Imagine fasting from around 3:10am until around 8:50pm (as I write this post) and yes not even water!! This is the reality for me and millions of Muslims worldwide, who abstain from eating and drinking from dusk to dawn during the Holy month of Ramadan.
This year whilst we do this under #lockdown, it’s the perfect opportunity for us all. For me it is an absolute #blessing to have had the opportunity to utilise my time efficiently. Since I’m not having to do the school run, not having to commute back and forth from work and overall just being less stressed, I have been able to benefit tremendously from the extra time that I have during this blessed month.
The month is seen by some to be a spiritual cleanse. Many of us are engaging in good acts, making a lot of prayer, reading the Quran and giving charity. It is a beautiful time to be mindful of our behaviour, pondering on goals, setting new goals and reflecting on those things that we are grateful for.
Physically the act of fasting has numerous benefits in terms of our health; modern science has only recently discovered the benefits of intermittent fasting, an act many do in order to detox and increase health and fitness, yet us Muslims have been doing this for thousands of years.
This Ramadan I have set some goals for myself because I want to achieve more spiritually in terms of my personal growth and development. Especially as I try my best in becoming more positive and mindful. I would like to find ways of turning the negative inner thoughts I always succumb to into productive ones.
Below are 8 things that I have been trying to do for the past 3 weeks, so that I could fully benefit from the month.
1. Being conscious and mindful of why we fast-having the right intention.
Think to yourself, when you are given an instruction and you are not told the reason, how likely are you to perform that action with full integrity? Having the right intention is something that is completely emphasised in Islam. Its benefit is similar to that small switch we can make to our mindset. I would liken it to the analogy of a glass being half full as opposed to half empty. Thus when fasting such long hours, although difficult, I feel a sense of peace knowing that I have made the intention of doing a positive act. I feel calm and I’m level headed and just focus on doing the best!
2. Trying to perfect my prayer-being mindful during salat.
At a time like this, our minds are all over the place. We’re constantly thinking about the current situation and when it will end. Many of us will be guilty of not concentrating during our 5 daily prayers for one reason or another especially right now. Being conscious of the actions in the prayer will have a very big impact on your concentration during salat. When you are in prostration, be mindful that you only prostrate to Allah. For me as a mum, I find it even harder with the kids constantly disrupting me so I find solace during the early mornings of Fajr- that’s when I try to fully immerse myself in my prayers with no external distractions. These few minutes also make me extremely happy Alhamdulillah!
3. Contemplating the words of Allah
The month of Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an so we should be making the most by the reciting, reflecting and implementing of the Qur’an. Reading the Qur’an just for the sake of completing it will benefit you because you gain rewards for every letter you read but if you don’t understand the Arabic language, you may find it difficult to understand the Qur’an.
And thus you may find it difficult to have a deeper connection with the Qur’an. What will bring you closer to Allah and to achieving mental clarity is deciphering the meaning and understanding of these words.
What I have been trying to do is to read up on the translation of some of the smaller chapters. At the moment, I have been trying to understand the meaning of Suratul Dhuha, Dr Yasir Qadhi explains it in this video in terms of the psychological meaning of the chapter especially in terms of the topic depression. For me, I discovered this video at such a perfect time Alhamdulillah.
A good book that has the tafseer of the Quran and is very clear is The Clear Quran by Dr Mustafa Khattab. And a great exercise to do is to read the translation of a specific surah and then reflect on how it relates to your actions.
4. Implementing sunnah by eating nourishing foods
When you eat nourishing foods, you’ll have more energy throughout the day to function and perform acts of worship well. I have been struggling with this but I have tried to reduce indulging in sugary snacks and to curb my cravings, I have been eating more dates which of course are both nutritious and delicious.
5. REFLECT REFLECT REFLECT
This has been my number one goal this year, especially with the aid of my Ramadan legacy Journal- I give myself a good 10-15 minutes daily just to reflect and note down both positives and negatives- I feel like having this goal motivates me to strive for the best. InshAllah I know that one day these beautiful reflections and documentations would help me during those times when I am most in need.
6. Make the most of every opportunity
I’m very passionate about making the most out of any situation because it’s the little moments that build over time that make a big difference. I’ve been trying to squeeze in as many good deeds whenever I get a chance. For example, when I’m washing the dishes or cooking for my family, I am making a lot of prayer.
Another thing I am trying to do is switch my mindset. This links to the first point about intention but I would just like to reiterate how beneficial it is to change ones mindset. Many of us come out of Ramadan and we feel like we haven’t done enough, we feel like we could have spent more time reading the Quran or doing extra Ibaadah.
It’s important to realise the menial tasks that we deem as not beneficial actually can be turned into acts of goodness (Ibadah) with just a switch in our mindset. For example, when I am cooking I like to make the intention of feeding my family to gain the rewards of Allah. I try to remind myself of the below hadith before I begin cooking. Try to find moments during the day where you can switch your mindset and get rewards like never before!
7. Make a dua list
For yourself, your family, your friends and the ummah. When we’re in prayer (sujood), we often stumble on our own words because we don’t know what we want to ask Allah. There’s so much we would like to ask but we find it hard to focus on one. Firstly, the process of making a dua list is very therapeutic because you are able to clarify what’s important to you at that moment in time. Secondly, when you take time out to focus and ask Allah for things you are able to concentrate on making specific duas without feeling overwhelmed.
In the last ten nights, it is especially beneficial to seek Allah’s forgiveness so I hope you have done even more during those nights. I have tried my best but at times throughout this month I have been suffering from extreme exhaustion and weakness so it has been a bit of a struggle.
8. Gratitude reflections
Note down on your phone, a notebook/journal or even record yourself saying one thing that you are grateful for on a daily basis. I write these reflections down using my journal and I can’t recommend this act enough. On one of the latest episodes of the mindful muslimah podcast on the topic of experiencing sadness during the month of Ramadan, the sister advises on reflecting on the many blessings we have, to take a step back and look at those who are in actual suffering; all so that we can be grateful with what we actually have and are blessed with! Another connotation I came across recently from the video mentioned previously by Dr Yasir Qadhi is to think of the things we have rather than those that we don’t and only then we would feel immense gratitude and thus happiness as a result!
As someone on a journey of mindfulness and peace, I am trying to do everything in my power to fully embed myself in the journey. Whether I strive on some tasks or stumble on others, the main point is being peaceful, mindful, grateful, optimistic, remembering Allah often, being happy with my family, showing that love to my kids and making a lot of deep prayer inshallah!
I am forever grateful for the opportunity of experiencing this Ramadan under lockdown. I feel some sort of mental clarity and calmness, which I have never felt before and hope to continue with this positivity from now on until next Ramadan inshallah!