This article was first published in an online Islamic Bulletin. The author is Asma bint Shameem. Please read:
Taking Ramadaan as a ritual
For many of us Ramadaan has lost its spirituality and has become more of a ritual than a form of Ibaadah. We fast from morning to night like a zombie just because everyone around us is fasting too. We forget that it's a time to purify our hearts and our souls from all evil....we forget to make dua, forget to beseech Allah to forgive us and ask Him to save us from the Fire. Sure we stay away from food and drink, but that's about all.
Too much stress on food and drink
For some people, the entire month of Ramadaan revolves around food. They spend the ENTIRE day planning, cooking, shopping and thinking about food, instead of concentrating on Salah, Quran and other acts of worship. All they can think of is FOOD. So much so that they turn the month of fasting into the month of feasting. Come Iftaar time, their table is a sight to see, with the multitudes and varieties of food, sweets and drinks. They are missing the very purpose of fasting, and thus, increase in their greed and desires instead of learning to control them. It is also a kind of waste & extravagance. ".....and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance)" [al-Araaf :31]
Eating too much
Some people stuff themselves at Suhoor until they are ready to burst, because they think this is the way to not feel hungry during the day and others eat at Iftaar like there is no tomorrow, trying to make up for the food missed. However, this is completely against the Sunnah. Moderation is the key to everything. The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said: "The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If you must fill it, then one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air." (Tirmidhi) Too much food distracts a person from many deeds of obedience and worship, makes him lazy and also makes the heart heedless. It was said to Imam Ahmad: Does a man find any softness and humility in his heart when he is full? He said, I do not think so.
Sleeping all day
Some people spend their entire day (or a major part of it) sleeping away their fast. Is this what is really required of us during this noble month? These people also are missing the purpose of fasting and are slaves to their desires of comfort and ease. They cannot bear to be awake and face a little hunger or exert a little self-control. For a fasting person to spend most of the day asleep is nothing but, negligence on his part.
The month of Ramadan is a precious, precious time, so much so that Allah calls this month "Ayyamum Madoodaat" (A fixed number of days). Before we know it, this month of mercy and forgiveness will be over. We should try and spend every moment possible in the worship of Allah so that we can make the most of this blessing. However, there are some of us who waste away their day playing video games, or worse still, watching TV, movies or even listening to music. Subhaan Allaah! Trying to obey Allah by DISOBEYING Him!
Fasting but not giving up evil
Some of us fast but do not give up lying, cursing, fighting, backbiting, etc. and some of us fast but do not give up cheating, stealing, dealing in haraam, buying lotto tickets, selling alcohol, fornication, etc. and all kinds of impermissible things without realizing that the purpose of fasting is to not stay away from food and drink; rather the aim behind it is to fear Allah. "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)" [al-Baqarah 2:183]
The Prophet (SAW) said: "Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, and ignorance, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink." (Bukhari)
The Prophet (SAW) said: "Eat suhoor for in suhoor there is blessing."(Bukhari, Muslim). And he (SAW) said: "The thing that differentiates between our fasting and the fasting of the People of the Book is eating suhoor." (Muslim)
Stopping Suhoor at Imsak
Some people stop eating Suhoor 10-15 minutes earlier than the time of Fajr to observe Imsak. Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen said: This is a kind of bidah (innovation) which has no basis in the Sunnah. Rather the Sunnah is to do the opposite. Allah allows us to eat until dawn: "and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night)" [al-Baqarah 2:187]
Not fasting if they missed Suhoor
Some people are too scared to fast if they miss Suhoor. However, this is a kind of cowardice and love of ease. What is the big deal if you missed a few morsels of food? It's not like you will die. Remember, obedience to Allah overcomes everything.
Saying the intention to fast out loud
The intention is an action of the heart. We should resolve in our heart that we are going to fast tomorrow. That is all we need. It is not prescribed by the Shari'ah for us to say out loud, "I intend to fast", "I will fast tomorrow" or other phrases that have been innovated by some people.
Missing the golden chance of having your Dua accepted
The prayer of the fasting person is guaranteed to be accepted at the time of breaking fast. The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said: "Three prayers are not rejected: the prayer of a father, the prayer of a fasting person, and the prayer of a traveler." (Al-Bayhaqi). Instead of sitting down and making Dua at this precious time, some people forego this beautiful chance, and are too busy frying samosas, talking, setting the food, filling their plates and glasses, etc. Think about it....Is food more important than the chance to have your sins forgiven or the fulfillment of your Duas.
Fasting but not praying
The fasting of one who does not pray WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. This is because not praying constitutes kufr as the Prophet (SAW) said: "Between a man and shirk and kufr there stands his giving up prayer." (Muslim)
Not fasting because of exams or work
Exams or work is NOT one of the excuses allowed by the Shariah to not fast. You can do your studying and revision at night if it is too hard to do that during the day. Also remember that pleasing and obeying Allah is much more important than good grades. Besides, if you will fulfil your obligation to fast, even if you have to study, Allah will make it easy for you and help you in everything you do. "Whosoever fears Allah, He will appoint for him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect, Allah is Sufficient for whosoever puts his trust in Him." (Surah at-Talaaq 2-3)
Fighting over the number of Rakaah of Taraweeh
There is no specific number of rakahs for Taraweeh prayer, rather it is permissible to do a little or a lot. Both 8 and 20 are okay. Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen said: "No one should be denounced for praying eleven or twenty-three (rakaah), because the matter is broader in scope than that, praise be to Allah."
Praying ONLY on the night of the 27th
Some people pray ONLY on the 27th to seek Lailat ul-Qadr, neglecting all other odd nights, although the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said: "Seek Lailat ul-Qadr among the odd numbered nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan." (Bukhari, Muslim)
Wasting the last part of Ramadan preparing for Eid
Some people waste the entire last 10 days of Ramadan preparing for Eid, shopping and frequenting malls, etc. neglecting Ibadah and Lailatul Qadr. Although, the Prophet (SAW) used to strive the hardest during the last ten days of Ramadan in worship (Ahmad, Muslim) and not in shopping. Buy whatever you need for Eid before Ramadan so that you can utilize the time in Ramadan to the max. Aishah (RA) said: "When the (last) ten nights began, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) would tighten his waist-wrapper (i.e., strive hard in worship or refrain from intimacy with his wives), stay awake at night and wake his family." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Although inviting each other for breaking fast is something good and encouraged, some people go to extremes with lavish Iftaar parties with all sorts of disobedience to Allah, from flirting, mixing of the sexes, to show-off and extravagance, to heedlessness to Salah and Taraweeh