Assalaamu Alaikum everyone!
We are 5 days away from Eid al-Fitr which means Ramadan is almost finished. It was my goal to fill this blog with articles before and during the holy month with helpful tips and lessons that I’ve learned. Instead, life took over and I became fully immersed in simply trying to experience and make it through the month. In reality, life does not stop for times such as these. If I could have had it my way, I would have spent this month with my husband and his family overseas. I would have opted to bypass all of the stressful hurdles that come with life change so that this month I could have focused solely on my iman and staying on my deen. I would have surrounded myself with friends and family who are of the same faith and lifestyle as myself instead of eating iftar alone.
I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. Ramadan is a time that emphasizes spending time with our loved ones and sharing in this fast together. When your family is not on the same path as you and if you’ve struggled to make friends in the local Muslim community, this seems like the perfect time to feel self pity. It’s easy to feel down and alone, like you’re struggling. But you can’t. Ramadan isn’t simply about family, it’s also about personal growth in our iman, a commitment to our deen, charity, worship, and prayer. This is definitely not the time to feel sorry for oneself no matter the situation. I know that it’s difficult, especially when you can see families eating together and celebrating Eid together and when you see friends spending time together to distract each other from the hunger. When you don’t have that, it seems like the most precious thing in the world and it’s all you want. So how do you thrive during this holy month when you don’t have that?
As I’ve gone through this month, I’ve found that this time alone is a blessing. The only distractions are ones that I choose to let in so I have no excuse to miss my prayers or to neglect studying the Quran or to forget about charity. Being alone, there is less a chance to be influenced into negative behaviours. I learned that creating a healthy, productive schedule for the day starting with suhoor puts us in the direction we want to walk in for the rest of the day. Don’t rush, take your time with preparing the food and eating. I like to keep this meal simple, healthy, and easy to digest. I follow this same mentality with iftar as we are told to eat for nutrition and avoid excess. I make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the evening and early morning so that I do not find myself overly dehydrated during daylight hours.
This is also a wonderful chance to commit to praying on time and with great care. Take the extra time to pray the sunnah prayers as well and memorize a few supplications so you can make dua by heart. After your prayers and if you have time, study the Quran. During this month, I would recommend letting go of modern entertainment and look to Islamic books and speeches instead. As you are going about your day, listen to Islamic speakers and podcasts to fill the silence but to also learn and find solace in the fact that you truly aren’t alone in this world. Many of these episodes and speeches can be perfectly applied to everyday life and can give you much encouragement if you are feeling down or lost.
If you are blessed to have family and friends close by whom you love and enjoy spending time with, make an effort to be around them. Even if they are not Muslim, being in their company still gives you a chance to practice compassion, educate if they are curious, and establish good representation for the Islamic faith and lifestyle. If you do not have family and friends close by, find ways to volunteer around your community. You can also reach out to your local masjid to see if they hold any classes for women or if they have any female activities.
You can also develop a daily routine and stick to it, no matter what. This will encourage you to be productive and not spend the day in bed, although it is so tempting! Set a goal for yourself this month like reading through the entire Quran, learning Quran, reading through a good Islamic lifestyle book, writing, creating art, deep cleaning your house, spending time with a neighbour in need, learning something new, etc. Make sure to get adequate sleep, take naps if you have to, and don’t stay up later than necessary. Cook real food for iftar and suhoor and make sure they are balanced and healthy meals. If you have a day off, cook a lot of food that day and freeze it so that you can save time and energy on cooking every day.
I’ve seen a lot of posts lately surrounding the topic of self-care. Most of these center on buying gimmicky products and treating ourselves to unhealthy habits. While buying a new face mask and indulging on that cupcake from that one Instagram-worthy bakery (or during this month, binge-watching Netflix) can make you feel good temporarily, Ramadan is not about these quick fixes and over-indulgences. To me Ramadan is a time to focus on lasting, beneficial change. Throughout this month, I’ve come to realize that my attitude needs adjusting sometimes, I can be self-centered, I put too much time into worthless things, I practice a few bad habits, and I’m not as committed to my deen as I could be. So my version of self-care is to stop with the self-sabotage. It looks like eating healthy, small meals and going to bed on time only after praying on time. It also looks like working on my attitude and putting the petty away when she tries to come out and play. It looks like not complaining about horrible drivers during my commute to work (I’ve failed at this practically every day). It looks like being quiet and listening instead. It looks like reading good books that call me out on my negative habits (Purification of the Heart, anyone?). It looks like loving my husband unconditionally and treating him with as much respect and care as he deserves. It looks like being grateful for all that I have been given and all that is to come. It looks like being positive. It looks like taking naps instead of perusing the internet. It looks like putting my all into my work and not half-heartedly approaching anything. It looks like self-discipline in the face of anything. It looks like letting go of control and trusting in Allah (SWT) to take care of it all.
I am not sure if I would have realized all of this if I had not been alone. To sit and reflect on oneself and life without distraction is such a beautiful gift. Through all of this, my eyes have been opened to so much and I could not be more grateful. As I said before, it is easy to feel the sting of loneliness and descend in to self-pity. But that will lead to nowhere. I believe aloneness is a gift from Allah (SWT) to recenter and focus us on what matters. It is a gentle but effective way to remind us to return to the practices He has commanded of us and to see so very clearly, the areas in which we need development. I hope that for all of my sisters out there who have experienced being alone or struggling through this Ramadan, Allah (SWT) brings you happiness and peace. Have a blessed Ramadan!