By Isra Ashi – @simply.israa
It’s so exciting! We love preparing for it, with hopes and dreams of living better lives through it and after it.
Each year we tend to set large, flamboyant, adventurous goals with big intentions, then we find ourselves experiencing burnout about 10 days in which can really affect the remainder of Ramadan. We feel that we have let ourselves down, feel deflated, and may not make much of an effort in the rest of Ramadan for fear of burnout again.
So this year, let’s focus on setting simple, achievable and realistic goals; let’s stick to small and consistent deeds which we can achieve, develop into habits and be able to continue with after Ramadan.
It’s important to ask yourself the hard questions, to really think about where you are in each aspect of worship and what you want to improve on or change, and write it down somewhere. By writing it down you are solidifying it for yourself making it a solid goal to work towards.
I recommend we split our goal setting for Ramadan into 3 sections:
- Physical Worship
How and why should we look at all of these when all we want to do is just pray taraweeh and read some Quran? Let’s delve in deeper.
Let’s take a look at physical worship first. Split it into 5 elements and really, really consider where you are right now with regards to your relationship with each and how to improve.
1. Salah (Prayer)
What’s your current relationship with your prayer? Whether you pray on time 5 times a day or don’t pray much, there is always space for improvement!
If you don’t pray much, why don’t you work yourself up to 5 time per day this Ramadan?
If you already pray 5 times per day, make an effort to pray as soon as the athan comes in (download an athan app) or consider adding sunnah or additional voluntary prayers.
For example, you could wake up 10 minutes earlier and add 2 extra rak’as of tahajjud before Fajr and establish this as a new habit.
(Note: in Ramadan you’ll be awake before Fajr anyway so this should be easy!)
If you already have these in check, then why not work towards increasing your focus during Salah?
(I recommend checking out the ’30 Top Tips for Attaining Khushoo’ in Prayer’ eBook).
The take home point here is there is always room for improvement within your salah.
What’s your current relationship with the Quran? Has it left your shelf since last Ramadan? Have you opened the app on your phone in the last few weeks or months?
What about your recitation? Are you fluent in reciting, or do you still need a little bit more practice?
Consider setting yourself a time limit or setting a goal for reading – be it 1 verse, half a page, 1 page or 1 juz’/para – ensure that your goal is personal to you and that it’s achievable.
Since Ramadan is the month of the Quran, it’s important for us to actually benefit from what we read, therefore we should take steps to understand what we read.
If you’re looking for a great way to recite the Quran alongside thousands of people from around the world, I’d recommend using this brilliant app by the Quran Club– you can contribute a few pages or reading, and it’ll be adding to a khatam (completion) around the world.
We can set a goal for tafseer (commentaty/explanation of the Quran) – whether it be some short surahs or a long surah, it’s beneficial for us to connect to the Quran and with our Creator through the words that HE sent down to help us live our best lives in this world and the next.
A really good, short and easy series I’d recommend you to watch on a daily basis would be the ‘Ten Minute Taraweeh’series by Shaykh Sohaib Saeed, in which he summarises one chapter of the Quran per video.
This year, iSyllabus are also creating a brand new Ramadan Hub in which they will be releasing short explanations of the each chapter in the Quran on a daily basis.
We can also listen to Quran recitation throughout the day, especially when we are unable to read, I recommend that you find a reciter that really connects with your heart and listen to his recitation, as this will help you develop an emotional connection with the Quran (and also improve your own recitation along the way!)
My current favourite reciters are Jibril Wahab and Hazza AlBalushi.
Thikr (remembrance of Allah) comes in different formats; it can be simply repeating words such as SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, AllahuAkbar and other phrases, or reciting du’as mentioned in the Quran and hadith at certain times of the day to seek Allah’s protection, blessings, and rewards.
“…Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [Quran – 13:28]
How much thikr do you make in a day, if any?
Maybe start off with listening to an audio of some athkar being recited every morning, and set yourself an alarm as a reminder every day so you don’t forget.
(I’ve put together this playlist of thikr recitations for you to listen to.)
