Ramadan Diary #1: To prep or not to prep

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.

With Ramadan quite literally around the corner, like everyone else I am trying to be as prepared as possible for this holy month, going into over-drive desperately telling myself: “this Ramadan will be the best one yet inshaAllah!” If I’m honest, I say that every year.

But it does not always go to plan.

Being in the middle of interviews, job applications, an impromptu holiday with the family, preparation time has not been ideal. I feel I have not done enough emotionally or practically to prepare myself for this blessed time. I am mentally listing all the things I need; a tight schedule to be able fit in reading the Quran, apps which help me record my experience and my progress, informing my managers and let them know I will need a 15-minute break in the meeting room so I can fit in salah and some Quran – ‘I hope that won’t be much a problem. Thanks and regards, Arta’ – but I feel like I have left all of this till the last minute.

And such mental lists are only inducing anxiety-driven panic-planning.

Coming from a culture, where being a “practicing” Muslim sometimes means only being Muslim, praying Jummah prayers, and staying away from pork and alcohol only, “getting in the mood” for Ramadan is sometimes a little harder than usual. Not that this should be an excuse; as Muslims we should do our best to ensure that we limit the negative influences of our surroundings and not rely on others when it comes to the Deen; yet this is easier said than done.

So, this Ramadan baby steps have been my mantra, and a pledge to accomplish one single task this month will be better than doing absolutely nothing.

One thing I have recognised is the importance of remembering why I am doing certain actions. If it takes a quick Google search of the surahs and hadiths (which I wish I could include in here) pertaining to the increased rewards during this time, the mercy that descends on the night of decree, or a short video of the spiritual benefits of fasting to get you motivated, then do so.

Always remember that Allah wants us to come to him during this special time, and makes it easier for us. Muhammad (saws) is reported to have said:

“When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of hellfire are closed and the devils are chained.” (Bukhari)

However, the greatest advice I give myself this Ramadan is to not isolate intentions from actions. Do exactly what you have the intention of doing. No excuses. It is not enough to want to do something, and find that after a month the minimum that you have achieved is fasting daily and completing all your salah. Be realistic in your expectations, but once you’ve made them, try and keep to them to the best of your ability.

Going into this Ramadan I hereby pledge to do work towards the following goals, and I broadcast them so I can publicly be held accountable. Doing this with a friend or family member, can help with pushing yourself to going through the list more diligently.

  1. Perfect my salah – from extending our recitation and trying to increase our concentration, there’s always more we can do!
  2. Read the Quran, in Arabic and in English
  3. Use this time to understand my religion, choose one topic to last a week or even a fortnight, whatever fits around your schedule, always remembering not to over-do it
  4. Actively trying to get rid of bad habits – this can mean something different for everyone, whether its listening to music, waking up late or missing Fajr, the occasional smoke
  5. Daily adkhaar – an especially good one for sisters who have a lot of responsibilities as it can be done nearly anywhere and anytime!
  6. Create new good habits – again this is different for everyone. Ramadan is a fantastic time for new habit creation; many psychologists have documentedhow within a period of 30 days the brain adjusts itself to new routines.

Arta’s Ideas

Whatever your aims are, there are some great apps now available for the busy Muslim to organise their lives. Here are some of my favourites:

  1. Athan Profor my salah times (or whatever your local mosque goes by)
  2. Quran Pro to listen to the Quran on my journeys to and from work – and during work if this is allowed at your workplace, or if you’re a student and studying in the library if this helps you focus on your studies
  3. Glorious Quranand Quran Explorerfor reading the Quran on the go, particularly for those needing the transliteration and the English translation
  4. Ramadan Legacy– the headline Ramadan app that can be really beneficial for recording your experience and keeping track of the things you have accomplished during the month.

To everyone reading this, I wholeheartedly wish you the best and most productive Ramadan yet. May it increase us all in our deen, our Islamic knowledge, erase our sins, and contribute to new productive habits that we can inshaAllah carry forward post Ramadan and for the rest of our lives. Ameen!

Arta A. has completed her undergraduate studies in Law and Politics, and postgraduate studies in International Commercial Law – at each level using her modules and knowledge gained to research post-conflict Balkans. She hopes to carry on her research in this area at PhD level in the near future. You can follow her on Twitter at Arta_Ldn
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