Ramadan of Leaders – The Last Nights


As-salamu `Alaykuim Wa Rahmatu Allah,

Dear Community Leaders,

Ramadan is the month that emphasizes a connection with the Quran, achieves personal spiritual growth, and rejuvenation, and fuels our own `ibada (worship) as leaders.  The commitment to `Ibada is evident in the example of Prophet Muhammad and the other prophets. 

وَجَعَلْنَـٰهُمْ أَئِمَّةًۭ يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا وَأَوْحَيْنَآ إِلَيْهِمْ فِعْلَ ٱلْخَيْرَٰتِ وَإِقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ وَإِيتَآءَ ٱلزَّكَوٰةِ ۖ وَكَانُوا۟ لَنَا عَـٰبِدِينَ ٧٣

“We ˹also˺ made them leaders, guiding by Our command, and inspired them to do good deeds, establish prayer, and pay alms-tax. And they were devoted to Our worship.” (Quran.21:73)

Leaders can derive practical lessons to take fourth in the last ten nights of this blessed month, the Aya spotlights the form of worship that can be emphasized in guiding people by the guidance of Allah, doing good deeds, establishing prayer, zakat, and being devoted to worship. The verse highlights two aspects of doing the khairat (good deeds). First recognizing that this is by inspiration from Allah. Second, realize that this is a very inclusive term, and if the action is for the sake of Allah and according to the Quran and Sunnah this is all khairat. Included in this term is any intentional undertaking of doing good, such as taking care of family, or studying religious sciences. 

In particular, one should keep three themes alive in the last 10 days, Jidd, Ijtihad, and Mujahada

  •  Jidd is being more serious, and goal-oriented with regards to Ibada we intend to accomplish and thinking about this seriousness while performing the `ibada.  
  • Ijtihad is when we put more effort into worship, such as the intensification of the Quran and night prayer (Qiyam), more than other times of the year, with the Prophet (SAW) exemplifying this for us. 
  • The third aspect of doing good (khair) is Mujahada, struggling against yourself, trying to fight one’s own desires, and wants during this special time: Redirecting ourselves and energy to fight against sleep for example or struggling to give more sadaqa (charity), if one does not usually give.  Whatever khair we have been doing that is good from the beginning of the month, the last 10 nights is the time to intensify and apply these three propelling and elevating principles in what one is doing. 

So, to summarize: Do more specific good with a specified intention of intensification, putting effort, and struggling to perform.

Leaders need to be among those that are described as “those were amongst the worshippers”.  Using dua (supplication), in acknowledging the need for Allah in our lives, and in crying out to Allah for our needs in order to connect with Allah and feel that Allah can respond to us. Surah Anbiya in the Quran gives example after example of how Allah responds to our calling (nida) with the example of the Prophets: 

وَنُوحًا إِذْ نَادَىٰ مِن قَبْلُ فَٱسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُۥ فَنَجَّيْنَـٰهُ وَأَهْلَهُۥ مِنَ ٱلْكَرْبِ ٱلْعَظِيمِ ٧٦

And ˹remember˺ when Noah had cried out to Us earlier, so We responded to him and delivered him and his family from the great distress. (Quran, 21:76)

۞ وَأَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُۥٓ أَنِّى مَسَّنِىَ ٱلضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ ٱلرَّٰحِمِينَ ٨٣

And ˹remember˺ when Job cried out to his Lord, “I have been touched with adversity, and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (Quran, 21:83)

وَذَا ٱلنُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَـٰضِبًۭا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِى ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِ أَن لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ ٨٧

And ˹remember˺ when the Man of the Whale stormed off ˹from his city˺ in a rage, thinking We would not restrain him. Then in the ˹veils of˺ darkness he cried out, “There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except You. Glory be to You! I have certainly done wrong.” (Quran, 21:87)

These lived examples show us what to do in our daily life, and particularly in the last 10 days of Ramadan, crying out to Allah always. When we do this, we will feel he can guide us. The more we do this, `ibada that implores Allah for his goodness and bounty, thanks and praises him for our ability to do so, the more rejuvenated our hearts and actions are.  

This concept of humbling and pleading for Allah’s grace and mercy is also emphasized in our consciousness more when we experience calamities, and challenges during this month, personally, community-wide, or in the Umma. Quran, 57:22-24 reminds us about the calamities on earth and the existence of suffering, reminds us that Allah Alone is truly self-sufficient and praiseworthy.  Allah tested the Prophets with challenges. Their response was constant closeness and calling out to Allah. This is the month when we can challenge ourselves to rejuvenate, retune, and fill our hearts with Allah and the Quran. This is the month of recentering, of cleansing ourselves, of ridding ourselves of as much of the material world as possible, the last 10 nights are the time to ask for this cleansing more than ever.

 As people in service of the community, one needs to keep in mind that the service of people can not take away from our own personal connections with Allah, we have to be aware that we can not replace obligations towards Allah – that include the farida (obligation) of ritual worship, like prayer, qiyam (night prayer), istighfar (seeking forgiveness) – with becoming too busy in the service of others. While the service of others is an `ibada too, there is no acceptable excuse for neglecting one’s own relationship with the Quran, with obligated worship, and the fara’id of character such as the attention to family and the unity of the ummah. Allah prioritized the fara’id for a reason, and they cannot take the back seat in lieu of other things, even if these other things are good to do.  Having a personal connection with Allah, with the Quran, and being attuned to one’s own ability to routinely ask Allah in humility with sincere dua (supplication), is a source of honor (`izza), unlike asking from others, which is a source of debasement. While being of service to others as leaders and giving them their rights (huquq), we need to be vigilant that this work does not take us away from the established rights of Allah.  While keeping the 3 themes of the last 10 days Jidd, Ijtihad and Mujahada, in our dealings with personal worship, while simultaneously partaking in our obligations in communal worship, the most successful leader, is the one that can engage his family in fi`l al-khairat (doing good) alongside each other with good after good.  

Exerting oneself in commitments to Allah, to ibada, improves and fuels our connection as individuals, as families, and as communities, which is the task of the leader. The last 10 days are part of the أياما معدودات ayyaman madudat (few days of Ramadan). Let’s strive to improve the quality of our `ibada. Even when with others, our relationship with Allah should be the foremost, focus of everything we do. By having a personal baseline of deeds, one does privately every day that no one else sees, and by serving our families and communities this month, a balance that is established in the principle of utmost mujahada (struggle) in all aspects of ourselves, our thoughts and actions can be achieved.  We ask Allah to allow us to fulfill our obligations towards him with excellence (ihsan),  to accept our `Ibada, to cleanse our hearts, to accept our dua, and we praise and thank the Lord and Master of the worlds always. ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ

May Allah accept what has already passed and grant us the strength to make the best of what remains of this blessed month.

Dr. Mina Zeini
Master in Islamic Religious Leadership Student
Boston Islamic Seminary

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