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A SEASON FOR THE SOUL

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Month of Sha’ban 
Realising Hope

The month of Sha’ban is the ideal time in which to develop our relationship with our Creator and gain His Pleasure and Love, says Batool Haydar  

“Rajab is the month of God, Sha’ban is my month and Ramadhan is the month of my Ummah.” – Prophet Muhammad(s)   

The month of Rajab presented us with the opportunity for a spiritual revolution and hopefully, we have done what was within our ability to  begin this revolution within us. With the start of Sha’ban, our focus shifts towards achieving a practical spirituality.  While we were the guests of God, we worked on mending our relationship with  Him. Now, as the guests of the Prophet(s), we can emulate his purpose and begin  to develop a deeper connection with our Creator.   

Blessings for the Picking 

The month of Sha’ban is unique from  all the months of the year because it  is the only month in which there are  no known occasions of martyrdom or  sorrow to commemorate. Imam Ali ibn  Abi Talib(a) has said that Sha’ban was so  named by God because His Blessings  and Favours are scattered (sha’aba)  everywhere during it. It is a month filled  with hopefulness and joy.  The Prophet has been quoted as saying,  “It (Sha’ban) is a distinguished month  and it is my month…it is a month in  which sustenance for the Believers  is increased and it is the month of  performing deeds…”  Just as Rajab was the time to seek  forgiveness and cleanse ourselves  of some of the unsavoury habits we  may have had, Sha’ban presents  us with an opportunity to  follow the recommendation  of the Prophet(s) and start to  mould the positive aspects  of our character. 

The four D’s of  Development 

Armed with motivation and  encouragement, Muslims should  be eager to start gathering up  all the benefits they can in the  coming weeks. However, all  projects require a plan of action if  they are to succeed. With that in  mind, here are some suggestions to  help you along. 

1      Decide 

As Muslims, we often aspire to reach  great heights of faith and piety. However,  the only way to realise these dreams, to  turn our hopes into reality, to begin the  process of changing thought into practical  action, is to first make a decision.  It is time now to make a firm resolution  to continue with the journey you  began last month. Just as you took the  time to target negative habits you had,  figure out what good habits you feel are  lacking in your life.  Do you know people who are polite and  possess attractive personality traits?  Then try to emulate them. If you look  up to people who are always there for  others, helpfulness may be a quality  you also seek. Study the Qur’an and  traditions for traits that describe the  Believers and pick those that appeal to  you. This will give your decision a more  personal feeling because you will be  able to connect it to a direct message  from God.  Ideally, select simple habits that will not  require too much of a lifestyle change.  The aim is to learn how to incorporate  spiritual deeds into life, but as seamlessly  as possible. You don’t want to run  out of steam a few days in! Imam Ali(a)  has said, “Do good and do not underestimate  it at all, for verily a little good  is actually a lot and a small amount of  it is much.” 

2   Do 

The simplest and hardest step in any  process of change is the actual implementation  of your plan. Whereas last  month, we were catching ourselves and  curbing bad habits, this month we have  to initiate good acts based on our aims.  It requires presence of mind and willpower  to put aside whatever else may  be calling for our attention, but it’s not  impossible. Make a schedule so that  you have set aside specific times for  what you are going to do. That way you  have nothing else slotted in at the same  time that could become an excuse or a  distraction.  Keep in mind that the Prophet says, “He  for whom a door of goodness is opened  must seize the opportunity for verily he  does not know when it will close.”  View every single day of Sha’ban as an  opportunity – every sunrise is an open  door and every sunset, the shutting of  that door. Develop a sense of desperation  to grab whatever you can, because  it’s impossible to exhaust the infinitely  abundant blessings that are easily available  during these days. 

3    Devote 

The Prophet was once asked, “What  deeds are loved most by God?” He said,  The most regular constant deeds even  though they may be few.”  In any new change we wish to adopt,  consistency is the key. Repetition  is necessary to instil a habit until it  becomes voluntary and part of our  subconscious. In the beginning, the  change may seem cumbersome, especially  in the case of spiritual habits.  This is because there is the additional  challenge of battling Satan who is  forever trying to prevent you from doing  anything that takes you closer to Allah.  This is why you must dedicate yourself  with mind, body and soul. You must be  determined to achieve the goals you  have set yourself. If you happen to slip  up and fall in the beginning (and we  all do), just dust yourself off and keep  on going. Remember, this is a journey  towards the Love of your life. It may not  be easy, but every step and stumble will  be worth it. 

4  Du’a / Dhikr 

People often say that to take something  from ordinary to extraordinary, you  need to have optimism or attitude or a  special trait that gives you an advantage  over others.  In reality, the magic ingredient that  infuses an action with Divine blessing  and takes it to greater heights of  success is du’a (supplication) and dhikr  (remembrance of God). Time and  again, we see in history that ordinary  people perform seemingly impossible  feats simply by including God in the  equation.  Imam Ali(a) says, “The root of reforming  the heart is in occupying it with the  remembrance of God” and likewise,  “Remembrance of God is a repellent  of Satan.” Based on this advice, as we  strive to move forward on our spiritual  path, what better company to keep than  the constant remembrance of our goal? 

Falling in Love with God 

There is an atmosphere of positive  energy in this month. With every day of  Sha’ban that passes the heartstrings of  Muslims throb with anticipation at the  thought of Ramadhan approaching. In  this month, it is as if we are standing at  the shores of the immense sea of Love  and Mercy in which we will immerse  ourselves with the start of fasting.  There is perhaps no more beautiful  supplication to reflect this mood  than the recommended Munajat  al-Sha’baniyya – a masterpiece of  poetic prose in which we reach out  despairing to God, much as a bereft  lover would reach out to his or her  Beloved. The words of this invocation  bring to mind the distance between us  and God and the intense yearning that  must exist within us to close this ‘gap’  in our spiritual disconnection from  Him.  At the start of the supplication,  we establish our utter reliance  on God by stating: “My Lord, I see  as if I am standing before You  protected by my trust in You.”  And then we move to understanding  how desperate  our situation is: “My Lord,  my apology to You is the  apology of him who cannot  afford his apology not being  accepted.”  The hope and optimism that is  infused in the unique relationship  between Creator and created  is brought out in the statement  declaring: “My Lord, if You had  wanted to disgrace me, You would  not have guided me; and if You  had wanted to expose my faults  and vices, You would not have kept  me safe and sound.”  And finally, we present the deepest  desire of our hearts: “My Lord, make me  one of those whom You call and they  respond; when You look at them and  they are thunderstruck by Your majesty.  You whisper to them secretly and they  work for You openly”.  The flow of this supplication takes us  within ourselves and shifts our perspective  to the correct angle. By reciting it  daily, we begin to comprehend exactly  where we stand, where we are headed  and who can get us there.  It is the best motivator to remind us  why we have undertaken this journey  towards God and the perfect balm for  the days in which our struggles do not  succeed as well as we had hoped. May  the Almighty bless us all with success  and sincerity in our  endeavours. •   

Batool Haydar is a wordsmith who has written  many articles and blogs

From: islam today magazine issue 20 vol.2 June 2014 - www.islam-today.net