As we bid farewell to our beloved month of Ramadan, we begin to settle back into our ordinary day-to-day routines. Every year it’s the same: as time goes by and the festive spirit of Ramadan fades into memory, we return to our struggles of keeping our heads above water in the drowning issues of dunya (worldly lives). We begin counting down the months to the next Ramadan, craving that time when we know we will re-engage with our Qur’an, fall back in love with our salah (prayer), and reconnect with our Maker. And so the cycle continues…
So what can we do to maintain that connection with Allah all year round? It can’t be Ramadan every day, but we can do something every day to maintain our imaan (sincerity of faith) and protect and enhance our relationship with Allah.
Here are some ideas:
1. Read Qur’an
I know, I’m starting with the obvious. Whether you’re able to read it in Arabic or just its translation in your own language, I personally find nothing more spiritually strengthening than spending some time reading the Qur’an every day – and I also find nothing more spiritually weakening than when I neglect this daily habit. The words of the Qur’an are, after all, Allah’s own words that He sent down to us. If we want to engage in a conversation with Him, this is how to listen to what He wants to say to us.
2. Pray – And Pray On Time
This might be just as obvious as point no. 1, but when our heightened focus and motivation of Ramadan has dwindled down, diluted by our return to other worldly commitments, our commitment to our salah can sadly be something that seriously suffers. How can we expect to maintain our relationship with Allah if we’re not turning up to the appointments He has arranged for us? If reading the Qur’an is our listening side of the conversation, then our salah is when it’s our chance to speak. It’s even been made so easy for us – we are told how best to ask for the things we need the most (“Guide us to the straight path…” Qur’an 1: 6) before then having the opportunity to ask for anything we wish, whilst in the position where we are at our very closest to Allah.
“The servant is nearest to his Lord during sujood (prostration), so increase your supplications therein.” (Hadith: Sahih Muslim)
3. Talk To Him
We don’t have to wait until salah to speak with Allah. We can talk to Him all the time, like you would a close companion. While driving, while walking, while doing any mundane daily task like cleaning… Just talk to Him, and ask from Him.
I used to work in home care and had the pleasure of working with a sweet elderly lady who inspired me by the way she used to do this on a regular basis. Into her nineties and having been a widow for many years, she lived alone and didn’t have the physical stability to ever really leave her house. But if she suffered any bouts of loneliness, she certainly didn’t show it. “I spend my days talking to God”, she once told me, “just like He’s here in my house.”
If you’re not a natural at speaking, try writing Him a letter. He already knows what’s in our hearts before we’ve even spoken it, but getting it out definitely helps in strengthening that feeling of connection.
4. Talk About Him
Not all spiritual conversations have to take place in solitude. Gather yourself with believing friends, whether physically in the masjid (mosque) or a cafe for example, or simply digitally in a WhatsApp group or social media. Conversations that glorify Allah will be filled with barakah (blessing), as even the angels descend to listen.
“When a group of people assemble for the remembrance of God, the angels surround them (with their wings), (God’s) mercy envelops them, sakina (tranquility) descends upon them and God makes a mention of them before those who are near Him.” – (Hadith: Muslim)
5. Spend Time With Those Who Remember Him
Whether or not we are actively talking about Allah, just being in the company of another believing person can bring a form of rejuvenation to your soul. As someone who currently lives in an English country village, I can sometimes go for weeks and weeks without sharing the company of a fellow Muslim. Regular visits to my northern city -endearingly referred to as my ‘second home’- are therefore, I feel, totally vital to the health of my imaan. These glimpses of time spent surrounded by my believing sisters, my familiar masaajid (mosques), and just accessible halal food (!) has an invaluably uplifting effect on my soul.
6. Exercise Your Mind So That Everything Reminds You Of Him
Regardless of where we live, whether it’s a prominently Muslim area with plenty of Islamic community and activity, or rather a rural quiet town that has never heard a peak of an adhaan (Islamic call to prayer), we are still, continually and seamlessly, always surrounded by Allah’s creation. Even in a soulless concrete jungle of a city, we only have to look up to see the sky.
