by Yousra Elhawary
If athleticism is defined as “the physical qualities that are characteristic of athletes, such as strength, fitness, and agility” and athletes as “persons proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise” then one must wonder if it is necessary to compete to become an athlete.
Many would argue that competition is an integral part of a complete sporting experience, however, a few athletes have decided not to engage in the competitive games, but rather, to live discovering the magic of a sporting experience. These athletes are mostly involved in individual sports where each player has only their inner belief to count on.
In fact, non-competing athletes are in a state of constant competition with everyday challenges such as numerous finish lines and training goals they adhere to with a resilient drive, determination and a deep desire to flourish. True athletes find competition without another person in sight. The “self” is their ultimate opposition; they continuously strive to compete.
Non-competing athletes systematically train and strive to better their capacities and are ready to push themselves to higher levels of success. They are hard-wired to win challenges at all costs and are often seen as highly influential since they strive for excellence. Their performance and consistent competition against inner desires and short-lived pleasures are inspiring. They possess the flexibility and creativity that allow them to deal with multiple difficulties and are always capable of creating the ideal environment and finding a way towards the achievement of their targets. Fatigue and stress are opponents to be overcome in this game!
Nevertheless, few are the wise, for Allah ﷻ said, “Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds – and few are they”. 38:24. Indeed, few are true athletes who utilize the gift of their given capacities in the journey towards the obedience of Allah ﷻ. These select individuals know that their endurance is their backbone to stand against the winds of calamities with resolution and certainty because there is no way to attain these promised rewards except with patient perseverance. Therefore, they trained their lungs to expand and breathe in the extreme hypoxic circumstances of trials and hurdles. Further, they increased their strength to persist in the daily battles of faith, yet flexible enough to adapt and persevere to uphold divine decree.
This state of physical and spiritual fitness is what allows them to pedal and go through pitfalls with resilience and courage without the reward of fame or glory but with consciousness and full responsibility for their actions, competing with self and time!
In the last ten nights of Ramadan, we offer non-competing athletes seven helpful tips from the Quran and Sunnah to elevate their spiritual fitness and gain as many good deeds in this blessed opportunity to attain Allah’s mercy for eternity.
1- Roll up your Sleeves
The last ten days and nights of Ramadan hold even more significance as Allah shows great mercy to His creation. It is reported from the hadith of ‘A’ishah (radi Allahu anha) who said, “When the last ten days of Ramadan came, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would stay up at night, wake his family and gird his loins”[al-Bukhari, 1920; Muslim, 1174].
We often tend to realize the value of persons and things only when it is taken away from us. If you ever had that feeling of: I wish, if I only… remember that this Ramadan may be your last, and these ten nights may be your only chance for eternal mercy from Allah ﷻ, and salvation from the torment of the Fire! So, roll up your sleeves and be eager to seek every opportunity for good deeds. Follow sunnah in seeking Lailat-ul-Qadr and supplicate:
“Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun, tuhibbul-‘afwa, fa’fu ‘anni” which is translated as
“O Allah, You are Most Forgiving, and You love forgiveness; so forgive me”.
2- It is time to compete
“For this let the competitors compete”. 83:26
Allah ﷻ encourages His servants to apply themselves to the obedience of Him. Al-Hasan Al-Basri used to say, “Allah made the month of Ramadan a racetrack where His creatures compete in obeying Him to attain His Pleasure. Some people come first and thus have won; others lag behind and thus lose out. How amazing is the state of the runner who has cause to laugh on the day when the doers of a good win and the doers of falsehood lose!”.
Have you had plans and intentions to maximize your benefits this Ramadan, but families and friends, school and work, tasks and duties – life took your eyes off the prize?
It is never too late!
Shake off the dust!
Rise up and place yourself back on the track.
Remember, every second matters to win the race!
3- Revive your cognitive capacities
It was reported in another hadith that ‘A’ishah said: “I never saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) recite the entire Quran in one night, or spend a whole night in prayer until the morning, or fast an entire month, except in Ramadan.” [Sunan al-Nasa’i, 1641].
On one of these nights, Quran was revealed to the Messenger ﷺ and his companions to mend the hearts, set life straight and make one patient in the face of the bitter difficulties of life.
Quran is the source of the ayat that will enlighten the mind to observe and interact with the daily signs Allah ﷻ sends to you. Recite the Quran to bring this beautiful light to mind and prepare the heart to receive the divine signs!
4- Give and Respect
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was the most generous of the men, and he was the most generous during the month of Ramadan. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
One of the first things that come to our minds when hearing the word generosity in religion is sadaqah, “Anything given generously — freely to others — with the intention of pleasing Allah ﷻ”, and one of the things that seems the other needs the most today, is respect. You can’t respect others without accepting them as they are.
List respect in your spiritual plan for the year to come. As your heart becomes truthful to fulfil the right of the Creator in His creation, develop your generosity in the form of respect for the existence of others and let your slogan be ” I see you, I hear, I am accepting your existence!”
5- It is time for seclusion
Among the things Our beloved Messenger ﷺ did was secluding himself in I’tikaf and seeking Laylat al-Qadr during this time. [Al-Bukhari, 1913; Muslim, 1169].
How many times have you secluded yourself to maintain your physical balance, achieve your training goals, or keep your eating habits? You probably realized that maintaining equilibrium to reach the ultimate goals requires sacrificing those short-lived, relatively easy moments that offer immediate gratification and a sense of excitement! Possibly, you lived his saying ﷺ, “Those in solitude have raced ahead.” Sacrifice pleasures to improve your cognition, emotion and action. Pray and seclude for that sense of completeness in the nearness to Allah ﷻ.
“If I am imprisoned, it is seclusion for worship. If I am killed, it is martyrdom. If they expel me from my land, it is tourism.” -Ibn Taymiyyah
6- Race in goodness
“So strive as in a race in all virtues”. 2:148
Celebrating the achievement of others can boost confidence and increase motivation! Defeat that inner voice that takes over you out of guilt, and nurse that jealousy to increase your ability in the race for good deeds. Purify your intention and let your adversary be the source to motivate you to strive harder for the pleasure of Allah ﷻ. While you show appreciation, vie with one another in good works and strive hastily thereunto in the month of truly racing. Ramadan!
Aim high and go the extra mile!
7- Elevate your doability
‘A’isha reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying, “The acts most pleasing to Allah are those which are done most continuously, even if they are small.” (Bukhari and Muslim.)
Each person who comes into your life is a guest who entered it to teach you a lesson. Indeed, Ramadan is a dear guest that came and very shortly will depart. So make sure to learn from its numerous lessons and blessings!
As you set your spiritual goals for the year to come and draw on your guest’s blessed lessons, remember that Ramadan is the time to restructure and recharge for an entire year as part of this continuous journey of self-development. In your journey of purifying the self, make some courageous steps to continuously develop and grow in a way that pleases Him ﷻ.
We ask Allah to make us among those who listen to the good and beneficial words and follow them!