When I was 8 years old, I had really awful childhood asthma. I not only couldn’t breathe properly, I also had a persistent dry cough that lasted for months. As a result, I was banned from Physical Education. I know that the teachers were just concerned about my well-being but I felt really left out. While my friends got to play fun games and run together, I was made to sit down and watch.
When I turned 10, asthma went away alhamdulillah. I convinced my teacher to allow me to join in. After she received consent from Mama, she relented. The first activity I tried was running. And boy, was it tough! During each run, I felt my heart beating faster and faster as I gasped desperately for air. My calves would throb incessantly as sweat dripped down my back. However, I didn’t want to return to the bench so I persevered. ‘Don’t give up. Don’t give up,’ I’d whisper to myself.
Wallahi, the last leg of the race was always the hardest. That’s when you feel like you’ve used up all your energy. You know that the finish line is near but you can’t see it clearly. You can feel the pain in your legs. You’re so exhausted you feel sick to your stomach. This is when I usually feel like throwing in the towel. ‘Is this really worth it?’ Then I would remember Mama and Papa. They have always taught us to endure and keep going, no matter how difficult things seem. “Think of how you would feel at the finish line, Alia. You don’t have to worry about the others. How would you feel, know that you ended strong?”
Somehow, alhamdulillah, I would finish the race. Looking back, I know that it’s only because Allah gave me the strength and determination to complete it. Being able to accomplish what I set out to do gave me confidence. It was a morale booster. It made me believe that I am stronger than I thought. With that first victory in mind, I started gradually pushing my limits. The training sessions were designed to mimic the real race. ‘You’re prepared for this, Alia’. Although the actual competitions were usually more difficult, I found myself being able to run faster and faster. My hard work was paying off! I was so happy that I began transferring this newfound discipline to other aspects of my life. Sure, the struggles were not exactly the same. However, my small successes had given me hope. They made me realise for myself that if I hang tough and keep going, I can triumph in shaa Allah.
Now, let’s think about Ramadhan, the month of Quran. In al-Baqarah 2:185, Allah tells us, “The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion.” Life in Dunya is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to train for endurance, not for speed. When we are running long distance, we need to periodically recharge ourselves. Similar to my running drills, Allah gradually prepares us for what is to come. He intends ease for us and readily gives us the tools to succeed. During Ramadhan, we are told to refrain from eating, drinking and giving in to our lower desires. Essentially, we empty ourselves for spiritual purification. Being in this state makes it easier for the Quran to fill our hearts. Also, by Allah’s grace and mercy, lailatul qadr is in the last 10 nights of Ramadhan instead of the start. We are allowed to slowly gear up, without resilient efforts in the first 20 days preparing us for the search. ‘Don’t give up. Don’t give up,’ Allah whispers to us.
Most importantly, our journey doesn’t stop. The self-discipline, persistence and taqwa gained during Ramadhan give us hope. They prepare us for the continuation of the marathon of our lives. By putting us through a spiritual boot camp, we train ourselves to face daily tests with patience and perseverance. If we can control desires that are usually permissible for one month, why can’t we control ourselves from desires that are clearly not allowed for 11 months? If we can accomplish so much during our one-month training, what’s stopping us from being Muslims with istiqomah, discipline and self-control who can excel our tests outside of Ramadhan? We are prepared, in shaa Allah.
Let’s put aside the debates on Lailatul Qadr. Ramadhan doesn’t end on the 27th, and it is never, ever too late to turn to Allah. We don’t know if we will meet the next Ramadhan. I know that you must be exhausted but the fact that we are still alive and able to head towards the tail end of another Ramadhan is a sign that Allah is giving us a chance to draw closer to Him. Don’t you want to end strong? May we not waste this precious opportunity. Let’s thank Him for all the blessings that have been showered upon us. Let’s end this month by returning to Allah in a state of humility and tawbah. Let’s keep seeking beneficial knowledge. Let’s promise to continue the good habits we’ve picked up and throw away the bad ones for good. Let’s make dua that Allah accepts our deeds and allow us to return to Him in the most purified state. Yes, Ramadhan is leaving us. It’s sad but we will be okay. Why? Because the One who granted it to us will never leave us. Wallahu a’lam.