I’ve talked about this with a few people, but last year was one of my worst Ramadans ever.
This was made all the worse because it was “supposed to” be one of my best Ramadans ever.
I finished a program where I learned the basics of Arabic and understanding the Qur’an, and I was set to move on to another program for deeper Islamic studies the next year. So I fit those minimum requirements of someone who was at least making some effort to “study their deen.”
The problem: I expected the external to automatically solidify my internal.
I expected the almost magical nature of Ramadan to change me. I expected the knowledge I’d gained to immediately start working for me. I expected everything I’d done to pay off, without any real effort on my part.
I was wrong.
And so, last year, I had one of my worst Ramadans ever.
This year, I went in, knowing that something had to change. This year had to be better.
And alhamdulillah, it was, but not in the way you might expect.
You see, I grew up with Ramadan as a sort of ritualized yearly holiday. Yes, I benefited from Ramadan and had some amazing times of connection to Allah…but in general, it was also a time where you were just obligated to go to the Masjid every day, to read Quran as much as you can every day (about a juz if you’re able), to pray taraweeh every day, and then to wake up for suhoor and start all over again.
And yes, those elements are good and everyone should engage in them.
But, they can become this sort of ritualized worship that you do without really taking the time to ask yourself, “why this? why this way? is this working?”
If the ultimate goal of Ramadan is to connect us to Allah (whether through His book, or through the awareness we gain of Him while fasting)…then maybe we need to examine our actions in relation to that goal.
So I tried to do that this year.
I will say, I did less than I have in previous years…the statistics are lower, the numbers don’t amaze…
But alhamdulillah, I was able to feel a lot more connected to Allah. I took time to add quality to my ‘ibadah when I could.
Again, I’m speaking personally, and the correct and official idea in Islam is that you DO get closer to Allah BY doing more ‘ibadah, this is absolutely true (you don’t just abandon ‘ibadah until you “feel it” because you may never “feel it”).
But in my experience this year, what I found is not only that I enjoyed my ‘ibadah more…
I also took the pressure off the moments when I wasn’t hitting those benchmarks or numbers that we usually impose upon ourselves.
I relaxed. I forgave myself. I didn’t spend time feeling guilty, about not doing optional worship. I recharged and came back stronger when it came time for fardh prayers, or to read through the Qur’an, or to pray in the night.
It was really important for me to not go through the roller coaster I’d gone through in the past, where I spend large bouts of time doing what I’m “supposed to” and burning out on that…and then falling low when I can’t maintain that improbable standard.
The extreme highs and the extreme lows have plagued me for a long time.
Yes, we’ll have our ups and downs, but in the grand scheme of things, they shouldn’t be too far apart from the middle line.
Islam is balance, have no doubt about it.
And alhamdulillah, I think that’s something I found this Ramadan, and I hope that as I approach Ramadans in the future (inshaAllah may Allah allow me to see more Ramadans), I’ll be better about increasing my worship, both in its quantity but also in its quality.
Eid Mubarak, folks.
We’ve made it through. I ask Allah accept all we’ve done, forgive us for whatever mistakes we made, and to help us maintain the good and keep staying away from the bad into the rest of the year and beyond.