Avoiding the Post Ramadan Slump
by Ayesha Khan
Reflecting on what you gained and hanging on to it
Notice the New You
We spend quite a bit of time psyching ourselves up before Ramadan. During Ramadan we direct our energy towards purifying ourselves, and all of sudden Eid comes and life, with all its myriad demands, resumes full throttle. So many of us do not usually get a chance to reflect on what we gained over that blessed month.
Recognise what you achieved
Even though we had shortcomings, may not have achieved all our goals, and felt our ibadah was imperfect, the gains of Ramadan were enormous – so much so that at the end of Ramadan we should have a clean slate.
No wonder that Ramadan is rewarded by Eid – a day of happiness, forgiveness and acceptance.
As Mufti Taqi Usmani in his book, Dhikr to Fikr observed Eid is not a celebration of a historic event, as many other celebrations are in other faiths, but the celebration of our own personal achievements in the present.
Eid teaches us to focus on our own actions. Just as Eid al Adha is a celebration at the end of a period of worship, Eid al Fitr is a celebration of what we set out to do, how we persevered and how we reached the end of the month.
We celebrate our internal growth and our external ikhlaq towards others – that we strengthened our connection with Allah Almighty and with each other.
Be aware of your clean slate
By Eid, we should have had all our minor sins forgiven if we performed qiyam on laylat ul qadr, fasted during Ramadan or performed qiyam in Ramadan. (And our major sins forgiven if we did tawbah).
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Whosoever performs qiyam during laylat ul qadr (Night of Decree), with Faith and being hopeful of Allah’s reward, will have his former sins forgiven.
Whosoever fasts Ramadan with Faith and being hopeful of Allah’s reward, will have his former sins forgiven.
Whosoever performs qiyam during Ramadan with Faith and being hopeful of Allah’s reward, will have his former sins forgiven. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Remain motivated. Continue as you began.
One of the signs of acceptance of a good deed is when we are able to follow it up with more good deeds. For example, fasting in shawwal.
Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be (rewarded) as if he had fasted the entire year. (Muslim)
This gives us the motivation to continue good deeds post-Ramadan. Whether it was increased recitation, reflection, praying on time or waking for tahajjud we can retain those newly formed habits longer term .
We don’t want to go back to how we were before Ramadan, as Ramadan should carry us through to the next Ramadan and we want that to be an even better Ramadan.
We have to be careful then not to ruin our good deeds after completion. Our deeds are precious, and we do not wish to throw them away.
Maintain taqwa beyond Ramadan
One of the gains of Ramadan was achieving closeness to Allah Almighty by having continuous connectivity with Him – fasting during the day and worshipping at night.
We increased our level of ibadah from an average day, increased our self-control, and crucially increased our level of taqwa.
We want to hang on to the feeling we achieved in Ramadan, that connection with Allah Almighty, the closeness and increased duas. Just as we were vigilant about waking for fajr, tried to pray on time, avoided backbiting, and were mindful that we were accountable for every word we uttered, we want to maintain that level of consciousness in all aspects of our behaviour, particularly when shayatan has returned and is stirring up conflicts again.
Realise your strengths
Reflect on the new habits you formed and how you can hang to them. This letter which Imam Malik’s wrote has very useful advice for us in analysing our strengths:
Imam Malik was once told by the ascetic (Zahid) ‘Abd Allah al-‘Umari, that he ought to devote more time to spiritual seclusion and to other personal acts of piety. Imam Malik wrote a letter of courtesy to him, offering this piece of wisdom:
Allah, exalted is He, apportions people’s actions as He apportions their sustenance. Sometimes He grants a spiritual opening to a person in terms of [optional] prayers, but not [optional] fasting. Or He grants an opening in giving charity, but not in fasting. To another, He grants them an opening for jihad. As for spreading sacred knowledge, it is from the greatest of deeds, and I’m pleased with what Allah has opened to me. Nor do I imagine that what I am engaged in is any less than what you are engaged in; and I hope that both of us are upon goodness and righteousness.’ (al-Dhahabi, Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala)
Its adab and humility aside, the core lesson from the letter is: When Allah Almighty opens a door to being consistent in doing a certain righteous deed, and makes that your main focus, then cling to it and do not give it up for anything else. We should, undoubtedly, have a share of other good deeds too; without them necessarily being our main preoccupation or focus.
