrah should be given to deserving believers whose income is not sufficient to spend on their families for one year. It is better to give it before the Eid prayer (Salat al-Eid).
The Eid prayer is performed in the morning, between sunrise and the Midday prayer (Salat al-Zuhr). It can be performed either individually or in a congregation and consists of two Rak’ahs (units). During the first Rak’ah, you should recite the first chapter of the Holy Quran (Surah al-Fateha).
Thereafter, you can recite another chapter of your choice. However, it is recommended to recite Chapter 91 (Surah al-Shams) in the first Rak’ah and Chapter 8 (Surah al-Ghashiya) in the second one following Surah al-Fateha; or alternatively, recite Chapter 87 (Surah al-A'ala) in the first Rak’ah and Chapter 91 (Surah al-Shams) in the second (following Surah al-Fateha).
After reciting the Quranic chapters, there are five Takbirs-i.e. ‘Allahu Akbar’- that needs to be said in the first Rak’ah and four in the second one - and along with each of these, you should recite a Qunut (raising hands in prayer).
After the fifth Qunut of the first Rak'ah, you should recite a Takbir (Allahu Akbar) and then perform the Ruku’ (bowing) and continue with the Sujud (prostration) twice. In the second Rak’ah, the actions of the first Rak’ah are repeated with four Takbirs. At the end of the prayer, upon the completion of the second Sujud, you should recite the Tashahhud and complete the prayer with the Salutations (Salam).
Although any recitation or Dua will suffice in Qunut of the Eid Prayers, it is recommended to recite the following Dua:
"اَللّهُمَّ اَهلَا لْکِبْرِيَاءِ وَالْعَظَمَةِ،وَاَهْلَا لْجُوْدِ وَالْجَبَرُوتِ، وَاَهْلَا لْعَفْوِ وَالرَّحْمَةِ وَاَهْلَا لتَّقْوٰی وَالْمَغْفِرَةِ،اَسْاَلُكَ بِحَقِّ هٰذَا الْيَوْمِ الَّذِی جَعَلْتَه لِلْمُسْلِمِيْنَ عِيْدًاوَلِمُحَمَّدٍصَلَّی اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ ذُخْراًوَكَرَامَةً وَشَرَفًا وَمَزِيْداً اَنْتُصَلِّیَ عَلٰی مُحَمَّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمَّدٍ وَاَنْ تُدْخِلَنِی فِی کُلِّ خَيْرٍاَدْخَلْتَ فِيْهِ مُحَمَّداً وَآلَ مُحَمَّدٍ،وَاَنْ تُخْرِجَنِی مِنْ کُلِّ سُوْٓءٍ اَخْرَجْتَ مِنْهُ مُحَمَّدًا وَآلَ مُحَمَّدٍ صَلَواتُكَ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَيْهِمْ اَجْمَعِيْنَ.اَللَّهُمَّ اِنِّی اَسْاَلُكَ خَيْرَمَاسَاَلَكَ بِهِ عِبادُكَ الصَّالِـحُونَ،وَاَعُوْذُبِكَ مِمَّا اسْتَعاذَ مِنْهُ عِبادُكَ الْمُخْلِصُوْنَ"
‘Allahummaahlalkibriya'iwal 'azamah, waahlaljudiwaljaburat, waahlal 'afwi war rahmah, waahlattaqwawalmaghfirah.
As alukabihaqqihazalyawmillazija'altahulilmuslimina 'ida ,waliMuhammadinsallallahu 'AlaihiwaAlihi, zukhranwasharafanwakaramatanwamazida an tusalliya 'ala Muhammad wa Ali Muhammad wa an tudkhilani fi kullikhayrinadkhaltafihi Muhammadan wa Ala Muhammad wa an tukhrijani min kullisu'inakhrajtaminhu Muhammadan wa Ala Muhammad salawatuka 'alahiwa 'alahim. Allahummainni as alukakhayra ma saalakabihiibadukassalihun, waauzubikamimmastaazaminhuibadukalmukhlasun.’
“O Allah, (belongs to You only) pride, glory, excellence, omnipotence. (You) grant amnesty and show kindness, (You are) Holy and Oft-forgiving, (so), I ask You in the name of this day which You have ordained as a day of happiness for the Muslims. An occasion for Muhammad (blessings of Allah be on him and his progeny) to plan ahead and grow strong to send blessings on Muhammad and on the progeny of Muhammad. And introduce me to every good that had been made available to Muhammad and Muhammad’s progeny. Educate me to keep from every evil as You kept safe Muhammad and Muhammad’s progeny from it. Your blessings are on him and on them. O Allah, I ask you to give me the good which Your pious servants had asked for. And I take refuge with You from that which caused Your pious servants to seek refuge with you.”
This is how Muslims joyfully celebrate the achievement of enhanced piety on this day of forgiveness, moral victory, and peace, of fellowship, brotherhood, and unity. Muslims not only celebrate the end of fasting but also thank God for the strength that He gave them during the previous month to help them practice self-control.
Happy Eid al-Fitr!