Self-Evaluation in Ramadan
June 13, 2016, New York City
During this meeting, we discussed Self-Evaluation in Ramadan. We were contemplating a hadith by Prophet Muhammad which states, “Anyone who fasts and engages in self-evaluation in Ramadan will find heaven.”
The practice of fasting is widely followed in the Muslim community, but the practice of self-evaluation has been forgotten. Self-evaluation is the spiritual component of Ramadan and it is something in which the Prophet engaged on a daily basis. Regular self-evaluation helps us realize at the intellectual level that God and everything He said to us are things that really touch our lives and aren’t ideas that stay outside of us because we are busy and need to go to work and this is not the same time as when Prophet Muhammad lived. If we think about it, we will realize that we can live our lives without once contemplating why we are doing what we are doing and that we are doing it because our family has been doing it for decades.
Self-evaluation helps us identify aspects of our lives that we would like to make better and then ask God to help us make them better. There are four aspects of our lives that are important to most people: Spiritual growth, personal relationships, health, financial freedom, and professional success. We want to see ourselves change for the better every day and when we feel that we are stagnating, it causes frustration. Making sure that our prayer (salat) is personally meaningful to us by first making sure we understand the words we are saying and then by contemplating ideas behind those words we are saying regularly in the prayer should help us make our prayer more meaningful and in time, we should see the change in ourselves. We need to make sure that when we fast we attempt to realize that it is a method of self-discipline and among many of its facet, one important one includes proving to ourselves that we are not subject to our bodies cravings but that we can and will do what is required of us in order to help God guide us where we want to go. Our satisfaction in life also depends on the health of our personal relationships. Criticizing or blaming the other person for an unhappy relationship will not make it better, but finding out positive ways by which important relationships will become better is what will, in time, make them better. It goes without saying that we can’t do much of anything unless we are healthy. A good number of us lives in the world today where we can find healthy food and facilities for exercising. Deciding on a healthy habit and keeping it is the way to achieve our goal of remaining healthy and avoiding diseases of our ancestors. Poor financial situation is one of the main reasons for unhappiness for a good number of people. Making plans for saving a portion of our income and giving away a portion of our income to worthy causes are the ways of increasing our wealth. Finally, many people are unhappy with their jobs so finding ways to change our profession or make certain adjustments if a total change is not needed, can only come through thinking about, that is, evaluating what we can do to make this change or adjustment take place. Setting up a plan with a career counselor as to the steps to follow to change our profession or make whatever adjustments may be necessary is one concrete way to see a positive change in this respect.
Overall, none of the above is possible without our first taking the time to think through what is making us unhappy and then attempt to see what we can actually do about it. This is one of the purposes of fasting: Self-evaluation to understand where we have been and where we are going so that, in time, when we ask ourselves (before we are asked by God), we can say to ourselves that we didn’t waste a life given to us for a particular purpose. That purpose is what we are getting at when we engage in the practice of self-evaluation.
Some of the ideas that came to mind to those who were present during this class include a notion that with self-evaluation comes planning – what is it that we want to see happen? The aspect of thanking God is extremely important. All Prophet’s duas (supplications) start with giving thanks to God. Prophet also said that saying thanks to God is the best prayer. Person who lives in a state of gratitude is in a stream of benevolence. God clearly said that if we are thankful, He will give us more. A person becomes what he or she thinks about most of the time. If our thoughts constantly revolve around what is going on at present, we become trapped in it. The present is constantly becoming a thing of the past so we should focus on what we want to see a week from now. Dua means that we are unhappy about certain aspect of our life and that we are thinking about our lives, so we formulate an idea in our minds about what we want. What is very important is that we need to realize what we are thinking of. If we think about what is bothering us all day long and spend 2 minutes on dua, that isn’t going to help us. We may pray for certain things but it is good to think through what we are asking in order to try to understand why we feel certain way. In thinking about future, it is much better to utilize writing because it forces our minds to concentrate and think with specificity. Being healthy was a huge part of Prophet’s religious practice. “Fast, so you shall be healthy,” is also what he said.Summary by Alma Subasic