Something similar is suggested in a report about Ibn Mas‘ud, when he was asked as to why he did not fast optional fasts more frequently.
His reply: ‘When I fast, it weakens my ability to recite the Quran; and reciting the Qur’an is more beloved to me than [optional] fasting.’ (Ibn Abi Shaybah, Musannaf, Tabarani)
Pick your door to jannah
This is a powerful message on reflecting on our strengths and instead of trying to do everything we can, building on the acts of worship to which we are already inclined towards, including caring for others.
There are 8 doors to Jannah, one for extra salahs, extra fasts, extra charity, caring for parents, and so pick your door and work towards it.
Quality over quantity
Once you have found the deed you want to focus on, cling to it and perfect it. Start it with the right intention and when you complete it ask for its acceptance.
What matters is not the amount you did by the quality of what you did.
Allah loves to meet him; and if he is given the tidings of the punishment of Allah, he hates to meet Allah and Allah hates to meet him.
Reflect on your routine
In order to hang on to new habits it is worth examining your daily routine and focusing on performing obligations in their set times. When you perform them on time, you find your time is freed up later. Though you may feel that doing something else first and performing your obligation later takes the same time, when you perform your obligations first you find barakah in your day and your day goes more smoothly. You achieve more than if you had delayed the obligation.
Plan your day and pray at its earliest time. Think ahead so you know where you will be when salah time comes.
The Prophet (peace be on him) taught us the importance of an early start:
Whomsoever is fearful, he will start his journey early, and whoever started his journey early, he will reach his destination safely. Verily the merchandise of Allah is expensive, verily the product of Allah is Paradise. (Tirmidhi)
The concept of starting early means starting early in life but also early in the day, as certain times like the last third of the night and fajr time are blessed.
Don’t return to bad habits
If you gave up caffeine, stay off caffeine. Ramadan gave us heightened control over ourselves, enabling us to give up the halal, which means it is easier to dispense with the haram. We were empowered in Ramadan by being freed from our dependence on food, sleep, caffeine and the temptations of dunya.
Do not postpone good deeds. As an example, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘Perform hajj before you cannot perform hajj.’ In other words, if you have the health, wealth and safety, go before it is too late. Some people keep finding excuses, but it is not a valid excuse to say you can’t go for hajj because you have a mortgage.
The simple formula to jump the queue when you are wishing for goodness in your life, is to respond to Allah Almighty’s commands with the attitude of obedience. When you are responding to Him, you are responding to what is giving you life and light and positivity.
In surah Anfal, Allah says:
Oh you who believe respond to the Messenger when he calls you to something which gives you life. (8:24)
In surah Ash Shurah, Allah Almighty says:
Respond to your Lord before a Day comes from Allah of which there is no repelling. No refuge will you have that day, nor for you will there be any denial. (42:47)
Choose your relationship with Allah Almighty
Everyone is taking a journey, on a daily basis. He is either one of two things – he is taking a journey to free himself of the shackles of the dunya, the whims and desires and he will please Allah Almighty and then he will be safe, or he might lead his soul to its ruin. (Muslim)
You choose your relationship – either you show your love to Allah Almighty, your satisfaction and your gratitude, and you find it reciprocated and He increases you, or you turn away from Him and head away in the other direction, in which case you are pulling away, so you find yourself yanked back to Him, and it is painful.
Remember that time is limited
Being mindful that we are all going to return to Allah Almighty keeps us focused.
Whether we recognise it or not, every day our journey takes us closer to Allah Almighty. Every week we move towards our destination by one week, and every year we move towards it by a year. And who knows when our time is, only Allah Almighty knows.
Be fearful of a day when you shall return to Allah and you will receive your reward fully for what you have done and you won’t be wronged (2:281)
The purpose of Ramadan was to improve yourself, your character, your ibadah, your connection with Allah. We had that opportunity in Ramadan because Allah Almighty super boosted our connection with Him, shaytan was locked up, we had to shift our entire routine and so we were able to instigate new habits we couldn’t introduce on a normal day.
Let’s not fall back into bad habits. We have to hold on tight to what we have. The New You can be a Lasting You insha’Allah.
Based on the words and teachings of Shaykh Haytham Tamim
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