Did I do enough this Ramadan?

Did I do enough this Ramadan?

Post-Ramadan Blues and fighting negative self-talk.

As Ramadan comes to a close it’s a bittersweet feeling as always. On the one hand life returns to normal, we can eat during the day and with lockdown restrictions easing we can start seeing our friends and family more regularly too.

On the flip side, things are returning to being "just-normal". We’re moving away from that "Ramadan feeling". For some this is an elated high of spirituality. For others it’s a sense of contentment, knowing that we spent our days fasting and praying.

For many however Ramadan may end with a subtle sense of questioning. Did I do enough? How can I keep this up after Ramadan? Did I make the most of the blessings of Ramadan, or do I feel like I could have done more? As advised by the hadith of the Prophet (ﷺ) we aim to do more than just fasting in the physical sense.

“There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger, and there are those who pray and get nothing from their prayer but a sleepless night.” — Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)

For some of us, if fasting is all we can muster, may Allah accept it from us sincerely. Ideally in addition to fasting, we will have also attained some of that "Ramadan feeling". Normally accompanied by a sense of community and contentment. Knowing that we’ve done good deeds and sacrificed for the sake of Allah. Not just food and drink, but hopefully some element of time devoted to prayer and worship; time devoted sincerely trying to be our best selves and please Allah during this blessed month.


"You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God." — Qur’an 2:183


Looking back on Ramadan, some people may have achieved a lot. Reading Qur’an, praying all night, performing regular dhikr and fasting all month. For some of us it may have been much less than that. It is important to remember that we are all on our own race, and we don’t compare ourselves to other people’s ability. We need to be realistic about what is feasible given our own situations, balancing where we are in our worship with other commitments we might have, such as work or school.


I enjoyed Ramadan the most when I had just finished full-time studies but not yet started working. I had the whole month free to fast, read Qur’an, pray taraweeh and go to community events all while still seeing friends for iftar. I always look back on this fondly and wish I could have a Ramadan like this again. While trying to balance work and family commitments however it is often hard to do quite so much.


With the right intention though our other commitments are acts of worship too. If we are sincerely seeking education to help us contribute to society and please Allah, if we’re working long days and providing for our families, all of this is worship in and of itself. We need to be realistic about what is feasible for ourselves, given our individual situations.


We all have that one friend that is able to go moon-sighting at the beginning of the month, finish reading the Qur’an a few days early, while also praying taraweeh every night at the masjid and making iftar for the whole family! May Allah bless and reward them and grant us many more friends like them! If we are not there yet, and most of us are not, it’s important not to compare ourselves to others. Everyone is on their own journey moving at their own pace. Compare yourself to where you were 10 years ago and if you think that is meaningful progress, you are doing great!


We may have plans for what more we could have done during Ramadan and it is great to reflect on how we want to improve next year insha’Allah — but whatever we were able to perform this year it’s important to not guilt ourselves into feeling like we fell short. As long as we’ve tried sincerely to do what we can, then may Allah accept it from us. Whatever extra we want to improve in future is great too and it gives us something to keep striving for in the future insha’Allah!


Spiritual elation

During Ramadan many people will experience a feeling of tranquility (sakinah) that comes over them. Despite the lack of food, drink, and decreased amounts of sleep — many people say they feel even better than ever! They feel a sense of peace and happiness in the knowledge they've done something worshipful for Allah. Sincere worship resonates with our soul, and our purpose as humans; allowing people to reach a state of contentment.


A lot of us may go through Ramadan chasing that feeling and for many people it’s easy to feel disheartened when putting in time and trying our hardest but not quite attaining that warm, rosy feeling of connection. To put things in perspective though, that feeling is not our ultimate goal. Our main-aim is to worship our Creator through kindness and good deeds.


Even though it may feel great, our purpose isn’t to specifically seek out that spiritual "feeling", rather we seek to worship Allah; praying to Him, giving gratitude, asking forgiveness, and seeking to know and love Him. Ultimately He has promised us paradise if we do that sincerely, a far greater reward in the next life.


"There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts: the joy when he breaks his fast, and the joy when he meets his Lord." –- Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)


We can only try to work on ourselves slowly but surely and draw close to Allah through continued remembrance and devotion to Him. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: "Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort." 13:28. May Allah reward us for all of our intentions and our actions, may He accept them and grant us comfort in this life and even better in the next life!



Laylat al-Qadr

People often ask and debate whether or not they caught Laylat al-Qadr (the night of power). Mentioned in the Qur’an to be an auspicious night, "better than a thousand months (spent in worship)." (Qur’an 97:3). It’s reported in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim that “Whoever prays on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and sincerity, shall have all of their past sins forgiven”.


Laylat al-Qadr is widely held to fall in the last ten nights of Ramadan and often reported to be on the 27th night of Ramadan. We always see our community energised and really striving to do extra worship in the last ten nights of Ramadan, especially the 27th night. This is a great practice to designate a few extra days to really push ourselves for the last nights of Ramadan. Finishing on a strong note before culminating with the feast that is Eid!


If we think we didn’t make the most of these nights however, scholars have reported that Laylat al-Qadr could in fact fall outside of the last ten nights of Ramadan and possibly even outside of Ramadan altogether. I like to bear this in mind when thinking about Laylat al-qadr. It could be any night of the year. This isn’t to disregard the last ten nights, but rather we should be cognisant of laylat al-Qadr throughout the year. We should try out best to do something a little extra every night before we goto bed insha’Allah. If it’s a little dhikr, recitation or prayer, may Allah accept it from us, and who knows we may find Laylat al-Qadr far outside of Ramadan.



Conclusion

Although Ramadan has left us, Allah never leaves us. There is still much we can do for the rest of the year. For those of us that are able, we can maintain the sunnah of fasting on Mondays or Thursdays. If we’re very capable we may even pursue the fast-of-dawud, fasting every other day.


We continue to pray our regular daily prayers, increasing on whatever we did before. If we weren’t praying them all before Ramadan we can aim to pray one extra prayer regularly until we are soon doing all five on time insha’Allah. If we were already doing all five daily, we can aim to add the sunnah prayers. On top of that we can add extra voluntary (nafil) prayers such as tahajjud (night time) and ishraq (mid-morning).


During Ramadan many of us will have cut down our lunch-times at work to instead go to the mosque, or spend some time catching up on reading Qur’an. We can continue to do this outside of Ramadan, spending a few minutes less eating and instead carving out a portion of our lunch break for an extra 5 or 10 minutes of worship.


Finally get involved with community! Ramadan is a month of family, friends and community. Although this has been reduced during the pandemic, see what is available online and in your local area as things start to open back up. We can normally thrive and grow by ourselves, but we can achieve so much more when we have a good friends and a strong support network. As the old adage goes: "If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together."


So get involved! Keep up the good habits we cultivated during Ramadan and keep doing a little bit regularly; it adds up over time. May Allah accept it from us. May he ennoble us in our actions and allow us to worship him sincerely and whole-heartedly and may he give us the strength to reach next Ramadan, insha’Allah better prepared and stronger than ever!