[The following is a transcript of a lecture by Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui. It contains minor modifications from the spoken word for the purposes of readability. Originally published in June 2016]
As we begin Ramadan, we ask Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to give us the desire, and the energy with that desire, to behave and to do that which is most beloved to Him – during this month, after this month, and forever insha Allah ta'ala.
1. Focus on the Qur'an More Than Ever
I remind myself and all of you my dear brothers and sisters to focus on this month more than ever before. Invoke and supplicate to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to help our quloob (hearts) orient themselves towards Him and to focus our quloob on Him 'azza wa jall. This, so that we begin and end up, insha Allah ta'ala, detaching in our quloob from that which does not help us in our relationship with Him subhanahu wa ta'ala and our quest and pursuit of fulfilling 'ubudiyyah to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.
I advise you and myself, insha Allah ta'ala, to read a lot of the Qur'an. This is the month of the Qur'an. Listen to the Qur'an and read a lot of the Qur'an. Ponder the meanings of the Qur'an as well, insha Allah ta'ala. Some of the early salaf (predecessors) and early salihoon (righteous), radia Allahu 'anhum, including many companions and those after them, used to complete the Qur'an many, many, many times during the month of Ramadan. This is the month of the Qur'an. We invoke Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to help us bring our hearts in focus on Him, and not anymore as we do too often on our selves, our ego, our desires, and on the superfluous, shallow attractions of this dunya.
2. Eat Less, Gain More
I advise myself and you insha Allah ta'ala as we 'break our fast' – or, as we have iftar – that we eat very moderately. If we want to benefit in our 'ibadah (loving worship), salah, qiyaam (standing in prayer), taraweeh (extra prayers), and dhikr (remembrance of Allah), in Ramadan, insha Allah ta'ala, we should not eat more than before Ramadan. Ramadan is not meant to be a month of celebrating eating, as it happens in our Muslim countries and in our habits.
Ramadan is meant to teach us that there is happiness besides eating and that there is joy outside the usual pleasures of dunya. There is pleasure is Qur'an, in dhikr of Allah 'azza wa jall, and in spiritually connecting our quloob with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.
As we have iftar, insha Allah ta'ala, the sunnah of our rasul (ﷺ) and the sunnah of the salihoon is that they eat very, very little – i.e. very moderately. Maybe after salah a sort of dinner or suhoor, and they eat still moderately.
The point is to remember that Ramadan is not about eating more. It's not about more dunya. It's not about more of that. It's about less of that – so that we discover the joy of the qalb (heart). Without that, we won't. And thus, I advise myself first and all my brothers and sisters (may Allah preserve you all), to keep mindful of that. May Allah reward all of those that feed the needy and the poor and feed those who fast. May Allah reward them graciously and generously. Yet, the way we eat must be in such a way, for example, so that when we come to salah we do not come bored, late, lazy, or without presence of our quloob, and so that we are not in a hurry to leave.
3. Savor Your Salah
In taraweeh (extra nightly salah): yes, there is nothing deterministic about how exactly it is done in terms of how much we read. But the authentic reports tell us that our ancestors and models – and we are far, far from doing like them – when they finish taraweeh after Ishaa (the night salah), they have just barely the time to have suhoor before Fajr. These are authentic reports. For example, sometimes they read Surat al-Baqara. They didn't have to read one juz' (portion of the Qur'an) only. The idea of reading one juz' came later. We don't have to read a juz'; whatever we read is khair (goodness), alhamdulillah. But the sahaba used to read a lot – sometimes Surat al-Baqara and more. The way they read it is obviously not fast. Their ruku' and sujood is not fast – so that by the time they finish, it's just barely the time to have suhoor, may Allah be pleased with them all.
It's only later, because people have become not as spiritually committed and energetic as the first generations, that it was decided to have more raka'at (prayer cycles) and read the same amount of Qur'an, and later on more raka'at and even less amount of Qur'an. Nowadays, we complain if we stay even an hour or two or three. I don't think anyone stays three hours; if it is more than 20 minutes of half an hour, we feel it is too long.
SubhanAllah. May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala inject and impress upon our quloob the mahabba (strong, special love) of His dhikr. And the desire for salah, for salah is the mi'raaj of the believer. It is the spiritual ascending, means of ascension, or means of transport of the believer. When we are in salah, we should like to be always in salah, so that we don't want to leave salah. But if our quloob are not in that salah, we will never feel that way; we will only want to leave as soon as possible. So we invoke and beseech Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to impress in our quloob the hubb (strong, special love) and delight for salah, insha Allah ta'ala.
4. Ask Allah to Beautify Your Soul
Finally, I remind myself and all of you my dear brothers and sisters that Ramadan is a month to do our best to remember the beautiful virtues (akhlaq) that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala loves us to be characterized with inside. We should watch our internal moods, feelings, and states – that's our khuluq. Our khuluq is our inner image – how we look inside. I pray that during this month, we exert more efforts insha Allah ta'ala of the struggle against our nufus (low, base selves) through du'a, dhikr, tilawatil Qur'an (recitation of the Qur'an), reflection, and watching the state inside of us. We work harder at improving the state of our inner being inside, insha Allah ta'ala, while not forgetting the most important instrument in achieving that: a lot of du'a. A lot of du'a. A lot of supplication. A lot of invocation to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to help us do all of this, insha Allah. Ameen.
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