“And We made the sky a well-secured canopy…” (Qur’an 21: 32)
The air we breathe, the food we eat, even our fingernails – everything is from Him, and ultimately, everything should remind us of Him. So increase in our remembrance by exercising our minds and repeating words of dhikr (remembrance) often. “Subhaan’Allah”, “alhamdulillah”, “Allaahu akbar”, “laa ilaaha illallaah” (‘glory to Allah’, ‘all thanks and praise to Allah’, ‘Allah is the greatest’, ‘there is no god worthy of worship except Allah’).
“So remember Me; I will remember you.” (Qur’an 2: 152)
7. Learn About Creation
In order to encourage ourselves to remember Allah more often, we should engage ourselves in learning more about the world around us so that we more appreciate Allah’s role in it all. The more you understand and know about all of creation in general, the more you will love the Creator – which is possibly why Allah made it incumbent upon every believer to continually seek knowledge.
This doesn’t have to be in an Islamic capacity – in fact, some reportedly atheist scientists present some incredible documentary series whose programs fill me with total awe of Allah (Professor Brian Cox and Sir David Attenborough being two of my particular favourites). I struggle to understand how anyone can witness the indescribably intricate perfection in the design of our ecosystem, the laws of physics, the mind-blowing capacities within our own anatomy, and not attribute this as pure irrefutable evidence that we have a Divine Creator.
Whatever your subject of interest, whether it’s animals, nature, astronomy, geography, you name it – watch documentaries, read books, learn about it, be amazed by it, and be amazed by the One who designed it.
8. Increase In Doing Good Deeds
We are blessed to follow a religion that rewards us for giving charity when doing something as simple as just greeting someone with a smile. In our every day life, we meet and spend time with people on a regular basis, and no matter how busy our schedules may be, there is always time for kindness and good manners.
Allah is so merciful towards us, that if we commit a bad deed it is written against us only once, yet if we offer a good deed, He writes it for us 10 times up to 700 times over. How magnificent is that? So even just being able to carry out a good deed should fill us with love and appreciation for our Lord.
Whether you’re giving in charity, helping a neighbour, cooking a meal for family, showing kindness to an animal, simply smiling at your sister/brother, or carrying out the many other opportunities to perform a good deed, keep your intentions pure aiming solely to please Allah, and allow your actions to draw you ever closer to Him.
“God is with those who do good.” (Qur’an 29: 69)
9. Utilise The Last Third Of The Night
Our good deeds don’t always have to be something we do for other people; sometimes it can be something purely between you and Allah.
We’ve just come out of the last 10 days of Ramadan, so we’re plenty used to being awake at night and seeking connection with Allah while the rest of the world shuts down to sleep. Of course it’s much easier to do this when Shaytaan (Satan) is locked away and distanced from whispering evil thoughts of distraction, and we’re engulfed in the motivating spirit of Ramadan. But that doesn’t mean our nights in worship can’t continue throughout the rest of the year, even if it requires just that little extra effort.
“Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven on the last third of every night, and he says: Who is calling upon me that I may answer him? Who is asking from me that I may give him? Who is seeking my forgiveness that I may forgive him?” (Hadith – Sahih Bukhari)
Just 2 rakah (units of prayer) of tahajjud (night prayer) can give your soul an amazing boost. Not to mention you then have that golden pocket of time in the silence of the night while you wait for Fajr (the pre-dawn prayer). You can read Qur’an, engage in dhikr, or any other acts of worship without the usual distractions normally stealing you throughout the day.
10. Just Ask
While you’re offering tahajjud, or making sujood during any salah, or making dhikr throughout the day, or simply having a conversation with Allah, just ask. Ask Him for nearness, ask Him for closeness, ask Him to increase your connection with Him. Ask Him every day. Even just the act of sincerely asking this will earn us reward inshaa’Allah (God-willing), so we actually have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
If you do literally none of the other points in this list, if you make no other effort to gain closeness to your Creator, do this one thing: just ask Him.