For example, you could set a goal regarding istighfar (seeking Allah’s forgiveness). You could aim for 100 a day, or split this into 10 after every prayer.
Did you know that the Prophet (pbuh) used to seek forgiveness from Allah up to 100 times per day?
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “I ask Allah for forgiveness one hundred times a day.” [Sahih Muslim – 2702]
You can even have a list of different athkar that you can set a goal to learn and repeat, e.g. a new one every few days or every week?
4. Du’a (Supplication)
As recommended in the Ramadan Legacy Planner, writing a Master Du’a List really helps you to remember all your du’as.
(Tip: use code DEEN15 at ramadanlegacy.com for 15% off your purchase)
If you are not used to making du’a, no need to worry – that’s the amazing thing about du’a! Allah doesn’t specify who is worthy of making du’a, or when. You can make du’a anytime, anywhere and Allah knows what’s in your heart. Just raise your hands and offload your worries to your Lord!
(Yes there are some du’a etiquettes and some recommended times that may be better than others which is always good, but it’s important that you just raise your hands and realise that Allah is the One Who can help you and lessen your burdens and answer your deepest du’as!)
Not only monetary, but all acts of good deeds done with the right intention towards others are rewarded as an act of charity.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
Charity is due upon every joint of the people for every day upon which the sun rises. Being just between two people is charity. Helping a man with his animal and lifting his luggage upon it is charity. A kind word is charity. Every step that you take towards the mosque is charity, and removing harmful things from the road is charity. [Sahih Bukhari – 2827]
Help your mum, or sibling, or neighbour with something all count as a good act of charity. Maybe arrange a study circle at home, or sit together to watch a lecture or reminder. There are so many opportunities to gain rewards by doing general ‘good deeds’.
Now that we are spending a lot more time at home during the ‘lockdown’, we should be able to save money on eating out daily. Why not use this extra money to give to your favourite causes this year?
I’d recommend signing up to the LaunchGood Ramadan Challenge. You can choose a set amount to give every day and the money will automatically leave your account and be donated towards a worthy cause.
What flaws do feel you have regarding your own character and manners?
Do you get angry quickly? Are you impatient with people? Do you talk about people behind their backs?
What would you like to change about yourself? What would you like to improve?
Maybe you could ask a person close to you to honestly tell you something that you could improve on, and during Ramadan really make an effort to work on it.
Top tip: studying the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a great way to learn the best of all mannerisms. I’d recommending reading the book ‘Muhammad the Perfect Man’.
Look at your daily life and think about what habits you would like to stop doing or cut down. Maybe you spend far too much time on social media or Netflix? Or using bad language? Or a high sugar intake? Or smoking? Or looking at the wrong things online? Use Ramadan to work on the habits that you would like to improve on.
Putting it all into Action
Once you have self-assessed and set yourself goals with regards to each element, the tricky part is actually committing to it throughout Ramadan and beyond.
During Ramadan I will be having a #MySimpleRamadan series on my Instagram page to help us reflect daily on our progress, and I have created a ‘Ramadan Progress Tracker’ that can simplify your self-assessment and track your progress at the end of each day.
You simply circle whether you’re ‘happy with’ or ‘need to improve on’ the main elements and it helps you prepare for the next day.
The Ramadan Legacy Planner is a great tool to help you set goals and follow through with them. Throughout Ramadan I will be collaborating with them for the #MySimpleRamadan to bring to you some reflections and suggestions for improving and making the most of our Ramadan.
Ramadan in lockdown will be a very different experience, but inshallah it’ll be a great opportunity for self-reflection, for growth and for living a simple and basic Ramadan as the Prophet (pbuh) and companions experienced long ago, where they focused on simplicity and the essence of Ramadan, and that’s introspection and connecting with our Lord.
Remember that your spiritual journey is your own and shouldn’t be rushed, don’t compare yourself with others and keep your focus on your development and growth.
May Allah accept all your fasting, worship and good deeds and may you have a blessed Ramadan.