In our latest series of articles, Arta A. takes us on her journey through the blessed month Ramadan with weekly diary entries! From sharing her reflections on this important occasion, to sharing practical tips in overcoming the challenges faced, stay tuned for her updates.
We are now about a week into Ramadan. As with any commitment we undertake, we try to regularly evaluate our progress and check up on ourselves: have we excelled, have we fallen short, or did we do just enough to accomplish the goals we set.
There are some who may have found by now that they have exceeded their expectations, and this can motivate and allow them to continue at the same pace, or in contrast, it could stagnate their progress as they convince themselves that they can now have a “slack week”.
There are some who have remained steady, accomplishing the goals they set, not overdoing nor underdoing it – and they too feel energised to remain so throughout Ramadan.
Lastly, there are those, who underachieve. Similar to the overachievers, these people can react differently to this reality. Some convince themselves that they will “fail” the whole month and will continue to underachieve. There are also those who feel intense guilt, and this is where I would like to start.
For mothers, pregnant sisters suffering from chronic fatigue, sisters in full time work struggling to fit in Quran and extra deeds around their tight schedule, or those who are ill or involved in full time care – this is guilt is often the reality, and it’s the position I have found myself in.
Still in the midst of interviews and focusing heavily on preparing myself through role play interviews, amending my CV, brushing up on technical skills I haven’t used in a while – it’s safe to say, my Ramadan progress so far has not been as successful as I would have hoped.
But whilst I may fit in the last category, I refuse to let that be the reality of my whole Ramadan.
Firstly, I remind myself that we are in the first Ashara of Ramadan – the first 10 days of Mercy, and it automatically helps in re-align my thinking. The immediate thing that comes to mind are the following two hadiths:
“Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” (Bukhari)
“Allah is only merciful with those who show mercy to others.” (Bukhari)
The first hadith addresses the guilt. The ‘I feel like I haven’t worshipped Allah as intently as I can’, ‘I haven’t remembered Him enough through dhikr’, ‘I haven’t connected with the Quran and memorised/understood as much as I hoped.’ The type of guilt that can make you feel hopeless or that you are not deserving of the mercy and forgiveness of Allah: “One month out of the year, and I can’t commit to an extra 10 minutes with the Quran after each salah?!”
This hadith alone dispels all these fears.
‘I am as My servant thinks I am’ and ‘if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed’. You remind yourself that Allah will show mercy so long as you see Him as Ar Rahman, the most merciful and Ar-Raheem the especially Merciful, and remember that the smallest acts of getting close to Allah are valuable and worth doing.
Guilt now turns from something that can lead to an anxiety-driven cycle of unproductivity and failure, into hope and reflection on how to improve.
The second dua encourages you to take the opportunity during these ten first days of Mercy, to show mercy yourself. Do not burden yourself with excessive expectations, recognise the constraints of your reality as a test. It also reminds us that having mercy itself is an especially rewardable action: how you talk to someone or treat them will weight heavily on your scale of deeds.
Some guilt is good. It’s tangible proof that you want to strive to do better. Acknowledge that, but do not drown in it. Spending too much time thinking about how much you’re not doing/achieving takes away time from time you can spend actually doing something, therefore:
- Re-think your plan assembled in the beginning of Ramadan. You said you will spend 15 minutes of Quran after every salah, and that has been too strenuous? Try 10 minutes for the next week.
- There are few more days left for these first 10 days of Mercy, the following is encouraged to recite:
Rabbi ighfir warham wa-anta khayrur-raahimeen
“And say: ‘O my Lord, forgive me and have mercy on me (always treat me with Your forgiveness and mercy), for You are the Best of the merciful.” (Surah Al-Muminoon 23:118)
- Islamic knowledge: I talk to a few sisters, and ‘reading’ to gain Islamic knowledge, excluding the Quran can seem challenging – either because sisters are multi-tasking throughout the day and cannot sit and read with the required concentration. An alternative that may help is watching documentaries on YouTube on various Islamic topics. This may engage your attention more than a book, and in turn can help with tackling the book at a later time.
Thoughts very often turn into actions. If you think you will not make most of this Ramadan that is exactly what will happen. Therefore, I encourage all of you to be positive! Make all your goals achievable, and insha’Allah we are still in the running to have a successful Ramadan!