Ramadan has passed! In those past 30 days, all Muslims have written their own story through their unique planning and commitment, their dua and hidden tears, inner peace in their hearts, and their relation with Allah (glorified and exalted be He). Today, apart from the good spirit of Eid that fills our hearts with joy, two important questions are certainly on everyone’s minds: Have I done enough? How can I sustain my religious and social productivity after Ramadan?
First of all, let us be honest with ourselves: who has ever succeeded in perfectly executing his or her Ramadan plan?
As humans, no one is perfect and neither are we expected to be! All of us have certain goals that we could not carry out as efficiently as we had hoped to. It could be because our schedule was a little bit exaggerated or because of unexpected incidents. Many of us may have really tried hard but with little success. Please, do not feel bad or label your attempt as a “failure”. Focus rather on how much you tried and be proud of your attempt.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “(The value of) an action depends on the intention behind it. A man will be rewarded only for what he intended.” [Muslim]
This hadith is very reassuring because it does not only explain the importance of the intention, but it also indicates that the reward we are promised does not depend on what we eventually accomplish. Rather, the reward depends on what our true and honest intention was before we set out on doing the act. In other words: the reward does not depend on the results. Instead, it depends on our efforts even if the circumstances did not help us fully accomplish our intended act.
A worry that fills the hearts of parents is that they spent the majority of Ramadan working outside or inside home instead of doing ibadah (worship). Here is where they need to make a perspective shift. Their devotion to provide their family with a decent life is not only ibadah, but an important source of sustained and continuous reward In sha Allah. Accordingly, every minute you spend at work, in traffic, every little effort in housekeeping and caring for your kids is considered a blessed mission even on normal days. So imagine how much more rewarding it would be to do the same in Ramadan?
Now review your Ramadan planning. If you find that you had committed to 50% of your Ramadan schedule, that is a great sign! It means that you have boosted 50% of your productivity in 30 days, Alhamdulillah! Your heroic mission now is to sustain this progress as much as you can.
But how can we sustain our productivity?
When Allah (glorified and exalted be He) gives us the privilege to be forgiven on the last day of Ramadan if we fast out of sincere faith and hope for His reward, all the expressions used by Him indicate that ALL our sins will be completely wiped off and our life will be like that of a newborn, pure baby [Bukhari]. If we really appreciate this new start, we will not take a step forward without caution and planning. We need to take this opportunity to carefully measure the progress we’ve made, assess where we had gone wrong and strive to be one of those who are the best of those who make mistakes - as described by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he said:
“All the sons of Adam are sinners, but the best of sinners are those who repent often.” [At·Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]
Here are some tips I’ve put together to help you in planning for and sustaining your Ramadan productivity levels In sha Allah:
1. Make Dua to Stay ProductiveWe complete the month of Ramadan with remarkable levels of spirituality and positive energy. Shaytan, who has been held for the past 30 days, will intensify his efforts to take this spirituality away as soon as possible. The conflict between our ego, our spirituality and shaytan is not a battle that we can win easily. Making dua is essential to guarantee Allah’s (glorified and exalted be He) support throughout our daily struggles. One of the most beautiful Prophetic duas for holding on to our spirituality and productivity is the following:
‘O You Who makes hearts steadfast make our hearts steadfast in adhering to Your religion.’ (‘Allahuma, ya Muthabbet al-qulub, thabbet qalbi ala deenek’) [Ibn Majah]
2. Pay Attention to Your EnvironmentMany of us have normal routines such as having a morning coffee or breakfast at work. Unconsciously, we miss doing some mistakes we used to do as well. Returning to our daily routine will include returning to the same environments that bring up those unpleasant desires again (extra free time and energy to waste, friends you used to smoke or waste time with, gossip or even miss salah). Paying attention to your environment is essential to sustain your productivity. When shaytan tries to seduce us, he does not come with his red horns and stick, trying to convince us to return to our old destructive habits. He will take on many forms and shapes, and the old unpleasant company is one of the most efficient sneak-back strategies. Try to eliminate or avoid unproductive environments as much as you can. You can knock the door of your friends’ hearts with a word of caring advice – perhaps they need help and could change. But be cautious: destructive company will drag you over to their side if you cannot drag them to yours!
