This is Ramadan, the blessed month of fasting: a month of rigorous training for you to increase your mental control over your bodily desires.

It’s time to wage war against your own self in order to free you from being your own slave. This is Jihad-al-Akbar, The greater Jihad.

It is easy to fight others, criticise others and to point out what’s wrong with them. But it is most difficult to look at yourself, critically evaluate your past conduct and scrutinise your own self in an objective manner.

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Ramadan is a month of striving, fighting and embarking on a war-path, not against your obvious enemies, but the greater enemy within.

It is a fight against self-righteousness, laziness, false pride, ego, unlimited freedom, anger, boasting, inefficiency, insensitivity, undisciplined life, unlawful relations, as well as over-eating.

How does Ramadan train you for this self control and how does this fight begin with your own Jihad, the enemy within.

Sawm or fasting is much more than simply abstaining from food and drink from dawn to dusk.

Firstly, fasting is not for show. No one can ensure that you do not eat or drink during the day. It is an act you impose on yourself with your own choice with only Allah as the witness. You take this decision of your own free will and you ensure that you stick with this decision.

Abstaining from eating and drinking does not mean that you go slow. As matter of fact you have to be more active and efficient during the month of fasting.

You must get up early in the morning for Suhoor, the early morning meal to mark the beginning of the day of fast, even if you don’t want to eat much. Offer your Fajr prayer and study Quran. Resist the bad habit of sleeping again after Fajr.

Then you perform all your normal daily responsibilities of household duties, study and work with extra diligence with breaks for Zuhr and Asr prayers and study of Quran. Avoid the bad habit of sleeping during the day while you are fasting or cutting down on your school study or begging your supervisor to cut down on your work hours with the excuse that you are fasting.

During the day you must maintain your Jihadi spirit of continuous struggle, watch yourself at all times not to indulge in wastage of time. You should display your best behaviour in the society, treating all those around you, family, fellow students at school or your colleagues at work with courtesy, compassion and friendliness.

You should be punctual, should not waste time, should not talk or laugh too much and should not get too excited or angry. Your behaviour must be very thoughtful and sober.

This daily good behaviour inculcates a lifestyle of conscious living in which you are careful of not encroaching upon the rights and property of others, fulfil your obligations and duties and remain within the hudood, boundaries set by Allah.

By the evening when you are tired, after Iftar, the evening meal to break your fast, again you cannot simply retire and have rest. You have to offer additional special prayers in Ramadan, Taraveeh, thereby engaging yourself in further worship and meditation in order to gain spiritual strength and consciousness of Allah.

After the training period of Ramadan is over, you can not go back to your old ways. You have to maintain the NEW YOU that you have created during Ramadan for the rest of the year.

You keep control over yourself, your Jihad and carry on this Jihad-al-Akbar throughout the next 11 months of the year until next Ramadan when you get the opportunity to improve yourself even further.

(Addressing “you” here includes myself)

ZI Ahmad