After having discussed this improving the ṣalāh - the prayer, I wanted to relate this back to the month of Ramaḍān. I want to talk about the spiritual implication of prayer and the structure of Ramaḍān. Something that we don’t understand very well about the month of Ramaḍān is that it cures the heart. Ramaḍān is a time to cure the heart and clean it and purify our souls and our hearts. The heart is a container. There are numerous aḥadīth that tell us the heart is like a container. Purifying the heart is similar to purifying a container.
Let’s say you have a bowl or cup and have some dirt in there. You want to drink cool, pure water out of this cup or this bowl. What is the very first thing that you have to do before you can drink water out of it? You have to empty it out and dump the dirt somewhere. Our hearts are full of a lot of unfortunate things, whether it be certain sins or attachment to certain sins or jealousy or hatred or enmity or lust. We have to clean it out and wash it out. This is what fasting is about. We literally deprive ourselves and deny ourselves those things that are permissible for us. Eating ḥalāl food and drinking ḥalāl things are permissible. Engaging in physical intimacy with one’s own spouse is permissible and ḥalāl for us. We deprive ourselves of these permissible things to empty out the heart and train the nafs.
Once you have emptied out the cup and rinsed it out, if you want to quench your thirst, you have to fill it with water. In Ramaḍān, we fast and empty out the cup, but if we really want to improve ourselves with lasting improvement and benefits, we have to fill up the cup with something and quench the spiritual thirst we have. This is the second component of the month of Ramaḍān, which is prayer and recitation of the Qur’ān. Too often when we talk about ṣalāt’l-tarawīḥ, the first question asked is, “Is it farḍ?” No one will tell you that it is farḍ. There is a very explicit and clear ḥadīth where the Prophet says that he did not want it to be farḍon his ummah.
As soon as we hear that tarawīḥ is not farḍ, we say that we are going to fast and do what we have to do, and that’s it. I want to recommend to you that Ramaḍān is not a time to look at the bare minimum but is a time to excel. SubḥānAllāh, what a tragedy if we are looking for the bare minimum during Ramaḍān, then what is going to happen after Ramaḍān is gone and the blessing of Ramaḍān is gone and the shayāṭīn are unleashed? This is something to really think and ponder on. Ramaḍān is a time to excel and to try to be the best that we can be and do the most that we can do so that we have something left over to show for.
What I am trying to say is that we should make an intention for the month of Ramaḍān in general. If we go into the month of Ramaḍān with the intention of completing 29 or 30 fasts, then Ramaḍān will have come and gone and we will have gotten whatever we intended to get out of Ramaḍān, which was 29 or 30 fasts. If I made the intention that I wanted to give a little in zakāh and ṣadaqah and read a little Qur’ān here and there, then Ramaḍān will have gone and that is what I will have gotten out of it. I’m not saying it is a bad thing, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree we are looking for something more out of the month of Ramaḍān.
The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Allāh has no need for us to deprive ourselves of food and water.” The purpose of fasting is to improve ourselves and better ourselves and our character and akhlāq. Similarly, our goal in the month of Ramaḍān is not to fast a certain number of days or to read a certain amount of Qur’ān or to give a certain amount of money in charity, but our purpose is to better and improve ourselves. Have something to show for it. In order to achieve that, you have to make that intention.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) tells us in a ḥadīth qudsi: “I deal with My slave according to His expectations from Me.” So, write down high goals, have high intentions, expect to achieve great things this Ramaḍān. Allāh will not disappoint us and we will see the tangible and practical improvement by the time Ramaḍān is gone bi idhn illāh!
May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) allow us all the ability to practice everything we have said and heard. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) allow this month of Ramaḍān to be a month of benefit for us. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) give us the ability to make the best of our prayers and allow us to pray as the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to pray.
Notes from http://ramadanprep.ummahnow.org/Day%205%20of%20Ramadan%20Prep%20-%20Abdul%20Nasir%20Jangda.pdf