3. Commit to Attending a Weekly HalaqaDoing ibadah is easy in Ramadan because of the collective focus on it. It is a universal month when all Muslims around the world engage in more ibadah and ritual worship. The act of fasting itself is a good reminder about focusing on staying spiritually productive throughout the day. However, after Ramadan you need extra reminders to boost your motivation because you will not have the same communal support as before in performing ibadah. Moreover, with the busy pace of life, we gradually lose our spiritual energy. Attending halaqa (religious study group) once a week is a great way to bring us back to and stay on the right track. It keeps you aware of Allah (glorified and exalted be He) and helps you keep your Afterlife in view always. Attending halaqa keeps you in good company: people whom you can discuss your religious feelings, reflections and experiences with.
Attending halaqa at the masjid with good friends is the ideal image we have in mind. But in the 21st century, a halaqa can have many versions. You can watch a video on YouTube of any speaker whose style and message interests you and later discuss it with a friend. Wherever your are or whatever your circumstances, the Internet has made it difficult for anyone to claim he or she does not have any religious and social resources.
4. Set a New ScheduleI have always held on the belief that it is not heroic to attend taraweeh when every Muslim in your community does so. However it is heroic to remain consistent in performing 4 rakahs (units) of qiyam (voluntary prayer) every single night even if your friends are waiting for you to watch a football match, or when the lights are turned off and everyone is asleep. This is the heroic mission that we should stick to: to do ibadah when everybody returns to his or her usual routines.
Having a new schedule is absolutely essential. Your new plan should comprise at least 30% of what you achieved during Ramadan. You can review each activity you performed in Ramadan and include at least 1/3rd of it in your new schedule. For example: if you used to pray 20 rakahs of taraweeh, schedule 8 rakahs of qiyam daily in your new schedule. If you used to pray 8 rakahs of taraweeh, make that 4 rakahs of qiyam in your post-Ramadan schedule. Set monthly missions like: helping a friend, giving sadaqah (charity), doing dhikr, reading a specific amount of the Qur’an, voluntary fasting, etc. Always specify the quantity of your goals and stick to deadlines you can commit to. Do not exaggerate or try to replicate your Ramadan schedule. I know you will find the new schedule very minimal when you compare it with what you did during Ramadan, but consistency is what matters now. Our beloved prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
“The most beloved deed to Allah’s is the most regular and constant even though it were little.” [Bukhari]
5. Keep Track of Your Ramadan Records“In my first Ramadan, I discovered new limits in me as a human being. I will never, ever forget the feeling of water going down my throat after 17 hours of fasting!”
This was one of many amazing reflections of a dear sister who experienced her first Ramadan two years ago. These words gave me a completely new understanding of Ramadan. It is an opportunity to discover your hidden limits and overcome them. If you ask any non-Muslim about abstaining from eating and drinking during the long hours of July while still being productive, his or her answer will be: impossible! This is what Ramadan is about: challenging the impossible. If you revisit your Ramadan, I am sure you will find a couple of things that you succeeded in doing even though you never thought you could do them before. That is why you should keep your Ramadan programme as a reference of your hidden potential. Every time you miss qiyam or reading the Qur’an because you feel tired, or stop doing dhikr because you are thinking about everyday problems, or even lose hope in changing the world around you, return to the records you set in Ramadan and get a dose of “yes I can in sha Allah!” energy.
Finally, may Allah (glorified and exalted be He) accept our every little effort and count it in our balance of good deeds. Let’s make dua that we will observe the next Ramadan with much more positive energy and honest intentions In sha Allah.
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